- Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is a candidate for release, but Rapoport’s understanding is that Dallas plans to move forward with him, in part because of all of the resources they have already invested in him. It’s far from a lock that he’ll return under his current contract, however. Bryant, who will turn 30 during the upcoming season, is due a base salary of $12.5MM in 2018. The Cowboys could ask Bryant to accept a pay cut/extension that will make his contract a bit more palatable.
- The Packers have two big-name WRs of their own who could be cap casualties. Rapoport gets the sense that either Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson will be shown the door. Based on recent production, it could be Cobb who is cut loose. Cobb is slated to carry a $12.72MM cap hit in the final year of his deal, but the team can save $9.47MM with just $3.25MM in dead money if they release him.
- Rapoport speculates that the Titans could cut running back DeMarco Murray, which makes sense given the presence of Derrick Henry. Murray is slated to count for $6.75MM against the cap this year and next, but those are completely non-guaranteed seasons. In 2017, the 30-year-old finished with 659 fewer rushing yards than he amassed in 2016, a Pro Bowl campaign. His yards-per-carry average also dipped from 4.4 to 3.6.
- Tyrod Taylor is a release candidate for the Bills, but Rapoport rightly notes that the team is more likely to trade him given the need for quarterbacks around the league.
MRI results show that wide receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder) and defensive lineman Mike Daniels (hamstring) did not suffer major injuries in the Packers‘ loss to the Falcons on Sunday night, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). Both are considered day-to-day, and should be available for Green Bay’s Week 3 game against the Bengals. There’s no official word to the severity of wideout Jordy Nelson‘s quad issue, but the Packers don’t believe the injury is serious, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:
- The Browns will likely place receiver Corey Coleman on injured reserve on Tuesday, tweets Jeff Schudel of the News-Herald. Coleman, who broke his hand for the second time in as many seasons, will likely need six-to-eight weeks to recover, so he’ll likely be one of Cleveland’s two IR/designated to return players. That would allow Coleman to return to practice in six weeks and see the field in eight. The Browns will lean on Rashard Higgins, Kasen Williams, and Kenny Britt in Coleman’s absence.
- Second-round cornerback Kevin King will continue to see his role grow after a solid performance for the Packers on Sunday, as head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters, including Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “If anything, he’s earned the right to potentially play more,” said McCarthy. “Smooth, confident athlete. I like the progression that Kevin’s made.” King, a Washington product, saw his snap percentage leap from 12% in Week 1 to 79% in Week 2, and is now Pro Football Focus‘ No. 19 ranked corner through two weeks.
- General manager Ted Thompson has shown a recent willingness to add external free agents as he revamps the Packers‘ roster, writes Demovsky in a full piece. Veteran such as Martellus Bennett, Ahmad Brooks, and Davon House have all joined the club this offseason as part of a detour from a Green Bay strategy that typically involves mostly homegrown players. “It’s the realization that they needed to get better,” one NFL executive said of the Packers, noting that Thompson may be more open to input from his front office subordinates.
The Packers seem likely to ask either — or potentially, both — Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb to take paycuts this offseason, writes Pete Doughtery of the Green Bay Press Gazette, who argues that the club needs to reverse its typically free agent-wary way of thinking and sign an explosive pass-catcher this March. If Green Bay is forced to choose between Nelson and Cobb, Nelson — despite his age — is the likelier option to be retained, says Doughtery, and the potential release of Cobb would clear enough cap space to allow the Packers to bring in an outside option.
The top two free agent wideouts figure to be the Bears’ Alshon Jeffery and the Browns’ Terrelle Pryor, but both are candidates to be hit with the franchise tag (as Jeffery already was this season). If either makes it to free agency, the Packers could certainly take a look, but they may have to settle for lesser options, such as Michael Floyd, Robert Woods, or Kamar Aiken.
Here’s more from the NFC South:
- When the Lions declined defensive tackle Nick Fairley‘s fifth-year option for the 2015 season, the club’s brass defended the decision as a motivational tactic, hoping the sting of the move would incite Fairley into improvement. That strategy worked, Fairley tells Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com, as the current Saints defender says Detroit’s choice not to pick up the option “hit home” and forced him to self-evaluate. Fairley, who will face the Lions on Sunday, has since signed consecutive one-year deals with Los Angeles and New Orleans.
- While Fairley will be active and playing when Detroit faces New Orleans, Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead has been downgraded to out for Sunday’s contest, the club announced today. Whitehead hasn’t been all that effective this season, as he ranks just 79th among 85 qualified linebackers, per Pro Football Focus, but he has been available — Whitehead has played on every Lions defensive snap this season. With Whitehead sidelined, Detroit will likely utilize more nickel packages, as well as three-safety looks, tweets Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com.
