Week In Review

5 Key NFL Stories: 12/9/18 – 12/16/18

Eagles shut down Carson Wentz. Philadelphia no longer has a shot at winning the NFC East, but the club still has roughly a 15% chance of getting into the postseason via the NFC’s No. 6 seed. The Eagles aren’t taking any chances with their franchise quarterback, however, as they’ve reportedly decided to shut down Wentz for the rest of the season. While Wentz hasn’t officially been placed on injured reserve, he’s not expected to play again in 2018 as he recovers from a fracture in his back. Instead, Philadelphia will turn to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who is likely to become a free agent in 2019 after the Eagles decline his $20MM option.

Changes in OaklandReggie McKenzie‘s days with the Raiders appeared numbered as soon as head coach Jon Gruden was given a 10-year contract earlier this year, but the two men insisted they’d be able to work together. That stance lasted only until December, as McKenzie was relieved of his general manager duties last week. Director of college scouting Shaun Herock has been installed as Oakland’s interim GM, but the team is expected to search for a new personnel chief this offseason. Undoubtedly, the Raiders will look for a GM that will work more closely with — or perhaps, take orders from — Gruden.

…and in Minnesota. McKenzie and Gruden never seemed like an ideal pairing, and neither did Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Zimmer, of course, won that battle in Minnesota, and DeFilippo — who was viewed as a rising head coach candidate — now finds himself out of job. DeFilippo’s pass-happy offense never seemed to complement Zimmer’s defense-first style, so new OC Kevin Stefanski will now attempt to implement a more run-heavy approach. Don’t look for DeFilippo to return to the Eagles (at least in 2018), but he could be in line for a new coaching gig next year.

Eric Berry returns in Kansas City. The Chiefs didn’t make any moves for a defender at the trade deadline (despite rumors that they were looking for a safety), but KC will now see the return of a former All-Pro. Berry hadn’t seen the field since Week 1 of the 2017 campaign, when a ruptured Achilles ended his season prematurely and kept him out until last Thursday. Berry’s return will help a middling Chiefs pass defense, but the unit took another hit against the Chargers when starting cornerback Kendall Fuller went down with a fractured wrist, leaving his availability for the playoffs in doubt.

NFL bans Martavis Bryant indefinitely. Rumors of a Bryant suspension had been making the rounds since September, but the league never made a formal announcement until last week, meaning Bryant will be out of football for the foreseeable future due to a substance abuse ban. Oakland shipped a third-round pick to Pittsburgh for Bryant during the draft, then released him and re-signed him just before Week 2. All told, the “White Tiger” managed only 19 receptions and 266 scoreless yards on the year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

5 Key NFL Stories: 12/2/18 – 12/9/18

Packers make a change at the top. After more than 12 seasons in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy is out as the Packers’ head coach, becoming only the second Super Bowl-winning coach in league history to be fired at midseason. Although initial reports suggested McCarthy’s preference is to coach again in 2019, he may be willing to sit out the 2019 campaign with the hope of finding the right job. McCarthy, who posted record of 125-77-2 during his Packers tenure, gave way to interim head coach Joe Philbin, who secured a victory in his first game today.

Broncos lose Emmanuel Sanders. Feeling on top of the world following three straight wins, Denver received horrible news last week when Sanders suffered a torn Achilles during a practice session. With their recent run of success, the Broncos had catapulted themselves back into wild card contention, but that path will become all the more difficult without Sanders. With the veteran wideout on the sidelines, Denver will turn to Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, and Tim Patrick for the remainder of the year.

Greg Olsen goes down. The Panthers lost Olsen for the year after he suffered a foot injury in Week 13, and there’s an outside chance his Carolina career could be over. Olsen, who’s flirted with entering broadcasting in the past, is now 33 years old and has missed significant action in each of the past two seasons. Carolina, which could be making changes to its decision-making structuree, would save $3.4MM by making Olsen a post-June 1 cut in 2019.

A.J. Green done for season. The Bengals’ lost 2018 campaign continues to go down the drain: after placing quarterback Andy Dalton on injured reserve with a thumb injury, Cincinnati did the same with Green after he tore ligaments in his toe. Green will finish the year having appeared in only nine games, posting 46 receptions for 694 yards and six scores. Green, who will be 31 years old when the 2019 season gets underway, is under contract for only one more year.

