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Broncos Sign Rookie WR Carlos Henderson

The Broncos now have their entire 2017 rookie class under contract, as they’ve agreed to terms with third-round wide receiver Carlos Henderson, according to Mike Klis of 9NEWS (Twitter link).Carlos Henderson (Vertical)

Henderson, a Louisiana Tech product, will be making the leap from Conference USA to the NFL, but he would appear to have a clear path to playing time in Denver. Aside from Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos’ other wideouts shouldn’t post much of a threat. Jordan Taylor, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and fellow rookie Isaiah McKenzie will serve as Henderson’s primary competition.

At the very least, Henderson figures to act as the Broncos’ top return man during his rookie campaign. Denver finished just 22nd in special teams DVOA a season ago, and lost 1.1 points on kick returns and 6.8 points on punt returns. Henderson, meanwhile, averaged 32.2 yards per kick return and scored two touchdowns.

Here’s an overview of the Broncos’ class:

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Redskins Sign Rookie CB Fabian Moreau

The Redskins announced that they’ve signed third-round cornerback Fabian Moreau, meaning the club has now locked up its entire 2017 draft class.Fabian Moreau (vertical)

Moreau, a UCLA product was considered a late first-round or early second-round prospect before tearing his pectoral during the predraft process. Following the injury, Moreau fell to the 81st overall pick, but should still have a chance to compete for playing time during his rookie campaign pending the speed of his recovery. Washington’s cornerbacks behind Josh Norman currently include Bashaud Breeland, Quinton Dunbar, Kendall Fuller, and Dashaun Phillips.

Here’s a complete overview of the Redskins’ rookie class:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Teams Take On Int’l Players

The NFL announced that the teams of the NFC South will be carrying an additional overseas player on their practice squads during the upcoming season. This is part of the league’s flagship International Player Pathway program.

Now, the Falcons, Panthers, Saints, and Buccaneers will all be operating with an 11-man practice squad while the rest of the league has ten. However, they don’t necessarily have an advantage over other clubs because these additional overseas players cannot be activated during the season.

Here is a look at the players who will be joining each taxi squad:

  • Falcons: Alex Gray, TE – Gray, a former rugby star, is the first English rugby union professional to quit the sport to pursue American football. The 26-year-old was named the England Sevens player of the year in 2015. He not to be confused with the undrafted Appalachian State safety of the same name who joined the Bucs’ 90-man roster.
  • Panthers: Efe Obada, DE – Obada, who grew up in the Netherlands and England, was on the Cowboys’ practice squad in 2010. Prior to the 2016 season, he also had brief stints with the Chiefs and Falcons.
  • Saints: Alex Jenkins, DE – Jenkins was born and raised in England but actually has a background in American football. Back home, he played for the Bath City Academy and for the Bristol Aztecs before earning a spot on the Great Britain youth team. He played his college ball in San Antonio, Texas at the University of the Incarnate Word. He had 3.5 sacks in his senior year.
  • Buccaneers: Eric Nzeocha, LB – Nzeocha is now the second German-born player to join up with the Bucs in franchise history. German safety Claudius Osei spent the 2005 campaign on Tampa Bay’s taxi squad as part of a similar program. Nzeocha’s brother Mark is a linebacker for the Cowboys.

Seahawks Sign Malik McDowell

The Seahawks have signed second-round pick Malik McDowell, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). McDowell was the first pick in this year’s draft for Seattle, which moved down from No. 26 overall to No. 35 in a series of trades before landing the ex-Michigan State defensive tackle. He’ll receive a four-year contract worth approximately $6.96MM, including $3.2MM signing bonus.

Malik McDowell (Vertical)

The 6-foot-6, 295-pound McDowell tallied 24.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 32 games at Michigan State, where he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in each of the previous two seasons. McDowell’s new head coach, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, revealed earlier this month that he won’t just play D-tackle with the Seahawks. Rather, they’ll also McDowell as a Michael Bennett-esque defensive end. Moving to end could benefit McDowell and help him realize his All-Pro potential, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com noted entering the draft.

