Rex Burkhead

Designated To Return From IR: Burkhead, Shaheen, Davis, Quinn

With more than half of the 2018 campaign in the books, NFL clubs have started to exercise their right to return players from injured reserve. Each team is allowed to bring two players back from IR, but said players must have been retained on their respective club’s initial 53-man roster. Once an IR player returns to practice, his club will have three weeks to decide whether to activate him to their 53-man roster; if he’s not activated, the player will remain on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

Here are three players who have been designated to return from IR this week:

  • Patriots running back Rex Burkhead returned to practice on Thursday, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Burkhead, who is first eligible to play in Week 13 against the Vikings, is the second and final New England player who is scheduled to return from IR, joining rookie cornerback Duke Dawson. That means other injured Patriots, such as linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, cornerback Eric Rowe, and offensive lineman Brian Schwenke are officially done for the year. New England doesn’t necessarily need more help at running back: James White and jack-of-all-trades Cordarrelle Patterson have held down the fort in recent weeks, and impressive rookie Sony Michel is expected to return from injury this week. But Burkhead could still carve out a role, and will certainly be a factor on special teams.
  • Second-year tight end Adam Shaheen has been designated for return by the Bears, tweets veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer. Shaheen, a second-round pick in 2017, was an impressive athlete coming out of Division II Ashland last year, but didn’t produce much in the way of results during his first NFL campaign. In 13 games (seven starts), Shaheen managed only 12 receptions for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Now that he’s recovered from foot and ankle issues, Shaheen should slot in alongside fellow Chicago tight ends Trey Burton and Dion Sims.
  • The Packers have gotten contributions from several young receivers already this season, and they could be getting another youthful pass-catcher back in the near future. Trevor Davis returned to practice earlier this week, per Balzer, and can now be activated at any point in the next three weeks. A fifth-round choice in the 2016 draft, Davis posted 24 receptions last season while playing on 40.5% of Green Bay’s special teams snaps. Now that Geronimo Allison has been placed on injured reserve, Davis could see snaps behind Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
  • Redskins rookie wide receiver Trey Quinn returned to practice today and has been designated to return from IR, tweets Balzer. Quinn suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 after being selected in the seventh round of this year’s draft. Washington is dealing with numerous injuries at the wide receiver position and just placed pass-catcher Paul Richardson on IR, so Quinn could theoretically see snaps down the line.

Patriots Notes: Gordon, Cooks, Gronk

New Patriots wideout Josh Gordon will make his New England debut today, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Gordon was inactive for last week’s loss against the Lions, but the Pats are sorely in need of some playmaking ability at the wide receiver position, and Gordon certainly has the potential to give them exactly that.

Let’s take a quick look at a few more notes out of Foxboro as the Patriots get set to take on the Dolphins in what could surprisingly be a pivotal divisional matchup:

  • Speaking of playmaking wideouts, given the disappointing performance of New England’s receiving corps thus far, plenty are wondering whether the Pats were right to trade Brandin Cooks to the Rams in the offseason. When factoring in what the team netted in its trade to acquire Cooks from the Saints in 2017 and the trade that sent him to LA, Doug Kyed of NESN.com believes the Patriots were right to make the move. The Pats ultimately received a year of Cooks, a 2017 third-round pick, the 2018 No. 23 overall pick, and a 2018 sixth-rounder in exchange for another year of Cooks, a 2017 fourth-round pick, the 2017 No. 32 overall pick, and a 2018 fourth-round pick. That represents good value, especially when considering the Pats would have had to pay Cooks $8.5MM this year and might have received a 2020 compensatory third-rounder if they let him walk in free agency (which they almost certainly would have). Plus, New England could not have predicted the Julian Edeleman suspension, so even though the results might indicate the Cooks trade was a bad one with the benefit of hindsight, Kyed believes the process was right.
  • The Patriots have already put nine players on IR since the start of training camp, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes. Reiss points out that the team put just 11 players on IR all of last season, and just four during the 2016 Super Bowl season. Reiss notes that only Rex Burkhead and Duke Dawson are the only two players who could realistically return from IR in 2018.
  • In light of last week’s Rob Gronkowski trade reports, Reiss points out that there had not been much communication between Gronk and the Pats before the star tight end was informed of the potential trade to Detroit. Reiss wonders whether New England really would have pulled the trigger on the deal, or if it simply used the trade as a way to reignite conversations with Gronkowski
  • Reiss also notes that last week’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week, the Bills’ Matt Milano, was drafted by Buffalo with the fifth-rounder it acquired from the Pats when New England signed then-RFA Mike Gillislee. Needless to say, that transaction looks like a big win for the Bills right now.
  • The Patriots cut Gordon’s former Browns teammate, Corey Coleman, from their practice squad yesterday.