Redskins down to third/fourth quarterback. After losing starter Alex Smith to a brutal broken leg (one that has now caused multiple infections and could threaten Smith’s career), Washington will now also be without backup Colt McCoy after he suffered a broken fibula of his own. After reportedly considering Colin Kaepernick, the Redskins went in another direction, signing Josh Johnson to play behind Mark Sanchez. After Sanchez struggled mightily against the Giants on Sunday, Johnson could be in line to start for Washington in Week 15.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

5 Key NFL Stories: 11/25/18 – 12/2/18

Chiefs cut Kareem Hunt. Video released on Friday showed Hunt shoving and kicking a woman during a February incident, and led the NFL to place the second-year pro on the commissioner’s exempt list. Shortly after the league’s decision, Kansas City announced that it had waived Hunt. Both the club and the NFL claimed they’d not previously seen the video. The Chiefs are expecting a six-game suspension for Hunt, and it’s unclear if any team will claim him off waivers. He’s actually being investigated for two separate incidents: the episode referenced here, plus a separate matter in which he allegedly punched a man in the face in June.

Redskins shocking claim Reuben Foster. Foster was arrested last Sunday on domestic violence charges, and the 49ers — who’d been exhibiting a zero-tolerance policy with Foster given his previous arrests — immediately waived him. Given his history of off-field issues, Foster wasn’t a likely candidate to be claimed, but the Redskins did indeed bring in the 2017 first-rounder. Washington has dealt with serious backlash to its decision, but the club has argued Foster will never play for the Redskins if the allegations prove true. Like Hunt, Foster is now on the commissioner’s exempt list.

Jaguars change OC, QB. It’s difficult to believe the Jaguars were just a few plays away from the Super Bowl earlier this year. Last week, Jacksonville announced that it had fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, replacing him with quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich. And the changes didn’t stop there, as the Jags also moved away from starting quarterback Blake Bortles, turning instead to backup Cody Kessler. Even with those alterations — plus the loss of Leonard Fournette (suspension) and Andrew Norwell (IR) — the Jaguars still defeated the Colts on Sunday

Andy Dalton done for the season. If the Bengals weren’t already toast after losing to the Browns in Week 12, their season essentially ended in the following days, when Cincinnati announced it was placing Dalton on injured reserve with a thumb injury. Dalton posted one of his best seasons in 2018, but injuries on both sides of the ball doomed the Bengals’ campaign. Cincinnati will move forward with Jeff Driskel at quarterback: against the Broncos on Sunday, Driskel completed 25-of-38 attempts for 236 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

Broncos lose Chris Harris Jr. The Broncos are still in the hunt after defeating the Bengals in Week 13, but they’ll have to make their playoff push without their best cornerback. Harris suffered a fractured fibula on Sunday and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season. However, Harris believes he’ll be able to return if Denver slides into the postseason as the No. 6 seed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

5 Key Stories: 11/18/18 – 11/25/18

Latest arrest ends Reuben Foster‘s 49ers tenure: The 49ers cut the cord on Foster after his third arrest of 2018. Foster was arrested for first-degree domestic violence battery Saturday night in south Florida. The alleged victim is Foster’s ex-girlfriend, who admitted to making false allegations that led to the linebacker’s arrest earlier this year. Foster avoided a conviction (but not an NFL suspension) on the previous charges — for marijuana possession and domestic violence — but GM John Lynch and ownership agreed on the decision to waive Foster. He will be on the waiver wire but would obviously be a controversial claim. The 2017 first-round pick has shown flashes of dominance and may well receive another chance. But for now, he saw his repeated off-field issues lead the 49ers to move on from him.

Texans owner Bob McNair dies: The Texans’ owner since their inception, McNair died on Friday at the age of 81. He was battling multiple types of cancer. He purchased an expansion team in 1999, three years before the Texans debuted, and oversaw three AFC South championships. McNair previously pursued ownership opportunities with the Dolphins and Rams but ended up bringing football back to Houston, doing so six years after the Oilers’ departure.

Jadeveon Clowney unlikely to hit market: The Texans are planning to apply their 2019 franchise tag to Clowney, who is in the final season of his five-year rookie contract. This will be an interesting process, since Clowney’s primary role is to rush quarterbacks. He’s listed as a defensive end/linebacker on Houston’s roster. Clowney’s camp will surely argue he should earn the defensive end tag (roughly $17MM), but he could also be tagged as a linebacker (roughly $15MM). The 2014 No. 1 overall pick would be in line for a $20MM-plus-AAV deal were he to hit the market.

Alex Smith recovery timeline illuminated: Suffering a Joe Theismann-esque injury in 2018 will give the current Redskins quarterback a chance at continuing his career, which Washington’s Super Bowl-winning signal-caller did not receive in 1985. Smith’s recovery process from his broken leg is expected to take between six and eight months. This would put training camp as a potential goal for the former No. 1 overall pick. The 34-year-old passer signed a four-year extension that runs through the 2022 season. Washington will go with Colt McCoy for the time being and signed Mark Sanchez to be the longtime backup’s new backup.

