Sam Darnoldended his holdout on Monday, leaving Roquan Smith as the final unsigned rookie. But the Jets made some concessions to bring their long-term quarterback investment into camp. Offset language, bonus payments and guarantees served as sticking points for Darnold’s camp, and the Jets bent on two of these items. Darnold’s deal includes offsets, but he will receive his $20MM signing bonus payment within 15 days, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports (on Twitter). The Jets also agreed agreed to keep Darnold’s guarantees intact in the event he is fined in the future, per PFT (on Twitter). Florio notes the lump-sum bonus payment represents a rarity, and this surely indicates how badly the Jets wanted their QB in camp.
The Jets continue to believe Darnold can make a strong push to unseat Josh McCown from the starting job, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv notes. A Jets official categorized Darnold as not being “hopelessly behind” by missing the first few days of camp. Jets officials have gushed about the USC-developed passer’s potential all offseason, so it’s unlikely he’ll be out of the running because of this holdout.
Here’s the latest from the AFC East:
Despite being a two-time All-Pro return man, Cordarrelle Patterson‘s been a specialist on special teams. The former Vikings and Raiders returner has specialized in kick returns. Bill Belichick hinted at the possibility of Patterson being a punt returner with the Patriots as well, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes that hasn’t been the case in camp yet. Rookies Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron have joined veterans Julian Edelman, Patrick Chung and Chris Hogan as the punt returners in Pats camp. Patterson has fielded precisely one punt in his five-year NFL career, so it shouldn’t surprise the Patriots confine him to kickoff returns.
Rookie Corey Bojorquezcould push five-year incumbent Patriots punter Ryan Allen, per Reiss, who notes the New Mexico product probably has more natural talent than Allen. The sixth-year veteran has one year and $2MM remaining on an extension he signed in 2015.
Second-round Pats pick Duke Dawson is in the mix to win the nickel cornerback job, Reiss tweets. Florida’s seen several corners warrant high draft choices in recent years, and this one has a chance to play alongside Stephon Gilmore on passing downs. Reiss tabs Eric Rowe as being slightly ahead of Jason McCourty for work as the other starting corner.
The Jets worked out defensive lineman Drew Iddings over the weekend, Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer tweets. Iddings has bounced around the league for a couple of years, with the Panthers being the most recent team to cut him by doing so last week, but has yet to play in a regular-season game.
Former Cardinals tight end Troy Niklas latched on with the Patriots this spring, but New England released him last week. He’s still dealing with a sore knee stemming from a 2017 injury, Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports (subscription required). However, Howe adds his New England’s depth chart at tight end also contributed to the move.
The Patriots are releasing veteran tight end Troy Niklas, a source tells Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). They’ll replace him with on the roster with free agent wide receiver Paul Turner.
A 2014 Cardinals second-round pick, Niklas has just 19 career receptions for 203 yards. Niklas has battled injuries throughout his career, twice playing in seven or fewer games in a season. He suited up for 15 last year, however. In April, he hooked on with the Pats.
Interestingly, Pro Football Focus was much fonder of his 2017 receiving skills than when he attempted to block during running plays, grading Niklas as the second-worst run-blocking tight end in football last season. PFF, though, viewed him as a much better run-blocking presence in previous years.
While Tom Brady may be a year-to-year proposition following the 2018 season, his timeline may not matter to Jordan Matthewssince the receiver signedonly a one-year deal with the Patriots. And the wideout factored the future Hall of Fame quarterback into his decision considerably. Matthews wanted to catch passes from Brady, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. The reigning NFL MVP is still near the peak of his powers despite going into his age-41 season, and Matthews made a point to include two of the game’s premier quarterbacks in his free agency tour. Matthews visited the Packers and Patriots, with Titans and Cardinals stops being on his spring itinerary as well, but he will spend a year in New England. The fifth-year receiver has done his most prominent NFL work in the slot, but Julian Edelman is due back this season. Reiss reports Matthews had other offers. The Cardinals extended one to him before signing Brice Butler. Matthews faced the Patriots once last season while with the Bills but did his best work — three 800-plus-yard seasons — with the Eagles.
Here’s the latest out of New England:
Malcolm Mitchell also figures to be a part of Brady’s receiving corps in 2018 after missing all of his second season with a knee injury. He’s expected to be ready for OTAs, per Reiss, and has been working with Alex Guererro at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center.
