Will Fuller

Texans Will Not Tag Will Fuller

Will Fuller may be close to a lock to leave Houston now. The Texans do not intend to use their franchise tag on the five-year veteran wide receiver, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets.

A Wednesday report indicated a no-tag scenario meant a likely Fuller exit, though the Texans would like to keep him. The promising but inconsistent deep threat now seems like he will be coveted in free agency, but there are certainly some red flags for teams to consider.

With Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay and Chris Godwin on the tag radar, the likes of Fuller, JuJu Smith-Schuster and others figure to climb within teams’ priority queues in free agency. Fuller has delivered an unreliable five seasons with the Texans, having not played more than 11 games in a season since his 2016 rookie slate.

Due to the PED suspension the NFL slapped him with last year, Fuller will miss the 2021 season opener as well. However, the 26-year-old target was having his best season prior to the ban. Fuller posted career highs in receiving yards (879) and touchdowns (eight) in 2020, and the injury-prone player played in the Texans’ first 11 games.

Fuller leaving will continue a high-turnover period for the Texans’ receiving corps. The Texans traded for Kenny Stills in 2019 and cut him last year. Sandwiched in between these transactions: the trade of DeAndre Hopkins, the Randall Cobb signing and the Brandin Cooks trade. Houston has Cobb and Cooks under contract for 2021, but the hiring of Nick Caserio as GM complicates Texan holdovers’ statuses.

Deshaun Watson lobbied the Texans to retain Fuller late last year, but the quarterback has since let it be known he wants to be traded. It seems highly unlikely Watson has followed through on his effort to ensure Fuller stays in Houston.

That’s very important,” Watson said of the Texans re-signing Fuller. “That’s definitely one guy that I’m going to be working on this last month and offseason, for sure. Will’s my brother. The whole organization knows that tooAnd you know, make sure that we get him back for next year, especially in this organization.”

Watson’s meeting with new Texans HC David Culley has not prompted him to retract his trade request. A year after the Texans entered the offseason with Watson, Hopkins and Fuller, the team may be without both receivers and have a quarterback intent on following them out the door.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Unlikely To Retain Will Fuller

Texans wideout Will Fuller will miss Week 1 of the 2021 regular season thanks to the six-game PED suspension he was handed in November, but he is still one of the more intriguing receivers set for unrestricted free agency in March. That is especially true since players like Kenny Golladay and Chris Godwin are looking increasingly likely to remain with their current clubs, which pushes Fuller higher up the wish-list for receiver-needy teams.

And as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes, it sounds as if Fuller will indeed hit the open market. Fuller and QB Deshaun Watson enjoy a close friendship, and considering Watson’s relationship with the team at the moment, Wilson says Fuller will not be back in Houston unless he is hit with the franchise tag (a reconciliation between the Texans and Watson could change that, but the situation appears unsalvageable). However, multiple league sources say they do not expect Houston to use the tag on Fuller, even though the club would like to have him back.

After all, the Texans are just $3.9MM under the cap at the moment, and while restructures and releasing players like RB David Johnson will give them some additional space, it might not be enough to carry Fuller on a ~$16MM franchise tag. Instead, the team might continue to roll with Brandin Cooks — who flourished during Fuller’s suspension — along with Randall Cobb and younger players Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen.

Spotrac indicates that Fuller is in line for a four-year contract worth $67.8MM, which seems about right. The $16.9MM average would put Fuller in the top-10 of the WR market, and though he has struggled with injuries throughout his pro career, he was finally on track to play a full 16-game season for the first time before he was suspended (for what it’s worth, he said he violated the league’s PED policy only because he took medication that the prescribing physician believed to be approved by the NFL).

His speed and explosiveness would be an asset to most any receiving corps, so while the injury history is a concern, he should not be lacking for suitors. Last season, he was on pace for nearly 1,300 receiving yards and double-digit TDs. His 16.6 yard-per-reception average was a career-high and is reflective of his big-play ability.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Texans, Rivers, Tua, Bolles, Jets

Following the trade deadline, Deshaun Watson revealed how much of an issue a Will Fuller trade would have caused for him. Now, the Texans quarterback does not want Week 12 to have been his final game throwing to the deep threat. Despite Fuller’s six-game PED suspension set to drag into next year, Watson wants the Texans to bring back the impending free agent.

That’s very important,” Watson said of the Texans re-signing Fuller, via ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop. “That’s definitely one guy that I’m going to be working on this last month and offseason, for sure. Will’s my brother. The whole organization knows that tooAnd you know, make sure that we get him back for next year, especially in this organization.”

