Royce Freeman

Ravens, Raiders Wanted Royce Freeman

With J.K. Dobbins out for the season, the Ravens tried to claim Royce Freeman (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Ditto for the Raiders, Yates hears, but the Panthers ultimately nabbed Freeman on Thursday thanks to their higher waiver priority. 

For the Ravens, it’s a sign that they’re not entirely confident in their current options. For now, their RB group consists of Gus Edwards with support from third-year scat-back Justice Hill and 2020 UDFA Ty’Son Williams. It’s possible that Williams would have been let go if Freeman was claimed, despite his strong summer. Edwards profiles as the team’s RB1 for now and his 5.2 career ypc shows that he can do damage. Still, he’s never carried an RB1 workload before.

The Raiders — the Ravens’ Week 1 opponent — would have slotted Freeman behind Josh Jacobs and newcomer Kenyan Drake. That role was ticketed for Jalen Richard, but he’ll start the year on IR thanks to a foot injury.

Instead of Baltimore or Vegas, Freeman will head to Carolina. He’ll slot behind Christian McCaffrey and rookie Chuba Hubbard as he takes Trenton Cannon‘s place on the team. Freeman wasn’t much of a factor last year, but he has 297 career carries to his credit for 1,187 yards and eight touchdowns.

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Panthers Claim RB Royce Freeman

Royce Freeman did not make it out of the top 10 on the waiver wire, going to the team that picked just ahead of the Broncos in this past draft. The Panthers claimed Freeman on Thursday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

The ex-Bronco is joining Christian McCaffrey and rookie Chuba Hubbard at running back on Carolina’s active roster. The Panthers are cutting veteran back Trenton Cannon to clear a roster spot for Freeman, David Newton of ESPN.com notes.

Denver waived Freeman on Wednesday, making room for rookie UDFA running back Nate McCrary. The Broncos added Mike Boone and second-round pick Javonte Williams this offseason. With Melvin Gordon‘s guarantees remaining intact after DUI charges were dismissed, Freeman faced an uphill climb to carve out a role in Denver this year.

The former third-round pick will provide the Panthers with considerable experience behind McCaffrey. A four-year Oregon contributor, Freeman totaled 297 career carries for 1,187 yards and eight touchdowns with the Broncos. The 225-pound back mostly worked as the ball-carrying B-side to Phillip Lindsay in Denver but was not much of a factor last year, with Gordon in town.

Mike Davis‘ departure for Atlanta left an experience void behind McCaffrey, and considering the dual-threat standout missed most of last season, adding depth could be critical for Carolina — especially as the schedule expands to 17 games. One year remains on Freeman’s rookie contract.

Also a 2018 draftee, Cannon spent last season with the Panthers and contributed mostly as a kick returner. Cannon spent his first two seasons with the Jets. The Virginia State alum would be eligible for Carolina’s practice squad, should he pass through waivers.

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Broncos To Waive RB Royce Freeman

After making multiple waiver additions Wednesday, the Broncos cleared space for the new arrivals by cutting Royce Freeman, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Freeman was set to go into his fourth season with the Broncos, but the team made multiple offseason moves to affect the former third-round pick’s standing. Denver signing Mike Boone and drafting Javonte Williams in Round 2 threatened Freeman’s roster spot, but after Boone suffered a quadriceps injury during training camp, the veteran runner made the team’s initial 53-man roster. But he is now headed for the waiver wire.

The Broncos claimed running back Nate McCrary off waivers from the Ravens on Wednesday and also added cornerback Mike Ford via the wire. McCrary is a rookie UDFA out of Division II Saginaw Valley State. He will be in line to play behind Williams and Melvin Gordon, which was to be Freeman’s role with Boone sidelined. The Lions waived Ford on Monday, doing so after he played three seasons with the team.

Acquired during John Elway‘s GM run, Freeman saw his playing time steadily decrease in Denver. The ex-Oregon Duck lost out to Phillip Lindsay as the Broncos’ primary back early, and after playing the B-side to Lindsay from 2018-19, Freeman was Denver’s third-stringer last season — after the team signed Gordon in free agency.

The between-the-tackles runner did average 4.9 yards per carry in 2020, but that came on just 35 totes. Freeman, 25, totaled just more than 1,000 yards over his first two seasons, rushing for eight touchdowns in that span.

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Jefferson, Broncos, Massie

During an appearance on HBO’s The Shop: Uninterrupted, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady discussed his reactions to a potential 2020 free agent suitor pulling out of the sweepstakes to stick with their incumbent signal-caller.

“There was a story, in free agency, one of the teams, they were interested and all of sudden they weren’t interested at the very end,” Brady said. “I was sitting there thinking, you’re stick with that [expletive]? Are you serious?

“When I look back I’m like, there’s no [expletive] way I would’ve went to that team. But they said they didn’t want me. I know what that means, I know what that feels like.”

