Royce Freeman

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!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Bridgewater, Pats, Dareus

Teddy Bridgewater has looked very good in OTAs, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, and if his strong performance continues, the Jets could be faced with a difficult decision. They could trade Bridgewater — which was the plan when they signed him — or they could name him their starting QB for at least the beginning of 2018 while they continue to groom Sam Darnold. Starting Bridgewater would likely mean keeping three quarterbacks on the roster, as the nearly 39-year-old Josh McCown doesn’t really have any trade value. But head coach Todd Bowles, who is coaching for his job this year, will want to start the best quarterback he has, and he is a big believer in Bridgewater.

Let’s take a look at a few more rumors and notes from the AFC:

  • Cimini also details Christian Hackenberg‘s last few months with the Jets before he was shipped to the Raiders. We already knew that Bowles was not aware Hackenberg changed his throwing motion until after the fact, but Hackenberg first approached Jets QB coach Jeremy Bates about making the change, and Bates was skeptical. That caused some friction between the two men, and it forced Hackneberg to go outside the organization to seek help with his mechanics.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe points out how Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady continue to (needlessly) fan the flames of controversy that owner Robert Kraft keeps trying to extinguish, and that the apparent tension between Belichick and Brady may be one of the reasons why Brady has not attended spring practices. However, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Brady’s absence has not created as big of a leadership void as one might expect, as younger players are taking a more active role in that regard and veteran players like Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower are back after their 2017 season was marred by injury.
  • The Broncos released C.J. Anderson last month, leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the top candidates to become the team’s next No. 1 RB. However, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post says Royce Freeman, whom the team selected in the third round of last month’s draft, has the durability and history of production to suggest he can be an every-down back at the next level, and he will get a chance to make a major impact right away. His heavy collegiate workload could have contributed to his falling to the third round.
  • Marcell Dareus more than wore out his welcome in Buffalo, leading the Bills to ship him to the Jaguars before last year’s trade deadline. Dareus, though, found new life in Jacksonville, and per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk (citing Mike Kaye of First Coast News), Dareus continues to be a good soldier for the Jags. Head coach Doug Marrone said, “I’m very happy with the way he’s worked, the way he has come into camp. I think those are things he has done a much better job of than what maybe he had done in the past. I can appreciate that and see that in him.” That is not an insignificant statement, as Dareus’ effort in Buffalo seemed to evaporate after he signed his big-money extension, so perhaps he has matured and will continue to be a solid contributor to Jacksonville’s talented defensive front. Marrone, of course, was also Dareus’ coach in Buffalo during Dareus’ best two seasons to date (2013-14), so he has a pretty good reference point.

Broncos Notes: Kaepernick, Elway

On Wednesday morning, Broncos GM John Elway gave his deposition to lawyers in the Colin Kaepernick collusion grievance case against the NF, as Mike Klis of 9NEWS tweets. As has been the case with most of the depositions thus far, Kaepernick was personally on hand.

As Klis notes, the Broncos were one of just a few teams who were keenly interested in Kaepernick in 2016 and, technically speaking, Elway may be the last executive who offered him a job. Elway tried to orchestrate a trade for Kaep with the 49ers after Peyton Manning‘s retirement, but Kaepernick declined to take a pay cut. Eventually, the Broncos moved on and selected Paxton Lynch in the first round of the 2016 draft.

Here’s more from Denver:

  • Broncos running back De’Angelo Henderson was briefly hospitalized with minor injuries over the weekend after he was an accidental victim of a high-speed police chase. “I don’t know if lucky is the word,” said Henderson (via Klis), whose car went airborne and flipped in the air. “Blessed. There’s just so many different words.’’ Henderson says he suffered a slightly sprained ankle and shoulder, but “nothing that’s going to keep (him) out for a significant time.”
  • Oregon running back Royce Freeman fell to the Broncos in the third round and some evaluators believe that his 947 carries in college played a role in his position on the board. Freeman, who saw seven running backs drafted before him, feels that he did not deserve a demerit for his odometer. “I feel like all of that durability and all of those carries just reflected my productivity throughout my four years at Oregon,” Freeman said (via ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold). “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.”