Chargers Rumors

AFC Notes: Ravens, Brady, Mosley

We heard at the end of December that the Ravens are prepared to slap pass rusher Matt Judon with the franchise tag if they cannot work out a long-term deal with him, but recent comments from head coach John Harbaugh suggested Judon could be suiting up elsewhere in 2020. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic says Baltimore may be disinclined to use the tag, as it would take up a big chunk of their cap and could alienate the emotional and outspoken Judon.

On the other hand, Judon is the only proven pass rusher on the team, and there’s no guarantee the Ravens can win a bidding war for one of this year’s top FAs or land a player at the bottom of the first round of the draft who can make an immediate impact, so GM Eric DeCosta will have to carefully weigh a number of factors.

Let’s round up a few other AFC items, starting with several more nuggets out of Baltimore:

  • The Ravens and veteran CB Jimmy Smith have mutual interest in a reunion, per Zrebiec. However, if Baltimore brings back Smith, it’s unlikely that CB/S Brandon Carr also returns. Meanwhile, the Ravens will almost certainly cut safety Tony Jefferson.
  • Regardless of what they do with Judon, the Ravens will have to add three or four starting-caliber players to their front seven, so Zrebiec expects the team to focus on those areas heavily in the draft, and he fully expects DeCosta to draft a WR or two.
  • Add Jay Glazer of The Athletic to the list of pundits who believe a Tom BradyRaiders partnership makes sense. Like others, Glazer thinks the Chargers are an obvious non-Patriots landing spot, but given the international presence that the Las Vegas outfit is expected to have, both Brady and the team would stand to benefit from a Sin City marriage.
  • In a recent interview with Eddie Paskal of the team’s official website, Raiders GM Mike Mayock said he believes the move to Las Vegas will help the club attract top free agents, even those not named Brady. The fact that Nevada does not have a state income tax will obviously be appealing, as will the sleek new stadium and the general excitement surrounding the franchise. Mayock also noted that he will look to add wide receiver help this offseason.
  • Jets LB C.J. Mosley had to undergo groin/abdominal surgery about six weeks ago, but he expects to be ready for the team’s offseason program this spring, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. One of last year’s biggest free agent fish, Mosley played in just two games for Gang Green, and he has started a vegan diet in the hopes of giving himself an edge.

Latest On Top QB Prospects

A long list of teams have question marks at the quarterback position heading into the offseason. Well, one executive believes many of the organizations will solve their predicament via the draft. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller talked to a personnel executive who believes five quarterbacks will be selected in the top-15 of this year’s draft.

This might not sound all that shocking; among the teams with top-15 picks, only five of those organizations have used first-round capital at the position in the past two drafts. You could easily talk yourself into one of the other 10 teams selecting a quarterback, and a team outside the top-15 could easily trade up. However, it is notable that the executive was willing to speak so definitively.

As Miller explains, there’s a pretty clear pecking order atop the quarterback draft board: Joe Burrow (LSU), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), some combo of Jordan Love (Utah State) and Justin Herbert (Oregon), Jacob Eason (Washington), and Jake Fromm (Georgia). Miller notes that the Chargers, who are selecting sixth-overall, are particularly interested in Love.

Miller himself believes six quarterbacks will be selected in the top-50, and he notes that part of the urgency to select a signal-caller could be attributed to the falloff after the top-six options. The next-best prospect, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, struggled during Senior Bowl practice this week, and Hawaii’s Cole McDonald projects as more of a fifth- or sixth-rounder.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers To Put Transition Tag On Hunter Henry?

Chargers TE Hunter Henry is undeniably talented, but he has battled injuries over the past two seasons and therefore has some question marks surrounding him as he faces free agency for the first time. The 2016 second-round selection had a promising rookie campaign in which he caught eight TD passes, the second-highest total for a rookie TE this decade — behind only Rob Gronkowski‘s 10-TD 2010 effort — and he followed that up with a solid sophomore showing.

But in May 2018, he suffered a torn ACL that wiped out the entirety of the 2018 regular season. He returned for the Chargers’ divisional-round contest against the Patriots, but he played in just 20% of the team’s offensive snaps that game and did not catch a pass. Then, he sustained a tibia plateau fracture in Week 1 of the 2019 regular season and missed four games as a result.

Although they accumulated a lot of yards in 2019, the Bolts struggled to convert those yards into points, thanks in large part to shaky quarterback play. Henry, though, did his part, posting 652 receiving yards and five scores, and his yards-per-game output would have amounted to a very good 868 receiving yards if he had played all 16 games. And given the relative dearth of tight end talent in free agency and the draft, it would make sense for the Chargers to re-sign the Arkansas product (the only other tight end who could hit the open market and who could be considered on the same level as Henry is Atlanta’s Austin Hooper, and there’s no guarantee the Falcons let him walk).