Browns’ coaching search heating up: Gregg Williams led the Browns to another victory on Sunday, but the team is expected to conduct a thorough search to replace Hue Jackson. Despite his rough stint in Denver and recent decision to spurn the Colts, Josh McDaniels has been connected to the Cleveland opening. The Cleveland-area native isn’t the only big name that may be involved. The Bruce Arians-Browns rumors continue to swirl, and the team is also expected to contact another Cleveland-area native: Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell. Meanwhile, Jackson’s futility in northeast Ohio may not dissuade the Bengals from naming him as Marvin Lewis‘ successor. That was once the rumored plan and may be again.

5 Key NFL Stories: 11/11/18 – 11/18/18

Le’Veon Bell won’t play in 2018. A 2019 franchise tag for Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell would cost more than $25MM, so that tender isn’t an option for Pittsburgh. Bell doesn’t need to accrue another season to reach free agency next spring, so he never reported by Tuesday’s deadline, meaning he won’t play during the 2018 campaign. The transition tag is still in play for Bell next year, but that option wouldn’t give the Steelers any compensation if Bell leaves via free agency.

Redskins lose Alex Smith. 33 years to day of Joe Theismann’s horrific leg injury, another Washington quarterback suffered a gruesome break of his own. Smith fractured both his tibia and fibia and will require immediate surgery, and he’ll miss the rest of the season. In the midst of a solid season that nonetheless failed to match the highs of his 2017 campaign, Smith had guided the Redskins to a 6-3 record and first place in the NFC East. Colt McCoy, who hasn’t attempted a pass since the 2015 season, will now take over under center.

Cooper Kupp goes down. Kupp had already missed two games earlier this season after suffering an MCL injury, but an ACL tear will now knock him out for the rest of the year. One of Jared Goff‘s favorite red zone weapons, Kupp has been incredibly efficient since entering the league as a third-round pick in 2017. After racking up 62 catches for 869 yards and five scores last season, Kupp was on pace for roughly 70 catches, 985 yards, and ten touchdowns in 2018. Josh Reynolds figures to take over as Los Angeles’ third receiver and will see a ton of action given the Rams’ use of three-receiver sets.

Eagles pass defense loses another starter. Philadelphia has already witnessed safety Rodney McLeod go down for the year, while cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones have also missed a good deal of time. Now, starting corner Ronald Darby will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL. Darby had graded as a top-30 CB on the year, per Pro Football Focus, while Football Outsiders ranked him as a top-15 defensive back in both yards allowed per attempt and success rate. Scheduled to become a free agent next spring, Darby’s market will certainly be affected by his injury.

Bengals make staff changes. Following an embarrassing Week 11 loss to the Saints, Cincinnati fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who had just joined the club this season. The change marks the second consecutive season the Bengals have terminated a play-caller, as Ken Zampese lost his job as Cincinnati’s OC after two 2017 games. Head coach Marvin Lewis will take over as DC, while recent hire Hue Jackson could eventually pitch in on defense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

5 Key NFL Stories: 11/4/18 – 11/11/18

Le’Veon won’t play in 2018. A 2019 franchise tag for Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell would cost more than $25MM, so that tender isn’t an option for Pittsburgh. Bell doesn’t need to accrue another season to reach free agency next spring, so he’s not expected to report by Tuesday’s deadline, meaning he won’t play during the 2018 campaign. The transition tag is still in play for Bell next year, but that option wouldn’t give the Steelers any compensation if Bell leaves via free agency.

The short saga of Dez in New Orleans. Dez Bryant waited until November to find the right fit after being released by the Cowboys earlier this year, and inked a one-year contract with the Saints last week. But his stay on the club’s active roster didn’t last long, as the veteran wideout devastatingly tore his Achilles during his first practice with New Orleans. The Saints, who could pursue Bryant again in 2019, could now turn their more immediate attention to Brandon Marshall, who also worked out last week.

Falcons add Bruce Irvin. The Raiders released Irvin just after the NFL’s trade deadline, perhaps with the hope that another team would claim him and his contract. No other club had interest in doing that, but Irvin quickly landed a one-year pact with his hometown Falcons. While other teams, including the Patriots and Steelers, reportedly offered Irvin more money, he chose to head to his native Atlanta. Because his deal with Oakland didn’t contain offset language, Irvin will get to double-dip, meaning he’ll collect nearly $10MM this season.

Redskins lose…everybody. Injuries are hitting Washington’s offensive line hard for the second consecutive year. Already without starting left tackle Trent Williams as he recovers from a thumb injury, the Redskins placed guards Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao on injured reserve last week (wide receiver Paul Richardson was lost for the season, too). To help account for those absences, Washington signed a trio of journeyman offensive linemen in Austin Howard, Jonathan Cooper, and Luke Bowanko.