- The Packers announced that offensive lineman T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter are both out for the club’s Week 13 against the Texans. Lang has been sidelined since Week 10, while Tretter was injured in and hasn’t played since Week 9. Jason Spriggs will start at left guard for Lang, while Corey Linsley will continue to fill in at center for Tretter.
Ron Rivera‘s path to the Panthers emerged when he and Lovie Smith ended a contentious relationship in three seasons working together in Chicago. The former Bears coach didn’t renew the former Bears defensive coordinator’s contract after the duo helped the Bears to Super Bowl XLI during the 2006 season, largely due to philosophical and personal differences, Austin Murphy of SI.com reports.
Smith preferred then-Buccaneers assistant head coach Rod Marinelli for the job upon being hired as Bears coach in 2004, but, per Murphy, Rivera was mandated by then-Chicago GM Jerry Angelo.
The former Bears player under blitz-happy Buddy Ryan, Rivera wanted a blitz-heavy scheme, whereas Smith was a Tampa-2 proponent. Murphy also asserts Rivera’s eight interviews for head-coaching positions while employed as Bears DC were potentially seen as disloyal by Smith.
When Rivera became the Chargers’ linebackers coach in 2007 after Smith denied him a fourth season running the Bears’ defense, he and Smith were on bad terms, a Bears source told Murphy. The 54-year-old Rivera served three years as San Diego’s DC before accepting Carolina’s top coaching job.
Here are some more items from the NFC North on the eve of Super Bowl 50.
- The Bears should let Matt Forte walk while re-signing Alshon Jeffery and Zach Miller, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap notes in his analysis of the Bears’ cap situation. Also advising the Bears to orchestrate an extension with Kyle Long after they pick up the tackle’s fifth-year option, Fitzgerald recommends the Bears cut Martellus Bennett and gauge Lamarr Houston‘s trade value. Bennett would save Chicago $5.2MM, and Houston, entering his seventh season, will net the Bears $4MM in cap savings if released. Brought in to play in a 4-3 scheme, Houston graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 62-ranked edge defender as an outside linebacker in Vic Fangio‘s 3-4.
- Calvin Johnson‘s impromptu retirement could be a negotiating ploy a la Adrian Peterson‘s trade request last year, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. The Lions will need to know Johnson’s official intentions on his future by March 9, when his $16MM base salary and $24MM cap number are configured into Detroit’s 2016 salary cap. Florio speculates Johnson could have threatened to retire to force the Lions to appreciate his presence rather than insist he renegotiate that massive cap figure. Peterson ended up receiving additional guaranteed money, instead of the Vikings potentially attempting at reducing his salary, Florio offers.
- Randall Cobb‘s punctured lung sustained against the Cardinals could have been an effect of him being mic’d up by NFL Films, the slot receiver and the Packers medical staff theorize (via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). “I punctured a lung. I didn’t break a rib and I didn’t fracture a rib. It’s really abnormal for that to happen,” Cobb told radio host Bill Michaels in San Francisco. “But I was mic’d up for the game. I landed flush on my back. The battery pack was on my shoulder pads and I landed flush on my back and we think that possibly could be it but there’s no way of proving it.” Cobb, who left the divisional playoff game after injuring himself on a spectacular catch that ended up being nullified by penalty, will enter the season season of the four-year deal he signed last March.
- Casey Hayward hired the same agent, David Mulugheta, used by fellow Packers DBs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Quinten Rollins, Rand Getlin of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). Hayward is one of Green Bay’s top free agents.
Some big names have suffered injuries during this weekend’s NFL playoff action. Here’s the latest:
- Panthers defensive end Jared Allen injured his foot during the team’s Sunday win over the Seahawks and and is likely to require season-ending surgery, tweets Jonathan Jones of The Charlotte Observer. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com conflicts Jones’ report, tweeting that Allen plans to continue playing. Allen broke a small bone in his foot, per Rapoport. The 12th-year man is scheduled to undergo an X-ray Monday, according to Jones (Twitter link), which should clarify his status.
- Not only did the Seahawks’ season end in Carolina, but left tackle Russell Okung‘s career with the team may have concluded with an injury. The one-time Pro Bowler and pending free agent dislocated his shoulder, reports The Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta (on Twitter). The terrible timing of the injury could have a negative effect on Okung’s market this offseason, notes CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (Twitter link). On Saturday, PFR’s Dallas Robinson ranked Okung, 28, as the ninth-best free agent in the upcoming class.
