Cowboys Likely To Add Kicker Before Training Camp

The Cowboys will have a new kicker this season, but that player might not yet be on the roster. Speaking to reporters earlier this week, owner Jerry Jones acknowledged while “nothing is imminent,” the Cowboys will “likely” add a kicker before training camp (per the team’s website).

Jones added that the front office has “a lot of options and are looking for more” as they navigate the position going forward. The team turned back to Brett Maher in 2022 following two years with Greg Zuerlein at the position. Maher was more than serviceable during the regular season, connecting on 90.6 percent of his field goal attempts (29 of 32) and 94.3 percent of his extra point tries (50 of 53).

However, the wheels fell off during the postseason. Maher missed four XP tries during the Cowboys’ win over the Buccaneers, and he missed another during the team’s loss to Tampa Bay. The Cowboys didn’t re-sign Maher, who remains a free agent.

At the moment, the team’s only kicker is Tristan Vizcaino. The journeyman has reportedly looked good during OTAs but has a limited track record. Vizcaino has appeared in 10 games in stints with the 49ers, Chargers, Cardinals, and Patriots, connecting on 11 of his 12 FG attempts and 15 of his 20 XP attempts.

While the free agent options at kicker are limited, Stephen Jones noted that the Cowboys could look to alternative sources to fill the hole on the depth chart.

“That’s one of the great things about these leagues (XFL, USFL),” Jones said (via Jon Machota of The Athletic), “it gives you an opportunity to watch these kickers, just like we found (KaVontae) Turpin last year. Certainly (vice president of player personnel) Will (McClay) and his staff are doing a great job of evaluating the guys. Got a couple guys that we think are of interest, and see where we end up. … Whoever is not on a team that we can look at, we’re looking at to improve.”

49ers Likely To Carry Three QBs; Brock Purdy Ramps Up Throwing Program

The 49ers closed last season with only Josh Johnson backing up Brock Purdy, moving to that two-quarterback setup after Jimmy Garoppolo‘s foot injury. That approach’s conclusion ended up leading to the NFL changing the rules regarding QB availability.

Going into this year, the 49ers will likely take a more conventional approach. They are prepared to carry three quarterbacks on their active roster, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

San Francisco’s offseason roster houses four quarterbacks — Purdy, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen — and the team just worked out recent XFL arm Jack Coan (along with four-year veteran wide receiver Jason Moore), KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. With a four-QB arrangement rarely used during the regular season, one of the team’s current four passers will not be on the active roster once the team sets it August 29. This does invite questions regarding Lance and Darnold coexisting, but Allen could make sense as a practice squad option.

Despite Allen spending the past three years as Joe Burrow‘s Bengals backup, he landed with the 49ers midway through the offseason. Allen would pass straight to free agency if cut in late August, opening the door for a spot on San Francisco’s 16-man P-squad. It is possible another team would view the veteran backup as a second- or third-string candidate, however. In the event the 49ers do pull the trigger on a Lance trade — a rumored scenario earlier this offseason, though John Lynch has veered in the other direction as of late — Allen makes sense as their third-stringer.

He’s obviously not just a camp arm around this league,” Shanahan said of Allen. “He’s been a backup for a while.”

Allen, 30, is going into his eighth NFL season. For now, Lance and Darnold are splitting first-team reps while Purdy recovers. But after the events of last season, the 49ers could carry three QBs on their active roster and have an insurance option on the P-squad.

Lance went down in Week 2 of last season and underwent two ankle surgeries, while Garoppolo’s Bay Area run coming to an end in early December. The latter issue led to a March surgery, which has affected the Raiders’ 2023 plans. Purdy’s UCL tear did not lead to Tommy John surgery, but it has still thrust the 49ers into another offseason headlined by post-surgery rehab. Garoppolo came back from shoulder surgery last year, moving off the trade block and into the role of Lance’s backup. Johnson, signed off the Broncos’ practice squad after Garoppolo’s injury, suffered a concussion that brought a severely compromised Purdy back into the NFC championship game. Last month, the NFL approved the return of the emergency QB rule, which allows for teams to designate a non-active-roster passer as its game-day emergency option — only in the event its top two QBs go down.