A 2016 first-round pick, Fuller has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. He did in his contract year and was on pace to venture well into four-digit yardage territory. The 26-year-old receiver finished his shortened season with 53 receptions for 879 yards and eight touchdowns — all career-high numbers — and will be one of the top free agents in 2021. The Texans will have exclusive negotiating rights with Fuller until the legal tampering period begins in mid-March.

Here is the latest from the AFC, shifting first to Houston’s Week 13 opponent:

  • Philip Rivers has not missed a game due to injury as a pro, having made 235 straight starts since the Chargers let Drew Brees defect to the Saints in 2006. But Rivers appeared on the Colts‘ injury report this week, being reduced to a limited practice Thursday because of a toe malady. Praising Rivers’ toughness, Quenton Nelson revealed (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson and Jim Ayello) the 17th-year quarterback is playing through a “really bad” foot problem presently. Rivers said he has no concerns about being able to play in Week 13.
  • Also expecting to play Sunday: Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa. After Brian Flores said Tagovailoa was “very close” to being able to play against the Jets, the first-round passer expects to start this weekend against the Bengals, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald notes. Although Tua struggled in Denver and was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Flores said the job is the rookie’s when he is medically cleared. Tagovailoa has been limited in both Miami practices this week.
  • Garett Bolles‘ belated breakout resulted in a big payday from the Broncos, who went from not picking up the once-embattled left tackle’s fifth-year option to signing him to a four-year, $68MM deal. That contract contains $38MM guaranteed and $21MM fully guaranteed over the first two years, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Although the $17MM-per-year figure places Bolles as the NFL’s sixth-highest-paid tackle, the full guarantee is more in line with his uneven performance through three-plus seasons. That number ranks 20th among tackles and comes in $43MM south of what the Ravens recently gave Ronnie Stanley in full guarantees.
  • More weirdness out of New York. Jets guard starter Alex Lewis did not play against the Dolphins last week, and Adam Gase said the absence was not injury-related. This may stem from a dustup between Lewis and Gase. The second-year Jets HC indicated the two had a “conversation” but stopped short of calling it a verbal altercation, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes (Twitter links). Gase did not confirm if Lewis will return in Week 13. A 2019 trade acquisition, Lewis signed a three-year deal to return to the Jets in March.

Will Fuller Suspended Six Games For PEDs

Huge news out of Houston, as star receiver Will Fuller has been suspended for six games for violating the league’s policy on PEDs, he announced on Instagram.

Earlier this year, I sought treatment from a medical professional who prescribed medication that he believed to be permitted under the NFL’s drug policy. As it turns out, my trust in this professional was misplaced because this medication was NOT a permitted substance under the NFL Policy on Performance Enhancing Substances. As a result of this mistake, I have been suspended for six games for taking this prohibited medication. I want to sincerely apologize to the Texans organization and all of my fans for this mistake. I am looking forward to putting this all behind me and returning better than ever in 2021,” he wrote in the caption.

It’s a devastating blow for a Texans team that had started to pick up some steam recently after Bill O’Brien was fired. They’ve won three of their last four games, but it’s going to be hard to keep that momentum going without Fuller in the lineup. The speedster had been having a career year, with 53 receptions for 879 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games after the trade of DeAndre Hopkins.

It also complicates things personally for Fuller, as he’s slated to be a free agent at the end of the year. It’s quite possible he’s played his last down in Houston. Assuming there’s not more to this story it shouldn’t effect the money he’ll get too much, as he’s expected to be one of the most sought after free agents on the market. That being said, whether it’s with the Texans or another team, he’ll have to sit out the first game of the 2021 season.

The 21st pick of the 2016 draft, Fuller struggled with injuries in his first few years in the league, tearing an ACL in 2018 among other ailments. He was finally on track to play a full 16-game season for the first time before this ban hit. This will now be the fourth straight year that he plays in 11 games or fewer.

Randall Cobb is on injured reserve and the team just cut Kenny Stills, leaving them suddenly very thin at receiver. Deshaun Watson just can’t catch a break, and Brandin Cooks should see very heavy volume moving forward. It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of contract Fuller lands come March. The Notre Dame product will turn 27 in April.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Notes: Packers, McKinley, Alexander

We heard earlier today that the Packers were eying Texans wideout Will Fuller, but there were reportedly disagreements among high-level Packers officials on whether they should make a play for a receiver. While head coach Matt LaFleur said he was unsure if “anything ever got that serious,” he was sure that he’s on the same page with general manager Brian Gutekunst.

“I have no idea where anything like that would ever come from,” LaFleur said of the reports (via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky). “We’re in constant communication, we’re on the same page and there is no truth to that. I promise you that.”

