Tyquan Thornton

Patriots Place Matt Judon On IR, Activate Tyquan Thornton, Sign Malik Cunningham To Active Roster

The Patriots opted for a busy weekend in the personnel office with today’s transactions. They started by activating wide receiver Tyquan Thornton from injured reserve. Unfortunately, this was followed up by the team finally deciding to place star pass rusher Matt Judon on IR, along with recently acquired tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr. With a new spare roster spot, New England signed practice squad quarterback Malik Cunningham to the active roster. Finally, the Patriots announced their standard gameday practice squad elevations would be defensive tackle Jeremiah Pharms and wide receiver Jalen Reagor.

Let’s start with Thornton. One of the couple of moves here aimed at providing a spark on the offensive side of the ball, bringing back Thornton was a necessity. As JuJu Smith-Schuster and Demario Douglas deal with injuries, Thornton will come in as a reinforcement to earn targets alongside DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, and Kayshon Boutte. Thornton didn’t quite live up to the high expectations of his draft stock last year as a rookie, but he’s one of the few returning receivers that quarterback Mac Jones worked with last year. He’ll hope to redeem himself a bit in Year 2 with the Patriots.

After multiple reports that he would be out indefinitely, Judon has finally been placed on IR. Based on the team slow-playing that transaction, it was already doubtful that Judon would make a return this season. Now, the earliest he could return from IR would be in Week 10. He’s joined on IR by Wheatley Jr., who was acquired in the trade that sent running back Pierre Strong to Cleveland.

The addition of Cunningham is an interesting move. He has the potential to provide a spark on offense in two ways. New England has worked him out plenty at wide receiver since signing him as an undrafted free agent, but Cunningham surpassed a lot of Lamar Jackson‘s passing marks as a quarterback at Louisville, ranking fourth all-time for passing yards and fifth all-time for passing touchdowns. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Cunningham’s return to the active roster will result in a three-year contract.

This will be Pharm’s third game being called up from the practice squad. He’s gotten a few snaps rotating in on the defensive line in the team’s last two blowout losses. Reagor was called up last week but didn’t actually see the field.

Patriots WR Tyquan Thornton Returns To Practice

The Patriots are in dire need of an offensive spark, and they welcomed back one of their most dynamic weapons on Tuesday. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, receiver Tyquan Thornton returned to practice today. This would signal that the Patriots have started the 21-day clock to activate Thornton from injured reserve.

Thornton suffered a shoulder injury in mid-August that ultimately landed him on injured reserve, keeping him off the field for the first four weeks of the season. There’s been increasing optimism that the former second-round pick could soon return, although he was forced to miss a fifth game before returning to practice. It remains to be seen if Thornton will be in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Raiders.

Thornton doesn’t have much of a track record, having finished his rookie season with only 22 catches for 247 yards and two touchdowns. It’s unrealistic for him to completely turn around the offense, and any excitement surrounding his return is more a reflection of New England’s current offensive struggles.

The Patriots offense hasn’t found the end zone since Week 3, with Mac Jones tossing four interceptions over the past two games. Many of the offense’s issues can be directly attributed to Jones, and the underwhelming offensive play-calling has also come under fire (despite the return of offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien). Still, even if things were clicking, no one would be overly enthusiastic about New England’s receiving depth.

JuJu Smith-Schuster has averaged 17 yards per game since coming over to New England during the offseason. DeVante Parker has been limited to only 668 yards in 15 games with the Patriots (including four appearances this season), and tight end Mike Gesicki has 12 catches through his first five games with the organization. Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and tight end Hunter Henry currently lead the team in receiving, and the team has even leaned on rookie sixth-round pick Demario Douglas for a chunk of snaps.

In other words, the Patriots’ current crop of receiving options haven’t done anything to separate themselves from the pack. The Patriots will likely continue to roll with their committee approach, but there’s at least an opportunity for Thornton to establish himself as the WR1.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Jets, Thornton

The 2019 draft produced several long-running partnerships between defensive tackles and the teams that chose them in the first round. Four of the six DTs selected in Round 1 that year signed extensions this offseason. Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Dexter Lawrence and Jeffery Simmons have new deals in hand. Jerry Tillery did not work out for the Chargers, but he was the only first-round DT from the ’19 class not to negotiate an extension this offseason. Christian Wilkins spent months discussing a deal with the Dolphins, but the sides have tabled matters to 2024, when the former No. 13 overall pick will be on the cusp of free agency.

