Recent NFL Player News

Packers guard Lane Taylor agrees to pay cut

Green Bay Packers guard Lane Taylor has agreed to a pay cut that would drop his base salary from $4.55 million for the 2020 season to $1.5 million.

What It Means:

He can earn up to another $1.5 million in incentives, as well. Taylor missed the majority of the 2019 season with a torn biceps injury, and struggled in the two games in which he did play. Playing on the final year of his contract, he's at risk of losing the starting left guard job to Elgton Jenkins.

Taylor's play has been in a slow decline since his breakout 2015 season, finishing outside of the top 20 players at his position in PFF grades in each of the three subsequent seasons. 2019 second-rounder Elgton Jenkins filled in admirably for Taylor for the remainder of the 2019 season, earning positive grades from PFF, especially in pass protection. It's no guarantee that Taylor is the starter come Week 1.

Broncos tight end Jake Butt finally healthy

Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt says he is now fully recovered from the injuries that sidelined him in 2019.

What It Means:

Butt has had one of the most injury-plagued careers in recent memory. Since entering the league as a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, he has played in just 3 games, missing the entirety of his rookie season while recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in his final season of college ball, most of the 2018 season with another torn ACL, and the entirety of the 2019 season after undergoing a reportedly 'minor' knee operation.

If Butt is healthy for the 2020 season, he'll find himself on a suddenly-crowded tight end depth chart. 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant flashed immense athleticism in his rookie season, and the team just drafted Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth round of this year's draft. He's a longshot for fantasy-relevant production, but was an intriguing prospect coming out of Michigan.

Silver: 49ers and George Kittle 'remain far apart' on potential extension

According to Mike Silver, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is not close to a contract extension.

What It Means:

After establishing himself as one of the elite at his position, Kittle and his agent are seeking a unique contract for the top tier tight end. "I don't care about the tight end market," said Kittle's agent when asked about a potential extension. "I'm being paid to do a George Kittle deal."

Expect Kittle to remain one of the 49ers' top pass catching options regardless what new contract he receives. For the upcoming season, numberFire's models project Kittle to produce 90.8 receptions for 1,059.6 yards and 8.0 touchdowns on 128.8 targets.

Texans, Zach Fulton agree to restructured contract

Houston Texans guard Zach Fulton has reached an agreement with the team on a reworked contract, according to ESPN's Field Yates.

What It Means:

Fulton was due $14 million with no guarantees over the next two seasons and is now due $5 million guaranteed this season and $3 million non-guaranteed in 2021. It's a move that creates security for Fulton while providing Houston with some cap relief. A former sixth-round selection by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014, Fulton moved to Houston in 2018 and played in 17 games for the Texans last season. He allowed just 1 sack and 1 quarterback hit last season.

Fulton was Pro Football Focus' 29th ranked guard in pass protection last season, earning a grade of 73.9. His run blocking mark of 43.9 ranked 120th in the league.

49ers' Dee Ford had "relatively minor" knee surgery during offseason

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Dee Ford underwent knee surgery this offseason following last year's Super Bowl loss, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

What It Means:

Rapoport stated that Dee Ford described the surgery as "a more extensive clean up than he kind of realized" but Rapoport was told by another source that the procedure was "relatively minor". He also said that from what he can tell, Ford is in a much better place health-wise than he was last year, and should be ready for the start of the season. The 29-year-old played in 14 games for the 49ers last season, recording 8 sacks, 3 quarterback hits, and 22 hurries. He was part of a San Francisco defense that finished last season ranked 3rd overall by numberFire's power rankings. A return to full health would bolster a unit that is already one of the league's best.

Ford was Pro Football Focus' 18th ranked edge last season, earning a grade of 84.4. numberFire's projections expect Ford to record 17.4 tackles, 5.1 sacks, and 1.5 fumbles this season.

Chiefs, Chris Jones reportedly not close on long-term contract

The Kansas City Chiefs and defensive lineman Chris Jones haven't had "much traction" on a long-term contract, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

What It Means:

Jones was franchise tagged on March 16, but he's yet to sign the tender - which is worth over 16 million dollars for one year. He's still holding out hope for a contract extension, which he has until July 15 to negotiate for with the Chiefs. There's also a chance the team tries to trade him somewhere else, perhaps a franchise more willing to extend him.