While receiver Davante Adams expressed confidence in his teammates, he previously acknowledged that he’d welcome some help at the position.

“I wouldn’t say we necessarily need to, because I think we’ve shown what we can do,” Adams said. “When I went down, guys stepped up and did what they had to do. Stepped up big. I wouldn’t say it’s a need. Obviously, I’ve said this before, I don’t think it’s any secret that could help us potentially. I wouldn’t be opposed to it. It could help us. But I definitely got full faith and trust in my guys here to be able to get it done.”

As Demovsky notes, the Packers could be getting some reinforcement at the position, as receiver Allen Lazard could return this weekend. The 24-year-old had eight catches for 146 yards and one score in Week 3, but he’s been sidelined since undergoing core muscle surgery.

Some more trade notes from around the NFL:

  • The Falcons were seeking a fourth-round pick for defensive end Takkarist McKinley, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (via Twitter). We heard last week that the former first-rounder was on the trade block, but the 25-year-old declared last night that he wasn’t going anywhere. McKinley has compiled only eight tackles and one sack in four games this season, and he hasn’t played more than 40-percent of his team’s defensive snaps since Week 1.
  • After acquiring defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in a preseason trade with the Jaguars, the Vikings traded the veteran to the Ravens back in October. ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes that the trade conditions from the conditional fifth-rounder that Minnesota sent Jacksonville still apply. That fifth-rounder will turn into a fourth-rounder if Ngakoue goes to the Pro Bowl (with the Ravens). It’s worth noting that the Vikings received a conditional fifth-rounder in their trade with Baltimore, and there’s a good chance that selection contains many of the same conditions.
  • The pick the Dolphins received in the Isaiah Ford trade with the Patriots is a conditional sixth-rounder, tweets Jeff Howe of The Athletic. Howe adds that the pick could turn into a seventh-rounder if the conditions aren’t met.
  • The conditional fifth-round pick that the Saints sent the 49ers in the Kwon Alexander trade has a bit more intrigue. The MMQB’s Albert Breer tweets that it’s a 2022 pick that’s heading to San Francisco, although that could turn into a 2021 selection based on “play-time markers.”
  • Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup was presumably never on the block, as VP Stephen Jones said last week that the organization wouldn’t be trading the 24-year-old (via The Athletic’s Jon Machota on Twitter). Following a breakout 2019 campaign, Gallup has disappointed a bit in 2020, hauling in 26 receptions for 432 yards and one score through eight games (seven starts).

Packers Split On Trading For Texans’ Will Fuller

There’s disagreement among high-level Packers officials on whether the long-term cost of an elite receiver like Will Fuller would be worthwhile, Dianna Russini of ESPN.com tweets. The Packers have discussed Fuller with the Texans, but it’s far from a given that they’ll complete a trade before the afternoon deadline. 

Fuller, who is playing on a $10.16MM fifth-year option salary, profiles as an interesting rental option for the Packers. Through seven games, he’s been Deshaun Watson‘s favorite target, catching 31 passes for a team-high 490 yards and five touchdowns. Of course, acquiring him would mean giving up significant draft capital, especially since the Texans have insisted that they’re not keen on trading players with potential for 2021.

The Packers could certainly use a weapon like Fuller, given their lack of production at wide receiver. Davante Adams has been leading the charge with 43 catches for 502 yards and seven touchdowns in just five games. Meanwhile, the rest of the group has combined for a mere 38 catches, 622 receiving yards, and four scores.

The Packers passed on their opportunity to nab an elite wide receiver in this year’s draft, and they’re window to trade for one is on the verge of closing. The NFL’s trade deadline — 4pm ET/3pm CT — is just hours away.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Thomas, Njoku, Watt, Jets

Saints head coach Sean Payton has said his team has no interest in trading star receiver Michael Thomas, though Thomas’ camp was recently said to be looking for potential deals. There has been no movement towards a Thomas trade, and whether that’s because New Orleans has no interest in dealing him or because the club has not received an offer it likes, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says Thomas will stay put.