Guarantees represented a sticking point for Wilkins, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald offers that the Dolphins appeared to be skittish about authorizing a Williams-level deal for a player without much in the way of sack production. Wilkins’ camp undoubtedly pushed for terms in the Williams-Lawrence-Simmons-Daron Payne neighborhood ($22.5-$24MM per year), as the Clemson alum led all DTs with 98 tackles last season. Wilkins, who produced 89 tackles in 2021, has never topped 4.5 sacks in a season. He has also eclipsed seven QB hits in just one of his four NFL slates (13 in 2021). Wilkins has not requested a trade, per Jackson, and the Dolphins — despite trade interest emerging — are not interested in moving him.

The Dolphins will have the option of franchise-tagging Wilkins next year. The Commanders used the tag as a bridge to a Payne deal, but the D-tackle tag number will likely come in north of $20MM in 2024. The Dolphins are currently projected to be $27MM over the cap next year (29th in the league), though much will obviously change between now and then. Here is the latest from the AFC East:

Patriots To Place WR Tyquan Thornton On IR

The Patriots’ receiving room will be shorthanded to begin the season. Tyquan Thornton is headed to injured reserve, reports ESPN’S Jeremy Fowler.

As a result of the move, Thornton will be sidelined for at least the first four games of the campaign. The 2022 second-rounder is dealing with a shoulder injury, and the timing of the ailment made him a logical candidate to be given the IR designation after the team’s initial 53-man roster was set.

Free agent signing JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to headline New England’s WR room this season, one which also features returnees DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne. The latter struggled in his second Patriots campaign last season, but outside trade interest was shut down. The team’s top three on the receiver depth chart will thus be intact to start the year, one in which signficant improvement in the passing game is expected.

Thornton has likewise been tapped for a step forward in his second NFL season. The Baylor product recorded 247 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 22 receptions as a rookie. With a veteran trio ahead of him in the pecking order, he may not be able replicate the 66% snap share he logged last year upon return, but playing time should be available given the lack of star power in New England’s pass-catching corps.

When healthy, Thornton will be able to provide the Patriots with a deep threat on offense, something which would go a long way in helping the unit become more efficient and earn him a larger role moving forward. The 23-year-old was limited to 13 games last season, however, so missed time once again will add to the urgency he faces to establish himself as a dependable contributor when he is cleared to return.

Injury Notes: Achane, Gary, Howard

Dolphins rookie running back De’Von Achane avoided a serious injury. After getting carted to the locker room during Saturday’s preseason game against the Texans, Archane has been diagnosed with a shoulder injury and is considered “week-to-week” (per ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques).

The RB suffered the injury when a Texans defensive lineman fell on him during the third quarter of the exhibition. Archane was able to return to the sideline under his own power, but he was later carted to the locker room. Fortunately, it sounds like the rookie’s injury wasn’t all that serious, although it’s uncertain if he’ll be on the field for Week 1.

The Dolphins drafted the Texas A&M product in the third round of this year’s draft. The Dolphins still have both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. in the backfield, but the rookie was expected to play a role alongside the two vets. If Archane is forced to miss regular season time, that could open a spot for holdovers Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin. The Dolphins are also rostering UDFA Chris Brooks.

More injury notes from around the NFL…

  • After tearing his ACL last November, Packers linebacker Rashan Gary participated in his first team drills on Tuesday. As Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes, the pass rusher didn’t show any signs of rust, which only provides optimism regarding his availability for Week 1. Of course, it’s no guarantee that Gary will be ready to go for the season opener, with the player revealing that he’s got “a couple more boxes to check off” before he’s cleared.
  • Tytus Howard underwent hand surgery earlier this month, putting his status for Week 1 in doubt. However, the Texans offensive tackle is making “steady progress” in his recovery and hasn’t been ruled out for the start of the regular season, per Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 in Houston (via Twitter). Howard was given a recovery time of four to six weeks, so a Week 1 return isn’t overly optimistic.
  • Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton landed hard on his shoulder during practice last Thursday and is considered “week-to-week,” per Christopher Price of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). The 2022 second-round pick showed flashes of his potential during his rookie campaign, finishing the season with 263 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Thornton could find himself buried on the depth chart behind Devante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Kendrick Bourne in 2023.
  • Broncos wideout Jalen Virgil suffered an injury during his 50-yard catch on Saturday. While he’ll need knee surgery to repair his meniscus, Mike Klis of 9News in Denver reports (via Twitter) that the receiver’s ACL is intact. Unfortunately, Virgil’s comeback probably won’t take place until the 2024 campaign, as he was placed on injured reserve today. The former UDFA won’t be eligible to play for the Broncos this season, but he could play for another team if he’s granted his release.

