Wendell Smallwood

Steelers Sign Devlin Hodges To P-Squad

Devlin Hodges wasn’t gone for long. After waiving the quarterback over the weekend, the Steelers inked him to a practice squad deal on Monday, per a club announcement. With Duck under contract, and running back Wendell Smallwood on the way, the Steelers have their initial taxi squad in place. Here’s the full rundown: 

The Steelers were set to roll with Hodges as their QB3, up until they claimed Josh Dobbs off waivers from the Jaguars. Last year, Hodges went from an unheralded UDFA on the practice squad to a fill-in starter after Ben Roethlisberger went down. He wasn’t able to keep his momentum after a hot start, but coaches still like him as an emergency option.

Smallwood was one of the Eagles’ main running backs in 2018, but didn’t much action with Washington in 2019. In 15 games, he registered 22 carries for 81 yards, good for a 3.7 yards per tote average.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Trim Roster Down

The entire AFC North is now finished as the Steelers became the latest team to trim their roster to 53 players. Here are all the moves, we’ll recap the most notable ones at the bottom:

Lynch is probably the most well known of these names. The former Broncos first-round bust signed with the Steelers last year as insurance after multiple quarterback injuries. He’s running out of chances. Switzer has mostly contributed as a returner with Pittsburgh and Dallas, although he did have 36 catches with the Steelers in 2018.

Smallwood was one of the Eagles’ main running backs in 2018, but didn’t get too many touches with Washington last year. He’ll likely pop up somewhere else soon. Brooks Jr. was the Steelers’ sixth-round pick in this past draft, so he’s likely ticketed for the practice squad if he clears waivers.

McCullers has been with the Steelers the past six years so his is a significant departure even though the nose tackle only played 12 percent of the defensive snaps last season.

 

Steelers Sign RB Wendell Smallwood

The Steelers have signed running back Wendell Smallwood, per a club announcement. Smallwood, at the time of this writing, is the seventh running back on the club’s roster.

Amidst a flurry of opt outs around the league, Smallwood is enlisting himself to play in 2020. It’s possible that the Steelers are simply looking into new backfield options in advance of camp, but it’s also possible that the Steelers are bracing for more opt outs. Starter James Conner – who found his way back to the game after a battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – will in fact play this year, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). The status of the club’s other RBs remains to be seen.

Smallwood, who spent his early NFL seasons with the Eagles, joined Washington last year. In 15 games, he registered 22 carries for 81 yards, good for a 3.7 yards per tote average.

Four Teams Wanted Wendell Smallwood

Of all the players to hit the waiver wire over the weekend, Wendell Smallwood was the most popular. Before the former Eagles running back was ultimately grabbed by the Redskins, the Colts, Jaguars, and Bengals all placed claims on him, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter).

The Redskins quietly boast a deep running back group with redshirt rookie Derrius Guice, future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, pass-catching specialist Chris Thompson, Byron Marshall, and Smallwood. Fun fact: No Eagles RB had more rushing yards over the last three years than Smallwood.

He would have been a logical fit for the Colts, Jags, and Bengals as well. For the Bengals, Smallwood would have provided depth behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard in the wake of Rodney Anderson’s season-ending torn ACL. The Colts, meanwhile, only just got Jordan Wilkins back on the practice field and they still await Jonathan Williams‘ return. And the Jaguars, who just had to place Alfred Blue on IR, likely preferred Smallwood to Tyler Ervin and Devine Ozigbo, the two RBs they picked up on Sunday.

Sunday NFL Transactions: NFC East

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four NFC East teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the Cowboys, EaglesGiants, and Redskins are noted below.

Additionally, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads today. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s NFC East transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Eagles Reach 53-Man Limit

The Eagles have gotten down to 53, making some notable cuts to get there. The team released guard/center Stefen Wisniewski, who they re-signed to a $1.5MM deal back in May. He had gotten $150K guaranteed, so Philly will eat that. Wisniewski had started at least six games in each of the past three seasons for the Eagles.

To help thin out their crowded running backs room, they got rid of a few well-known names. They waived Josh Adams, who rushed for 511 yards for them last year, as well as 2017 fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey, who has battled injuries ever since entering the league. They also cut Wendell Smallwood, who had 364 yards rushing and three touchdowns and another 230 yards and two touchdowns through the air last year.

Offensive tackle Brett Toth also failed to make the team. Toth only recently got permission from the Army to join the NFL, and he signed with the Eagles only a couple weeks ago. He seems like a prime candidate for a practice squad spot.