With the trade deadline two days away, let’s round up a few more rumors on players who could be on the move:

  • The Browns don’t want to trade tight end David Njoku, but Njoku has renewed his request to be dealt, and Rapoport says Cleveland has been fielding calls on the former first-rounder. It may take at least a fourth-round pick to get a deal done, but with Austin Hooper set to return and with the emergence of rookie Harrison Bryant, the Browns may elect to move Njoku.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Texans are at the center of the trade market, with one executive saying Houston could move as many as five players if it wants to. Rapoport expects the Packersinterest in Will Fuller — which dates back to the summer — to ramp up, but it will likely take a high pick to convince the Texans to move Fuller. Fellow WR Kenny Stills has also drawn some interest, though rival clubs see the contracts for Stills and Randall Cobb as prohibitive. DE J.J. Watt may be receptive to a trade, but considering his contract and age, other teams probably don’t value him like the Texans do.
  • The Jets have received calls on LB Avery Williamson, OTs George Fant and Chuma Edoga, and CB Quincy Wilson, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says the Steelers — who recently lost Devin Bush for the season — could be in the market for Williamson, and Edoga also seems like a good bet to be dealt since he does not look like a fit with the current regime.
  • La Canfora says teams have also called the Jets about WR Breshad Perriman and TE Chris Herndon, though Breer notes that safety Marcus Maye has not drawn much interest.
  • Rapoport names Dolphins RB Jordan Howard and Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister as two other players who could be moved. And though the Bengals are shopping disgruntled wideout John Ross, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com says there hasn’t been interest in Ross (Twitter link).

Packers Inquire On Texans’ Will Fuller

The Packers are among the clubs showing interest in Texans wide receiver Will Fuller, according to Aaron Reiss of The Athletic (on Twitter). Nothing is imminent at the moment, but things could pick up between now and Tuesday’s trade deadline.

[RELATED: Teams Calling Texans On Fuller, Cobb]

Reiss also hears that the Texans are not interested in a full-on fire sale, though many observers are skeptical. Their firing of head coach/GM Bill O’Brien seemed to signal the start of a revamp, and they’re not playing for much this year with a record of 1-6. They’re also in the midst of their bye week, which would give them extra time to acclimate post-trade.

Fuller, who is playing on a $10.16MM fifth-year option salary, profiles as an interesting rental option for contenders. Through seven games, he’s been Deshaun Watson‘s favorite target, catching 31 passes for a team-high 490 yards and five touchdowns. The Texans could parlay Fuller into draft capital, but they seem to be telling teams that they’d rather keep him (and Brandin Cooks) for the long haul. For what it’s worth, interim head coach Romeo Crennel has been telling players not to worry about getting traded.

With this situation, it might be more on their mind this year,” Crennel said when asked if the issue is a potential distraction. “I’ve talked to them and tried to reassure them that I’m not looking to trade guys.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Teams Calling Texans On Fuller, Cobb

Despite trading DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans entered the season with a bloated wide receiver payroll. They are now 1-6 and between GMs, leading teams to inquire about some of their players.

Teams have contacted the Texans about their wide receivers, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, who notes the team has fielded calls on Will Fuller and Randall Cobb (Twitter link).

The trade deadline looms Nov. 3, though teams who would like to deploy their new players in Week 9 would need to make deals this week in order for them to begin practicing ahead of those games. COVID-19 testing protocols require players to pass six tests — each a day apart — before practicing with new teams.

Fuller and Cobb represent half of Houston’s veteran receiving corps, which also includes 2020 trade acquisition Brandin Cooks and 2019 trade get Kenny Stills. Fuller, who is playing on a $10.16MM fifth-year option salary, would bring far more value back to the Texans in a deal than a Cobb swap would. The then-Bill O’Brien-run Texans signed Cobb to a three-year, $27MM deal in March. Shipping out the 30-year-old slot receiver would not bring especially notable compensation, and Wilson adds the Texans are not receiving strong offers for either player as of Wednesday afternoon.

Houston having dealt Hopkins would seemingly make a Fuller trade less likely. He has emerged as Deshaun Watson‘s top target, hauling in 31 passes for a team-high 490 yards and five touchdowns. Although the former first-round pick is a free agent at year’s end and has been unable to stay healthy for most of his career, the Texans do not have any surefire building blocks at this position for Watson moving forward. Cooks would qualify, but the O’Brien acquisition is on his fourth team. Cooks, 27, has also come up in trade talks. While the Texans appear ready to deal one of their veteran wideouts, it is unclear as of now which one will go.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Giants, Ryan, Fuller

After dealing Markus Golden to the Cardinals, it appears the 1-6 Giants have officially declared themselves sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Though GM Dave Gettleman may be reluctant to trade away veteran talent that could theoretically help Big Blue win a few games — and perhaps save Gettleman’s job in the process — players like Evan Engram, Kevin Zeitler, and Golden Tate could be available, as Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes (though Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says the club is unlikely to deal Engram).

2017 second-round DT Dalvin Tomlinson could also be on the move, per Dunleavy. Tomlinson is playing out the last year of his rookie contract, and while he has expressed interest in staying with the Giants long-term, there has been little progress in contract talks.

As we creep closer to the November 3 deadline, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league: