Harrison was among the Colts’ final roster cuts in August, but he was immediately retained via the practice squad. Despite that move, the 26-year-old has yet to make an appearance in Indianapolis as a gameday elevation. He will now have the chance to make his Colts debut, having taken the 53-man roster spot of Shaquille Leonardafter the latter’s surprise cut.
Muse will be required to miss at least the next four weeks as a result of the IR move. The former Seahawk has played exclusively on special teams to date during his first season with the Chargers, logging a 73% snap share in that capacity. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports Muse could still play later this season, something which will give Los Angeles a boost in the third phase if they are still in playoff contention down the stretch.
Ahmed’s foot injury, coupled with a new round of uncertainty regarding the healthy of rookie sensation De’Von Achane, could leave Miami shorthanded in the backfield. While it remains to be seen if the latter will miss time after coming back from an IR stint, the former will not be available moving forward. Ahmed is out for the season, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. The 24-year-old scored two total touchdowns on 38 touches this year, his fourth with the Dolphins. He is set to hit free agency this offseason, but the injury will no doubt hurt his market.
Evans had been called up from the practice squad three times by the Cowboys, meaning he needed to be added to the 53-man roster this week to continue suiting up. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports “several teams” attempted to poach the veteran off the taxi squad, but his decision to remain with Dallas has culminated in today’s move. Evans has logged 74 combined defensive and special teams snaps with the Cowboys so far, recording three tackles.
James was out of the lineup for one game after being designated for return, but he will be eligible to suit up for the upcoming Super Bowl rematch against the Eagles. Mentioned as a trade candidate earlier this year, he will be able to add depth to a WR corps which has underperformed to date, and add to his single catch recorded in his two Kansas City games at the start of the campaign.
5:19pm: The Buccaneers and Commanders also put in Carter claims, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. Both four-win teams reside behind the Cardinals in the waiver order, leading the young running back to the desert.
The Jets made the surprising decision to waive the backup running back Tuesday. The 2021 draftee is signed through 2024. This marks another reserve RB addition for the Cardinals, who have cycled through a few this season. Carter, 24, is due a nonguaranteed $1.1MM next year.
One of two Michael Carters the Jets drafted in 2021, the North Carolina alum showed some promise as a rookie. In the Joe Douglas–Robert Saleh regime’s first offseason, the Jets chose Carter in Round 4. Carter proceeded to lead the Jets in rushing that season, totaling 639 yards (4.3 per carry) and four touchdowns. The former Javonte Williams Tar Heels teammate nearly reached 1,000 scrimmage yards as a rookie, contributing 325 through the air as well. Carter’s scrimmage-yards total that year paced the Jets by more than 300.
Carter enjoyed that notable rookie season despite missing three games, but with the Jets finishing 4-13, it did not generate too much acclaim. The Jets drafted Breece Hall in the 2022 second round, demoting Carter. The team also signed Dalvin Cook this offseason, bringing in the ex-Vikings Pro Bowler as Hall insurance. While Carter held offBam Knight for a roster spot this year, the team is expected to give more playing time to rookie fifth-rounder Israel Abanikanda. Carter averaged just 3.5 yards per carry last season, filling in as one of the Jets’ solutions following Hall’s ACL tear.
The Cardinals have kept Keaontay Ingram and rookie UDFA Emari Demercado in place as Conner’s backups. Carter will join the roster as a fourth running back, potentially providing aid on passing downs. That said, Demercado has missed the past two games with a toe injury. Carter will supply more depth to a Cardinals team that could look to him as a multiyear contributor. This regime did not authorize Conner’s three-year, $21MM extension, calling the veteran’s 2024 status into question. For now, Carter profiles as a Conner backup in the again-Kyler Murray-led Cards attack.
Baker Mayfield‘s 2021 and ’22 seasons tanked his 2023 free agent market. He settled for backup money from the Buccaneers, who were looking to cut costs after the Tom Brady $35.1MM in dead money hit their cap. Mayfield fit the bill, signing a one-year deal worth $4MM.
Midway through the season, Mayfield is on pace to fare better on the 2024 market — should he land in free agency. Mayfield, 28, entered the season joining Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill as starting quarterbacks in contract years. With Tannehill benched and Cousins out for the season, Mayfield is the only one left who has a clear path to adjusting his 2024 stock. The Bucs are an interested party, which makes sense given their standing.
The Bucs are open to the idea of a second Mayfield contract, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. They have exclusive negotiating rights with their current starter until March’s legal tampering period. That said, Fowler adds the sides have not engaged in negotiations just yet. It would make sense for both parties to let more of the season play out. Mayfield could elevate his stock with a strong finish, but given his inconsistent career, the Bucs also may still be leery of a more lucrative payment to a middling quarterback.
Far from middling in 2021 and ’22, Mayfield was with three teams last year and finished with league-worst QBR. Some Panthers staffers viewed Mayfield’s late arrival in Charlotte, which came to pass because of lengthy negotiations between Cleveland and Carolina regarding both draft compensation and an adjusted contract, impacted his poor Panthers performance. Mayfield played through a shoulder injury for most of his 2021 season in Cleveland, and the Browns moved on via the controversial Deshaun Watson trade/extension.