Patriots To Place RB Rex Burhhead On IR

The Patriots will place running back Rex Burkhead on injured reserve with a neck injury, according to Jim McBride of The Boston Globe (on Twitter). The Pats will also place rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley on IR with an unknown ailment. To fill Bentley’s place on the roster, the Pats have signed outside linebacker John Simon, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets

Burkhead, 28, had to be cleared from concussion protocol prior to the Patriots’ Week 3 game against the Lions. Unfortuantely, he was forced out of that game with a neck injury, putting the rest of his season in jeopardy. It’s currently unknown whether Burkhead is a candidate to return from IR later this year or if this is a definite season-ender.

In three games, Burkhead failed to get going on the ground with 24 rushes for 86 yards. Last year, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry in a limited sample.

Burkhead’s injury should mean a larger workload for rookie Sony Michel and more carries for James WhiteKenjon Barner is back in the fold, so the club may opt to stand pat with those three active running backs plus fullback James Develin.

Bentley, meanwhile, is the just the latest Patriots 2018 draft pick to be placed on IR this season, joining first round tackle/guard Isaiah Wynn, second-round cornerback, sixth-round wide receiver Braxton Berrios, and others.

Simon spent one season with the Colts, but in their new 4-3 defense, he was not viewed as an ideal fit. He spent the prior five seasons of his career with 3-4 teams — the Ravens and Texans — and has worked in a starting role for the past three years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Fournette, Ansah, Michel, Burkhead, Barron

Inactive lists for the late slate of games are starting to roll in, and are providing answers to some key injury questions. Perhaps the biggest mystery of the week was the status of Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. We finally have clarity, as Fournette will officially miss Jacksonville’s Week 2 game against the Patriots with his hamstring injury according to Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link).

It’s a big blow for the Jaguars who like to establish the running game and make things easy for Blake Bortles. They did get some good news however as Calais Campbell, who was a very late add to the injury report, will play. Here are more injury notes from around the league:

  • The Lions’ already weak defense will be without their best player, as Ezekiel Ansah will be sidelined with a shoulder injury per Michael Rothstein of ESPN (Twitter link). Ian Rapoport had previously tweeted Ansah was expected to play, so this is a bit of a surprise.
  • The Patriots’ backfield got some good news as both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead will suit up per Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). Burkhead was cleared from the concussion protocol while Michel will make his NFL debut after missing most of the offseason with a knee injury.
  • The Rams will be without starting linebacker Mark Barron for a second straight week per ProFootballTalk (Twitter link). It’s bad news for Los Angeles as their linebackers were shredded over the middle last week by tight end Jared Cook for 180 yards.

Patriots To Re-Sign RB Rex Burkhead

The Patriots have agreed to a multi-year contract with running back Rex Burkhead, according to a league source who spoke with Jim McBride of The Boston Globe (on Twitter). The news has been confirmed by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter), who adds that it is a three-year pact with significant guarantees.

The Pats lost Dion Lewis in free agency when he inked a four-year deal with the Titans, but they’re holding on to their other major free agent tailback.

Burkhead accumulated more than 500 all-purpose yards with eight touchdowns last season. He will rejoin James White as a versatile running back. New England also retained Brandon Bolden recently, so a Burkhead pact will ensure three of the Pats’ top four backs are in line to return in 2018.

