Will Grier

NFC Notes: 49ers, Newton, Lions, Vikings

After a report indicated the 49ers brought longtime offensive line coach Chris Foerster out of coaching exile surfaced Friday, Kyle Shanahan confirmed as much. The third-year 49ers coach said Foerster joined San Francisco’s staff as a consultant. Consultants do not serve as in-game coaches, and Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area notes the 49ers have Foerster working on film and in position group meetings. Shanahan said the 49ers brought on Foerster as a consultant last year and elevated his duties in 2019, though the 57-year-old assistant — who has 20-plus years of NFL coaching experience — is still classified as a consultant. Shanahan and Foerster worked together in Washington.

He is still in a consulting role because I do understand the seriousness of this matter,” Shanahan said of Foerster, who resigned from the Dolphins in 2017 after a video showed him snorting a white powdery substance. “We’re trying to ease him back in. I understand how big of a problem he did have. I also understand what he’s doing in committing to fix that problem. We’re trying to give him a chance to get back on track.

He’s done that exactly the right way for two years. We will see if he continues to do that, and then we will reassess that after this year.”

Here is the latest from the NFC:

  • Some positive news for Cam Newton. Although the Panthers quarterback remains in a walking boot and without a definitive return timetable, Jordan Rodrigue of The Athletic notes (subscription required) the team was encouraged by the follow-up MRI the ninth-year passer underwent. If Newton continues to progress in his recovery from a mid-foot sprain, Rodrigue adds he is expected to participate in practice in some capacity Monday. This would point to the veteran being ready for Week 1. Kyle Allen received first crack at Newton’s reps Saturday, but David Newton of ESPN.com notes Will Grier split time evenly with Carolina’s presumptive QB2. Ron Rivera confirmed the Panthers will not work out quarterbacks.
  • More good news on the injury front. Matt Patricia said (via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers, on Twitter) he is not considering an IR trip for Jarrad Davis, who was carted to the Lions‘ locker room Friday night. Davis suffered a lower-leg injury against the Bills. Were Davis to be placed on IR in between next weekend and Week 1, he would miss at least eight regular-season weeks. This points to the Lions expecting him back during the first half of the season, at the latest.
  • Frank Ragnow, too, appears to have dodged a bullet. The Lions center suffered what’s being categorized as a minor ankle sprain Friday, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. The Lions are typically vague regarding injuries, with Patricia declining to elaborate on the nature of those suffered by Ragnow and Davis. But the second-year coach said (via Rogers) neither player is believed to have suffered a season-nullifying malady.
  • The Vikings and since-cut long snapper Kevin McDermott agreed to an injury settlement, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. McDermott suffered an elbow injury, which required surgery this week, and will collect $150K via this settlement. Austin Cutting beat out the longtime incumbent for Minnesota’s snapping job.

Panthers Optimistic Newton Can Play Week 1

Cam Newton left Thursday night’s game early due to injury, and Panthers GM Marty Hurney said Friday the ninth-year quarterback suffered a sprained foot. Newton left Gillette Stadium in a walking boot.

The Panthers are “cautiously optimistic” Newton will be able to suit up in Week 1, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. While Hurney called the injury a “mild” sprain, it is officially a mid-foot sprain, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link).

A first-quarter sack (Twitter link via SI.com’s Albert Breer) ended Newton’s night and shifted uncertainty surrounding the Carolina quarterback from his throwing shoulder to his left foot. This particular injury can linger. Although Newton has been incredibly durable throughout his career, this is certainly not ideal after the months of shoulder rehab the 30-year-old passer went through this year.

Newton’s troublesome throwing shoulder, which required another surgery in January, prompted the Panthers to hold him out of their first two preseason games. It may now come down to the wire for Week 1 because of this sprain. Newton has battled shoulder problems since 2017 and underwent left ankle surgery in 2014. He has only missed five games in his career.

Carolina featured an underwhelming contingent of backups behind Newton last season but drafted Will Grier in this year’s third round. Rivera turned to Kyle Allen over Grier after Newton’s exit Thursday, however, pointing to the former UDFA (and Week 17 Panthers starter) being first in line to replace Newton if necessary. The Panthers do not plan to bring in any additional quarterbacks, with Rapoport adding Allen indeed will likely take the majority of the first-team reps in near-future practices.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Sign Will Grier, Four Other Draft Picks

The Panthers announced that they’ve signed the following five draft picks:

Grier is unquestionably the most interesting name on the list, as he’ll give Carolina a more reputable backup quarterback than it had in 2019. Both Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen failed in their respective starts in relief of Cam Newton, so Grier will attempt to to improve on that production.

There’s good reason to think Grier has a chance at NFL success. Some draft analysts considered him the second-best quarterback in the draft behind Kyler Murray, although Grier’s advanced rookie age (24) is a knock against him. The West Virginia product threw with the highest velocity at the scouting combine, and ranked second behind Murray in Josh Hermsmeyer of FiveThirtyEight.com‘s completion percentage over expected, which attempts to value a quarterbacks’s production relative to the depth of his attempted throws.

With five members of their draft class down, Carolina needs only to sign first-round defensive end Brian Burns and second-round offensive tackle Greg Little.

Giants Targeting Late First-Round QB?

The Giants could theoretically pass on quarterbacks at No. 6 and No. 17 overall and still come away with a QB tonight. Talk is spreading about the Giants potentially trading back into the first round to land either West Virginia’s Will Grier or North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY reports (on Twitter). 

Neither Finley nor Grier has garnered as much ink as top QBs Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, and Daniel Jones. Still, the Giants have holes to fill and a big desire to bolster their pass rush, so rumor has it they may pass on all four with their first two choices. It’s worth noting that Vacchiano doesn’t believe the Giants “love” Finley, so Grier could be their preferred target.

The Seahawks (picks Nos. 21, 29) and the Colts (No. 26) have shown an interest in trading back, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter), so either club could be a match for the Giants in this scenario.

Meanwhile, GM Dave Gettleman seems to be hinting that the Giants will not take a QB at all in the first round.

We want to come out of [the first round] with two legitimate starters [who] can step in and help us win now,” Gettleman told NFL Network (via PFT).

Meanwhile, Gettleman confirmed that a rookie quarterback would not start ahead of Eli Manning.

No, he wouldn’t [start right away], but it’s the position,” Gettleman said. “The worse place you can be is quarterback hell.”

Draft Rumors: QBs, Gary, Pats, Giants, Lions

Kyler Murray-to-Arizona still looks to be in the cards (no pun intended), but the Nos. 2-4 quarterback landing spots — and the order in which they will be drafted — remain murky. While Dwayne Haskins‘ reported slide has led to some predicting Drew Lock would benefit, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes the Missouri product has a “very real chance” of being the fourth quarterback selected and/or falling out of the first round. Connected to Lock prior to their Joe Flacco trade, the Broncos would be intrigued by the prospect of nabbing Lock in Round 2, per JLC, who tabs Denver as more likely to address a bigger immediate need in the first round. The Broncos visited with Lock during the process, as did several other teams with some degree of a need at quarterback.

Here is the latest from the draft world, continuing with some of this year’s passing prospects:

  • If Lock’s floor may be more open-ended, La Canfora tabs the Redskins being Haskins’. Washington has done work on the Ohio State alum, along with the other high-profile QBs in this draft. The Raiders have also been “super impressed” by the 2018 breakout star, but they have been reported as being unlikely to use one of their three first-round picks on a quarterback.
  • The other quarterback mentioned as a first-round possibility, Daniel Jones has intrigued the Patriots, per JLC. New England holds pick No. 32 but has a draft-high 12 picks (including six in the first three rounds) and has plenty of ammo to move up. The Pats hosted Jones on a visit last week. New England has not taken a first-round quarterback since Drew Bledsoe 26 years ago, but NFL.com’s Gil Brandt would not be surprised if this happened (Twitter link).
  • Both the Giants and Panthers have done plenty of work on Will Grier, La Canfora adds. The West Virginia passer profiles as someone who could be available in Round 2. New York holds pick No. 37, Carolina No. 47. This is the latest we’ve heard on the Panthers’ interest in Grier. Although Carolina brass has reportedly not done more research than usual on quarterbacks in preparing for this draft, Cam Newton has not resumed throwing and is going through extensive shoulder rehab in a second offseason in three years.
  • Linked to safeties for two offseasons now, the Cowboys brought in six for pre-draft visits. Stephen Jones mentioned (via Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams) the position as having the least amount of resources put into it of any on the Cowboys’ roster. After bypassing this need in last year’s draft, Dallas will be a team to monitor on this front.
  • It does not appear the Lions will be making a move up in the first round. Bob Quinn could foresee his team trading down but does not believe (via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers) he has enough draft capital — one pick in each of the first five rounds — to vault up from No. 8. Detroit has been mentioned as a stealth quarterback seeker, but trading up for one does not appear to be in the cards.
  • Lastly, another member of this year’s stellar defensive line class may not check out medically. Some teams have red flags on Rashan Gary, La Canfora notes. While the Michigan lineman is still expected to go in the first round, he may be available a bit later than expected. Should this report of health concerns related to Gary be accurate, he would join Mississippi State products Montez Sweat (who had a heart issue at the Combine) and Jeffery Simmons (pre-Combine ACL tear) as standout pass rushers who have encountered medical issues.

NFL Draft Rumors: Brown, Samuel, Ford

The 49ers will host Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown and South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel on Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Neither player is in the mix for the Niners at No. 2 overall, but both could be an option further down the line.

Right now, it seems likely that Brown will be a first rounder, making him unlikely to be available when the 49ers pick again at No. 36 overall. Still, crazier things have happened and the Niners could always trade up if they want Brown badly enough. Samuel, meanwhile, seems to be right in range for that pick. After watching Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham head elsewhere this offseason, the Niners are undoubtedly in the hunt for receiver help in the draft.

Here’s the latest draft buzz:

  • Oklahoma offensive lineman Cody Ford will meet with the Panthers on Tuesday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. This marks Ford’s ninth and final visit, and five of those teams pick between No. 11 and 20. With that in mind, it’s fair to wonder whether Ford will be available for Carolina at No. 16 overall.
  • Washington safety Taylor Rapp – widely pegged as a late-first round or second round prospect, will also visit the Panthers on Tuesday, according to Rapoport. Rapp also recently met with the Seahawks.
  • West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell are visiting the Redskins, Rapoport tweets. Grier figures to be available in the middle rounds, but the Redskins will probably have to pounce in the second round if they want Campbell.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Patriots, Draft

Here’s a look at the AFC East:

  • The Dolphins are looking to add multiple edge rushers over the next three months, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears. The Dolphins took one step in that direction this week when they signed Jayrone Elliott, one of the best pass rushers from the defunct AAF, but it sounds like they’ll also scour the later waves of free agency and the draft to find defensive ends and outside linebackers.
  • Duke quarterback Daniel Jones visited with the Patriots on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. At No. 32, they’d probably have to move for him, though they have the firepower to advance up the board if they want to. The Patriots have 12 picks in this year’s draft, tied with the Giants for the most in the league. After No. 32, they own two second round picks at Nos. 56 and 64 overall.
  • The Patriots also met with West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, Rapoport tweets. Unlike Jones, Grier figures to be available in the middle rounds due to his age (24) and iffy mechanics. However, he put up monster numbers at WVU, including 3,864 yards and 37 touchdowns against eight interceptions in his final season on campus. Lauded for his leadership, Grier could be groomed to take over for 42-year-old Tom Brady while sitting behind backup Brian Hoyer.

NFC Notes: Panthers, Bucs, Lions, Giants

Could the Panthers be in the market for a backup quarterback? They’re meeting with Auburn signal-caller Jarrett Stidham today, while Carolina has spent “considerable time” with West Virginia’s Will Grier, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter links). Cam Newton missed two starts last season, and the Panthers were subsequently forced to rely on unproven options like Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen under center. Head coach Ron Rivera indicated earlier this year that Carolina would likely eschew a veteran quarterback addition in favor of utilizing the draft, but as Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer tweets, it’s unclear how high of a pick the Panther are willing to use in order to land Newton’s new backup. Stidham, meanwhile, has also visited the Giants, per Pelissero.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns‘ next visit will be with the Buccaneers, as he noted on Chris Simms Unbuttoned (link via Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk). After sitting down with Tampa Bay, Burns is expected to meet with the Lions, Giants, and Colts, the latter of whom has shown the most interest in Burns thus far. The ex-Seminole could come off the board within the top-10 selections of the draft, and he’s viewed as one of the best pass rushers in the 2019 class. After posting 23 sacks and 38.5 tackles for loss during his collegiate career, Burns tested like an elite athlete at the scouting combine.
  • Giants head coach Pat Shurmur prefers a veteran backup behind starting quarterback Eli Manning, as Ryan Dunleacy of NJ.com writes. New York re-signed Alex Tanney last month, and if he’s set to serve as the club’s No. 2 signal-caller, 2018 fourth-round pick Kyle Lauletta‘s roster spot could be in danger, especially if the Giants select a quarterback early in the upcoming draft. Big Blue spoke repeatedly about inserting Lauletta into game action last season, but he ultimately attempted only five passes (all of which were incomplete and one of which was intercepted) in Week 13. He was subsequently deactivated for the next two contests. Lauletta’s late October arrest probably doesn’t help his roster chances, either.
  • More Alliance of American Football veterans could be heading to the NFL. The Vikings worked out linebacker Davis Tull on Wednesday, tweets Pelissero, and will audition linebacker Greer Martini on Thursday, per Rob Demovsky of NFL.com (Twitter link). More than 40 AAF alums have landed NFL contracts since the fledgling league folded, and Tull and/or Martini could force that number to rise. Tull, notably, was a fifth-round pick of the Saints in 2015 but has yet to appear in an NFL game.

AFC Notes: Tomlin, Bengals, Dolphins

Michael Lombardi of The Athletic takes a deep dive into the Antonio Brown saga, and he is pretty straightforward with his thoughts on the entire situation. He certainly puts much of the blame for the acrimonious relationship between Brown and the Steelers on Brown himself, saying that the talented wideout has a tremendous combination of selfishness, all-about-me attitude, and hostility towards the only team he has ever known. As one GM recently said, Brown is a a “[g]reat talent, but a huge pain in the ass.”

However, Lombardi also says that while Brown’s behavior has driven down his price on the trade market, interested teams are doing their homework to get to the true essence of the problem. Lombardi believes the Steelers’ culture is lost, and that head coach Mike Tomlin, despite his impressive 57-29-1 record over the last five seasons, loses critical games because he and his teams fail to handle small details and do not exhibit the physical and mental toughness they need in key situations. The Rooney family does not overreact, but Lombardi suggests the imminent departures of Brown and Le’Veon Bell will lead to a thorough evaluation of Tomlin, who will need to fix his team’s culture in order to secure his future in Pittsburgh.

Now for more out of the AFC:

  • Linebacker Jon Bostic would like to return to the Steelers, but Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the club has no interest in re-signing Bostic. The Steelers could look to the draft to fortify their inside linebacker position, but this year’s collegiate crop of ILBs is a bit thin. Pittsburgh also needs to address its cornerback depth chart, but Dulac suggests the free agent market could be a better option in that regard given the club’s poor history of drafting CBs under Tomlin. Of course, the Steelers will use much of their time at this week’s Scouting Combine to explore the trade market for Brown.
  • The Bengals have historically been pretty conservative on the free agent market under owner Mike Brown, and Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com does not believe that will change going forward, even though Cincinnati has a new head coach for the first time in 16 years (Twitter link). That is in keeping with a piece that the Cincinnati Enquirer published several days ago.
  • The Dolphins have plenty of holes to fill during this year’s draft, and as Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald writes, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell could be a perfect fit for the team’s pass rush if the Fins do not use their first-round pick on a QB. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, citing the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, says Miami should be able to build its O-line throughout the draft, and that the team was not particularly impressed by West Virginia signal-caller Will Grier. Jackson also explores the Dolphins’ other options for their No. 13 overall pick, including trade-back scenarios.
  • Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com expects the Titans to sign a wideout and an interior lineman in free agency and to address those positions in the draft as well. The team may be getting Delanie Walker back in time for OTAs, but Wyatt also believes the Titans will add at least one TE to the mix, and he expects Tennessee will try to re-sign Luke Stocker.