- Packers receiver Randall Cobb left Saturday’s loss to Arizona early with a bruised lung, but he tweeted Sunday that he was discharged from the hospital and feels “much better.”
As the Panthers have their way with the Seahawks in the early going of this afternoon’s Divisional Round matchup, let’s take a look at some news and notes from around the league:
- We heard just a few days ago that new Browns head coach Hue Jackson was prepared to move on from Johnny Manziel, and the comments he made during a Bleacher Report interview this morning reaffirmed that sentiment. Per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jackson told Bleacher Report that if Manziel was, in fact, in Las Vegas during the season finale, that would indicate to him that Manziel is not starter material. Jackson then went on to say, “I do believe that this team does need a quarterback.”
- Although it’s certainly not a lock, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com believes the Ravens will bring back Justin Forsett next season. The team would gain only $900K of salary cap space by cutting Forsett, and although the other backs on the team’s depth chart have shown some promise, they have significant flaws and are largely unproven.
- Packers WR Randall Cobb suffered a bruised lung in last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Jason Wilde of ESPN.com tweets that the team does not yet have an update on Cobb.
- Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has finally begun his search for a new defensive coordinator in earnest, bringing in Marquand Manuel and Lou Anarumo for interviews last week. Per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Bradley hopes to have the search wrapped up by January 25, and Manuel and/or Anarumo could join the Jacksonville coaching staff even if they don’t land the coordinator position. O’Halloran adds that current defensive line coach Todd Wash could still be promoted to DC.
- In a separate piece, O’Halloran looks at the issues facing the Jaguars‘ new DC, whoever it may be, including what to do with Jonathan Cyprien and whether the team should pursue an elite corner like Prince Amukamara or Greg Toler in free agency or if it can afford to look for a second-tier option.
- Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com offers his breakdown of the Titans‘ cap situation and free agency outlook.
- Mark Maske of the Washington Post observes that the teams looking for a new head coach this offseason were thinking offensively. Of the seven new hires, five were offensive coordinators, and the other two (Mike Mularkey and Chip Kelly) are of course offensive-minded.
The latest from around the NFL as Sunday’s Week 2 action draws closer:
- A hamstring injury has hampered Bills running back LeSean McCoy since August, and it showed in a 17-carry, 41-yard performance last week in the team’s 27-14 win over Indianapolis. There’s been some question this week as to whether McCoy will play Sunday against AFC East rival New England, but the three-time Pro Bowler is expected to go, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
- On the other hand, Patriots defensive tackle Dominique Easley – who suffered a hip injury early in a Week 1 win versus Pittsburgh – won’t be available to help stop McCoy, per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald (via Twitter).
- Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman‘s transition from the outside to the slot could clamp down Packers No. 1 wideout Randall Cobb this week, writes of USA Today. The Packers have avoided testing Seattle’s all-world corner in the past. If they do again, it could go a long way toward a bounce-back performance from the Seahawks, who are coming off a 34-31 loss in St. Louis.
- Running back Carlos Hyde was so effective in the 49ers’ 20-3 defeat of Minnesota on Monday that coordinator Geep Chryst suggested it allowed him to keep other aspects of his offense under wraps, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. If Pittsburgh slows down Hyde this week, the onus will be on quarterback Colin Kaepernick to make more plays. Hyde ran over Minnesota for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 26 rushes, while Kaepernick threw for fewer yards (165) on the same amount of attempts (26). To his credit, Kaepernick also added 41 yards on just seven carries.
- The Steelers are cognizant of Kaepernick’s ability to run, and they’re hoping to force the 27-year-old to beat them with his arm. “Obviously, the plan is not let (Kaepernick) get out in the open field,” said safety Michael Mitchell, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “They have a scrambling quarterback and a downhill running back, but we always have to account for Kaepernick.” Added linebacker Ryan Shazier, “We have to make him throw the ball.”
9:54pm: Cobb should be ready to play be the season opener against the Bears on September 13th, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN. He has a sprain but it is not believed to be a long-term injury, and his status is day-to-day.
It is serious enough that he likely would not be able to play in the team’s last preseason game on Thursday if the starters were scheduled to play in that game.
4:23pm: The Packers and receiver Randall Cobb got some good news today, as an MRI showed that the 25-year-old has a sprained AC joint, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). While the injury is considered minor, it’s still unclear as to whether Cobb will be able to suit up for Week 1.
