Russell Gage

NFC South Notes: Falcons, Anderson, Saints

The Falcons were interested in trading up during Round 1 for Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, per Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com. However, the Redskins taking him at No. 13 made the Falcons change their plan. They stood pat and drafted Payne Crimson Tide teammate Calvin Ridley, doing so despite having Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the fold. Pauline notes the Falcons passed on Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan — the Jaguars’ pick at No. 29 — because they weren’t particularly enamored with the former Gator’s game. Atlanta has Grady Jarrett and Jack Crawford stationed in the middle of its defensive front, and the team used a third-round pick to help out at this spot in taking South Florida interior defender Deadrin Senat.

Here’s the latest from the NFC South:

  • C.J. Anderson‘s Panthers deal will be worth around $1.7MM this season, with Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer adding that $800K in incentives are available to the longtime Broncos starter. This comes after the Broncos released Anderson well over a month into free agency. The 27-year-old running back would have made $4.5MM in 2018 on his previous contract, one the Dolphins originally designed and one the Broncos shed free of any dead-money charges.
  • While it’s only rookie minicamp, the Falcons had former LSU wide receiver Russell Gage playing cornerback on Day 1, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets. Gage played wide receiver during his final two years at LSU but as a sophomore worked exclusively at cornerback. He did so as a freshman as well but didn’t see much action playing defense in college. He managed to be a sixth-round wide receiver pick despite finishing his college career with just 28 receptions, so the Falcons — who traded up to get Gage — may have a firm plan for the rookie.
  • Sharrod Neasman saw action in 14 games for the Falcons from 2016-17, but he’s working out with the Saints during their rookie camp this weekend, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. A 26-year-old safety and a former UDFA, Neasman drew interest from the Saints in the past. Pelissero notes New Orleans tried to sign him off Atlanta’s practice squad. Neasman worked out for the Chiefs recently as well.

Draft Pick Signings: 5/9/18

Today’s draft pick signings:

  • The Falcons have agreed to terms with second-round cornerback Isaiah Oliver, fourth-round running back Ito Smith, sixth-round receiver Russell Gage, and sixth-round linebacker Foyesade Olukom. That leaves Atlanta with just two remaining unsigned draft picks, first-round wideout Calvin Ridley and third-round defensive tackle Deadrin Senat. None of the four selections signed by the Falcons today figure to have much of a 2018 role, but given the strength of Atlanta’s roster, the club was able to target future value. Oliver fits the Falcons’ size requirements for a defensive back and could help out down the line, while Smith is a hedge against Atlanta failing to sign Tevin Coleman, who will become a free agent at season’s end.
  • Fifth-round offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby has signed his rookie deal with the Lions. Crosby surprisingly fell to Day 3 of the draft after many analysts pegged him as at least a Day 2 selection. Although he played tackle at Oregon, Crosby could shift to guard in Detroit, especially given the presence of incumbent tackles Taylor Decker and Ricky Wagner. Crosby may compete to start at left guard, but with Graham Glasgow likely locking down that position, Crosby is probably looking at reserve duty for 2018.
  • The Steelers have inked their first rookie to a contract, as fifth-round rookie running back Jaylen Samuels is now signed. Samuels, a North Carolian State product, was something of a jack-of-all-trades during his collegiate days, and it won’t be surprising if he sees action at fullback, tight end, or receiver during his rookie season in Pittsburgh. Long-term, Samuels could be a candidate to replace Le’Veon Bell, who will once again play under the franchise tag in 2018.
  • Fifth-round wideout Justin Watson has singed his rookie pact with the Buccaneers, tweets Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Watson posted excellent athletic testing results and put up outstanding production at Pennsylvania, but he’s coming from a small school and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com says Watson “doesn’t move with desired suddenness.” Watson likely won’t factor into Tampa Bay’s offense this season, but could carve out a role on special teams.
  • The Patriots didn’t land a first-round quarterback as many had projected, but they did pick LSU signal-caller Danny Etling in the seventh round, and he’s now under contract. New England doesn’t figure to keep three quarterbacks on its roster, so Etling will likely (at best) spend the 2018 season on the club’s practice squad. It’s possible he’s just a camp arm.