Tavon Austin

Packers To Sign Tavon Austin

Tavon Austin is back in the league. The Packers will be signing the veteran wide receiver, a source told Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Austin signed with the 49ers back in August, but was placed on injured reserve before the season started. He was released from IR last month, and has been a free agent ever since. Green Bay isn’t super deep at wideout beyond Davante Adams, so this is a flyer that can’t really hurt. That being said, Austin has been used more as a gadget player and returner than a true receiver in recent years.

The eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft, Austin spent his first five seasons with the Rams. Current Packers coach Matt LaFleur was his offensive coordinator with the Rams for the 2017 season, so there’s some familiarity here. He never came close to living up to his draft status, but Austin had some electric moments with the Rams due to his speed.

He’s got big play ability, although at 30 now he’s probably not quite as explosive as he used to be. Austin spent the past two seasons with Dallas, and caught 13 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown last year. He also returned punts for the Cowboys and Rams, and it’s possible he’ll reprise that role in Green Bay. We don’t know the terms yet, although it’s fairly safe to assume he didn’t get any significant money.

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Packers To Meet With Tavon Austin

The Packers will work out Tavon Austin, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The former Rams and Cowboys wide receiver has yet to see live action this year. 

Austin, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 draft, joined the 49ers over the summer and was said to be playing well in training camp. Then, when a knee injury forced him to IR, he was cut loose. Austin has never come close to justifying his draft status, but his speed and versatility continues to intrigue coaches around the league. In theory, Austin could feature as a receiver, rusher, and returner for the Packers.

Of course, health has been Austin’s biggest stumbling block as a pro. Over seven injury-laden years in the NFL, Austin has notched 215 receptions while averaging just 9.3 yards per catch. For what it’s worth, he did average more than 15 yards per grab over the last two seasons with the Cowboys, but that was in a super small sample size of 21 receptions.

The Austin audition comes after Darrius Shepherd fumbled on a kickoff return against the Colts. With over 200 career kick and punt returns on his resume, a special teams role could be Austin’s quickest path to getting back on the field.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 10/27/20

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Buffalo Bills

  • Promoted: LB Andre Smith
  • Released from reserve/retired list: DB Isiah Brown

Denver Broncos

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

49ers Place Tavon Austin On IR

It’s a bad year to be a 49ers wide receiver. Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com reports that Tavon Austin, whom San Francisco signed last month due to injuries to other wideouts, is headed to IR with a knee injury (Twitter link). Austin was signed on the same day as J.J. Nelson, who was recently placed on IR as well.

It’s an especially tough break for Austin, who was performing well in training camp and who may have been a valuable chess piece in head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s offense. Deebo Samuel appears unlikely to be available at the start of the season, first-round rookie Brandon Aiyuk‘s hamstring injury makes his status uncertain, and Jalen Hurd will miss the entire campaign due to an ACL tear, so Austin may actually have been in line for a sizable role.

The good news for the Niners is that Richie James has been activated from the NFI list. James had been dealing with a broken wrist, but it appears that he is on track for Week 1. He has served as the club’s primary return specialist over the last two seasons, and with Austin out of the picture, it seems likely that he will reprise that role in 2020.

The 49ers, though, could still use some depth at WR, and one wonders if the recently-released Mohamed Sanu could spark GM John Lynch‘s interest. As Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk writes, Lynch did not rule out a potential Sanu signing when asked about it this afternoon. Sanu played for Shanahan in Atlanta in 2016, when the latter was working as the Falcons’ OC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Rumors: Reed, Bosa, Ford, Juszczyk

One of the NFL’s most injury-prone players, Jordan Reed considered retirement after missing all of the 2019 season. The ex-Washington tight end dealt with another concussion last year, adding to a lengthy list of head injuries for the former Pro Bowler. But he signed with the 49ers this summer and is set to back up George Kittle.

I definitely thought about hanging it up after last season,” Reed said, via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch. “But it was when I watched the Super Bowl is what really ignited me again. I want to play in those big games. … Before I made my decision, I saw some professionals. And I did my rehab. All the tests were clear. I’m healthy and I’m good to go.”

Following last season, Reed has missed 25 NFL games because of concussions. He also suffered at least one in each of his three Florida seasons. The 30-year-old playmaker signed a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum ($1.05MM for an eighth-year player).