But if they cannot agree to a new contract before free agency, LA is expected to use the transition tag on Henry, per Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network. The transition tag is less commonly used than the franchise tag, and while it gives the applying team the right to match any offer a player receives from another club, it does not result in any draft pick compensation should the applying team decline to match. However, no team would give up two first-round picks to sign Henry, so the transition tag makes sense in this case even though it’s only marginally less expensive than the franchise tag ($9.2MM vs. $11MM).

The tight end market is due for a reset, but in light of his health concerns and lack of a true breakout season, Henry may not be the player to reset it. If he elects for the security of a multiyear pact, he may be looking at something akin to the four-year, $29.8MM deal between Darren Waller and the Raiders. Or, if he is hit with the transition tag, he could play out the 2020 campaign on the tag, make a nice salary in the process, and look to jump back into the market in 2021.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Would Be Atop Tom Brady's List

Tom Brady news figures to be a rather common occurrence in this unusual offseason for the 20-year Patriots passer. Set for free agency for the first time, Brady is not expected to re-sign with the Patriots before free agency opens. The Chargers have surfaced again, with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports noting that Brady will have the Bolts atop his list — if, in fact, he decides to leave New England. This is not the first Brady-Chargers link, but JLC adds that the 42-year-old quarterback would have a short list if he did legitimately decide to test free agency. The Chargers’ Los Angeles headquarters, which have not been especially beneficial to the franchise thus far, would appeal to Brady. The future Hall of Famer holds offseason workouts at USC and has previously lived in L.A. The Chargers are set to move into their new stadium, along with the Rams. Brady would certainly help on this front, with the team struggling to generate attention in its new market.

Latest On Philip Rivers, Chargers

Chargers’ Philip Rivers Moves To Florida

Chargers star quarterback Philip Rivers has moved “permanently” from San Diego to Florida, Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com hear. It’s yet another signal that the Bolts and their longtime QB could be moving in separate directions this offseason.

What this means football-wise is to be determined but it was time for us to move back closer to home,” Rivers said in a text message.

After the Chargers’ season finale, Rivers confirmed that he wants to continue playing. The 38-year-old also acknowledged that he might have played his final game with the only franchise he’s ever known.

The Chargers could slide Tyrod Taylor into the starting quarterback role and put their cap dollars elsewhere. Meanwhile, Rivers could join an intriguing QB free agent crop alongside Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota.

Rivers threw for 4,615 yards in 2019 with just 23 touchdowns, his lowest total since 2007. Meanwhile, he threw 20 interceptions as the Chargers went 5-11.

Over the years, Rivers has tallied eight Pro Bowl selections and nearly 400 touchdowns through the air.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Antonio Gates Announces Retirement

Antonio Gates is calling it a career. On Tuesday, the Chargers legend announced his retirement from the NFL.

[RELATED: Chargers To Keep OC Shane Steichen]

I never dreamed that I would play this game of football so long or how fortunate I would be to play it with just one organization,” the tight end said. “I want to thank the Chargers organization, the National Football League, Dean Spanos and the Spanos family for the opportunity to live out a dream and play the game I love.”

Gates, 39, did not suit up last year. Before that, he spent 16 straight seasons with the Chargers and built a reputation as one of the league’s most dangerous tight ends.

Between 2004 and 2011, Gates racked up eight straight Pro Bowl nods and three First-Team All-Pro selections. He topped 1,100 receiving yards twice (2005 and 2009) and flirted with the 1,000-yard mark in 2004, 2006, and 2007. He gave opposing defenses fits in his 30s, too. In 2013, in his age-33 season, he caught 77 passes for 872 yards.

Gates was a star on Kent State’s basketball team, but did not play football in college. When scouts told him he was too small to play power forward in the NBA, the 6’4″ athlete set his sights on the NFL. The Chargers signed him as as undrafted free agent in 2003 and he managed to go from third-stringer to starter as a rookie.

After tallying 955 receptions, 11,841 yards, and 116 touchdowns, Gates is walking away from the sport. He’ll become eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2023 and, in all likelihood, enter Canton as a first-ballot nominee.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Okung, Trubisky, Bucs

Chargers left tackle Russell Okung intends to run for NFLPA president, sources tell Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. This development is notable because, while CBA negotiations between the owners and the union have been progressing smoothly thus far, Okung is said to be vehemently opposed to a 17-game schedule and is open to a work stoppage in order to get the best possible deal for the league’s players.

