Will Fuller

AFC Notes: Jets, Darnold, Rosen, Fuller, Broncos TE’s, Williams

While the game probably will not effect the College Football Playoff, USC vs. UCLA will certainly have a ton of NFL Draft implications. Both starting quarterbacks, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, are considered two of the best QB draft prospects eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft, and will try to outshine each other during Saturday’s contest. The hyped matchup will be attended by 20 teams in some form, including the QB needy Jets, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Jets were most recently connected to Wyoming signal caller Josh Allen, although Allen’s draft status has taken a big hit because of some early season struggles vs. top level collegiate defenses. New York’s season has gone a bit better than many expected, but they still have a long-term need at the QB position with Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty not looking like the long-term answer. The Jets, along with many other scouting departments will definitely get a good comparison of two of the top signal callers in all of college football in Los Angeles this weekend.

  • The Texans have faced a number of injuries to key players including J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and most recently quarterback Deshaun Watson. Now another playmaker who missed time early in the season will be forced to the sidelines again. Big play receiver Will Fuller will miss Sunday’s game with a rib injury, according Houston’s official injury report released on Friday afternoon. This leaves the team without another weapon for now starter Tom Savage and puts added pressure on DeAndre Hopkins to make contested plays due to increased attention from the defensive backs. Fuller missed the Texans first three games with a broken collarbone, but has since caught an impressive seven touchdowns in the past six games. Bruce Ellington is the next man up on the depth chart to try and replace Fuller’s downfield threat ability.
  • The Broncos have just one tight end on the roster entering the weekend for this Sunday’s game against the Bengals. Both A.J. Derby and Jeff Heuerman have been ruled out, which leaves Virgil Green as the lone name left on the depth chart, according to Mike Klis of 9news.com. Derby is recovering from a shoulder injury that he suffered this past Sunday night and Heuerman is dealing with a knee injury. It should be noted that no Broncos tight end has been a huge factor in the team’s offense, with Denver mostly relying on the receiving combo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to move the football through the air. Klis does note that the team is expected to call up practice squad tight end Austin Traylor to take snaps as the team’s number two, adding that interestingly an unknown offensive lineman could work as the Broncos number three option if need be.
  • In order for the Browns to activate wide receiver Corey Coleman, they opted to waive fellow wideout Kasen Williams. The team has learned that Williams has passed through waivers and is free to sign with any practice squad he chooses, tweets Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. The 25 year-old receiver first latched on with the Seattle back in 2015, but appeared in seven games with Cleveland so far this season.

Injury Notes: Winston, Freeman, Fuller, Hurns

We heard yesterday that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston could miss “an extended period” of time as he recovered from a shoulder injury. However, head coach Dirk Koetter was still adamant that the franchise signal-caller would take the field again this season.

“Again, (the plan we adopted) was for Jameis to rest for two weeks and then we’re going to see where he’s at,” Koetter said (via Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders). “We’ve talked to multiple doctors (about it) and that’s what the plan is.

 “And I know that Jameis plans on playing again (this year). And there’s been no discussion between Jason and myself of him not playing again so that would all be something that would have to come up in the future.’’

