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NFL Workout Updates: 1/5/20

Here is a recap of some recent workouts around the league:

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

NFC South Notes: JPP, Panthers, Falcons

Bruce Arians has understandably asserted Shaquil Barrett‘s all-time contract year will keep him with the Buccaneers but added the team wants to keep its other high-profile front-seven starters as well. Both Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh‘s contracts are up, but Arians said keeping both will be a top priority (Twitter link via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com). The veteran HC may have indicated JPP resides slightly higher on the priority list as well, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (on Twitter). Pierre-Paul returned from another scary injury this season and has registered 8.5 sacks in 10 games, giving him 21 in two Bucs seasons. The Bucs hold a great deal of cap space, at $88.9MM, but will likely need to devote a chunk of that amount to Jameis Winston.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • If Greg Olsen opts to put off his broadcasting career for another year, he will likely need to relocate. The veteran tight end indicated recently he did not want to take part in a potential Panthers rebuild. While the franchise has not committed to charting that path, Joe Person of The Athletic expects Olsen to be elsewhere in 2020. “I just think sometimes the writing’s on the wall,” Olsen said, via Joe Person of The Athletic (subscription required). “There hasn’t been anything officially. But I wanted to make sure if that was my last time that I made sure I told the people that I needed to how much they meant on my career.” One year (at a $6.6MM base salary) remains on the 34-year-old tight end’s contract. Carolina would save $8.1MM by cutting Olsen, its top tight end for the past nine years.
  • Moving to a younger NFC South tight end, Austin Hooper acknowledged the Falcons have not yet made him an offer to stay, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Hooper, however, would like to return, and Thomas Dimitroff appeared to indicate the breakout tight end will be a priority (Twitter link via Ledbetter). We heard this earlier this season as well.
  • A Hooper return may lead De’Vondre Campbell elsewhere. The Falcons already gave a top-market contract to Deion Jones and are up against the salary cap. While noting he wants to stay in Atlanta, the Falcons’ top 2019 tackler acknowledged (via ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure) he may need to change teams. Although the Falcons will consider re-signing Campbell and Vic Beasley, Dimitroff did not commit to either’s return (via McClure, on Twitter).
  • Despite Breshad Perriman‘s end-of-season stretch potentially raising his free agency price, the Buccaneers‘ No. 3 wideout would like to stay in this high-octane offense. Perriman signed a one-year, $4MM deal with Tampa Bay, doing so after backing out of a Cleveland commitment following the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. The Bucs have Mike Evans on a high-end deal and will see Chris Godwin enter a contract year in 2020, perhaps pushing Perriman to another team.
  • A player the Panthers do not want on another team: James Bradberry. Carolina’s top cornerback met with GM Marty Hurney, and David Newton of ESPN.com notes the fourth-year corner received a “be patient” message from this summit. The Panthers want Bradberry back, Newton adds, but the former Round 2 pick would obviously prefer an upper-echelon deal to stay.

Draft Notes: Jets, Ravens, Colts, Pats, Packers, 49ers

With the start of the College Football Playoff and the end to the NFL regular season, Bleacher Report’s lead NFL Draft writer Matt Miller has opined that many scouting departments are getting back together to wrap up notes and start preparing for the postseason. As that happens, rumors will begin leaking out of departments, and he has heard rumblings from some sources regarding NFL teams and their views on the upcoming draft. Let’s take a look at what he is hearing:

  • Coming into today’s matchup with the Bills, the Jets have won enough games down the stretch to be projected as owners of the 10th overall pick. While wins are great for team morale, it could ultimately push them out of range for a big-time pass-rusher or left tackle. Miller has heard that offensive tackle is the “most realistic top target” for the team from a scouting source inside the facility. Even if the team loses receiver Robby Anderson in free agency, it would be a surprise to Miller if they chose a skill player early, as this is considered to be a a deep wide receiver draft.
  • While the Ravens have looked unstoppable at times this season, the front office is frantically doing work on how to stay ahead of the curve, knowing how short Super Bowl windows are, according to Miller. One scout with the team tells him that the decision-makers are heavily focused on drafting pass-rushers and building up a defense that can dominate when they have a lead.
  • As the Colts head into the offseason with decisions to make at quarterback and other skill positions, a high-placed scouting source told Miller earlier this week they expect wide receiver to be high on the team’s wish list in the first round of the 2020 draft to pair with T.Y. Hilton next year. In a deep wide receiver draft, the Colts should be able to find a player in the later rounds if they ultimately do not take a receiver in the first round.
  • With speculation regarding the future Patriots quarterback always being at the forefront of everyone’s mind, according to Miller, the expectation from scouts is that both tight end and offensive line will be priorities, with sleeper needs at cornerback and safety where youth is needed. Miller says that surprisingly, no Patriots sources have mentioned a need at quarterback, which could tell us a lot about Tom Brady’s future or the team’s trust in rookie Jarrett Stidham.
  • The Packers have not drafted a wide receiver in the first round since 2002, when Javon Walker came to the team from Florida State, but according to Miller, that trend could end this year, according to scouting sources with the team. With how deep this receiver class is, the Packers are ready to give Aaron Rodgers a legitimate target outside of Davante Adams, as the other Packers receivers this year did not develop as much as they would have liked.
  • The 49ers have a first-round selection and then do not pick again until Round 5. Miller relays that scouts are joking that San Francisco is not even watching first-round talents, because they expect general manager John Lynch to trade back and accumulate more middle-round selections in this class.

Latest On Antonio Brown

Controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown “impressed” the Saints in his workout with the team on Friday, but no deal between the club and the seven-time Pro Bowler is “imminent,” according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Brown did not drop a pass in Friday’s workout with New Orleans and showed why teams are still interested in the receiver despite his off-the-field issues, per Rapoport. But while Brown certainly impressed the Saints and other onlookers on the field, concerns over a possible suspension have paused potential talks between the Saints and Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus. 

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Saints won’t be signing Brown unless and/or until there is clarity from the NFL about its investigation into the claims of sexual assault made against him. La Canfora adds that there is no indication from the NFL and Roger Goodell that a decision regarding Brown is imminent at this time.

The former First-Team All-Pro receiver is reportedly likely to be put on the Commissioner’s Exempt List if he signs with a team this season. The move by the league office would make it “very very unlikely” for Brown to play this season, per Rapoport.

Making the situation more difficult for the Saints, or any other interested team for that matter, in another unsurprising report by FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer, Brown was specifically told by the Saints to not bring an “entourage” of people with him to his workout with the team. Despite this, Brown reportedly showed up to the workout with a camera crew and “entourage” with him, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Regardless, Brown seems to be holding out hope that he will get a chance to suit up with Drew Brees in New Orleans, as he recently tweeted “who dat,” as the Saints prepare to face the Panthers today at Bank of America Stadium.

Amari Cooper Wants To Remain With Cowboys

Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper is set to be one of the biggest wide receivers to reach free agency in recent memory. A team normally would prevent a receiver of Cooper’s caliber from reaching the open market by applying the franchise tag, but it appears that Dallas will have to save the tag for quarterback Dak Prescott. Still, Cooper made clear earlier in the season that he had no intentions on leaving America’s team. Granted, that was when the Cowboys were sporting one of the most lethal offenses in the league and looked poised for a deep playoff run. While the team remains in playoff contention, the 7-8 Cowboys have fallen far short of early season expectations and head coach Jason Garrett appears to be coaching his final season in Dallas.

At the halfway point in the season, Cooper was on pace for 12 touchdowns and over 1400 yards receiving. Instead, Cooper finds himself short of 1100 receiving yards entering the team’s final game. Cooper has not reached 100 yards receiving in a game since a Week 10 win against the Vikings and has only caught 5 passes for 43 yards in the team’s past two games. Most notably, Cooper was taken off the field for the team’s final plays in last week’s 17-9 loss to the Eagles.

As his free agency approaches alongside the Cowboys slide, speculation grew that Cooper could have been rethinking his future. But, according to Mike Fisher of Cowboys Maven, Cooper has not let the recent struggles sway his desire to stay in Dallas. On Friday, Cooper told reporters he still envisions himself as, “A Cowboy for life” and reiterated “I want to be here.” Obviously, until he signs a new contract nothing prevents Cooper from going in a different direction, but it does appear highly likely that the Cowboys will not need to look for a new number one receiver this off-season.

Wade Phillips Wants To Continue Coaching

Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips wants to continue coaching, regardless of whether he receives a new deal from the Rams this offseason. When asked about rumblings of a coaching shakeup in L.A., the 72-year-old made it known that retirement isn’t on his mind. 

I enjoy coaching. I want to continue. I’m going to do the best I can do,” Phillips told reporters at a press conference on Thursday. “If that’s not good enough for somebody, it isn’t.”

Phillips, who will turn 73 before training camp gets underway next year, has been the Rams’ defensive coordinator for the past three seasons as a part of head coach Sean McVay’s inaugural staff. His coaching career, which started all the way back in 1976, includes too many stops to list in this space. Among his more notable positions: a three-year run as the Cowboys’ head coach and a second act as the defensive coordinator of the Broncos, yielding a Super Bowl ring and the creation of their vaunted “No Fly Zone” secondary.

Under Phillips, the Rams have yet to finish as a top-ten teams in points or yards allowed, despite their ample defensive star power. Still, he’s one of the most highly-respected defensive minds in the league today and should have plenty of opportunities ahead of him if he parts ways with the Rams.

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49ers WR Dante Pettis Has Knee Sprain

49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis left practice on Wednesday with what could have been a serious knee injury, luckily, the sophomore wideout’s injury appears to just be a sprain that is not a cause for long-term concern, according to Ian Rapoport. The injury does make his status this week uncertain, but should not limit him later in the year.

This season has gone as good as anyone could have expected for the 49ers, but that has not been the case for Pettis. The team’s second round pick in 2018 appeared poised for a breakout after a strong finish to his rookie season. However, he found himself at the bottom of the team’s depth chart at receiver and has been unable to take advantage of limited opportunities.

In 2019, Pettis has appeared in all 11 49ers games (4 starts) this season and hauled in 11 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns. For what it’s worth, Pettis only had 11 receptions and 189 yards at this point last season before recording 262 receiving yards in his next four games.

Pettis may be on the border of the 49ers plans going forward, but a season-ending injury could have spelled the end of his time in San Francisco. Matt Barrows of The Athletic reported that either Pettis or wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who is dealing with minor injuries of his own, will be inactive this week in San Francisco’s big game in Baltimore against the Ravens.

 

Lions QB David Blough Expected To Start Thursday

Lions quarterback David Blough is expected to make his first career start tomorrow in place of Jeff Driskel, a source tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Driskel is not expected to be able to play through a hamstring injury that’s been causing him problems.

Blough will be the third different player to start under center for the Lions. Driskel stepped in for franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford when he went down with an injury of his own. The Lions do not have another quarterback on their roster, which means tight end (and collegiate quarterback) Logan Thomas will serve as the team’s emergency backup.

An undrafted free agent out of Purdue, Blough, originally signed with the Browns. However, as roster cuts approached, the Lions agreed to swap conditional draft picks in exchange for the rookie signalcaller. Unlike Driskel, Blough is not a mobile quarterback (he ran a 4.9 40-yard dash during the draft process), and will have to rely on his skills as a pocket passer to take down the Bears.

In his first career start, Blough will be going up against one of the better defenses in football (Bears) on one of the biggest stages of the year (Thanksgiving). The pressure and bright lights will be on and he will get a chance to make an impression.

Arena Football League Files For Bankruptcy

The Arena Football League has announced it is closing all team service and local business operations, according to a statement from league commissioner Randall Boe. According to the statement, the league has “not yet made a final determination that it will be necessary to suspend all League operations,” however, it does obviously not bode well for the league’s long term viability.

Founded in 1987, the league ran through 2008, including a minor league operation, called AF2, from 2000-2008. Financial difficulties caused the league to cancel the league’s 2009 season and disband the AF2, but the top operation returned in 2010 and continued until now. The recent upstart Alliance of American Football (AAF) failed to complete one season in operation even with large financial backers. Even if this is the end of the run for the AFL, it will still rank among the most successful leagues in recent history.

The leagues financial future seemed in jeopardy last month, when Boe announced the league was looking into becoming a traveling league in the vein of the BIG3 or the Premier Lacrosse League, however, it seems that will not be coming to fruition at least in the next year. The news does come as a bit of good news for the XFL and other leagues looking to break into the market for professional football. AFL players, coaches, facilities, and fans will all be looking for new opportunities. Interestingly, the Indoor Football League, which follows a very similar model to the AFL, is currently expanding, planning on creating a team in Oakland (owned by Marshawn Lynch) for the 2020 season.