Footballguys #6 - 4/18 - This Week In NFL News
Volume 21, #6 -- Thursday Night, April 18th, 2019
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Good Friday, literally, to you. We're less than a week away from the NFL Draft and it's not a minute too soon.
Our Sigmund Bloom has another weekly roundup for you so sit back and enjoy. If you celebrate Easter, I hope you have a fantastic holiday.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
The Week in NFL News
by Sigmund Bloom, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Why It Matters: Flacco said he thought he had a pretty good outlook on having a rookie quarterback drafted onto his team last year. It appeared otherwise from when he was on the field with Lamar Jackson. There's a fine line between honestly expressing yourself and undermining the public team unity behind organizational decisions. The Broncos very well could draft a quarterback at #10 next week and Flacco will then need to show his new organization that he will pull in the same direction as the rest of his teammates despite the addition of competition for his job. Contrast Flacco's comments with Eli Manning, who said he figures the Giants will draft a quarterback and understands, but he still has to do his job. The Harris situation is one the team needs to get out in front of before it gets ugly. He is the last remaining piece of a once dominant secondary and he is essential to the team. They have gotten his services at a discount for his entire career and should be willing to make up some of that gap now with only a year left on his contract.
Houston - OT Matt Kalil said he is not yet 100%
Why It Matters: This is likely your Week 1 starting left tackle for the Texans. We need see some sustained health from Kalil to count on him at all, and that doesn't account for his lost ability over the years even if he does get back to 100%. The Texans are likely to take a tackle in the first two rounds, although they will probably miss on the solid top tier of the class that includes Florida's Jawaan Taylor, Washington State's Andre Dillard, Oklahoma's Cody Ford, and Alabama's Jonah Williams. A few names to keep in mind for them are Kansas State's Dalton Risner and Washington's Kaleb McGary.
Indianapolis - WR Chester Rogers signed his $3.095 million dollar RFA tender
Why It Matters: The team signed Devin Funchess to a one-year deal and also will get promising 2018 sixth-rounder Deon Cain back from ACL surgery, so Rogers will have competition for snaps, but he could still figure greatly into three-wide sets and provide a vertical element and run after catch speed. His second round level tender indicates that the Colts still value him and wanted to protect him from getting poached by another team. We'll keep on him on the waiver wire watch list in case of TY Hilton injury.
Jacksonville - head coach Doug Marrone said RB Leonard Fournette won't face any team punishment for his arrest last week
Why It Matters: Fournette's traffic incident was minor in NFL offseason terms, but he isn't exactly in his team's good graces at this moment. This is a relief for his dynasty teams, but we'll still be watching to see if the Jaguars take a running back next week considering their lack of strong depth and possible questions about whether they want to count on Fournette beyond his rookie deal. While this won't result in team discipline, it won't be forgotten if Fournette slips up again this offseason.
Why It Matters: Wilson had a few very strong games last year before his injury and he's a legitimate candidate to lead the team in targets this year - targets that will be enhanced by Ryan Fitzpatrick's aggressive style as long as he's on the field. We want to see Wilson cleared by training camp so we can add him to the late round wide receiver sleeper list. The team insisted this week that Jones has not asked for a trade and that he will be on the team, but we know how that kind of statement can be rendered false in a moment at this time of year. Miami would save 13+ million in cap room if they trade Jones after June 1, a move that would fit their rebuilding plan. Jones also had shoulder surgery this offseason, which could be putting the team's plan for his fate on hold.
Why It Matters: Kelce hasn't had nearly the grind that Rob Gronkowski experienced over his career, but he takes punishment as a big target in the middle of the field, so this recovery will be something to monitor before fully committing to spending a high pick on Kelce in fantasy drafts. For now, it appears the Chiefs are not worried about Hill's playing status this year, as they haven't made any big moves at wide receiver, although that could change after the draft. Hill's average draft position in early drafts doesn't indicate a lot of worry in fantasy players either, but Andy Reid was more non-committal about the eventual outcome of the investigation and Hill's playing style, stopping short of calling his presence a positive sign and insisting that the team is going to let the situation play out, although noting that it is not affecting their preparation for the upcoming season. The NFL requested information about the case last month, and we have seen that even when charges are not filed, they can still pursue discipline that includes a suspension. Bottom line is that there's more we don't know than what we know in this case, and it could still change dramatically in a moment, so Hill's status should probably carry more uncertainty than his current value implies.
Los Angeles Chargers - signed WR Travis Benjamin to a one-year extension
Why It Matters: Benjamin basically took a pay cut from $5.25 million to $1 million this year, with a three million dollar signing bonus as his compensation. He'll get paid less this year and probably won't be with the team next year unless he has an outstanding season, but avoided getting released this season and making a lot less than the four million he got in the extension/restructure. He'll be the team's #3 receiver and primary deep threat and could have some value if Mike Williams misses time, as the team doesn't have a proven receiver behind Benjamin. They could (and maybe should) add a receiver in the draft next week.
New England - signed WR Demaryius Thomas (Houston) to a one-year deal
Why It Matters: Thomas's deal only has $300,000 guaranteed and does not commit the team to carrying him into the regular season. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels drafted Thomas in the first round back when he was the Broncos head coach and the team has a need at outside receiver, so if Thomas can come back from an achilles tear, he'll be welcomed into the fold. The Patriots are usually thinking about January more than September, so it's also possible Thomas starts the season on the PUP list and is then eased into the lineup. If he can get back on the field for the preseason, he'll be worth a late-round flier in fantasy drafts.
New York Jets - signed RB Ty Montgomery (Baltimore) to a one-year deal
Why It Matters: Elijah McGuire was the only back on the roster behind Le'Veon Bell with any meaningful NFL experience, so this helps reinforce the depth chart. Montgomery had little guaranteed money in his one year deal and will have to beat out 2018 draft pick Trenton Cannon and former Bronco De'Angelo Henderson to make the team. His advanced skills as a receiver should give him the inside track after he fell out of favor with the Packers last year following an ill-advised kick return in a close game that cost the team a chance to win.
Oakland - GM Mike Mayock said the team could take a quarterback in the first round
Why It Matters: Forget Jon Gruden saying Derek Carr is his quarterback earlier in the offseason. They could still trade up for Kyler Murray, especially if the Cardinals pass on the Oklahoma product, and they could opt for a quarterback who falls down the board with one of their late first round picks. Mayock is opting for being honest about possibilities instead of subterfuge and obfuscation in his first season as general manager.
Pittsburgh - OL Ramon Foster issued a “PSA” imploring teammates to handle locker room issues outside of the public eye
Why It Matters: It's hard to say exactly what this reveals about the Steelers team culture other than it needs repair after the Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell sagas. Foster himself spoke out about Bell, so there aren't a lot of clean hands on the roster when it comes to airing dirty laundry. A recent social media exchange between Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster seemed to be the last straw as the team appears to want to turn the page from these recent rocky times.
Tennessee - TE Delanie Walker (ankle) doesn't have a timetable for his return to the field
Why It Matters: Walker is crucial to the offense in every aspect of the game and his loss was an underreported partial cause of the collapse of the Titans offense at times last year. His ankle injury was severe and he is in the autumn of his career, so there's no assurances that he'll be the player he was pre-injury when he does return. Jonnu Smith is also recovering from an MCL injury that ended his season, so Anthony Firkser could be the team's #1 tight end in OTAs
Arizona - GM Steve Keim said the team has not made a decision on the fate of the #1 pick
Why It Matters: This makes for great drama for Roger Goodell's ABC draft extravaganza, but most everyone in NFL media circles believes Kyler Murray has been the pick for weeks, if not months now. Murray cancelled a recent visit to Washington in another possible sign that the league knows better than to believe Keim. If the Cardinals are truly unsure, then there is a disagreement in the building or lack of clarity, either of which is a bad sign this close to the draft.
Carolina - signed WR Chris Hogan (New England) to a one-year deal
Why It Matters: Hogan only got $300,000 guaranteed, so he still has to earn his spot on the team and should be considered a role player. The Patriots got more out of him than any other team in the league could have, as the low pay and commitment for the veteran shows. He'll be fighting for snaps behind DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, and Torrey Smith.
Chicago - head coach Matt Nagy praised TE Adam Shaheen's blocking
Why It Matters: Nagy's comments painted Shaheen as more of a blocking inline “Y” tight end than a receiving “U” tight end, currently manned by Trey Burton. The 2017 second round pick was also drafted to play a big role in the red zone, but his fantasy value is stuck in a holding pattern.
Dallas - C Travis Frederick is participating in the offseason program
Why It Matters: This is outstanding news for the Cowboys offense, as Frederick missed all of 2018 with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which has an uncertain long-term prognosis once diagnosed. He also had shoulder surgery in January, so it appears his recovery is going well.
Detroit - DT Damon Harrison did not report to the open of the offseason program
Why It Matters: The run stuffer extraordinaire wants more future assurances on his deal that pays him a little more than $16 million over the next two years, but with no guarantees. Teams don't usually play ball with players that have multiple years remaining on their contracts, but Harrison instantly turned around their run defense last year, so they might make an exception here.
Los Angeles Rams - RB Todd Gurley (knee) said he's “feeling pretty good” and that there wasn't really any discussion about an offseason procedure on his knee
Why It Matters: Just another installment of the Gurley knee condition watch. We wish he had been more confident in his assessment of his health as players usually inflate how well they are feeling. He also mentioned that he doesn't know how he'll feel six months from now and that's taking it “day by day” which is usually not the most reassuring thing for a player to say in season, and borderline alarming in April. Still, the Rams haven't made any big moves at running back that would hint at long-term worries about Gurley's knee, only bringing back RFA Malcolm Brown on a very cheap deal after the Lions signed him to an offer sheet. The draft could change that, but it's unlikely as the team is still very much in a Super Bowl window. Gurley won't cost you a top 2-3 pick in most drafts this year, and even though he has #1 overall potential, a top five pick spent on him in early drafts comes with more risk than top five picks usually present.
Minnesota - signed WR Adam Thielen to a four-year, $64 million dollar extension
Why It Matters: Thielen has gone from rookie camp tryout to one of the highest-paid receivers in the league. There's some worry about his ceiling with the Vikings transformation to run-first team until offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, but this is a good sign of the team's commitment to him as a cornerstone of the offense. Thielen will only cost a late second/early third in early drafts, which is reasonable for a player that was the clear #1 fantasy receiver in the first half of the season.
Philadelphia - RB Corey Clement (knee) said he will be ready for Week 1, DL Fletcher Cox confirmed he had foot surgery and said his goal is to be ready for camp, QB Carson Wentz said his back is not 100% healed, RB Josh Adams (shoulder surgery) will miss the offseason program
Why It Matters: The Eagles backfield is banged up, which means that new likely starter Jordan Howard will get a ton of practice reps with his new team and Wendell Smallwood will also get a chance to shine with Clement is out. Clement confirmed the injury wasn't an ACL tear, but little else is known about the nature of his injury. The Eagles are still a strong candidate to take a running back next week, perhaps even on the second day. Cox is already out of the walking boot he was seen in during March, so he should be fine for camp. Wentz is a little more uncertain, as back injuries are never anything to push and the team isn't committing to a timeline for his return. Hopefully, he is out there at the open of camp and we can avoid the Week 1 watch we were on last summer as he returned from knee surgery. Nate Sudfeld will get some run as the #1 quarterback this spring while Wentz is mending.
Why It Matters: The 49ers were looking into Stephen Gostkowski before the Patriots re-signed him, so they are taking this tension somewhat seriously. It's unclear whether Gould will sign his near $5 million dollar franchise tag contract, or try to sign a long term deal before the July 15 deadline. There are signs that he wants to return to Chicago, and that the 49ers could rescind his tag. Former Bengals camp kicker Jon Brown is the fallback plan on the roster if Gould isn't San Francisco's kicker this year. The news on Garoppolo is very positive and it will only help the offense that is still gelling since it had so little time on the field with the starting quarterback last year.
Seattle - signed QB Russell Wilson to a four-year, $140 million dollar extension
Why It Matters: Wilson's April 15 deadline for an extension was beat by mere hours, just like his last extension. This avoids a season of “will they or won't they” distraction as Wilson would have been headed for a trade or a year-to-year franchise tag plan that eventually led to the Washington and Kirk Cousins divorce. Now if the Seahawks would only make their excellent quarterback the centerpiece of their offense...
Tampa Bay - GM Jason Licht said RB Ronald Jones is the player that has most impressed the new coaching staff this spring and LB Kendall Beckwith (ankle) has not been cleared to practice, Jameis Winston said the “moon” is the limit for TE OJ Howard
Why It Matters: It's lying season and the Bucs could be trying to throw other teams off of their trail as they target a running back in the first two days for the second straight year, but we should also take Licht's comments at face value, as a new regime offers all players a fresh start. Jones is a solid buy low candidate in dynasty leagues and late round flier in redraft unless the Bucs take another back in the top 100 picks next week. Beckwith may not play this season after missing all of last year with an ankle injury suffered in a car accident. LSU's Devin White is a name connected to the Bucs at #5 and this information only reinforces that possibility and heightens the chances of a pick at inside linebacker even if they pass on White or trade down and miss out on him.
Washington - LB Reuben Foster will not be further suspended by the league after the most recent domestic violence allegations against him, signed DL Matt Ioannidis to a three-year, $21.75 million dollar extension
Why It Matters: Foster will only be fined two game checks, so Washington has a real shot at getting one of their long-term starting inside linebackers very cheap - if Foster can stay out of trouble. He is the top candidate to replace free agent Zach Brown. Ioannidis is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league. He's a top contributor and came very cheap when compared to similar per snap producers. Teams continue to make their dollars go a lot farther when they extend their own than when they splurge in free agency.
That'll do it for this Week Folks.
Thanks for reading and thanks for being part of Footballguys.
Happy Easter to you and we'll see you next week.
Peace and Grace to you.