Jones had another elite season in 2019, ranking as the No. 7 interior defender in the league with an overall rating of 87.6, according to Pro Football Focus.

Matt Judon signs Ravens' franchise tag Thursday

Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon has signed his franchise tag in the amount of $16.27 million for 1 season, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.

What It Means:

There were offseason speculations that Judon could be dealt after receiving a franchise tag tender a couple months prior, but it seems as though he'll stay in Baltimore, at least for the time being. He's entering his age-29 season, and his performance will dictate whether he stays in Maryland after this year.

Judon ranked as the No. 43 edge defender in the sport last season, according to Pro Football Focus, earning an overall grade of 69.2. Baltimore ranked as the No. 14 team in the league in terms of pass rush win rate at 45 percent, according to ESPN.

Eli Apple signs 1-year deal with Carolina

Former New York Giants and New Orleans Saints cornerback Eli Apple has signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers, the team announced Thursday evening.

What It Means:

Once a first-round pick by the New York Giants in 2016, being taken No. 10 overall, Apple's stock crashed after allegations of locker room issues. In the middle of the 2018 season, he was shipped to New Orleans for a 4th- and 7th-round selection, where he remained for a season and a half.

Last season, Apple earned an overall grade of 63.8 per Pro Football Focus, ranking as the No. 63 cornerback out of 117 qualified players. He joins a Carolina defense that ranked as the No. 11 pass defense in terms of DVOA, according to Football Outsiders.

DeAndre Hopkins envisions better numbers in Arizona

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said he expects to produce better stats in Arizona.

What It Means:

"So myself, being a receiver, of course I see my stats going up," Hopkins said of the Cardinals' pass-friendly approach. "But I definitely see myself having one of my more productive seasons." Hopkins was held to three-year lows across the board last year with the Houston Texans. He should have no problem boosting his numbers as the Cardinals' top option on offense, especially if Kyler Murray takes a step forward in his second season.

Hopkins is the WR5 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models project him for 148.9 targets, 98.7 receptions, 1,219.7 yards, and 7.4 touchdowns.

Ravens say all running backs have role

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said there are roles for all four of his running backs.

What It Means:

"Is that really a problem to have four guys breaking off big runs and making guys miss? There's roles there for those guys," Harbaugh said in reference to Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Justice Hill, and Gus Edwards. The Ravens head coach specifically said he believes Hill will take a big leap forward in his second season. Each back may have a role, but Ingram and Dobbins are expected to handle the bulk of the backfield touches while Hill and Edwards serve as a distant third and fourth on the depth chart. There's also reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson, who accounted for 29.5 percent of the Ravens' rushing attempts last season.

numberFire's models project Ingram for 199.4 touches and Dobbins for 147.8 touches in 2020. Hill and Edwards, meanwhile, are projected for a combined 45.5 touches (2.8 per game).

Justice Hill to make 'big jump' for Ravens

Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill is expected to make a "big jump" in his second season by head coach John Harbaugh.

What It Means:

Harbaugh said Hill finished his rookie year strong and specifically applauded the young back for his speed and attitude. Hill only averaged 3.6 rushes per game in his first season and, despite Harbaugh's praise, he isn't expected to see consistent carries in Year 2 behind Mark Ingram and second-round pick J.K. Dobbins. Hill could potentially beat out Dobbins for a third-down role, but he was only targeted a total of 15 times last year. Dobbins had at least 22 catches all three of his years at Ohio State.

numberFire's models project Hill for 15.9 carries, 5.0 receptions (6.9 targets), 101.0 yards, and 0.8 touchdowns. He's the RB91 in our preseason fantasy rankings.

Patrick Peterson, Cardinals haven't talked contract

Arizona Cardinals contract-year defensive back Patrick Peterson said he hasn't had any contract talks this offseason.

What It Means:

Peterson added that he's "optimistic" a deal will get done but that it won't impact his play if it doesn't. "If it happens, it happens," Peterson said. He was suspended for the first six games of last season and initially struggled upon return, but Peterson earned Pro Football Focus' third-best coverage grade (86.7) out of 85 corners to play from Week 15 on. The veteran corner will look to carry that level of play into his age-30 season.

numberFire's models project Peterson for 1.0 interceptions and 5.4 pass deflections this season. The Cardinals D/ST is 15th in our preseason fantasy rankings.

Eagles reportedly interested in LeSean McCoy reunion

Free agent running back LeSean McCoy is drawing interest from the Philadelphia Eagles, per Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

What It Means:

The Eagles offered contracts to Carlos Hyde, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks, and Devonta Freeman, who is weighing other offers. They have not made an offer to McCoy, but the team has made it clear they want to add a veteran back to accompany Miles Sanders in his second season. Sanders led the Eagles in rushing as a rookie and is expected to handle the bulk of the backfield touches again in 2020. McCoy played his first six NFL seasons for the Eagles.

Shady rushed 101 times for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns in 13 games last season for the Kansas City Chiefs. He also caught 28 passes (34 targets) for 181 yards and 1 touchdown. McCoy never played more than 50.0 percent of the team's snaps in any game and never passed 15 opportunities himself.

Jaguars: Gardner Minshew brings desirable intangibles

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew has "got the intangibles you want in a quarterback," new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said.

What It Means:

"He has shown a skillset where he can sit in a pocket, step up, make things happen outside the pocket," Gruden said of Minshew. "He’s accurate, he’s tough and obviously he’s a great leader so he’s got the intangibles you want in a quarterback." A sixth-round pick last year, Minshew was forced from clipboard duties into the starting job in the first quarter of his first professional game. He threw 21 touchdowns against only 6 interceptions in his rookie campaign, finishing with a 6-6 record as a starter. Minshew also added 344 rushing yards, fifth-most among quarterbacks. However, Minshew did benefit from an advantageous schedule, with his average drop back coming against the league's 18.7-ranked pass defense, based on numberFire's metrics. Only three quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks had an easier path than the rookie and just 55 of his 503 total dropbacks came against top-10 pass defenses, the second-lowest percentage in the league. Minshew turned 24 earlier this month.

Minshew is the 22nd-ranked quarterback in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models project him for 3,981.4 passing yards, 21.9 touchdowns, and 11.7 interceptions with another 256.0 yards and 2.0 touchdowns on the ground.

Schefter: Jadeveon Clowney hesitant to join Browns despite "richest offer on the table"

Free agent linebacker Jadeveon Clowney has balked at going to the Cleveland Browns despite the fact that they have offered the most money, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

What It Means:

Schefter said that he thinks Clowney is hesitant to go "because if he wasn't he would have gone already because it's the most money. It's the richest offer on the table and he hasn't taken it". Clowney remains one of the best, if not the best, defensive free agent, but has seen his market fall short of his asking price all offseason. Clowney recorded 4 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and 43 hurries in 13 games for the Seattle Seahawks last season, earning a grade of 87.3 from Pro Football Focus, tenth best at the edge position. He would be a welcome addition to a Brown's defense that finished last season ranked 29th overall by PFF and 30th against the run. New Browns' head coach Kevin Stefanski relied heavily on an impressive Viking's defense to keep his run-heavy offense on schedule last season and is likely keen on doing the same in Cleveland.

Clowney was PFF's 11th best-graded edge against the run last season, and 16th best in pass rush.

Colts' Parris Campbell 'fully healthy' for past 2 months

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell said he's been "fully healthy" for the past two months.

What It Means:

Campbell happily said he's been running routes at full speed for the last two months. The second-round pick was limited to seven games as a rookie due to various injuries. He finished with only 18 catches on 24 targets for 127 yards and a touchdown, but Colts head coach Frank Reich just said earlier this week that he's "super pumped" about the receiver's upside. Campbell is expected to man the slot between veteran T.Y. Hilton and No. 34 overall pick Michael Pittman.

Campbell is the WR80 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models project him for 58.1 targets, 35.1 receptions, 430.1 yards, and 2.8 touchdowns.