A four-year Bengals contributor, Burkhead posted his career yards-from-scrimmage high-water mark during his Patriots season despite an injury limiting him to just 10 games. He came back and played in two of New England’s postseason contests and will likely be entrusted with more key responsibilities as Tom Brady prepares for his age-41 season.

While the Pats could still use some backfield help to replace Lewis — the best of their ball-carriers last season — they appear to have their pass-catching contingent shored up minutes into free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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FA Notes: Burkhead, Seahawks, Broncos

Free agent running back Rex Burkhead is expected to see a “competitive market” for his services and it’s not a lock that he re-signs with the Patriots, according to Doug Kyed of NESN. Burkhead, 27, inked a one-year deal with New England last offseason and went on to produce 518 yards from scrimmage in 10 games. Viable in both the running and passing game, Burkhead ranked seventh in receiving DVOA in 2017, meaning he was highly effective on a per-play basis. The Patriots, of course, have another free agent running back in Dion Lewis, who is expected to draw interest from six-to-seven teams on the open market.

Here’s more from the free agent front:

  • The Texans and cornerback Johnathan Joseph have mutual interest in a return, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Joseph, 33, has spent the past seven seasons in Houston after beginning his career in Cincinnati. Last year, Joseph started all 16 games for the Texans and managed two interceptions. Even more impressive, Joseph ranked 21st in Football Outsiders’ success rate, meaning he was excellent at stopping wideouts short of the sticks. If he does re-sign with Houston, Joseph will need to accept less than the $7.3MM annual salary he earned under his previous contract, per Wilson, who adds Joseph would also likely see a reduced role in the Texans’ secondary.
  • With Kam Chancellor‘s status for the 2018 season in doubt, the Seahawks have discussed moving cornerback DeShawn Shead to safety, reports Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. Shead is a free agent, so Seattle would have to re-sign him if it wants him to play safety, but the club clearly has interest in retaining him. A 15-game starter as recently as 2015, Shead tore his ACL in January 2016 and took awhile to recover. Two surgeries later, Shead is hitting the free agent market after appearing in only two contests a season ago. Fellow reserve defensive back Bradley McDougald is also a pending free agent, so the Seahawks will need to work to retain their secondary depth this offseason.
  • Although the Broncos would prefer to re-sign linebacker Todd Davis, they will likely allow him to gauge his value on the open market, general manager John Elway told reporters, including Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link). The Broncos plan to meet with the representatives for both Davis and fellow linebacker Corey Nelson on Saturday, per Jhabala. Davis, for his part, has started 29 games for Denver over the past two seasons. Now 25 years old, Davis graded as the No. 34 linebacker among 87 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Dolphins, Landry, Pats

John Morton‘s firing may have come as a surprise to many, especially given that the Jets’ 2017 offense performed much better under Morton than most could have hoped. However, there may have been more to the dismissal, as Connor Hughes of NJ.com reports Morton and New York head coach Todd Bowles “clashed” throughout the season. Per Hughes, Bowles often made suggestions to Morton that were ignored, while other assistants on the Jets’ staff also took issue with Morton’s style. Meanwhile, Lions quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan could emerge as a candidate to replace Morton, as the Jets wanted to hire Callahan a year ago, per Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link), adding that Callahan has garnered offensive coordinator interest in each of the past two offseasons.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Jarvis Landry says that while he and the Dolphins have exchanged contract figures, the negotiations between the two sides have been “disrespectful,” as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Per Landry, the Dolphins made an extension offer in December, but haven’t responded to a counteroffer made by the slot receiver and his agent. It’s possible that Landry is seeking a Davante Adams-esque contract, which could mean a $14MM annual salary and more than $30MM in guarantees. Earlier today, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald outlined several of the Dolphins’ concerns regarding talks with Landry.
  • The Dolphins have hired former Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek for the same position in South Beach, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. In Miami, Kocurek will not only reunite with star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who worked with Kocurek in Detroit from 2009-13. Kocurek, whose possible defection to Miami was first reported by Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, will replace ex-Dolphins DL coach Terrell Williams, whose contract was not renewed. The Lions have now lost several assistants from the defensive side of the ball, including coordinator Teryl Austin, who took the same role with the Bengals.
  • Running back Rex Burkhead will be available when the Patriots face the Jaguars in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). While Burkhead hasn’t been on the field since mid-December while dealing with a knee injury, he was apparently “close” to suiting up when New England faced Tennessee in the Divisional Round. Burkhead managed 264 yards rushing and 254 yards receiving during the regular season, but those numbers belie the fact that his role grew as the season progressed.

Rex Burkhead Avoids Serious Injury

Rex Burkhead was forced to leave the Patriots game vs. the Steelers after suffering an apparent leg injury. However, it appears that the running back did not tear his ACL and should not miss much time, a league source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Rex Burkhead (Vertical)

The veteran reporter adds that Burkhead could “miss a little time”, but is not expected to be the type of injury that puts his potential postseason appearance in jeopardy. The former Bengal signed with New England this past offseason and has just gotten more involved in the offense as the season has worn on.

The 27-year-old has found the endzone in each of the past five games, seemingly becoming the team’s go-to red zone back. Even if the running back does miss a bit of game action, the Patriots are deep in the backfield as the likes of James White, Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden should be more than enough to hold down the fort.

The Patriots are now in the driver’s seat for homefield advantage in the AFC after beating the Steelers in Week 14. Bill Belichick‘s team finishes off the regular season with home games against the Bills and the Jets.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Rumors: Williams, Patriots, JPP, Jets

Trent Williams has encountered a patella issue, one that caused him to briefly exit Monday night’s Redskins-Chiefs game. The Pro Bowl left tackle will not need surgery to correct the problem, but Williams is “week-to-week,” Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Washington has not ruled Williams out for its Week 6 game, per Rapoport. The eighth-year tackle underwent an MRI on Wednesday, and the exam ruled out a long-term injury. A near-future absence would obviously cause issues for the team. Swing tackle Ty Nsekhe is out after undergoing core muscle surgery, so the drop-off if Williams can’t go against the 49ers could be significant.

Here’s the latest from the Eastern divisions, shifting to New England.

  • Rob Gronkowski extended his streak of seasons without 16-game participation to six by missing Thursday night’s Patriots-Buccaneers tilt with a thigh injury, but the Pats expect their all-world tight end back by Week 6, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). The same goes for Rex Burkhead, per Schefter. Burkhead hasn’t played since Week 2, but the team is expecting its newly acquired dual-threat back to be available against the Jets next weekend.
  • Missing Thursday’s game will deprive Gronkowski of collecting the $10.75MM salary the Patriots set as his ceiling on the now-incentive-laden 2017 arrangement. By failing to play in 90 percent of the Pats’ snaps this season, Gronk is in danger of falling to the $8.75MM tier of his contract, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald notes (on Twitter). The 28-year-old tight end could still rise back to that top tier, but he’d have to earn first-team All-Pro honors. That’s obviously still in play for Gronkowski, a three-time All-Pro, but he will have to make it through most of the Pats’ remaining regular-season games to be strongly considered for such acclaim. He will need to play on 80 percent of New England’s snaps this season or total 1,000 receiving yards or 12 touchdowns to earn $8.75MM. The salary drops to $6.75MM if Gronkowski can’t meet one of those benchmarks.
  • A sprained shoulder has put Jason Pierre-Paul‘s Week 5 availability in question, but the Giants defensive end said this issue is not new for him. He intends to play against the Chargers, Howie Kussoy of the New York Post reports. JPP said he’s been dealing with shoulder problem for “a while.” Both Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon missed Thursday’s practice, and with Vernon leaving early with an ankle injury the past two weeks, Big Blue’s other starting defensive end is in danger of missing his first NFL game in a six-season career.
  • The Jets could be down nickel cornerback Juston Burris on Sunday after the No. 3 corner hurt his foot in practice, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. With fellow reserve corner Darryl Roberts unlikely to play in Cleveland, the Jets could be scrambling here if Burris can’t go. New York, though, still has veteran Marcus Williams in the event the younger talents can’t play behind Morris Claiborne or Buster Skrine. A former steady contributor on whom the Jets placed a second-round RFA tender, Williams has not played a defensive snap this season. Both Burris and Roberts have played 90.