Patriots LS Joe Cardona Done For Year

One of New England’s longest-tenured players is done for the season. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports (via Twitter) that long snapper Joe Cardona has a torn tendon in his foot and won’t play again this season.

The 30-year-old suffered a partial tear in his foot earlier this month, but he still managed to play through the injury in Week 15. It’s uncertain if Cardona made the injury worse by playing, but either way, he won’t be back on the field until the 2023 campaign. Reiss notes that the veteran is expected to be fully recovered by the spring.

Cardona made a name for himself when he became the fourth long snapper in NFL history to be drafted, with the Patriots selecting the Navy product in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Cardona hasn’t missed a game since joining the organization, appearing in all of New England’s 127 regular season games and 13 playoff games over that stretch. During his time with New England, Cardona has earned a pair of Super Bowl rings. He was also named to the organization’s ‘All-Dynasty Team’ in 2020. Cardona inked a four-year extension with the Patriots in 2018 that is set to expire following this season.

Elsewhere on the injury front, receiver DeVante Parker and cornerback Jalen Mills will both be out again for the Patriots this weekend when they take on the Bengals. Running back Damien Harris, cornerback Jack Jones, and receivers Tyquan Thornton and Jakobi Meyers are all questionable for this weekend.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/8/22

Here are the roster moves for today, leading into gameday tomorrow. Reminder that gameday elevations will revert to the practice squad after this weekend’s games:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/5/22

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

A number of players who were placed on IR after the preseason and prior to the regular season returned to practice today. These players will have a three-week practice window until they have to be activated to the active roster. Otherwise, they’ll be ineligible to return this season.

One of the most surprising returns is Cardinals cornerback Antonio Hamilton. The former undrafted free agent rode a strong preseason to a potential starting gig, but he was sidelined with second-degree burns after spilling hot oil on his legs and feet. Kliff Kingsbury previously said an early-October return may be a “little aggressive” (per ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss on Twitter), but the cornerback ended up working his way back to practice.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/1/22

Teams continue to tinker with their rosters after hundreds of players were cut earlier this week. We’ve tracked all of today’s minor moves below:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Patriots Notes: Wynn, RBs, Thornton

The Patriots are reportedly open to trading OT Isaiah Wynn, who has been moved from left tackle to right tackle this year after lining up exclusively on the blindside over his first few seasons in the NFL (aside from a 2020 cameo at LG and some training camp work at RT as a rookie). As expected, however, outside interest in the former first-rounder is limited at this point, as Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweets.

Although Wynn did play in 16 regular season contests in 2021, he comes with an extensive injury history. He is also tethered to a $10.4MM salary for 2022 since New England exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, and at least some teams consider him a tackle-guard “tweener.” All of that suggests that the Pats — who must also consider the injury history of LT Trent Brown and the underwhelming training camp performances of backups Justin Herron and Yodny Cajuste — may not fetch a high enough return to pull the trigger.

Now for more out of Foxborough:

  • Per Mike Giardi of the NFL Network, Brown was not told he would be lining up at left tackle when he re-signed with the Patriots this offseason (Twitter link). The 29-year-old has taken all of his snaps on the right side of the line since 2019, and one wonders if he would have signed the contract, which pays him $6.5MM per year over the next two years, if he had known he would be playing a premium position. Giardi also tweets that Wynn — perhaps as a result of a position switch in his platform year — is not a “happy camper,” so there is plenty of intrigue surrounding the team’s OL bookends in 2022.
  • As Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes, Patriots running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris will be part of a timeshare this year, but as opposed to 2021, they are more likely to remain on the field on third downs. In light of James White‘s retirement, New England is unlikely to have a defined “passing down back,” and that is especially true in the wake of the ankle injury that Ty Montgomery suffered during the team’s preseason finale on Friday. Reiss notes in a separate piece that Montgomery seemed like a roster lock as a third option behind Stevenson and Harris, and the Pats are still awaiting word on the severity of his injury.
  • On Monday, rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton underwent surgery to repair his fractured clavicle, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. It was previously reported that Thornton is expected to return to the field sometime in October, and the six-to-eight-week recovery timeline that Fowler provides jibes with that report.
  • The injury that landed rookie OL Andrew Stueber on the reserve/NFI list is a torn hamstring, as Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reports (via Twitter). Stueber sustained the injury while training after the draft, and it could sideline him for his entire rookie season.