Aside from that, and other announced moves, the Eagles made the following roster moves over the weekend to reach the 53-player limit:

Waived:

T Riley Mayfield

G Sua Opeta

TE Joshua Perkins

RB Boston Scott

DT Aziz Shittu (injured)

QB Clayton Thorson

WR Greg Ward

Released the following players:

Reserve/PUP

CB Jalen Mills

NFC East Notes: Redskins, Eagles, Ealy, Ward

Adrian Peterson spent several months in free agency before landing with Washington recently. Although the Redskins did not fare especially well in a loss to the Broncos on Friday night, their 33-year-old running back showed he still has something left. Peterson is now a “stone-cold lock” to make the Redskins’ roster, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington writes. While the future Hall of Fame back was brought in because of injuries to Derrius Guice, Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall, Tandler views Peterson as having usurped Marshall for a spot on Washington’s 53-man roster. Peterson amassed 56 yards on 11 carries in his Redskins debut. Tandler expects Washington to retain four running backs but doesn’t rule out the prospect of five surviving the post-preseason cuts.

Here’s more out of the nation’s capital and the latest from some of the Redskins’ rivals.

  • Thanks to Jonathan Allen‘s return and the arrival of his former Alabama teammate, Da’Ron Payne, Washington is deeper on the defensive line than it was last season. But Tandler expects one of the Redskins’ cogs up front to begin the season on the PUP list. Stacy McGee underwent groin surgery earlier this summer and was not expected to be ready for Week 1. A spot on the Reserve/PUP list will shelve McGee for six regular-season weeks.
  • Former Redskins starter Matt Jones looks to have played himself out of consideration for an Eagles backup job, with Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com handicapping the race for Philadelphia’s No. 4 running back job as a head-to-head battle between third-year player Wendell Smallwood and rookie UDFA Josh Adams. Shorr-Parks views Donnel Pumphrey, a 2017 fourth-rounder who missed all of last season, as third behind Smallwood — whom the Eagles are still intrigued by — and Adams in this race for work behind Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement. An Adams cut will likely result in another team claiming him, since the Eagles had to give him one of the largest UDFA guarantees any team authorized in this year’s post-draft signing period.
  • The Cowboys‘ move of Kony Ealy to defensive tackle may not be enough to save his roster spot. Dallas is deeper up front this year, and although Ealy was a 2018 UFA signing, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the former Panthers second-round pick off the 53-man roster. Former Dallas waiver claim Brian Price resides in front of Ealy, in Hill’s view, for a roster spot. Ealy signed a one-year, $1.25MM contract, with a $200K signing bonus, in April. Also lost in the shuffle here is recent Cowboys trade acquisition Jihad Ward, who Hill doesn’t see making the roster. Both of these former second-round picks will at least need to show well in Dallas’ final two preseason games to have a shot.
  • One of the Eagles‘ 2018 UDFAs, safety Stephen Roberts, did not last until the final cut. Philly waived the Auburn product earlier Saturday, and this came after the defending Super Bowl champions guaranteed $52K of his base salary, per ESPN.com’s Field Yates (Twitter link). That amount was one of the highest guarantees allotted to any UDFA this year, so it’s possible Roberts will generate some waiver-wire attention.

NFC East Notes: Redskins, Beckham, Eagles

Derrius Guice‘s injury delivers a considerable setback to the Redskins‘ running back corps, to the point they may have to consider adding a veteran to the mix. But Jay Gruden did not confirm the team will go in this direction, pointing to the second-round Guice selection being a best-player-available move rather than a need pick.

We have guys here that can play,” Gruden said Saturday. “We drafted Derrius because he was the best player, we thought, at the time of the draft … not because we weren’t satisfied with the backs we have.”

The primary Redskins starters the past two years, Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine, remain on the team and are now set to be the team’s early-down backs. Passing-down specialist Chris Thompson, though he’s not yet fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered midway through last season, will reprise his role in 2018. Neither Kelley nor Perine surpassed 3.5 yards per carry last season, but Washington’s offensive line became significantly limited by injuries as the season progressed. Kelley fared much better in 2016.

Here’s the latest from the rest of the NFC East:

  • A day after Guice’s injury severity became known, the Redskins are concerned about 2017 sixth-round pick Robert Davis. The team fears its second-year wide receiver suffered a torn ACL, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Davis will head in for an MRI later today, per Garafolo. The Georgia State alum was expected to play a bigger role in Year 2 after playing in just one game as a rookie.
  • The Giants‘ reasoning behind sitting Odell Beckham Jr. in the preseason opener stemmed from his injury recovery, not his contract situation, per Pat Shurmur. “I want to be smart with his recovery coming back [from ankle surgery],” Shurmur said, via Tom Rock of Newsday. “I never intended to play him in this game. I didn’t reveal that to [the public], but I never intended to.” Beckham has not experienced a known setback in his recovery from last season’s ankle injury. He encountered ankle trouble during the preseason against the Browns last year, spraining his left ankle barely a month prior to fracturing it.
  • The subject of Rasul Douglas moving to safety surfaced at Eagles practice, but the coaching staff shot that down, Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Philly lost Patrick Robinson and has Ronald Darby going into a contract year, so it would make sense Douglas stays at corner. Philadelphia’s staff still believes Douglas can have a quality career as a corner, although Kapadia adds he has not progressed like the team was hoping going into his second season.
  • Donnel Pumphrey may be in his final days as an Eagle, with Kapadia pointing out the “lower body” injury he suffered in the defending Super Bowl champions’ preseason opener may put him too far behind the other combatants in a hotly contested race to make the 53-man roster as the No. 4 running back. Wendell Smallwood, Matt Jones and rookie UDFA Josh Adams comprise the rest of that race, and Kapadia adds that Jones may be behind the other two after the Eagles’ first preseason game. The Eagles gave Adams a sizable guarantee to sign after the draft.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Eagles, Johnson

It was reported by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network on Thursday that Aaron Rodgers was looking to have more control over his future, perhaps in the form of an out clause in his next contract with the Packers. Now more information has been revealed by Garafolo and his colleague Ian Rapoport (Twitter links).

Garafolo followed up his original report by saying there won’t be an “automatic trigger” to void years of the contract like some had speculated, but that Rodgers was “looking for more player control over his deal than the average NFL contract.”

Rapoport added that he was hearing “A proposed contract would include a series of player options.” As Rapoport notes, it’s a fascinating situation. After Kirk Cousins became the first quarterback to ever get a multi-year fully guaranteed deal, it isn’t surprising that more of the league’s top signal-callers will be looking for unconventional contracts. For years, contracts in the NFL more or less all followed the same rigid process that was very much controlled by the teams and owners, a dynamic that appears to now finally be shifting. Whatever contract extension Rodgers does end up signing, it’ll likely make him the NFL’s highest paid player.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood is a “long-shot” to make the 53-man roster, according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. Smallwood played a big role as a rookie in 2016, carrying the ball 77 times for 312 yards, but saw his role greatly diminished last season. Now Shorr-Parks thinks the Eagles’ suddenly crowded running backs room will end up pushing Smallwood off the team altogether, saying “At this point Smallwood is facing a steep uphill battle to make the roster.”
  • Shorr-Parks also thinks cornerback Ronald Darby may not be on the team much longer. He writes that the Eagles have been impressed with fourth-year undrafted cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who’s been running with the first-team during OTAs. Shorr-Parks says “The Eagles won’t cut Darby, but a strong training camp from Bausby could put Darby on the trade block.”
  • The Lions have apparently been impressed with second-round running back Kerryon Johnson, and envision him playing a big role as a rookie. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions see Johnson as a three-down back. If Johnson is playing the majority of snaps, with recently signed LeGarrette Blount in the fold, it could mean the end of the Ameer Abdullah era in Detroit. Abdullah has been mentioned as a possible cut-candidate by Lions reporters all offseason, and Johnson’s emergence could seal his fate.

 

Eagles Make Several Pre-Week 15 Moves

The Eagles’ running back corps continues to take hits and will be without one of its members for the rest of the season. Among a host of Monday moves, Philadelphia placed rookie Wendell Smallwood on IR.

Tackle Matt Tobin will also venture to the team’s IR list, where he’ll join long snapper Jon Dorenbos, whom the Eagles placed on the season-ending list after he was declared out for the season earlier today.

To begin filling this trio’s roster spots, the team signed former Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz and long snapper Rick Lovato. Gratz’s deal is for two years, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Both the Jaguars and Rams cut Gratz this season. The former third-round pick played in three games for both teams this season, recording five tackles. He started in 17 games for the Jags in 2014 and ’15 but did not show enough to stick around through what began as his contract year.

A knee injury will close Smallwood’s initial NFL campaign. The fifth-round pick rushed 77 times for 312 yards, receiving multiple carries in 11 of the Eagles’ 13 games. This news comes after it became known Darren Sproles is in the concussion protocol, leaving the Eagles with Ryan Mathews, who returned last week from his latest injury to rush for 60 yards, and Kenjon Barner as healthy backfield options.

Tobin, a fourth-year ex-UDFA, started one game this season after breaking with the first unit in 20 games in ’14 and ’15. He played 31 snaps against Washington on Sunday but will miss the season’s remainder with a knee injury.

Lovato has been something of a snapper-on-call during his two-year career, with the Old Dominion product catching on with the Packers to close last season and joining the Redskins for a two-game stint in November. He’ll likely snap for the Eagles in their final three games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.