Let’s take a look at some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Falcons running back Devonta Freeman is unlikely to suit up for next Monday’s game against the Seahawks, reports ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Freeman suffered his second concussion of the season this past weekend, although Schefter notes that the player isn’t expected to miss multiple games. The 25-year-old has compiled 515 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season.
  • Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee may be forced to shut it down for several weeks. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the defender is unlikely to play this week or during the team’s Thanksgiving contest against the Chargers. Head coach Jason Garrett confirmed that Lee may miss several games, noting that “it might be some time” before he returns (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com).
  • Texans wideout Will Fuller suffered a cracked rib during his team’s loss to the Rams this weekend, according to Rapoport (via Twitter). Fortunately, the second-year player didn’t experience extensive damage and may only miss a single game. The 23-year-old has been a touchdown machine this season, hauling in seven scores.
  • We learned last week that Bengals running back Jeremy Hill‘s season was over, and it sounds like it was the player’s decision to be placed on the injured reserve. Head coach Marvin Lewis said it was Hill who ultimately opted for the ankle surgery, which resulted in him landing on the injured reserve (via Rapoport on Twitter). The former second-rounder has compiled only 116 rushing yards on 37 carries this season, a far cry from his 1,124-yard performance in 2014.
  • Jaguars wideout Allen Hurns suffered a right ankle injury against the Chargers on Sunday, and coach Doug Marrone doesn’t see him taking the field this weekend. “Yeah, I don’t anticipate him playing this week,’’ Marrone said (via Cummings). “I would say yes (in terms of him missing this week), but I wouldn’t know (about his availability) after that.’’ As Cummings points out, Hurns absence could force the team to finally play wideout Dede Westbrook, who is eligible to be activated off of the injured reserve.

Extra Points: Timmons, Fuller, Redskins

The Dolphins made Lawrence Timmons‘ suspension shortlived, reinstating the linebacker earlier this week. Timmons addressed his status, albeit vaguely. Adam Gase also said there’s a possibility Timmons could make his Dolphins debut Sunday against the Saints in London.

To all the fans of the Miami Dolphins and to everyone, I’m just happy to be back here,” Timmons said, via James Walker of ESPN.com. “Sorry to the organization. I’m just happy to be a Miami Dolphin. I just want to play football and be the best I can.”

Timmons declined to say why he went AWOL from the team before Week 2. Gase said he and Timmons “worked through a couple of things,” adding he feels confident the linebacker will be able to contribute to the team. The former Steelers linebacker was said to have visited his old team’s facility during the Dolphins’ Hurricane Irma-induced bye in Week 1. Timmons would be a welcome addition to a Dolphins team that remains thin at linebacker, even after the Stephone Anthony acquisition.

Here’s the latest from around the league.

  • Will Fuller looks set to return Sunday for the Texans, Bill O’Brien said (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). The 2016 first-round pick broke his collarbone during training camp and was expected to be out up to three months. This would put the Texans‘ No. 2 wideout on the front end of that timetable. Fuller will be working with another new quarterback, with Deshaun Watson having taken the reins since the former Notre Dame speedster was last healthy.
  • Kelvin Benjamin also figures to be ready for his team in Week 4. After suffering a knee injury in the Panthers’ Week 3 loss, their top receiver avoided a serious setback. And Ron Rivera, via David Newton of ESPN.com, said barring a setback Benjamin will suit up against the Patriots.
  • Redskins backup offensive lineman Ty Nsekhe will miss three to six games with a core muscle injury that required surgery, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The 31-year-old has functioned as a part-time player in Washington since 2015, stepping in for left tackle Trent Williams during his four-game suspension last season and working as a reserve so far this year.
  • Linebacker Eric Pinkins worked out for the Cowboys on Thursday, Wilson tweets. Pinkins played in 11 games between 2015-16, for the Seahawks and Giants, before failing to make the Giants out of training camp. The Cowboys have two linebackers on their injury report, Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens. Neither got in a full practice Thursday.
  • Quarterback Nate Sudfeld may have landed on the Eagles‘ practice squad after failing to make the Redskins out of the preseason, but Philadelphia sweetened the deal for the second-year quarterback. Sudfeld’s practice squad salary is $540K, Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweets. That’s nearly $32K per week, a rather notable increase from the league minimum squad pay ($7,200 per week). He’ll earn more than some of the players on Philly’s 53-man roster. Sudfeld spent his rookie season on Washington’s active roster.

South Notes: Saints, Vaccaro, Colts

Saints coach Sean Payton downplayed the trade rumors surrounding safety Kenny Vaccaro this week, noting that it’s not unusual for other teams to call about positions of depth (Twitter link via Joel A. Erickson of The Advocate). Another source echoed similar sentiments to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, pointing out that it only makes sense for the Saints to listen on Vaccaro since he is in the final year of his deal and they might not be willing to spend big money to keep him. Still, second-year pro Vonn Bell took Vaccaro’s place in the lineup on Sunday and that’s not a good sign for his standing in the organization.