Packers, Aaron Jones engage in extension talks

The Green Bay Packers have had long-term extension talks with running back Aaron Jones, according to Jones' agent Chris Cabott.

What It Means:

Jones told Packers' reporters on Wednesday that he "would love to be a lifelong Packer" and that his motivation "doesn't change just because a contract is on the line". Jones has been a fixture in the Packers' backfield since being drafted in the fifth round in 2017 and produced career numbers last season in both the run and passing games. Jones totaled 268 attempts for 1,196 yards (4.5 per attempt) and 19 touchdowns on the ground and added 56 receptions on 74 targets (75.7%) for 511 yards (9.1 per reception) and 4 touchdowns through the air. Despite a career year that earned Jones Pro Football Focus' sixth-highest grade at the running back position, the Packers drafted running back A.J. Dillion in the second round of April's draft, adding a question mark to Jones' long-term future with the team.

Jones is the RB11 in numberFire's preseason fantasy projections. Their models expect him to record 233 attempts for 1,066.5 rushing yards and 9.72 rushing touchdowns, with an additional 41.5 receptions on 58.3 targets for 337.9 receiving yards and 2.12 receiving touchdowns.

Jalen Ramsey to be deployed all over Rams' secondary

Los Angeles Rams defensive back Jalen Ramsey will not be confined to the cornerback position, per first-year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley.

What It Means:

“He’s got command of all the positions in the defensive backfield,” Staley said. “You know, I do not look at him just as a corner. I look at him as a (defensive back). This guy can do anything. He thinks like a quarterback. This game means a lot to him. His craft, his focus, his commitment … I couldn’t be more impressed with this guy.” The added positional versatility would create more big-play opportunities for Ramsey and boost his fantasy value. The contract-year corner told reporters Tuesday that he would report to training camp without an extension.

The Rams D/ST is 7th in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models project Jalen for 2.9 interceptions and 5.8 pass deflections. He's earned an overall defensive grade above 70.0 from Pro Football Focus in all four of his years in the league.

Cam Akers 'really exciting' in Rams' offense

Los Angeles Rams second-round rookie running back Cam Akers received praised from new offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell.

What It Means:

“You really saw the amount of personal grit and determination,” O’Connell said of Akers’ time at Florida State. “He was running against loaded looks … and he was able to create a lot on his own. You see the upside — I think it was a great running back draft, there was a lot of depth there across the board — but for us, and for me personally with Cam, just watching and thinking about where he could possibly get to and maximized in our offense, it’s really exciting.” Akers does have a steeper learning curve due to COVID-19 restrictions, but he's fully expected to take over as the Rams' lead back before the end of the season. Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown, conversely, will likely see their respective roles diminish as the season progresses.

numberFire's models project Akers for 156.9 carries, 629.4 rushing yards, 27.6 receptions (38.6 targets), 209.8 receiving yards, and 6.9 touchdowns. He's the RB34 in our preseason fantasy rankings.

Steelers' Diontae Johnson injured groin in Week 2

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson told reporters he sustained a groin injury in Week 2 last year.

What It Means:

"I was running and it felt like my groin got a little tight on me,” Johnson said. He underwent a sports-hernia procedure earlier this offseason, but Johnson hadn't mentioned anything about playing through the injury for almost all of his rookie season. Johnson added that he's hoping to receive full medical clearance "in the next couple days." Despite the injury, last year's second-round pick still led the Steelers in targets (92), catches (59), and receiving scores (5). The return of Ben Roethlisberger and a fully healthy groin should lead to a leap forward for Johnson in his second season.

Johnson is the WR37 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models project him for 98.3 targets, 62.9 receptions, 803.4 yards, and 5.3 touchdowns. He only had a 9.5-yard average depth of target as a rookie, but Big Ben should help boost that up.

J.J. Watt not asking Texans for new deal

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will not request a revised contract or extension this offseason.

What It Means:

"I think that I fully understand... what's happened in the past few years," Watt said. "So I'm not going to sit here and demand anything." Watt is referring to only playing in 32-of-64 regular season games over the past four seasons due to a handful of injuries. He did return from a torn pec for the playoffs last year, but it's still probably not the best time to ask for a raise. Watt, now 31, has two years remaining on his deal.

numberFire's models project Watt for 40.5 tackles and 8.3 sacks this season. The Texans D/ST is 26th in our preseason fantasy rankings.

Le'Veon Bell excited about Jets' new line

New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell said he "can't wait" to run behind the team's overhauled offensive line.

What It Means:

The Jets averaged 0.7 rushing yards before contact per attempt, per Pro Football Focus, in Bell's inaugural season with the team. That was the lowest mark of any unit in the NFL. Bell finished with the eighth-most touches (311) in the league, but his career-low 4.0 yards per touch was worst among all players with at least 270 touches. The Jets have as many as four new starters on the line for 2020, so things should be easier for Bell and the rest of the backfield.

numberFire's models project Bell for 247.7 carries, 995.1 rushing yards, 36.9 receptions (50.4 targets), 276.7 receiving yards, and 7.6 touchdowns. He's the RB17 in our preseason fantasy rankings.

Washington's Antonio Gibson, Steven Sims, and J.D. McKissic to see creative usage

Washington Redskins offensive players Antonio Gibson, Steven Sims, and J.D. McKissic will need to be used creatively, offensive coordinator Scott Turner said.

What It Means:

"You want to be as unpredictable as possible," Turner explained. "Guys that are able to do more things give you more options." Gibson primarily played wide receiver in college, but he's also expected to see some snaps out of the backfield. Head coach Ron Rivera previously said Gibson has "a skill set like Christian (McCaffrey)". Sims started to make some noise late last year, with averages of 5.3 catches and 63.3 yards with 4 touchdowns over the final three games. Gibson and Sims should both see touches on a weekly basis, but McKissic was signed in free agency and likely won't have a consistent role unless someone gets hurt.

numberFire's models project Gibson for 30.0 carries and 24.8 receptions (34.8 targets) for 309.7 offensive yards and 1.7 touchdowns. Sims is expected to total 35.7 catches (62.0 targets) and 10.8 carries for 479.3 offensive yards and 2.9 touchdowns. Our numbers have McKissic marked for 20.9 offensive touches.

Adrian Peterson has role in Washington's offense

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson has a role in the offense, per new offensive coordinator Scott Turner.

What It Means:

Turner indicated Peterson may be limited to an early-down role, but also noted that the veteran back can contribute on check-downs and setting up play action. He added that Washington is going to embrace open competition in the backfield. Derrius Guice is expected to handle the most touches, but Peterson will remain involved. Head coach Ron Rivera previously compared third-round pick Antonio Gibson's skillset to Christian McCaffrey's, so look for the rookie to also occasionally factor into the backfield mix. Last year became the 10th time that Peterson had over 200 rushing attempts in a season, but only the second time he failed to reach 1,000 rushing yards when given that workload.

numberFire's models project Peterson for 113.0 carries, 447.1 rushing yards, 15.6 targets, 11.1 receptions, 84.2 receiving yards, and 2.83 touchdowns. He's the RB53 in our preseason fantasy rankings. Guice (RB30) is projected for 195.2 carries. Gibson (RB70) is pegged for 30.0 rushes.

Ravens' Marquise Brown running routes with Lamar Jackson

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown (foot) has been running routes and catching passes in workouts with quarterback Lamar Jackson.

What It Means:

Brown appears to have recovered from offseason surgery to remove a screw from his foot. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh previously said Brown was "rarely at 100 percent" during his rookie season. He only cleared 50 yards once over the second half of the regular season, but Brown still managed to put up 584 yards and 7 touchdowns on 46 catches (71 targets) in 14 games while emerging as the team's clear No. 1 receiver. Mark Andrews was the only other player on the squad to see more than 50 targets. The Ravens didn't add much in terms of pass-catchers this offseason, so Brown and Andrews should dominate targets once again in 2020.

Brown is the WR32 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models project him to lead the Ravens across the board with 106.2 targets (21.2 percent target share), 66.5 receptions, 809.2 yards, and 6.5 touchdowns.

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