Troy Niklas may not factor in prominently in Brady’s arsenal, having caught just 19 passes in four seasons and being known for his blocking more. But Reiss notes a knock on the former Cardinals tight end has been that his physicality doesn’t match up with what would be expected from a 6-foot-6, 270-pound player. Should he make the New England roster, it’s likely he’ll be asked to block plenty considering Rob Gronkowski is expected back.
The Patriots may be taking a flier on Luke Bowanko because of his versatility. Reiss writes Bowanko worked at all five offensive line spots in practice while with the Jaguars, and Bill Belichick values an assorted skill set. An interior lineman in games, Bowanko would seemingly be in line for a swing backup job if he were to make the 53-man roster.
Belichick’s history and the Patriots’ need for talent capable of helping the near-future rosters points to New England not pulling off a blockbuster trade for a quarterback, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston writes. Curran expects Brady to at least play out his through-2019 contract before evaluating if he wants to play what would be a 21st season in 2020. Although, Robert Kraft said the team needs to think about taking a quarterback this year since there is no longer a viable succession plan after the Jimmy Garoppolo trade.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is set to hold a top-30 visit with the Ravens, which is expected to be one of his final — if not his final — visit with an NFL team prior to the upcoming draft, per Albert Breer of MMQB (on Twitter). The Ravens hold the No. 16 overall pick in the draft.
Jackson has visited with several teams leading up to the draft, including the Browns, who hold the No. 1, 4 and 33 overall picks. Jackson elected to not run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine or his pro day. He’s also had a private workout with the Texans and all 32 teams attended his pro day.
The Ravens made quarterback news earlier this week by signing Robert Griffin III to a one-year, $1MM deal. The Ravens decided to not re-sign Ryan Mallett, who backed up Joe Flacco last season. Griffin, who has not appeared in an NFL contest since making five starts for the Browns in 2016, is joined by Josh Woodrum as the current backups to Flacco heading into training camp.
Here’s more from around the AFC:
Iowa center James Daniels will be visiting with NFL teams this week and the Broncos are on that list, according to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (on Twitter). Daniels is expected to go near the second round of the upcoming draft. Connor McGovern is currently projected to start at center for the Broncos.
Steve Watterson is retiring from his post as the Titans‘ strength and conditioning coach — they announced in a release Friday — after 32 years with the team. Tom Kanavy, who has 22 years of experience in the NFL, will take over the position.
Troy Niklas‘ recent visit to New England will produce a contract. The Patriots are planning to sign the former Cardinals tight end, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, adding this is a one-year agreement.
Niklas will join a tight end corps that is expected to still house Rob Gronkowski, along with Dwayne Allen, but Gronk has yet to officially declare he will be back next season. Reports have indicated he will return, however.
A 2014 Cardinals second-round pick, Niklas has just 19 career receptions for 203 yards. Interestingly, Pro Football Focus was much fonder of his 2017 receiving skills than when he attempted to block during running plays, grading Niklas as the second-worst run-blocking tight end in football last season. PFF, though, viewed him as a much better run-blocking presence in previous years.
Niklas has battled injuries throughout his career, twice playing in seven or fewer games in a season. He suited up for 15 last year, however.
The Patriots’ acquisition of Allen did not pay immediate dividends, but there is now another option on the team — and one that likely will come at a low cost.
Former Bills wide receiver Jordan Matthews will meet with the Patriots on Monday, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Cardinals free agent tight end Troy Niklas is also meeting with the Pats, Yates adds.
Matthews met with the Packers and Cardinals in March, but left both visits without signing a deal. This time last year, the 25-year-old (26 in July) projected to be a high-end commodity in this year’s free agent market. Unfortunately, he had only 25 catches in ten games for the Bills last year thanks to knee and ankle injuries, so he’s probably looking at a one-year deal to restore his value.
From 2014-16, Matthews averaged 75 receptions for 891 yards and six touchdowns for the Eagles. He says he’s healthy now, so he could prove to be a valuable pickup for the Pats as they look to replace Danny Amendola‘s production.
Niklas, 26 in September, saw time in 414 snaps for the Cardinals last year and served primarily as a blocker. He hasn’t exactly lived up to his second-round draft status, but the Patriots may see potential in the athletic Notre Dame product.