There’s been plenty of speculation about the mystery team and quarterback that Brady was referring to, and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com cites multiple league sources who believe the future Hall of Famer was referring to the Raiders and Derek Carr. Las Vegas had been mentioned as a potential Brady suitor during the 2020 offseason, but the organization dropped out of the sweepstakes after balking at Brady’s long list of requests. As Florio notes, Brady had his chance at payback last season, when he tossed four touchdowns in a 45-20 Tampa Bay victory over Las Vegas.

Unless Brady unexpectedly reveals who he was talking about, we’ll never truly know if it was the Raiders. Plenty of other teams and quarterbacks have been mentioned, including the Bears/Mitch Trubisky and the Titans/Ryan Tannehill. The 49ers and former teammate Jimmy Garoppolo have been a popular suggestion, but considering Brady’s lifelong affinity for San Francisco (and his declaration that he was never going to sign with that team in the first place), we can probably cross them off the list.

Here’s more out of the AFC West…

  • Quinton Jefferson has played all over the defensive line during his five-year career, but despite the Raiders depth at defensive tackle, the team is still planning to play their free agent acquisition at his natural position. The 28-year-old will be teaming up with the Raiders main offseason acquisition, defensive tackle Yannick Ngakoue, and Jefferson is excited to form a two-headed monster with his good friend and former college teammate. “Yannick is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL right now and he brings that intensity,” Jefferson told The Athletic’s Vic Tafur. “He is going to bring some pressure and help relieve Maxx (Crosby), free Maxx up so that other teams can’t key on one guy. And then hopefully I can bring some interior pressure as well, so we should have a good mix out there. I am excited to see how that all comes together.”
  • Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post explores several Broncos players who find themselves on the roster bubble prior to training camp and the preseason. Atop his list is defensive tackle McTelvin Agim, a 2020 third-round pick who was limited to only 110 defensive snaps as a rookie. O’Halloran notes that it’s troubling that the young defensive lineman wasn’t working with the starters during minicamp despite the absences of Mike Purcell and Shelby Harris. Offensive tackle Calvin Anderson, running back Royce Freeman, safety Trey Marshall, and linebacker Derrek Tuszka also earned spots on the list.
  • The Broncos brought in both Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming to compete for the starting right tackle spot, and ESPN’s Jeff Legwold believes Massie will get the first shot at the gig. Massie certainly has the advantage when it comes to experience; the 31-year-old has started 110 of his 118 career games, including each of his eight games in 2020. Meanwhile, Fleming has mostly served as backup throughout his career (91 games, 42 starts), although he did start a career-high 16 games for the Giants last season.

Royce Freeman On Broncos’ Roster Bubble?

The Broncos waived DaeSean Hamilton last month, and it appears another high profile member of their 2018 draft class could be out the door before finishing his rookie deal as well.

Royce Freeman is on Denver’s roster bubble and could find himself let go at final cuts, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post writes. The 71st pick of the 2018 draft, Freeman’s career arc so far is a good reminder of the easy come, easy go nature of the NFL. The Oregon product received a ton of buzz during his rookie training camp, and he was named the team’s starting running back before the 2018 season.

He ended up playing in 14 games and starting eight that year, finishing with 130 carries for 521 yards and five touchdowns. He again played a sizable role in 2019, rushing 132 times for 496 yards and adding 43 receptions for another 256 yards.

He quickly fell into Vic Fangio’s doghouse though, and didn’t play a ton last year behind Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay. Even though Lindsay is gone now, O’Halloran notes they just drafted Javonte Williams in the second round and signed Mike Boone in free agency.

Boone got $1.6MM guaranteed from Denver, so he likely isn’t going anywhere. O’Halloran writes Freeman will need to use the preseason to convince new GM George Paton to keep him as a fourth running back, or else he’ll be looking for a new team. Freeman turned 25 in February.

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AFC Notes: Tannehill, Broncos, Browns, Jaguars

While the Dolphins are still confident Ryan Tannehill will return sometime this year, his future with the team beyond 2018 is in doubt, according to Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald. Salguero writes that “Tannehill’s status with the Dolphins for 2019 and beyond is not settled”, and that Tannehill “has not lived up to the stated expectations the Dolphins set for him before the year began.”