More from the South divisions:

  • Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief is in his contract year but he’ll have to step up his play if he wants to get paid this offseason, Stephen Holder of the Indy Star writes. On Sunday, Moncrief caught just two of his eight targets and blew three opportunities for key first downs. His injury history also doesn’t help matters – he missed seven games a shoulder injury in 2016 and sat out the bulk of training camp this year with an injury to the other shoulder. Moncrief, a third-round pick in 2014, is carrying a modest $1.932MM cap number this year.
  • The Texans cut Jaelen Strong on Monday, leaving them especially thin at wide receiver. However, the move makes a little more sense after learning that Will Fuller returned to practice for the team on Monday (via tradeAaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle). Fuller had 47 catches for 635 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie but we have not seen him on the field this year due to a broken collarbone suffered in training camp. It’s not immediately clear when the lightning-quick receiver will return to action, however.
  • Colts quarterback Andrew Luck won’t play on Sunday, but coach Chuck Pagano is adamant that we’ll see him suit up this season.

Texans’ Will Fuller Out 2-3 Months

The broken collarbone Texans wide receiver Will Fuller suffered Wednesday will require surgery and a two- to three-month absence, reports John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Will Fuller

The injury to Fuller will deprive Houston’s Tom Savage-led passing attack of its No. 2 wideout until sometime in the fall, leaving the team with Braxton Miller and Jaelen Strong as its second and third options. Miller and Strong combined for just 29 catches last season, though, while fourth and fifth receivers Wendall Williams and Dres Anderson have a total of four NFL grabs between them.

Having lost Fuller for a while, the Texans could scour the open market to bolster the position, with Anquan Boldin, Vincent Jackson and Steve Johnson among the league’s most established free agent receivers. Of course, more options will come available in the next few weeks as cuts occur, and the Texans may not feel any urgency to add a proven receiver with the strong tight end duo of C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin on hand as weapons.

The speedy Fuller, whom the Texans selected 21st overall last year, emerged as the club’s top receiver opposite the superb DeAndre Hopkins as a rookie. The ex-Notre Dame star, 21, finished second to Hopkins in targets (92) and yards (635), tied for second in touchdowns (two) and fourth in receptions (47). Fuller’s 13.5 yards-per-catch average paced all full-time Texans targets, beating out Hopkins’ 12.2.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Redskins, Reed, Gruden, Texans, Fuller

The latest from around the NFL:

  • Redskins coach Jay Gruden says “nothing earth-shattering” came from Jordan Reed‘s visit to see a specialist on his toe (Twitter link via Mike Jones of The Washington Post). The team is not publicly discussing Reed’s timetable for a return, but if the comment is to be taken at face value, then that could be an overall good sign for the tight end.
  • Jon Gruden is looking to slow down talk of a return to coaching. “I don’t foresee myself coaching again anytime soon,” the former Super Bowl-winning coach and current color commentator said (Twitter link via Roy Cummings of FanRag Sports). Comments by Gruden back in July seemed to hint at different plans.
  • Texans wide receiver Will Fuller broke his collarbone during practice on Wednesday, sources tell Adam Schefter and Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com (on Twitter). At this time, there is no timetable for Fuller’s recovery. Fuller, the team’s 2016 first round pick, is expected to reprise his role as a deep threat to take defensive pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins. If he misses significant time, it could be a major setback for the Houston offense. Braxton Miller and Jaelen Strong can be expected to see increased roles if Fuller is out, but the Texans could also look into adding additional depth.
  • Dolphins seventh round wide receiver Isaiah Ford has suffered a setback that may end up costing him a spot on the 53-man roster. Ford has meniscus damage that will require surgery, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald writes, and depending on the extent of the tear, he’ll either miss the remainder of training camp or potentially the entire season. Lately, Ford has been gaining traction as a backup possibility in the slot.
  • Alejandro Villanueva‘s new four-year, $24MM deal with the Steelers has base salaries of $1.5MM, $3MM, $5MM, and $5MM, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The remaining $9.5MM in the deal comes in the form of signing and roster bonuses.

AFC South Notes: Orr, Titans, Texans, Colts

A number of teams are interested in Zach Orr, with his agent relaying that about half of the league has contacted him regarding the linebacker. Some teams are standing pat, though. The Titans appear to be one of them. Tennessee is content with its linebacker situation, and according to Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com (on Twitter), has not reached out to Orr. The Titans have Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard penciled in to start on the inside of their 3-4 scheme. That’s been the team’s arrangement inside for the past three seasons, since Woodyard migrated east from Denver, and it looks like the team will roll with this duo for a fourth campaign as Williamson enters his contract year.

Orr’s Lions visit concluded Friday, and he subsequently made the trip to Indianapolis to meet with the Colts. The fourth-year linebacker’s Jets powwow will occur after the Colts summit ends.

Here’s more regarding Orr and the latest out of the AFC South.

  • Orr told SiriusXM (Twitter links) that he feels great, despite his condition. Orr explained that he’s dealing with a birth defect, but not something that is necessarily an injury. Orr also responded to talk of him cherry-picking medical opinions in an effort to get the diagnosis that he wanted. The 25-year-old says that he retired after seeing only one doctor, but the rest of doctors he spoke with say he’s not a greater risk.
  • ESPN.com’s Field Yates recalls Jon Robinson enduring scrutiny for only getting reserve offensive lineman Dennis Kelly from the Eagles in last summer’s Dorial Green-Beckham trade (Twitter link). Now that Philly cut Green-Beckham after one season, the second-year Titans GM’s decision doesn’t look so short-sighted. A former fifth-round pick of the Andy Reid-era Eagles in 2012, Kelly played in 145 snaps last season and suited up for all 16 Titans games. DGB’s talent will make him one of the more interesting waiver cases in recent years, but he’s now seen two NFL teams give up on him after one season. This comes after he transferred to Oklahoma only to sit out his junior year in 2014. The last time Green-Beckham played for the same team in consecutive seasons was during his freshman and sophomore campaigns at Missouri.
  • The Colts‘ early-season schedule and Chris Ballard‘s presence make Chuck Pagano a hot-seat candidate if the sixth-year Indianapolis leader doesn’t get the team off to a strong start, ESPN.com’s AFC South reporters posit. The Colts have started three straight seasons 0-2 but this year have the Rams, Browns, 49ers and Jaguars in their first seven games. Pagano not being Ballard’s handpicked coach figures to have him as a lame-duck candidate if the Colts are unable to return to the playoffs, however.
  • The Texans want Will Fuller to concentrate on developing as a wide receiver instead of focusing on the return game, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle notes. The speedster out of Notre Dame averaged 15 yards per punt return (11 returns) and took back one punt for a touchdown as a rookie. McClain notes backup running back Tyler Ervin has a chance to be a double-duty specialty player. Fuller’s status and kick returner Akeem Hunt‘s uncertainty to make Ervin a candidate to serve as Houston’s kick- and punt-return man.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Texans, Will Fuller Agree To Terms

SATURDAY, 8:27am: The Texans have officially announced the signing.

FRIDAY, 9:15am: Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle has additional details on Fuller’s new contract. The first-round pick will receive $9.86MM in guaranteed money, and the deal also contains the typical fifth-year option.

Fuller’s cap hit never exceeds $3MM except in 2019, when his contract will count for $3.23MM against the cap. However, only $1.53MM of that final year is guaranteed.

JUNE 25th, 3:15pm: The list of unsigned first-round picks shortened to three today after the Texans and top choice Will Fuller agreed to terms on the wide receiver’s rookie contract, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (on Twitter).