This scenario opens the door to the strange proposition of Lance or Darnold not dressing but being an emergency option. Purdy continues to look like he will not need a stay on the reserve/PUP list to start the season. Although the second-year passer’s rehab timetable may still threaten his regular-season availability, the 49ers will likely play it week to week and keep Purdy on their 53-man roster in that case. Not long after beginning to throw post-surgery, Purdy has ramped up his throwing program to three times per week, Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News notes.

Considered ahead of schedule in his recovery from an internal brace procedure, Purdy remains in the driver’s seat to start for the 49ers. Training camp will provide a better indication of Darnold or Lance’s capabilities at unseating last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, but for the time being, Purdy’s grip on the job remains firm.

Bills Sign WR Marcell Ateman

Marcell Ateman‘s Thursday workout with the Bills will lead to a deal. The former Raiders wide receiver — and recent XFL pass catcher — agreed to terms with the Bills on Thursday.

The former NFL backup will join the Bills on a one-year deal. Both Ateman and wideout Preston Williams auditioned for the Bills today. Although Williams has been in the NFL since 2019, the Bills are going with Ateman, who last played in a regular-season game during the 2021 season and last caught a pass in 2019.

Ateman played for the St. Louis BattleHawks in the XFL this season. He will join spring teammates Hakeem Butler and Darrius Shepherd in securing an NFL opportunity. Butler signed with the Steelers last month; Shepherd caught on with the Chargers today. While Butler and Shepherd each finished in the top five in XFL receiving yards, Ateman totaled 259 and did not score a touchdown. The 6-foot-4 receiver caught 19 passes during his Missouri stay, though he did amass 99 yards (on 11 targets) during a game against the Seattle Sea Dragons.

In the NFL, Ateman has played only for the Raiders in the regular season. The Oklahoma State alum trekked to Oakland as a 2018 seventh-round pick. Between the 2018 and ’19 seasons, Ateman totaled 20 receptions for 270 yards and a touchdown. Ateman spent part of training camp with the Cardinals last year, but the Bills sending Cody Ford to Arizona via trade led to the receiver’s exit.

Ateman, 28, should not be considered a safe bet to stick with the Bills. Despite moving on from Isaiah McKenzie and Jamison Crowder this offseason, Buffalo added Deonte Harty, Trent Sherfield and fifth-round pick Justin Shorter. That trio joins Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis and second-year cog Khalil Shakir.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/1/23

Here are Thursday’s minor moves:

Buffalo Bills

Los Angeles Chargers

Seattle Seahawks

Shepherd has not played in an NFL game since 2020, when he finished a two-season stint with the Packers. Shepherd did go to training camp with the Broncos last year, and he spent time on Denver’s practice squad. This year, the North Dakota State product finished as a top-five receiver in the XFL. Playing for the St. Louis BattleHawks, Shepherd hauled in 48 passes for 519 yards and six touchdowns. Both the BattleHawks’ top two wideouts — Shepherd and Hakeem Butler — have received NFL opportunities. Only Butler’s eight receiving TDs topped Shepherd’s total. The Steelers added Butler last month.

XFL Aiming To Continue For 2024 Season

The third edition of the XFL took place this spring, and the league is now turning its attention to consolidating its 2023 campaign. Their intention is to return to action next year, though changes in the organization will be taking place in the meantime.

The XFL has parted ways with a number of its employees, as detailed by Ben Fischer of the Sports Business Journal. Among the layoffs are Chief Marketing Officer Janet Duch and VP of Marketing and Brand Anthony Zucconi, as the league shifts its focus less on branding and more on revenue driven by ticket sales and marketing. Some of the layoffs are likely seasonal in nature.

February is currently scheduled to be the start time for the 2024 XFL season, one which could go a long way in developing much-needed stability for the league. Its first two iterations ended briefly in 2001 and 2020, for different reasons, but a model built on using the league as a testing ground for alternative rules helped lead to a formal partnership with the NFL for the now Dwayne Johnson-owned outfit.

The current setup with eight teams saw a number of notable ex-NFLers take part on the field and the sidelines in 2023. Several players parlayed their success into NFL deals for the offseason, which points to the XFL’s potential on a long-term basis if it is able to remain sustainable. Aside from factors such as attendance and media deals, the presence of another, similar league in the re-booted USFL could complicate matters on that front.

“As the XFL plans for 2024 and beyond, it has decided to transition into a dual full-time and seasonal-based employment model,” a statement from the league reads in part. “The XFL will continue to employ full-time business and football operations functions on both the league and team levels and will scale up hiring each year for pre-season and in-season roles.”

This year’s XFL season took part from February to May, with the Arlington Renegades winning the title. Average attendance across the league was under 15,000 per game overall, though St. Louis fared far better in that regard. It will interesting to monitor how much of an impact the league’s new focus will make on what it hopes will be the second of many seasons to come in 2024.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/23/23

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Green Bay Packers

  • Signed: WR Jadakis Bonds
  • Waived: TE Nick Guggemos

Minnesota Vikings

Seattle Seahawks

Jackson has toured North America’s non-NFL coalitions, playing in The Spring League, CFL and XFL over the past three years. Jackson played in The Spring League in 2021, was on the Edmonton Elks’ roster last year and was on the D.C. Defenders’ roster during the most recent XFL season. His 573 receiving yards ranked fifth in the XFL. Jackson played collegiately at Western Kentucky, finishing his Hilltoppers career with a 1,133-yard season in 2019. That season included 16- and 17-reception efforts. Jackson’s 209 catches rank second in program history. This will be his first NFL shot.

Commanders Release LB Nate Gerry

Joining the likes of Cedric Ogbuehi and Germain Ifedi, Nate Gerry signed a free agent deal in March only to be released in May. The Commanders cut ties with the veteran linebacker Tuesday.

The Gerry release will open a roster spot for recent XFL linebacker Ferrod Gardner. Playing for the D.C. Defenders in the XFL’s third go-round, Gardner saw action in 10 games. The Commanders are giving Gardner another chance, after the 2022 UDFA spent a few months with the team over the past year. The Commanders recently signed XFL O-lineman Jaryd Jones-Smith as well.

Gerry, 28, initially signed with the Commanders last summer. The former Eagles starter played a reserve role in Washington but was not a gameday roster regular. Failing to make the team out of training camp, Gerry rejoined the Commanders on a practice squad deal. He ended up playing in just four games with the team, regularly making the Saturday-afternoon climb from the P-squad to Washington’s active roster. When active, Gerry played exclusively on special teams for the Commanders.

Nevertheless, Washington brought the Nebraska alum back on a league-minimum deal in March. Gerry has 22 career starts on his resume. A converted safety, he was part of Philadelphia’s 2017 Super Bowl-winning team as a backup and special-teamer. After the Eagles cut costs at linebacker, moving on from Mychal Kendricks and Jordan Hicks, Gerry ascended to a starting position. He started 12 games for Philly’s 2019 division-winning team, totaling 78 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions. With the Eagles parting ways with Nigel Bradham in 2020, Gerry started all seven games he played. He spent part of the 2021 season on the 49ers’ practice squad.

The Commanders made some changes at linebacker this offseason, letting Cole Holcomb walk in free agency and signing ex-Seahawk Cody Barton. Two years remain on former first-rounder Jamin Davis‘ contract, and the team re-signed David Mayo in February.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/16/23

XFL additions and other post-rookie minicamp moves led to some action on the waiver wire Tuesday. As other teams add talent from the latest XFL effort, here are the latest NFL moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

  • Signed: FB Zach Ojile, OL Sam Schlueter

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

A former 60-meter dash finalist at the U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships, Guidry has bounced around the league. But the Jets are bringing back the young cornerback. Guidry played 28 games for the team from 2020-21. A fellow DB, Westry started two games for the Ravens in 2021; he will relocate to Cleveland.

Jackson, Jennings and Thomas all played in the XFL this season and auditioned for the Panthers at their recent rookie minicamp. The Panthers tried Thomas at both tight end and linebacker over the weekend. Although Thomas played in the most recent XFL effort, he was in Colts camp — under current Panthers HC Frank Reich — in 2021. This is Jennings’ seventh NFL stop. The former Seahawks fourth-round pick has not played in the NFL since his 2019 rookie year in Seattle.

Romo joins a Lions team carrying Michael Badgley as its incumbent kicker. The younger specialist has not yet kicked in an NFL game, but the former Virginia Tech kicker played in the XFL this season, making 17 of 19 field goal tries. This included a 57-yarder.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/15/23

The first of this year’s spring leagues to debut, the XFL’s third effort, finished its season Saturday. XFL players are now free to sign NFL contracts, and several agreed to terms Monday. Here are those agreements, along with the other transactions from around the league:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

  • Signed: T BJ Wilson

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

  • Signed: RB Tyreik McAllister, RB Jacques Patrick
  • Waived: WR Dallas Daniels, DB Darrious Gaines, TE Kris Leach, RB Emanuel Wilson

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

After seeing the pandemic nix its second effort in 2020, the XFL concluded its season Saturday. The Broncos signed the league’s second-leading rusher, in Patrick, while the Browns and Cowboys offered Barqoo contracts, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweets. Barqoo, who played for the Jaguars in 2020 and XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas this year, opted for the Steelers’ offer. Patrick, whom the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson notes passed a Broncos physical Monday, finished with 443 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He joins XFL passing leader Ben DiNucci as a Broncos May addition.

Seeing time for the St. Louis BattleHawks, Jones-Smith played in three games apiece with Raiders and Ravens, respectively, from 2020-21. Thompson will join the Dolphins after a spring tour of duty with the Seattle Sea Dragons, while fellow XFL alum Brewer played in two games for the Bills last year. Heflin played five games for the Packers in 2021; the new Saint spent the XFL season with the Houston Roughnecks.

The Raiders gave Johnson a reserve/futures deal in January. The young wideout collected a ring with the 2020 Buccaneers and totaled 360 receiving yards for Tampa Bay’s 2021 iteration. While the Texans claimed him on waivers ahead of last season, he played in just two games with the team.

Jackson suited up for national championship-winning Georgia last season. The new Titans wideout finished with 514 receiving yards in 2020 and totaled 320 for last season’s Bulldogs edition. A Division II Quincy alum, Wilson received an East-West Shrine Bowl invite but tore an Achilles tendon late last season.

Broncos Sign XFL QB Ben DiNucci

After hosting the Seattle Sea Dragons quarterback for rookie minicamp, the Broncos have officially signed Ben DiNucci to their offseason roster, according to JL Sports agency. The XFL’s passing yards leader returns to the NFL after a year in the alternative league.

DiNucci was a seventh-round pick for the Cowboys in 2020 out of James Madison, after transferring over from Pitt. He played and started in relief of Andy Dalton that year to discouraging results, completing only 53.3 percent of his passes for 219 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions in three game appearances.

Garrett Gilbert, a more experienced backup passer, overcame him on the depth chart, leading to DiNucci’s release in the final roster cuts leading into the 2021 season. He remained on the team’s practice squad for that year and was finally released for good in final roster cuts leading into the 2022 season.

Being drafted by the Sea Dragons in the XFL’s draft, DiNucci joined former Bengals, Raiders, and Texans quarterback A.J. McCarron as the only XFL quarterbacks with NFL experience. He would go on to lead the fledgling league in passing yards in 2023 with 2,671 while throwing 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions over 10 starts.

It’s unclear where DiNucci will fit into the pecking order at quarterback after nailing his audition in Denver. Behind starter Russell Wilson, the Broncos have two relievers in Jarrett Stidham and Jarrett Guarantano. Stidham started the final two games of the season for the Raiders last year against two teams that would make conference championship games, including a three-point loss to the 49ers. In those two starts, he completed 64.29 percent of his passes for 584 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. He also added 84 yards on the ground on 14 rush attempts. Guarantano doesn’t have any NFL time after a disappointing end to his college career.

Likely, DiNucci will battle with Guarantano for the QB3 role, but DiNucci’s recent experience as a starter may give him a chance to push Stidham for QB2. We’ll be able to glean more once all the quarterbacks are in town for OTAs, but DiNucci should have a strong opportunity at winning a roster spot in Denver.