John Harbaugh’s seat gets hotter. Reports last week indicated Harbaugh could be on the outs given Baltimore’s disappointing season, and today Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com indicated Harbaugh and the Ravens are likely to mutually part ways after the 2018 season. The Ravens will be minting a new general manager (Eric DeCosta) next season, so a change at head coach could also make sense. Harbaugh could have the option to start rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson down the stretch, but Joe Flacco‘s recent injury may be less serious than originally thought.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

5 Key NFL Stories: 10/28/18 – 11/4/18

Trades! Five trades went down on deadline day, capping a year in which 61 deals were made involving at least one veteran player. The Eagles and Broncos each picked up a wide receiver, acquiring Golden Tate from the Lions and Demaryius Thomas from the Broncos, respectively, while the Ravens also picked up an offensive player by trading for beleaguered Packers running back Ty Montgomery. Green Bay wasn’t done trading, however, as they later shipped safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Redskins, while the undefeated Rams also added a defender in ex-Jaguars edge rusher Dante Flower.

Browns gut their coaching staff. Cleveland ownership finally had enough after the Browns fell to the Steelers last Sunday, firing both head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Reports of “internal discord” between the two coaches played a role in the dual decisions, but Jackson’s ghastly 3-32-1 record as the Browns’ lead man didn’t help matters. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has taken over as Cleveland’s interim head coach, while running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator.

Buccaneers go with FitzMagic. Tampa Bay benched Jameis Winston after he tossed four interceptions against the Bengals last week, and the club went with Ryan Fitzpatrick again in Week 9. While a Sunday report indicated the Buccaneers could give Winston another chance at the starting job this season, Fitzpatrick played well against the Panthers, throwing four touchdowns against two picks in a comeback effort. Winston has a $20MM+ option for 2019 that’s guaranteed for injury only, so Tampa Bay would risk that figure getting locked in if Winston plays and gets seriously hurt.

Cardinals end Sam Bradford experiment. Arizona gave Bradford a $15MM guarantee this offseason, but they’ve cut the veteran signal-caller befoer the 2018 campaign ends. Bradford collected $15.9MM for 80 passes in the desert, as he fell to third on the Cardinals’ depth chart after the club decided to roll with first-round rookie Josh Rosen. It remains to be seen if Bradford will play again this year, although there’s no chance he’s claimed on waivers due to his contract. The Giants, who employ Bradford’s former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as head coach, have already said they’re not interested.

Raiders defense gets even weaker. Oakland’s defense already ranked a bottom-four DVOA unit heading into Week 9, and now it’s lost two of its key contributors. Defensive end Bruce Irvin, who had played 250 defensive snaps thus far, was released on Saturday. The Raiders likely waited until after the NFL’s trade deadline to release Irvin because he’ll now go through waivers, opening the possibility that another team could claim Irvin and — more importantly, from Oakland’s perspective — his contract. Additionally, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who’d ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 58 cornerback, announced his retirement last Tuesday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

5 Key NFL Stories: 10/21/8 – 10/28/18

Giants trade Damon Harrison to Lions, Eli Apple to Saints. The Giants officially threw in the towel on the 2018 season by trading two of their defensive starters. First they shipped Apple to New Orleans for fourth and seventh round picks, then the next day traded Harrison to the Lions for a fifth-rounder. The Giants have only one win, and are full-blown sellers as we approach the trade deadline. It’s highly possible we see more trades out of the Big Apple, as well as potentially a new quarterback under center after the Giants’ bye week.

Will Fuller tears his ACL. The Texans are on a five game winning streak and in sole possession of first place in the AFC South, but were dealt a brutal blow when it was revealed that Fuller had torn his ACL and would miss the rest of the season. The Texans’ offense always reaches a new level when Fuller is able to stay healthy, but Houston has had terrible injury luck recently. This should significantly hurt the offense moving forward, and could halt the momentum of the team altogether.

Patrick Peterson saga. Earlier this week, it was reported that Peterson had requested a trade. Rumors swirled for a day or two, with both the Saints and Eagles being mentioned as possible destinations. Then, Peterson suddenly announced he had changed his mind and was committed to Arizona long-term. It was a strange couple of days, and a meeting between Peterson and team Michael Bidwill reportedly played a strong role in the reversal.

DeSean Jackson requests trade. Speaking of trade requests, Jackson reportedly also made one to Tampa Bay management. Jackson is apparently unhappy with his role and the situation with the Buccaneers, but Tampa Bay is all in on 2018 and has no interest in trading him. With a loss today to the Bengals, it’s possible that attitude changes and the team reconsiders.

Broncos release Chad Kelly. A bizarre situation unfolded in Denver, when Kelly was released following his arrest earlier this week. Kelly was arrested following a Halloween party hosted by Von Miller, when he reportedly stumbled into a strangers home and refused to leave. It came at an unfortunate time for Kelly, as many fans and analysts had been calling for him to replace Case Keenum in the lineup and it was looking like he might eventually get some playing time.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.