As the No. 21 overall selection, Fuller will earn approximately $10.16MM on a four-year deal, per OverTheCap. Fuller’s signing leaves just Joey Bosa, Darron Lee and Joshua Garnett as the unsigned performers taken in this year’s first round.

Along with the customary fifth-year option for first-rounders, Fuller’s contract is expected to contain a $5.59MM signing bonus and a 2016 cap figure of $1.49MM, Wilson reports.

Fuller will be given a prime opportunity to earn a starting job opposite Houston’s No. 1 wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, after the Notre Dame pass-catcher put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons the past two years and totaled 29 touchdown receptions.

Houston has been searching for an upper-echelon 1-2 punch at wide receiver for most of its 15-year existence and now has two first-round picks under contract at the position. The Texans also selected Braxton Miller to learn the slot job in a concerted effort to upgrade their offense this offseason. Said effort also included signing Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller and Jeff Allen.

The Texans’ now-deeper wideout corps also houses Cecil Shorts, last season’s No. 2 target who accepted a pay cut earlier this month, and 2015 third-rounder Jaelen Strong. So, the competition for the options beyond Hopkins in Osweiler’s passing hierarchy should be consistent come training camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seven Rookies Remain Unsigned

Updated on June 25th, 2016 3:32pm CT

The overwhelming majority of the rookies in the 2016 draft class have officially signed. However, as we approach July, we still have a small group of stragglers. Seven rookies have yet to put pen to paper with their respective teams and that group includes three first-rounders: Joey Bosa (Chargers, No. 3), Darron Lee (Jets, No. 20) and Joshua Garnett (49ers, No. 28). Joey Bosa (vertical)

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Bosa, of course, stands as the most high-profile player yet to sign his rookie pact and his negotiations are also the most public of the bunch. This week, agent Todd France and team president of football operations John Spanos both discussed the negotiations in radio interviews and it appears that the two sides aren’t even in agreement as to what the disagreement is all about. Spanos says the two sides are hung up on the idea of offset language. France, meanwhile, says there are other reasons behind the protracted talks, including cash flow.

The latest Collective Bargaining Agreement has made rookie contracts much simpler than they used to be. Every rookie from No. 1 through (roughly) No. 256 receives a four-year deal with varying salary amounts based on where they are selected. However, offset language is among the key clauses which may be discussed. If a player with offset language in his contract his released midway through the deal, the original team is only on the hook for the difference in salary between the two contracts. Without offset language, the player can effectively double dip and collect two paychecks. Naturally, there are many player agents who are disinclined to forfeit that potential earning power.

Of the seven players without signed deals, four of those players are third-round picks. That’s because contracts in the third round are, for some reason, far less regulated than the rest of the draft. While third round picks have slotted signing bonuses like everyone else, the base salaries can be brokered and that’s probably at least part of the holdup for these four rookies. However, one pattern to note is that first-rounders Bosa, Lee, Fuller, and Garnett are all represented by powerhouse agency CAA.

Here is the complete list of 2016 rookies who have yet to complete their contracts with signatures and initials:

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

New York Jets

San Diego Chargers

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Acquire No. 21 Pick From Washington

The Texans have acquired the No. 21 pick from Houston, according to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). Houston will sacrifice a 2017 sixth-rounder to move from No. 22 to No. 21, adds Farmer. The Texans will use the pick to draft Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Because the Texans moved up just one spot, it’s fair to wonder if another club in the 20s — like the Vikings or the Bengals — was also trying to move up in the hopes of selecting Fuller. Fuller is a speed threat, so he could be a nice compliment in a Houston offense that already has a great-route runner in DeAndre Hopkins and a veteran slot option in Cecil Shorts.

The Texans have added several new elements to their offense over the past few months, including quarterback Brock Osweiler, running back Lamar Miller, and offensive lineman Jeff Allen.