Mayfield ranks 14th in QBR through nine games, and he is completing passes (64.6%) at a career-high rate while carrying 14-5 TD-INT ratio. While the Bucs lost four straight after a 3-1 start, Mayfield had them in position to upend the Texans before a C.J. Stroud last-minute drive. He has tossed two touchdown passes in each of the past three games while throwing just one INT in that span.
While Cousins has been one of the game’s most consistent quarterbacks during his Minnesota stretch and Tannehill has seen ankle trouble (and the Titans’ second-round Will Levis investment) ding his stock, Mayfield can change his perception over the next two months. It would be highly unlikely to see Mayfield rival Cousins for AAV in 2024, but a midlevel QB accord could be in play.
Mayfield’s top target is also in a contract year. Mike Evans came up briefly at the trade deadline, but the Bucs showed no indication then or in August — when the Jets initially called — they were open to dealing the nine-time 1,000-yard receiver. Blazing toward a record-extending 10th straight 1,000-yard year to start a career, Evans is playing out a contract he inked in 2018. The Bucs are not believed to have proposed a second extension to the best wideout in franchise history, but Fowler adds some around the league believed the door is not shut on Tampa Bay revisiting talks and finding a way to retain the free agent-to-be.
Evans set a Week 1 extension deadline, making his dissatisfaction with contract talks public late in the summer. Nothing materialized, but GM Jason Licht has continually praised the likely Hall of Fame-bound talent, and although Evans said no offer has come despite off-and-on talks over the past two years, the longtime GM said in August the team wants Evans to stay in Tampa long term. Considering how close Evans would be to becoming a first-time free agent, the Bucs may have to battle other teams on the open market.
Then again, Tampa Bay has done well in that department. Over the past three offseasons, the team has re-signed Shaq Barrett, Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Lavonte David after letting them gauge the market during recent tampering periods. An Evans departure would obviously create a glaring need for the Bucs, which would point to the organization being interested. It remains to be seen, however, if the team is ready to pay upper-echelon money to convince the 30-year-old weapon to pass on outside interest come March.
The best bet for a Bucs franchise tag, though, might be Antoine Winfield Jr. Much younger than Mayfield and Evans, the 25-year-old safety would be on track to become one of the top 2024 free agents. A summer rumor indicated the Bucs were interested in extending Winfield, but nothing has come of it yet. At midseason, Fowler adds the Bucs have not made aggressive attempts to re-sign their young players just yet. Given the timelines of the Davis and Dean deals, it is not too surprising the Bucs have not gotten serious on a second Winfield contract yet.
This year’s safety market largely settled in south of $10MM per year, but Jessie Bates was the outlier, signing a four-year, $64MM Falcons pact. Winfield’s age and productivity would put him in line to rival Bates’ accord, which could conceivably bring the tag into play. A few teams have cuffed safeties during the 2020s. The Broncos tagged Justin Simmons twice, while the Bengals (Bates), Vikings (Anthony Harris), Saints (Marcus Williams) and Jets (Marcus Maye) unholstered the tag as well. Those tag prices all came in south of $13MM. OverTheCap projects the 2024 safety tag to be north of $18MM, which would make such a decision more difficult.
While the Bucs exercised Tristan Wirfs‘ fifth-year option to extend his negotiating timeline, they have until early March to keep their 2020 second-round pick off the market.
After a 2022 rule change, teams can activate up to eight players from injured reserve. That has reintroduced some strategy into how franchises proceed with their activations, and teams will again need to be cognizant of their activation counts in 2023.
The NFL had reintroduced IR-return options in the 2010s, after a period in which an IR move meant a player’s season was over. But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the league to loosen restrictions on IR from 2020-21. Teams were permitted to use unlimited activations to start the decade, but roster math is again a consideration.
Players who land on IR after cutdown day must miss at least four games. Once a team designates a player for return, the activation clock starts. Clubs have 21 days from a player’s return-to-practice date to activate that player. If no activation commences in that window, the player reverts to season-ending IR.
Here is how the NFL’s IR situations look for Week 14:
Yesterday’s Panthers-Bears game carried signficant draft implications, as many noted in the build-up to the primetime matchup. With Carolina having dealt its 2024 first-round pick to Chicago as part of the deal involving last year’s No. 1 selection, the Bears were able to boost their chances of picking first in April with a win.
Owning the top selection in a draft touted for having multiple high-end options at the quarterback spot would of course add further to the speculation surrounding Justin Fields. The Bears gave the 24-year-old a vote of confidence last spring by trading out of the No. 1 slot, but he has yet to develop as hoped this season. Chicago could opt for a fresh start under center (particularly if they declined Fields’ fifth-year option) this spring while also having the opportunity to add help elsewhere on the roster with their own first-rounder, which seems destined to fall within the top 10 or perhaps even top five selections.
Of course, teams like the Giants, Cardinals and Patriots have experienced signficant troubles of their own this year. A continuation of their first half performances could leave them in pole position for the Caleb Williams–Drake Mayesweepstakes. All three teams face potential uncertainty with respect to their current passers’ futures, despite each having term remaining on their respective contracts.
For non-playoff teams, the draft order will be determined by the inverted 2024 standings — plus a series of tiebreakers, starting with strength of schedule — with playoff squads being slotted by their postseason outcome and regular-season record. With plenty still to be sorted out over the coming months, here is an early look at the current draft order: