Week In Review

5 Key NFL Stories: 10/14/18 – 10/21/18

Browns trade Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars. Cleveland had been saying for weeks that they wanted to get rookie running back Nick Chubb more touches, and they finally followed through on their promises by trading Hyde to Jacksonville. The Jaguars sent the Browns a fifth round pick in return, adding to Cleveland’s arsenal of 2019 draft picks. Hyde signed a three-year $15MM deal with the Browns back in March, but lasted only six games with the team.

Cardinals fire Mike McCoy. Many fans and those in the media had been calling for McCoy’s head for weeks now, and the Cardinals finally relented and fired their offensive coordinator. The team promoted quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich to interim coordinator to replace him. McCoy was a hot name two springs ago after losing his job as head coach of the Chargers, and quickly signed on the be the offensive coordinator in Denver. The Broncos fired him mid-season, just like the Cardinals have now. 

Seahawks likely to be sold. Seattle lost their owner this past week when Paul Allen died, and the team is reportedly unlikely to stay in his family. The Seahawks will likely be sold to a new owner, and there have even been rumors about a possible relocation. While that’s still unlikely, it’s impossible to tell what intentions a new owner might have. Any sale will likely take place after the season, and it will be one of the more notable stories to monitor this offseason.

Ted Ginn placed on Injured Reserve. The Saints were dealt a big blow when they were forced to place their number two wideout on IR. Ginn is dealing with a knee injury, and it seems quite possible that he misses the rest of the season, although the team reportedly views him as a return candidate. Last year, the speedster had a career-high 787 yards off of 53 catches, plus four touchdowns. In four games this year, Ginn had 12 grabs for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

Josh Allen has UCL damage. The Bills’ quarterback situation got even worse when it was revealed that seventh overall pick Allen would miss multiple games with an elbow injury. Although it’s not expected to require season ending surgery at this point, it’s still a very significant injury. After Nathan Peterman bombed in relief of Allen, the Bills were forced to turn to recently signed veteran journeyman Derek Anderson to start. It’s a tough blow for Allen and for the Bills as his development will be stunted and the team will have to roll with Anderson for the time being.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 10/7/18 – 10/14/18

Le’Veon Bell nearing return? Bell had been expected to report to the Steelers during in advance of their Week 7 bye, but he’s yet to officially inform the club of his plans. Unhappy with being franchise-tagged for a second consecutive season, Bell hasn’t been with the club since January. James Conner has filled in with aplomb, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wants Conner to retain a role even after Bell returns. It’s possible the Steelers could still trade Bell, although he could effectively quash that effort by not reporting until after the October 30 trade deadline.

Eagles lose Jay Ajayi. Philadelphia has been linked to a possible Bell trade for some time, and now the club has even more incentive to add another running back after Ajayi went down with a torn ACL. However, the Eagles reportedly don’t view running back as a glaring need area, so a trade may not be likely. Without Ajayi in tow, Philadelphia deployed a combination of Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood in its Thursday night victory over the Giants. Veteran pass-catching back Darren Sproles is currently dealing with an injury of his own but could return soon.

Giants cut bait with Ereck Flowers. At long last, the Giants ended the Flowers experiment, waiving the former top-10 pick last week. The No. 9 overall selection in the 2015 draft, Flowers started 48 games for New York over the past three-plus years, but consistently played like one of the league’s worst offensive tackles. He’d been recently benched for former undrafted free agent Chad Wheeler, months after being moved to right tackle following the Giants signing of Nate Solder. Flowers resurfaced quickly, landing in Jacksonville where former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is heading the front office.

Jamaal Charles returns to the NFL. Flowers wasn’t the only veteran inked by the Jaguars last week, as the club also brought in former Chiefs/Broncos running back Jamaal Charles. Leonard Fournette is out indefinitely with a hamstring issue, and although T.J. Yeldon has proven more than capable of shouldering the load for Jacksonville, the team had little depth after placing Corey Grant on injured reserve. Enter Charles, who hasn’t played this season after spending the 2017 campaign with Denver. Now 31 years old, Charles hasn’t been effective since 2014, but he won’t be asked to do much behind Yeldon.

Buccaneers lock up a key OL. Tampa Bay hasn’t been shy about extending its key young players, and they continued that trend last week, locking up offensive lineman Ali Marpet to a five-year, $55MM deal that contains $27.125MM in guarantees. Marpet, a 2015 second-round pick out of Division III Hobart, has been extremely versatile during his NFL career, playing both right guard and center before settling in at left guard this year. Among left guards, Marpet’s $11MM annual average now ranks third, behind only Andrew Norwell and Kelechi Osemele, while his guarantee figure ranks second.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 9/30/18 – 10/7/18

Latest on Le’Veon. Le’Veon Bell is reportedly planning to report to the Steelers prior to the club’s Week 7 bye, but Pittsburgh is still willing to consider trade offers for the franchise-tagged running back. The Eagles and 49ers are among the teams with interest in Bell, who is reportedly being actively shopped by the Steelers. Philadelphia, for its part, is giving “serious consideration” to a Bell acquisition, and has been mulling a trade for some time. However, the latest reports (from earlier today) indicate that not only has Bell not relayed any of his plans to the Steelers, but he’s not inclined to accept a trade.

Travis Frederick heads to injured reserve. The Cowboys kept Frederick off IR to begin the season with the hope that could return later this year, and while that remains a possibility, Frederick will miss at least the next eight games of Dallas’ season. Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome earlier this year, and recent reports indicated he’s still dealing with numbness in his arms. The Cowboys needed a roster spot with defensive tackle David Irving returning from suspension, so the club could no longer afford to keep Frederick on the active roster. Veteran reserve Joe Looney will continue to man the pivot for the foreseeable future.

Bengals lose Tyler Eifert. Eifert will miss the majority of yet another season after suffering a gruesome broken ankle against the Falcons last Sunday. One of the NFL’s most talented tight ends when healthy, Eifert will complete the 2018 campaign having played in only 28 of Cincinnati’s past 80 games. With Eifert sidelined, the Bengals will turn to backups Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, and Mason Schrek for the rest of the year. Cincinnati did get running back Joe Mixon for Sunday’s win over the Dolphins, but No. 2 runner Giovani Bernard will miss several weeks with an MCL sprain.

Greg Olsen nearing return? After suffering a broken foot earlier this year, Olsen could potentially be back in time for the Panthers’ Week 6 game against the Redskins. Nearly every report since Olsen broke his foot in the season opener has indicated the positive nature of his recovery. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported in early September that Olsen would return in a “few weeks,” while Ian Rapoport of NFL.com indicated Olsen was facing a four-to-five week timeline. From 2014-16, Olsen — who also fractured his foot in 2017 — earn Pro Bowl honors while topping 75 receptions and 1,000 yards in each campaign.

NFL suspends Mychal Kendricks indefinitely. Kendricks won’t be playing for the Seahawks any time soon, as the NFL suspended him indefinitely last week. Kendricks, of course, was charged with insider trading earlier this year and subsequently released by the Eagles. Seattle picked him up despite a suspension obviously coming down the pike, and got three games from him before the hammer fell. Kendricks won’t collect a salary while he’s banned, so the Seahawks aren’t out any money. Austin Calitro will take over at linebacker for Seattle.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 9/16/18 – 9/23/18

Patriots acquire Josh Gordon. With a serious need at wide receiver, New England sent a fifth-round to Cleveland in exchange for Gordon, who had finally worn out his welcome with Browns head coach Hue Jackson & Co. Initial reports indicated the Patriots would only receive a seventh-round pick in return if Gordon doesn’t spend 10 games on their roster, but that seventh-rounder is now part of the trade regardless, leading to speculation that New England pressured the Browns into sending more compensation their way. Gordon joins a Patriots receiving corps that includes Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, and (starting in Week 5) Julian Edelman.

Jimmy G done for season? Details are sparse on the condition of 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo given that he was just injured this afternoon, but San Francisco fears that he suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. Garoppolo attempted to stay in bounds on a sideline run, but his knee buckled just before he made contact with a Kansas City defender. The 49ers have already lost running back Jerick McKinnon to an ACL tear, and Garoppolo’s absence could sink any postseason hopes San Francisco may have had. 2017 third-round pick C.J. Beathard would take over as the 49ers’ starter if Garoppolo is out.

Lions almost had Gronk. Reports surfaced over the offseason suggesting Rob Gronkowski had been on the trade block in New England, but it wasn’t clear (until today) just how far along talks had progressed. The Lions nearly made a trade for Gronkowski earlier this year, but when the All-Pro got word of the potential deal, he did all he could to scuttle any agreement. Gronk refused to answer phone calls from Detroit, and indicated he’d rather retire than leave the Patriots and Tom Brady. New England ultimately canceled the trade, and reworked Gronkowski’s contract to include more incentives in 2018.

Steelers taking offers for Le’Veon Bell. Although they previously indicated they had no interest in dealing him, the Steelers are now listening to trade proposals for Bell, who has refused to show up this season due to his unhappiness with his franchise tag. It’s unclear if Pittsburgh is actively shopping Bell or simply taking calls, and it’s also unknown if any teams have reached out. Any club that acquires Bell would not be allowed to offer him a contract extension, and it would be responsible for any prorated portion of his franchise tender.

Baker time in Cleveland. The Baker Mayfield era has officially begun, as Hue Jackson will announce Monday that the No. 1 overall selection is now the Browns’ starting quarterback. Mayfield took over for an injured Tyrod Taylor on Thursday night and ultimately led the Browns to their first win since the 2016 season. With Mayfield’s promotion, three of five first-round rookie quarterbacks are now starters, with the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Jets’ Sam Darnold joining Mayfield as their respective teams’ top signal-callers.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 9/9/18 – 9/16/18

Browns cut ties with Gordon. What seemingly almost happened so many times over the past few years finally happened when the Browns announced they would move on from Josh Gordon. Gordon arriving late to the team facility was the final straw, and there were apparently rumors of a relapse within the organization. Cleveland appears likely to trade the uber-talented wideout in the next couple of days.

Kendricks to Seattle. One of the most unexpected developments of the summer was when Mychal Kendricks was arrested and charged with insider trading. The Browns promptly released him, and it was widely assumed that Kendricks wouldn’t be playing again this year. That all changed when the Seahawks suffered a string of injuries in their linebacking corp. They signed Kendricks this week despite the fact that he’s facing a suspension that will likely sideline him for a while.

Mixon to have knee surgery. The big injury news of the week was that Bengals running back Joe Mixon would need to undergo knee surgery. He had been having a breakout season as Cincinnati’s featured back, but will now be sidelined for the next 2-4 weeks. It’s a big blow to the Bengals’ suddenly dynamic offense, as Mixon was a large part of their 2-0 start.

Freeman out multiple weeks. Mixon isn’t the only star running back set to miss significant time due to a knee injury, as Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will also miss 2-4 weeks. Atlanta initially said Freeman’s injury wasn’t serious, but apparently the prognosis worsened in the days following their Week 1 game. Freeman has a history of knee injuries, so it’s a concerning development.

Oakland signs Hankins, re-signs Bryant. The Raiders made a pair of moves, bringing in defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and re-signing receiver Martavis Bryant. Bizarrely, the Raiders traded a third round pick for Bryant, then released him when they found out he was facing a year-long suspension, then re-signed him this week. Like Kendricks, he’s appealing his suspension, but will likely only play for a little while before he’s forced to serve his ban. Hankins had been one of the biggest name free agents left out there, and finally signed with the Raiders due to injuries on their defensive line. He reportedly got $2MM to sign, the highest of any recent veteran signing.

5 Key NFL Stories: 9/2/18 – 9/9/18

No Le’Veon in Pittsburgh. Nearly every observer expected running back Le’Veon Bell to report to the Steelers last Monday, but that didn’t happen. He didn’t show up during the week at all, in fact, and missed Pittsburgh’s first game (and an $850K+ game check) today. Rookie back James Conner was incredibly impressive in Bell’s absence, but the Steelers surely want to get the All-Pro back on the field. The club has no plans to trade Bell or adjust his contract, so it’s a battle of wills at this point.

Earl Thomas comes back. While Bell didn’t show for the Steelers, the Seahawks appear to have outlasted Thomas in their ongoing stalemate. Thomas, of course, wants a new contact or a trade out of Seattle, but the Hawks have no inclination to honor either request. The veteran defensive back re-appeared in Seattle last week and started against the Broncos today. The Cowboys, for one, reportedly are still interested in acquiring Thomas, but view a second-round pick as their maximum offer.

Falcons lose Keanu Neal. Atlanta sent Neal for a precautionary MRI following Thursday’s loss to the Eagles, but the club felt the safety would be ready for Week 2. That won’t be the case, as Neal was diagnosed with a torn ACL and will now miss the entire 2018 season. For now, the Falcons will roll with 2017 draft pick at strong safety, but other intriguing options are available. Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn has familiarity with the aforementioned Thomas, while Eric Reid is still sitting on the free agent market.

Off-field trouble rears it heads. After being cut by the Raiders last week, wide receiver Martavis Bryant is reportedly facing a yearlong suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. It’s an unfortunate occurrence for Bryant, who was shipped from Pittsburgh to Oakland in the spring in exchange for a third-round pick. Elsewhere, Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregoy is today playing in his first game since 2016, but he too could be in for another ban. Sadly, Gregory mye have suffered a drug relapse during the summer, and could be suspended after missing the entire 2017 season with a drug ban.

LeSean McCoy unlikely to be suspended. McCoy was linked to a unsettling incident earlier this year when his ex-girlfriend accused him of involvement in a home invasion incident which left her battered. However, McCoy is not expected to face any criminal charges as a result of the episode. And while the NFL has its own authority to suspend players regardless of legal outcomes, McCoy isn’t likely to face a league-imposed ban.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 8/19/18 – 8/26/18

Redskins add Adrian Peterson. Washington is dealing with numerous injuries at the running back position (including a season-ender to rookie Derrius Guice), so the club opted to take a chance on Peterson, who signed for the league minimum. Peterson, 33, will compete with Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine for early-down work in the nation’s capital. He played in the Redskins’ Friday night preseason game, managing 56 yards on 11 rushes, and is considered a “stone-cold lock” to make Washington’s roster.

Former stars retire. Victor Cruz ended his career in a Bears uniform, but he’ll always be remembered for his excellent years with the Giants. From 2011 through 2013, the former undrafted free agent averaged 80 receptions 1,209 yards, and eight end zone salsa dances per season. Former Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson also hung up his cleats last week, retiring after an 11-year career with the Panthers. He’ll leave the NFL with 62.5 sacks, second in Carolina history to only Julius Peppers.

Dez rejects Browns’ offer. The Dez Bryant-to-Cleveland saga appears over, at least for now, after Bryant reportedly rejected the Browns’ offer, which was for less than $5MM. Cleveland is searching for another wideout to team with Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, and Antonio Callaway, and while Bryant came in for a meeting with the club recently, he couldn’t reach a deal with the Browns. However, Cleveland is still interested in Bryant, but presumably only at a price of its choosing.

Cowboys lose their center. Travis Frederick had been dealing stingers in his neck, but a recent diagnosis revealed an even more serious condition. Frederick has Guillain Barre Syndrome, a rare auto immune disease that is expected to cost him time. While Frederick is not expected to miss the entire season, he’s likely to be placed on injured reserve to begin the year. Such a transaction would sideline Frederick for at least eight games, but give him the opportunity to return later in 2018.

George Iloka reunites with Mike Zimmer. Three days after being unexpectedly released by the Bengals, Iloka signed a one-year deal with the Vikings. Instead of waiting out what has already been a stagnant safety market, lloka quickly landed with Minnesota, reuniting with Zimmer — formerly Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator — on a contract that will pay just the league minimum. Iloka figures to start over Andrew Sendejo with the Vikings, although both defenders could see action opposite Harrison Smith.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 8/12/18 – 8/19/18

Josh Gordon returns to Cleveland, where Dez Bryant is unlikely to land. Gordon is back with the Browns after taking time to deal with off-field issues, and Cleveland is hoping he’ll be available for Week 1 of the regular season (although he’s not currently allowed to practice). Bryant, meanwhile, finally met with Browns management last week, but he’s apparently “not on the front burner” in Cleveland. The Browns aren’t ruling out a Bryant contract, but it doesn’t sound like a deal is close at this time.

Adrian Peterson gets a workout. Peterson is attracting his first interest of the offseason, as he’s scheduled to audition for the Redskins on Monday. Washington is in dire straits at running back, having already lost rookie Derrius Guice for the year, while backups Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall are also dealing with nagging injuries. Peterson was one of the NFL’s least effective backs with the Saints and Cardinals in 2017, but he’s an option for Washington on early downs. The Redskins also looked at free agent backs Jamaal Charles and Orleans Darkwa.

Rookie quarterbacks in line to start. Free agent acquisition A.J. McCarron suffered a broken collarbone during the Bills’ second preseason game, an injury which should ensure first-rounder Josh Allen starts for Buffalo. Elsewhere in the AFC East, Sam Darnold is now looking like the inevitable starter for the Jets after excelling through two exhibition contests. Veteran Teddy Bridgewater, who has also produced well thus far, is considered a trade candidate.

Bengals cut George Iloka. Cincinnati had begun mixing in second-round defensive back Jessie Bates with the starting defense through its first two preseason games, signalling that it may be comfortable moving on from Iloka. The Bengals did just that on Sunday, cutting the six-year veteran and saving $5.6MM against the salary cap. Iloka offers plenty of starting experience and should easily land a new job, although the flaccid free agent safety market has to be concerning.

The 2018 draft class is fully signed. At long last, Bears rookie Roquan Smith is under contract, meaning every 2018 draft choice now has a deal in place. Smith, the eighth overall pick, was looking for contract language that would protect his financial guarantees in the event of a helmet rule-related suspension. Chicago and Smith ultimately forged a compromise, one that will only void Smith’s guarantees if he’s suspended for three consecutive games.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 8/5/18 – 8/12/18

Bills acquire WR Corey Coleman. Buffalo picked up Coleman, a first-round pick in the 2016 draft, from Cleveland for next-to-nothing, as Cleveland will reap just a 2020 seventh-round pick. Coleman hadn’t done much in his first two NFL campaigns, but that’s largely due to freak injuries — a broken hand in each season — that limited his overall production. The Bills, meanwhile, were (and still are) fielding one of the league’s worst receiving corps, meaning Coleman should be favorite for first-team snaps alongside Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones.

Dez Bryant-to-Browns saga continues. After reports emerged that Bryant was “not seriously interested” in joining Cleveland, Browns general manager John Dorsey told reporters the veteran wideout was not returning his calls. Later that night, Bryant tweeted that he’d visit the Browns this week, and now a meeting has been set (likely for Thursday). Both Jarvis Landry and rookie wide receiver Antonio Callaway performed well in the Browns’ first preseason game, but Cleveland could use another pass-catcher after dealing Coleman/while waiting for Josh Gordon to return.

Redskins lose RB Derrius Guice. Guice, a second-round selection in this year’s draft, had been scheduled to serve as Washington’s top running back, but he’ll now wait until 2019 to get on the field after suffering a torn ACL in the Redskins’ first preseason contest. The Redskins have depth: Rob Kelley is now slated to be the club’s starter, Chris Thompson is an elite passing back, and 2017 fourth-rounder Samaje Perine is still around. But Washington could consider adding a free agent, and PFR readers think DeMarco Murray (who’d be coming out of retirement) would be the best fit.

Patriots give Tom Brady extra incentives. Brady will earn $1MM each for finishing as a top-five quarterback in five statistical categories (passing yards, touchdown passes, passer rating, yards per attempt and completion percentage). Because Brady was a top-five signal-caller in each of those categories in 2017, his new incentives are considered “likely to be earned,” meaning they’ll count on the Patriots’ salary cap immediately. New England also converted $10MM of Brady’s $14MM 2018 base salary into a signing bonus — that move will not only get Brady more cash immediately, but increase his 2019 cap charge by $5MM.

Jets open to trading Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater was excellent in Gang Green’s first preseason game, completing seven-of-eight passes for 85 yards and one touchdown. But third overall pick Sam Darnold was outstanding as well, and if the USC product earns the Jets’ starting quarterback job, Bridgewater would likely be the club’s third-stringer behind Josh McCown. A trade could make sense for all sides, then, although New York might wait to see if any league-wide quarterback injury causes a rival team to send a high draft choice in exchange for Bridgewater.

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5 Key NFL Stories: 7/29/18 – 8/5/18

Vikings extend Stefon Diggs. Diggs is just the latest would-be free agent to receive a new deal from Minnesota, joining the likes of defensive end Danielle Hunter and linebacker Eric Kendricks. After averaging 67 receptions, 824 yards, and five touchdowns over his first three NFL seasons, Diggs received a five-year, $72MM extension that contains $16.907MM in full guarantees, including a $15MM signing bonus. On an annual basis, Diggs is now the NFL’s ninth-highest-paid wideout, and his new deal makes fellow receiver Adam Thielen‘s three-year, $19.246MM pact look especially affordable.

Safeties get signed. Kenny Vaccaro finally landed a contract last week, although it unfortunately took a season-ending injury to fellow defensive back Johnathan Cyprien for a deal to get done. The Titans searched for safety help after losing Cyprien to a torn ACL, and Vaccaro led a workout session that also included Mike Mitchell, Lardarius Webb, and Steven Terrell. Former 49ers safety Eric Reid was also supposed to audition for Tennessee, but a delayed flight forced him to cancel his Titans visit. Vaccaro, meanwhile, inked a one-year contract and will presumably start opposite Kevin Byard in Tennessee’s secondary. He wasn’t the only safety who found a new deal last week, as veteran Corey Graham re-upped with the Eagles.

Patriots make a change at wide receiver. Jordan Matthews has been considered something near a lock for New England’s 53-man roster, but an injury forced him off the squad. Indeed, while there was initially some confusion as to whether Matthews was released or placed on injured reserve, the Patriots later announced that he’d officially been cut. In his stead, New England signed former Bronco/Jet/Titan Eric Decker, who figures to see action in the slot, at least until Julian Edelman returns from suspension.

Packers lose a defender. Green Bay got bad news last week, as the club learned starting linebacker Jake Ryan will miss the 2018 campaign with a torn ACL. Ryan, who had started 27 games over three seasons after the Packers selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, was expected to play inside next to Blake Martinez. After Ryan went down, Green Bay reportedly considered adding a veteran such as NaVorro Bowman, but no appear set to give youngsters like third-round rookie Oren Burks more playing time.

Brandon LaFell hits free agency. The Bengals rarely release veterans before their contracts expire (they currently have the fourth-least dead money in the league), but LaFell was standing in the way of younger and cheaper options on Cincinnati’s wide receiver depth chart. With LaFell out of the picture, the Bengals have moved 2017 No. 9 overall pick John Ross into the starting lineup opposite A.J. Green, while Tyler Boyd will man the slot. Josh Malone, Auden Tate, and Cody Core are among the other Cincinnati pass-catchers vying for opportunities.

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