Here is the latest out of San Francisco:

  • Both Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are currently sidelined with injuries. Bosa is dealing with a strained muscle, while Ford is battling a calf malady. However, Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday he would be “very surprised” if his high-end edge rushers were unavailable for Week 1, via ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner (on Twitter). Bosa dealt with a high ankle sprain during the 49ers’ 2019 training camp but played every game last season. Ford ran into knee and foot trouble and was limited to a part-time role.
  • Kyle Juszczyk is also on the shelf for the 49ers. The acclaimed fullback suffered a hamstring strain, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. The 49ers, however, expect him to be ready by the time they face the Cardinals in Week 1.
  • During a late-summer wide receiver shuffle, the 49ers placed J.J. Nelson on IR and cut Jaron Brown. Kevin White and Tavon Austin remain on the roster, and the latter has performed well during camp, Branch notes. A former top-10 pick who turned 30 this year, Austin has not met expectations as a pro. But he’s played seven NFL seasons and, despite being listed as a wideout, has 10 rushing TDs in his career. San Francisco remains down Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk as well, complicating its receiver depth chart. Injuries will certainly play a key part in how the 49ers’ receiver group looks after Saturday’s roster cutdown.
  • Despite White and Austin being vested veterans, each would be eligible for a practice squad spot. Due to the pandemic, teams can use up to six of their 16 P-squad slots on veterans with any amount of NFL experience this year. Shanahan is interested in taking advantage of this one-time-only luxury. “I love the fact that they’ll let us have vets on it,” the fourth-year 49ers coach said (via Maiocco). “I understand that some players won’t want to do that, but we’ll do our best to tell them why we think it’s a good opportunity for them.” Vested vets are slated to earn $12K per week on the taxi squad this season.

49ers To Sign Tavon Austin

The 49ers have signed wide receivers Tavon Austin and J.J. Nelson, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Both players will look to make the final cut as insurance for Deebo Samuel. Terms of the deals are not yet known, but they’re likely for the veteran minimum with little in the way of guarantees. 

Austin was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013, but he has yet to justify his draft status. At the age of 30, it seems unlikely to happen now. Still, coaches continue to be tantalized by his speed. Austin, in theory, could contribute as a receiver, rusher, and returner.

Over seven injury-laden years in the NFL, Austin has caught 215 passes while averaging less than yards per catch. He did average more than 15 yards per grab over the last two seasons with the Cowboys, but that was in a super small sample size of 21 receptions. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan could get creative with Austin – as Sean McVay did in L.A. – and try him in a variety of spots.

Nelson posted back-to-back 500-yard seasons with the Cardinals in 2016 and 2017, but his offensive role has dwindled since then. In 2019, he had four grabs in 15 games for the Raiders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Host Tavon Austin

The 49ers are bringing in veteran receiver Tavon Austin for a visit, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). The team hopes to finalize a contract with the speedster.

Austin, 30, was selected by the Rams with the ninth overall pick of the 2013 draft. The club could not resist Austin’s playmaking ability as a receiver, rusher, and returner, and while he has certainly had his moments of explosiveness, injuries have also dogged him throughout his career.

Over his seven years in the league, Austin has caught 215 passes and has averaged less than 10 yards per reception, which is disappointing for a player with his speed. The two years he spent in Dallas from 2018-19 saw him average over 15 yards per catch, but he was limited to seven games in 2018 and totaled just 21 receptions during his time with the Cowboys.

However, the Rams utilized him as a ball carrier much more than the Cowboys did, and he does boast a strong 6.8 yard-per-carry average. And that’s to say nothing of his return experience. While he has not returned more than three kickoffs in a season since his rookie campaign, he has returned 185 punts in his career, with a career return average of 7.9 yards to go along with three house calls.

If anyone can get the most out of Austin’s ability, it’s 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. With Marquise Goodwin and Travis Benjamin out of the picture, Shanahan could use some speed in his WR depth chart, and the team could also benefit from an experienced punt returner given Richie James‘ injury concerns.

Austin has earned nearly $40MM in his career, but his next contract may not be for much more than the veteran minimum.

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Release Candidate: Tavon Austin

In 2013, the Rams were blown away by the blazing speed of Tavon Austin and used the No. 8 overall pick draft to secure him. In 2016, the Rams inked him a four-year, $42MM extension, making him the 12th highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL at the time. Today, Austin finds himself on the Cowboys’ roster bubble. 

Austin still possesses game-changing speed, but injuries continue to hold him back. Last year, a groin pull limited him to just seven games in which he caught eight passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns, which more or less sums up his career to date – Austin put up a DeSean Jackson-type yards per catch average, but couldn’t stay on the field.