Green Bay could ill afford another serious injury at wide receiver, as pass-catcher Jordy Nelson is already set to miss the entire 2015 season after tearing his ACL. Cobb is now the club’s unquestioned No. 1 wideout, so losing him for any amount of time would further hamper a Packers team that finished first in offensive DVOA last season. If Cobb isn’t able to go to start the season, fellow receivers Jeff Janis and Ty Montgomery, as well as tight end Richard Rodgers, could be in line for more work.
Following Nelson’s diagnosis, the Packers reportedly checked into free agent receiver Reggie Wayne. Wayne has since signed with the Patriots, but it’s not inconceivable that Green Bay could take a look at other free agents if Cobb’s injury keeps him out for a few weeks. Donnie Avery, Kevin Ogletree, and Wes Welker are among the options still left on the open market.
Here are a few updates on some of the league’s more significant injury news:
- Mehta reports (via Twitter) that Williams has a muscle strain behind his knee but that there is no ligament damage. This is not expected to be a long-term injury. Jets fans may now exhale.
- We already learned that Packers WR Randall Cobb did not break his collarbone yesterday, and per Michael Cohen of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, head coach Mike McCarthy believes Cobb’s injury is not nearly as severe as Jordy Nelson‘s season-ending ACL tear. “No, I don’t think we’re (there) at all,” McCarthy said. Cobb will get further tests today to determine the extent of his injury.
- X-rays on the knee of Jets rookie defensive lineman Leonard Williams came back negative, per Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News (via Twitter). Mehta adds that the team believes Williams sustained a bone bruise, though he will get an MRI today to confirm.
- Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle reports that Texans Pro Bowl offensive tackle Duane Brown, who is dealing with a finger injury, does not intend to have surgery on the finger and is on track for the regular season opener against Kansas City.
- Colts DT Arthur Jones suffered an ankle injury last night, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that X-Rays on the ankle were negative. Jones will undergo an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury.
- Although the Rams expect to have plenty of running back depth at some point this season, their Week 1 backfield could be a bit thin. We already knew that promising rookie Todd Gurley was not expected to play in the opener after he sustained a torn ACL last November, and per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter), Tre Mason suffered a strained hamstring last night, calling his Week 1 availability into doubt.
A week after losing Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson to a season-ending ACL injury, the Packers are hoping fellow Pro Bowl wideout Randall Cobb doesn’t join him on the shelf. Cobb suffered a right shoulder injury during the Packers’ game Saturday against Philadelphia. The severity of the ailment is currently unknown, but one injury that has been ruled out is a broken collarbone, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted. A serious injury to Cobb would be a devastating blow to the Packers, given that their receiving corps already lost Nelson. He and Cobb combined for a whopping 189 catches (25 of which were touchdowns) and nearly 3,000 yards last year.
More from around the NFL:
- Dolphins center Mike Pouncey hurt his left knee during Saturday’s game against Atlanta and will have to undergo an MRI on Sunday. Pouncey, who is wearing a brace, vows not to miss any regular-season time, Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports (Twitter link). Head coach Joe Philbin also expressed optimism regarding Pouncey’s injury. “We think he’ll be OK,” he said, per Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald (via Twitter).
- Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung will probably use the five-year, $66MM extension Washington signed Trent Williams to earlier today as a benchmark for his next deal, according to CBS Sports’ Joel Corry (via Twitter). Okung, who’s in a contract year, was the sixth overall selection in the 2010 draft, going two picks after Williams. Okung has since made 59 starts and one Pro Bowl, while Williams has made 70 and three, respectively.
- Don’t count on a reunion between the Giants and free agent safety Stevie Brown, writes Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. The Giants are scheduled to work out Brown, but he has interest from “a number of teams,” according to his agent. Brown spent 2012-14 with the Giants before a brief stint in Houston this year.
- The Colts scratched running back Vick Ballard from Saturday’s game in St. Louis. That doesn’t bode well for his chances of making the roster, according to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. Ballard has battled serious injuries over the past couple years and has played in just one game since 2012 as a result.
- Lions running back Joique Bell, who underwent knee surgery in January, is unsure if he’ll play Week 1. “I’m not going to say I’m ready to go out there and take every play and run every down, right now, but you never know how I’ll feel in two weeks,” Bell said, according to Justin Rogers of MLive.com. The fourth-year man is coming off his most productive season (1,182 total yards, eight touchdowns).
- Patriots fullback James Develin suffered a broken tibia in Friday’s loss to Carolina, and ESPN’s Mike Reiss tweeted that the hope is recovery from surgery will take six to eight weeks. However, David Chao – the former team doctor for the Chargers – responded that it could actually take Develin six to eight months to return (Twitter link).