Tannehill has been unable to stay healthy the past few seasons, and carries a $26.6MM cap charge for 2019. If he doesn’t light it up whenever he returns, it’s entirely possible Tannehill is no longer a Dolphin after this year. Tannehill’s contract status has mostly flown under-the-radar, but it will be one of the most interesting storylines to monitor this offseason not just for the Dolphins but across the entire league.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Broncos rookie running back Royce Freeman suffered a high ankle sprain during the team’s demolition of the Cardinals on Thursday night, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). While it sounds bad, Rapoport notes “there is early optimism regarding the injury and it’s no guarantee that he misses time”, and that if he does it should be a “short absence.”
  • The Browns’ secondary has been depleted by injuries, so the team brought in cornerback Robert Jackson for a workout, according to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link). Jackson is an UDFA from UNLV who spent time with the Texans this preseason. Whether it’s Jackson or someone else, the Browns will likely add cornerback help soon.
  • The Jaguars won the Carlos Hyde trade, opines Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com (Twitter link). The cap expert points out that the Jaguars will only have to pay Hyde $1.22MM and can cut him after the season for nothing, while the Browns “paid $3.75M for 6 games and a 5th round pick.” If Hyde can stay healthy and be productive, it could turn into a steal for Jacksonville.

AFC Notes: Ravens, Chiefs, Raiders, Broncos

Undrafted rookie kicker Kaare Vedvik wasn’t going to make the Ravens due to the presence of Justin Tucker, but his leg proved so impressive this offseason that it was reported multiple teams were interested in trading for him. Those hopes appeared to be dashed, at least temporarily, when Vedvik was rushed to the hospital with very serious injuries just before roster cuts.

Vedvik can’t really remember what happened to him, but it appears police are suspecting some sort of foul play as he suffered serious head trauma. Ravens coach John Harbaugh thinks it “cost him a chance to kick in this league” and added “there were plenty of trade talks” involving Vedvik according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. It’s an unfortunate situation all around for the Norway native who was shaping up to be a very good story. Here’s to hoping he makes a full recovery.

More from around the AFC:

  • It’s been a long road back to the field for Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry. Berry, who suffered an Achilles tear that cost him the entire 2017 season, is now suffering from a heel injury that may cause him to miss Week 1 according to Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star. Heel and Achilles injuries can be closely related so it makes sense why the team would want to be cautious, but being without Berry for any period of time would be a huge blow to an already weak Kansas City secondary.
  • The Raiders’ trade for Martavis Bryant ended in disaster. The team surrendered a third round pick for the oft-troubled receiver, and he ended up never playing a down for them. Facing yet another suspension, the team cut him this past weekend. Despite all that, Raiders coach Jon Gruden is somehow still open to bringing Bryant back, saying “perhaps we’ll get Martavis again next year and get the best out of him” adding that he’s a “great talent” and that the move “was a risk I think well worth taking” per ProFootballTalk.com.
  • Rookie running back Royce Freeman has been named the Broncos’ starter over incumbent Devontae Booker, according to Mike Klis of 9News. Freeman, a third round pick from Oregon, started the summer as the number two but leapfrogged Booker due to a strong preseason.

West Notes: M. Gordon, Broncos, Noteboom

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon will not be eligible for unrestricted free agency until after the 2019 season, as the Bolts picked up his fifth-year option for 2019 back in May. He cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career last season, and he continues to be a force as a receiver out of the backfield. Nonetheless, as Jack Wang of the Orange County Register writes, Gordon still has a long way to go before he can command the type of contract that fellow 2015 first-rounder Todd Gurley recently pulled down (Gordon, after all, has yet to average four yards per carry in his three seasons in the league).

But while Gordon is not focused on his next contract at the moment, he fully expects to be in Gurley territory when that time comes. He said, “[Gurley] definitely changed the market for us…When that time comes for us backs to get paid, I’m sure it’ll be around the same number.” Gordon did play a full 16-game season for the first time in his career in 2017, and there are plenty of reasons to think his YPC average might look a little better in 2018, which could add up to a lucrative extension in another year or so.

Now let’s round up a few more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was noncommittal when asked after last night’s preseason loss to the Bears if the team would pursue a veteran to back up starting QB Case Keenum. Per Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Joseph said, “Right now (Chad Kelly) is our guy. I can’t speak for two weeks down the road here. But right now he’s our backup quarterback.” Troy Renck of Denver 7 ABC says Kelly has been impressive in the preseason, but he would still be surprised if the Broncos do not add a veteran signal-caller (Twitter link).
  • In a separate tweet, Renck passes along Joseph’s statement that the Broncos‘ running back competition is still open. Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post, however, reports (unsurprisingly) that rookie Royce Freeman appears to be the winner of the competition, as Denver clearly wants him to be the team’s lead back. Kiszla also points out that UDFA Phillip Lindsay has been sensational in the Broncos’ first two preseason games, and given Lindsay’s abilities on special teams, both Kiszla and Legwold (Twitter link) believe he has a real chance of making the roster.
  • Alfred Morris‘ new contract with the 49ers is for the veteran minimum of $790K, per ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). As expected, Morris will need to play his way onto San Francisco’s Week 1 roster. He will count for $630K against the team’s cap.
  • Rams rookie Joseph Noteboom, a third-round choice in this year’s draft — and the Rams’ first draft pick in 2018 — has a chance to see immediate playing time along the team’s offensive line this season. And, given the age and contract situation of Los Angeles’ current starting O-linemen, Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic writes that Noteboom — an ice hockey standout in high school — could become a fixture at guard or tackle in the very near future. The team has been very impressed with the TCU product thus far, and he acquitted himself nicely during last night’s preseason game, when he played both tackle positions and left guard.
  • The Chiefs signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick earlier today.

Poll: Which Rookie RB Will Rush For Most Yards In 2018?

In selecting their third first-round running back of this century, the Giants continued to show how they regard this position despite its marginalization over the past several years. Saquon Barkley is the odds-on favorite to win offensive rookie of the year.

However, the running back position produces annual mid- or late-round surprises — from Devonta Freeman to Jordan Howard to Kareem Hunt — that end up providing immense value to certain teams. The Giants obviously have an incredibly gifted ball-carrier set to take handoffs from Eli Manning, but which of Barkley’s peers is in the best position to challenge him (and the quarterback contingent) for the OROY honor?

The other two first-round RBs look to be less equipped for a strong challenge due to circumstances.

Sony Michel‘s prospects of being an immediate ground producer may have been better on a different team. While the Patriots boast one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, Bill Belichick notoriously finds myriad usages for his backs and involves nearly all of them. Although, Dion Lewis‘ departure after a 180-carry season opens the door for someone to take over as New England’s primary back. And Michel averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 156 totes at Georgia last season. Rashaad Penny looks to be behind Chris Carson to start the season, and the surprise first-rounder may be given time to develop for a Seattle team that’s struggled on the ground for a few years now.

After Round 1, however, it becomes a bit more interesting. The Buccaneers did not possess a formidable depth chart at running back prior to investing their second-round pick in USC’s Ronald Jones. In 2017, Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He could well be an early-season starter, with the likes of Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in his path toward a first-string role. Chosen just before Jones, Nick Chubb will have to contend with Carlos Hyde in Cleveland this season for the revamped Browns. Chubb, though, notched three 1,000-yard seasons in the nation’s toughest conference.

Kerryon Johnson looks to be set to start in a committee in Detroit, but the Lions have been desperate for a surefire ground producer for years now. And they view Johnson as a three-down backLeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah reside in the Motor City carries picture, but neither would impede Johnson from a major role if he proves ready from the outset. Derrius Guice could have a quicker path to playing time in Washington. Considered by some the second-best back in this draft, the LSU product fell largely because of character concerns. However, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry in 2016 on nearly 200 attempts and is expected to push for the Redskins’ starting job from the start.

Also expected to challenge for an early role: the Broncos’ Royce Freeman. The Oregon-developed talent posted three 1,300-plus-yard seasons with the Ducks, amassing a staggering 947 college carries. With the Broncos having moved on from four-year starter C.J. Anderson, only Devontae Booker (299 rushing yards last season) resides in the third-rounder’s path. Is he a threat to be the 2018 version of Hunt?

As for Barkley, he has the most obvious route to a full-time gig. Despite Jonathan Stewart now being in the Big Apple, the Penn State dynamo will factor in from the start of the Giants’ season. And the three-down back totaled at least 2,300 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back years for the Nittany Lions. The Giants have questions up front, having lost Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, but they added multiple UFAs — spearheaded by Nate Solder — and chose likely Day 1 starter Will Hernandez in Round 2.

So, will Barkley’s situation be too much for the rest of this class to overcome, a la Ezekiel Elliott? Or will one of the later-round picks emerge in Hunt fashion? Is there a Day 3 dark horse in this year’s class in the mold of Freeman or Howard? Take PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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Broncos Sign Rookie RB Royce Freeman

That’s a wrap. The Broncos have now signed every member of their 2018 draft class after inking Royce Freeman to his four-year rookie deal (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9News). 

In accordance with his slot, the third-round pick will receive a signing bonus of $997K on his contract. As the No. 71 overall pick, he’s set to earn $3.46MM over the course of the deal.

Heading into the draft, Freeman felt that he deserved to be one of the top running backs selected. As it turns out, there were seven running backs drafted before him. Some evaluators believe that his 947 carries at Oregon worked against him, but Freeman doesn’t think his odometer should be viewed as a negative.

“I feel like all of that durability and all of those carries just reflected my productivity throughout my four years at Oregon,Freeman said in May. “It is not often you get backs playing as many games or taking as many carries. I feel like the fact that I was able to do so proves I am a durable running back.”

The Broncos released C.J. Anderson earlier this offseason, leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the leading candidates to become the team’s next top running back. However, Freeman’s durability and history of production suggests that he could see a big role right off of the bat. Recently, Broncos coach Vance Joseph said that Freeman “absolutely” has a chance to wind up on top if he has a strong training camp.

Here’s the complete rundown of the Broncos’ 2018 draft class:

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