Austin also holds appeal for his ability to play out of the backfield and serve as a slippery returner, but both roles seem to have been filled in Dallas. The Cowboys tapped Memphis product Tony Pollard in the draft to play as the change-of-pace back behind star Ezekiel Elliott and return kicks. Meanwhile, newcomer Randall Cobb is slated to be the Cowboys’ main slot receiver.

Wide receivers Amari CooperMichael Gallup, and Cobb are locks for the roster and Allen Hurns isn’t far behind in the pecking order. That leaves one, or possibly two, WR spots on the 53-man roster, and Noah Brown and Jon’Vea Johnson both seem to have a leg up on Austin, who was limited in OTAs and minicamp.

The Cowboys re-upped Austin on a one-year deal in the spring, but the pact includes just $500K guaranteed. Unless Austin can quickly prove that he is healthy and ready to make an impact, he’ll likely be released in the coming weeks.

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Cowboys To Re-Sign WR Tavon Austin

The Cowboys are keeping wide receiver Tavon Austin, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Clarence Hill Jr. of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that it’s a one-year deal, although financial terms of the deal are not yet known. 

The Rams made Austin the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 draft after being blown away by his blazing speed. So far, Austin has yet to live up to his draft billing, but the Cowboys are still intrigued by his ability. Last year, Austin notched just eight catches in seven games, but he averaged 17.5 yards per grab.

He also has the ability to make plays out of the backfield, as evidenced by his career 6.8 yards per carry average. The Cowboys talked up Austin relentlessly last offseason, and insisted they were going to get him involved on offense after acquiring him. That never really materialized, but they’re willing to give it another shot in 2019.

He can also contribute on special teams, and had a 51-yard punt return in the playoffs this past season that almost went for a touchdown. With Cole Beasley gone to Buffalo, Austin should be the team’s primary punt returner in 2019. Austin struggled with a groin injury in 2018 that ended up costing him nine games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Fins, Falcons, Cowboys, Browns

The Dolphins have already ruled out quarterback Ryan Tannehill for their Week 7 contest against the Lions, and the NFL is now investigating how Miami handled reporting Tannehill’s shoulder injury in Week 6, as Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com reports. Tannehill was a full participant in both Wednesday and Thursday practice last week, but was limited on Friday before being inactive against the Bears on Sunday. The league will often look into such cases where injury designations present something of a question mark; some clubs are subsequently fined, others are cleared, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. Without Tannehill available, Miami will once again deploy Brock Osweiler, who threw for a career-high 380 yards against Chicago.

Here’s more injury news from around the NFL:

  • Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair his groin injury, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Freeman’s recovery timeline isn’t yet clear, but reports yesterday did indicate that Freeman — who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday — could return later this season. Because he’s now on IR, Freeman must miss at least eight games before coming back. Various health issues have limited Freeman to just two games this season, during which he averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 14 touches. With Freeman unavailable, Atlanta will turn to a tandem of Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith in its backfield.
  • Tavon Austin is getting a second opinion on his groin injury in the near future, and the Cowboys will wait to hear that diagnosis before deciding on an injured reserve move, tweets Clarence Hill of the Star Telegram. Austin, who Dallas acquired from the Rams earlier this year, has lined up at both receiver and running back this season, managing seven receptions and six rushes on the year. If Austin is placed on IR, the Cowboys will continue to lean on an uninspiring group of pass-catchers that includes Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, and Deonte Thompson. Dallas would need to find a new punt returner, as Austin has handled all but one of the club’s punt returns.
  • Browns linebacker Joe Schobert will be sidelined for “a little while” as he deals with with a hamstring injury, head coach Hue Jackson told reporters, including Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Losing Schobert for any amount of time is devastating for Cleveland, as he’s played nearly every snap on defense while ranking as a top-10 linebacker league-wide, per Pro Football Focus. With Schobert down, the Browns will likely deploy Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins as their nickel linebackers. Cleveland’s linebacker depth already took a hit earlier this week when James Burgess was placed on injured reserve.
  • Turning to the college game, Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a neck injury last weekend, according to Nick Suss of the Clarion-Ledger. Metcalf is a redshirt sophomore, so he could potentially enter the 2019 draft if he so chooses. But given his injury, Metcalf may choose to head back to school in order to put more highlights on tape. Per Suss, Metcalf is viewed as a potential Day 2 pick.