McDowell is the eighth member of the Seahawks’ 11-player draft class to sign his rookie contract. Second-round offensive lineman Ethan Pocic, third-round cornerback Shaquill Griffin and third-round safety Delano Hill remain without deals.

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Jets Sign Corey White

The Jets have signed defensive back Corey White and waived/injured wide receiver/kick returner Brisly Estime, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (on Twitter).

Corey White

A 27-year-old journeyman, White has combined for 66 appearances, 24 starts and six interceptions with the Saints, Cowboys, Cardinals and Bills since going in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. He totaled two picks last year during his lone season in Buffalo, where he started in four of 15 appearances and ranked 81st in performance among Pro Football Focus’ 111 qualified corners. White’s now the 11th corner-capable defender on the Jets’ 90-man roster, though he can also play safety.

Estime joined the Jets on May 5 as an undrafted free agent from Syracuse, where he caught 103 passes and seven touchdowns in four years. Estime would’ve had a chance to make the Jets as a returner, tweets ESPN’s Rich Cimini, but he suffered a torn Achilles during practice Wednesday and will head to injured reserve.

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Draft Pick Signings: 5/25/17

The latest draft picks to sign their first NFL contracts:

  • The Cardinals have signed their second-round selection, former Washington safety Budda Baker, leaving first-round linebacker Haason Reddick as the only member of their seven-pick class without a contract. Baker, whom Arizona drafted after trading up from No. 45 overall to No. 36 in a deal with the Bears, closed out his college career last year with an All-America season, piling up 70 tackles (9.5 for loss), three sacks and two interceptions. He should emerge as the Cardinals’ long-term answer at strong safety, potentially giving the team an enviable tandem with Baker and free safety Tyrann Mathieu.
  • The Buccaneers have inked second-round safety Justin Evans to a deal, tweets FanRag’s Roy Cummings. With Evans under contract, the only one of the Bucs’ six picks who’s unsigned is third-rounder Chris Godwin. Evans, the 50th pick, played the previous two seasons at Texas A&M, breaking out as a playmaker in 2016 with four interceptions. The 6-foot, 199-pound Evans is an “extremely physical hitter,” per NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, who notes that he has the makings of a “plus NFL starter.”
  • The Jets now have eight of their nine selections under contract, having signed third-round wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (first-round safety Jamal Adams is the lone straggler). The 5-11, 204-pound Stewart went 79th overall after emerging as a legitimate weapon at Alabama in 2015 and combining for 117 receptions and 12 touchdowns in his final two years with the Crimson Tide. Stewart now joins Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson and fourth-rounder Chad Hansen as intriguing Jets wideouts who are 25 or younger.
  • The Titans have signed the 155th overall pick, fifth-round linebacker Jayon Brown. The ex-UCLA Bruin ended his college tenure in 2016 with career highs in tackles (119), tackles for loss (7.5), interceptions (three) and sacks (two), though Zierlein pegs the 6-foot, 231-pounder as an undersized player who “lacks the functional strength to become anything more than a sub-package cover linebacker.”
  • The Vikings have finally gotten to work on signing their 11 picks, having come to terms with fifth-round receiver Rodney Adams (No. 170 overall) and seventh-round defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo (No. 220), per Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune. Formerly with both Toledo and South Florida, the speedy Adams is likely to make an impact as a kick returner and/or a fourth or fifth receiver early in his career, according to Zierlein. Odenigbo, meanwhile, was a prolific sack artist at Northwestern, where he took down opposing quarterbacks 23 times over four seasons – including a personal-best 10 in 2016.

Bears To Sign WR Victor Cruz

The Bears are signing former Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, according to Kimberly Jones and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). It will be a one-year deal. 

As PFR’s Sam Robinson detailed recently, Cruz is a logical fit for Chicago. The Bears lost Alshon Jeffery in free agency this offseason (without much of a fight) and Kevin White cannot be counted upon given his injury concerns. The Bears added Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton this spring to help fill the void and Cruz is the latest addition to bolster the WR group.

In addition to Cruz and the aforementioned Wright, White, and Wheaton, the Bears have Cameron Meredith atop the WR depth chart. Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, and Daniel Braverman are among the other WRs presently on the 90-man roster.

After missing the majority of the 2014 season and sitting out the entire 2015 season, the salsa-dancing fan favorite clearly lost a step in 2016 as he caught 39 passes for 586 yards and one touchdown in 15 games. However, the 30-year-old (31 in November) might be able to recapture some of his old magic if he is used in the slot.

In his best seasons, Cruz was a legitimate star for the Giants. He burst on to the scene in 2011 by catching 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine scores. His encore saw him set a new career high with 86 grabs for 1,092 yards and ten touchdowns, earning him a trip to the Super Bowl.

Before agreeing to sign with Chicago, the Jaguars scheduled a visit with Cruz, but that was cancelled for unknown reasons. The Ravens also reportedly expressed interest in him.

Photo via Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.

Giants Cut Rahim Moore, Ishaq Williams

The Giants cut defensive back Rahim Moore and linebacker Ishaq Williams, according to a team announcement. Rahim Moore

The Giants signed Moore to reserve/futures deal back in January, but their interest in him dated back to at least March of 2016. The G-Men considered signing the safety in that offseason, but he ultimately joined the Browns on a one-year, $1.85MM deal. Moore was cut in early September and earned a tryout from the Giants in October 2016, but he ended up sitting out the entire season. Before all of that, Moore spent the first four years of his career in Denver and parlayed that into a three-year, $12MM free agent deal with Houston. The Texans dropped him after a disappointing 2015.

Williams, a Notre Dame product, joined the Giants as a UDFA in May 2016. Though he missed the final cut, he spent significant time on the taxi squad and even earned a promotion to the active roster in December.

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Bills Sign LB Gerald Hodges

Bills coach Sean McDermott announced that the team is has signed linebacker Gerald Hodges (Twitter link via Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News). To make room, the Bills cut cornerback Charles Gaines.Gerald Hodges (vertical)

Hodges only visited with two clubs — the Chiefs and Seahawks — during the first month of free agency. Recently, however, he has embarked on a tour that saw him meet with the Jets, Giants, Patriots, Jaguars, and Colts. However, it was his meeting with the Bills that has fostered a deal.

Hodges played on approximately half of the 49ers’ defensive snaps last year while grading out as the league’s No. 21 linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus. In his 15 games, the 26-year-old racked up 80 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions. He also was on the field for 73 special teams snaps.

The Bills’ linebacker group has already gone through some changes this year after the departures of Zach Brown and Lerentee McCray in free agency. The Bills project to start Reggie Ragland and Lorenzo Alexander at the OLB spots with Preston Brown in the middle, but the group behind them is looking a little thin. Ramon Humber and rookies Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo figure to primarily pitch in as reserve OLBs, leaving them without a proven depth option for MLB. That’s where Hodges might come in handy for Buffalo.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Sign Devin Taylor

The Giants have signed defensive end Devin Taylor to a one-year contract, tweets Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The addition of Taylor is the second of the evening for New York, which reached a deal with safety Duke Ihenacho earlier Wednesday.

Devin Taylor (vertical)[RELATED: Updated Giants Depth Chart]

The 27-year-old Taylor went to Detroit in the fourth round of the 2013 draft and ended up spending his first four seasons there, appearing in 61 of a possible 64 games and totaling 18 starts. Taylor also registered a respectable 15 sacks, 11.5 of which came from 2015-16 (four last year), and is coming off his first 16-start campaign. But Pro Football Focus wasn’t exactly enamored of Taylor’s output in 2016, as it ranked his performance 108th among 109 qualified defensive ends, and he drew no known interest in free agency before his meeting with the Giants this week.

Unlike the Lions, the Giants won’t lean on Taylor as a starter. Big Blue already has an elite defensive end duo in Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, so Taylor will give the club further depth behind those two. Taylor offers the most proven track record among a group of backup Giants DEs that includes Romeo Okwara, Owa Odighizuwa and fifth-round rookie Avery Moss, among others.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.