The 17-game schedule may be the last major sticking point holding up a new CBA, but if a new agreement is not in place by the time current union president Eric Winston’s term expires in March, and if Okung were to be elected, negotiations could stall. Winston cannot be re-elected because he hasn’t played for the past two seasons.

A recent NFLPA investigation revealed that Okung gathered and disseminated confidential information in violation of the union’s constitutions and by-laws, but Okung denies those allegations.

Now for more news and notes from around the league:

  • On Monday, the Fritz Pollard Alliance issued what Florio calls the strongest statement it has made since the Rooney Rule was promulgated. The statement reads in part, “[w]e were painfully reminded through this past hiring cycle that attaining diverse leadership in the NFL can only happen through the willful actions of the team owners and decision makers. The abysmal record of hiring people of color in high ranking levels of NFL management is a reminder of the dark periods of civil rights history. The League has only one African-American General Manager. There are no African-American club presidents.” The Redskins hired a minority when they tabbed Ron Rivera as their new head coach, but the Fritz Pollard Alliance believes worthy minority candidates like Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy continue to get overlooked.
  • Mike Sando of The Athletic takes a look into the upcoming fifth-year option decisions that teams will have to make on their 2017 first-rounders. The entire piece is worth a read, and it’s notable that most of Sando’s sources believe the Bears will exercise the $25MM option on QB Mitchell Trubisky.
  • The Buccaneers worked out cornerback Tre Roberson, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Roberson, who played quarterback in college and who was last with an NFL team in September 2017, recorded seven interceptions for the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders this year. Recent reports suggested that Roberson would be back in the NFL in 2020 and that over 10 teams were interested in the converted signal-caller.

Updated 2020 NFL Draft Order

The stage has been set for the conference championships. The Titans, Chiefs, 49ers, and Packers are moving on to the semifinals, while the Texans, Seahawks, Ravens, and Vikings will begin planning for the offseason ahead. Unfortunately for the Texans, their first round pick belongs to the Dolphins.

Here’s an updated look at the 2020 NFL Draft order from Nos. 1-28:

1. Bengals (2-14)

2. Redskins (3-13)

3. Lions (3-12-1)

4. Giants (4-12)

5 Dolphins (5-11)

6. Chargers (5-11)

7. Panthers (5-11)

8. Cardinals (5-10-1)

9. Jaguars (6-10)

10. Browns (6-10)

11. Jets (7-9)

12. Raiders (7-9)

13. Colts (7-9)

14. Buccaneers (7-9)

15. Broncos (7-9)

16. Falcons (7-9)

17. Cowboys (8-8)

18. Dolphins (via Steelers 8-8)

19. Raiders (via Bears 8-8)

20. Jaguars (via Rams 9-7)

21. Eagles (9-7)

22. Bills (10-6)

23. Patriots (12-4)

24. Saints (13-3)

25. Vikings (10-6)

26. Dolphins (via Texans 10-6)

27. Seahawks (11-5)

28. Ravens (14-2)

NFL Draft Rumors: Lions, Giants, Dolphins

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz from Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller:

  • Miller would be positively stunned if the Bengals don’t draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1 overall and the Redskins don’t grab Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the No. 2 pick.
  • With that in mind, Miller feels the draft truly starts at No. 3 overall, where the Lions pick. Sources tell Miller that they’ll look heavily at Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah and Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown. Then again, it’s a prime trade-back spot – teams like the Dolphins, Chargers, and Panthers could move up to land a QB.
  • Unless new head coach Joe Judge sways him in a different direction, Giants GM Dave Gettleman is expected to look at edge-rushers, left tackles, and wide receivers with the No. 4 pick. “He can’t help himself with linemen, so slot your top-rated offensive tackle there,” one scout who previously worked with Gettleman said. Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr. and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas rank among the top tackles in this year’s crop.
  • No team has done more work on Oregon’s Justin Herbert than the Dolphins, who own the No. 5 pick and two more selections later on, Miller writes. The Dolphins will almost certainly go QB here, then shift their attention to offensive tackle, edge-rusher, and running back help.
  • The same source who tipped Miller off to the Cardinals‘ love of Kyler Murray last year says they’re wild about Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. But, internally, they also feel that the offensive line need is too big to overlook.
  • The Raiders, with two picks in the first round, are looking to go defense and wide receiver, Miller hears.
  • The Bills are already nervous about other teams leapfrogging them for wide receivers, Miller hears. The Bills own the No. 22 overall pick and nine total selections in the draft.
  • The Patriots are impossible to read, but none of Miller’s sources believe that they’ll draft a quarterback early on. Tom Brady has vowed to continue playing, but he’ll also explore his options in free agency.