Jake Locker has a world of potential under center for the Titans, but Mike Florio says it can be limited if he doesn’t consistently stay healthy. Florio runs down Tennessee’s off-season to-do list that includes turning embattled coach Gregg Williams loose, and letting Chris Johnson carry the team until he’s physically unable to do so.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Is Locker’s potential limited?
The Falcons won’t be benching quarterback Matt Ryan, in large part because they don’t have anyone else who would be remotely successful for the balance of 2015.
Come 2016, things could get interesting.
Under his second contract, signed in 2013, Ryan is still due to receive more than $50 million over the next three seasons. Specifically, he gets a base salary of $15.75 million in 2016, $15.75 million in 2017, and $19.25 million in 2018.
Ryan already has received a $28 million signing bonus, a $12 million option bonus, and base salaries of $23 million over the last three years. That’s $63 million so far.
In making decisions about Ryan, the Falcons need to forget about the money that has been paid and consider the money to be paid. Is Ryan worth another $50.75 million over the next three years? Would someone else pay Ryan more than whatever the Falcons are willing to pay on a reduced deal?
The other question is whether someone else would be willing to pick up Ryan’s contract, which would allow the Falcons to potentially trade him.
Ultimately, the Falcons have to ask themselves whether they can do better than Ryan. And if Kyle Shanahan will be sticking around as offensive coordinator, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether he shares his father’s feelings about Kirk Cousins.
The Panthers have adopted a five-letter “F” word for their current 11-0 predicament. They focus on one game at a time, one opponent at a time.
So how hard is that to do as the Panthers move closer and closer to the second 16-0 regular season in NFL history?
“Personally it’s easy for me,” Carolina safety Kurt Coleman told PFT Live on Monday. “I think in life we want to think about tomorrow and forget about today, but if you don’t enjoy every single moment you really just don’t get to enjoy the whole ride. I think this whole year, we’ve been able to just enjoy the journey that we’ve been on [and] not really thinking about the destination.
“Obviously everybody that starts off in the NFL wants to be Super Bowl champs, would love to go undefeated, et cetera. But I think if you don’t enjoy the journey that you’re on with the people that you’re on the journey with you’ll never be able to fully embrace the whole moment. And I think we’ve all embraced every single moment that we’ve had as a team collectively, and we’ve been focused each and every week. And say ‘put in everything we have today’ and then when the whole season’s done, we can look back and say, ‘that was a great season.'” But right now I really do believe this team is very focused on just beating New Orleans coming this Sunday.”
They’ll have some help on defense as they prepare for the New Orleans offense, thanks to the arrival of recently unretired cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
“I’m excited,” Coleman said about Finnegan joining the team. “I think every piece that the coaches and the G.M. have made thus far have really improved our team. I think Cortland brings a lot of veteran experience, he also brings the attitude that we’re looking for because we know if you’re going to be a corner on our team you’ve got to be able to tackle, you have to have the mindset that if a guy is running my way, I’ve got to be able to tackle him. And obviously Cortland’s resume speaks for itself. He’s going to have to get caught up with the playbook, the system and how we kind of mesh together but I’m excited. I got a text message from one of his old teammates, James Laurinaitis, and he was just telling me how Cortland was one of his favorite teammates. So I just think he’s going to be a great addition to what we’re trying to build here in Carolina.”
They’ve built a team that hasn’t lost a regular-season game in a year. They’re building a team that’s going to be very hard to beat in January, and perhaps on the first Sunday in February.
Jerry Jones has said that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo won’t play again this year due to a re-broken collarbone. But the team’s actions have yet to match the words of the franchise’s owner and General Manager.
Specifically, the Cowboys have not yet placed Romo on injured reserve, which would prevent him from playing again this year. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Cowboys currently plan to carry Romo on the active roster.
So why would the Cowboys keep Romo around if he’s not able to play for several weeks?
“Why else?” the source said. “The division stinks.”
Indeed it does. With the Giants and Washington at 5-6 and the Eagles at 4-7, the 3-8 Cowboys remain within striking distance of a playoff berth. If they can get to the postseason without Romo, they can get Romo back for the postseason, potentially.
The only downside will be having one less player available for practice and games. Still, seven players from the 53-man roster don’t dress each week. Romo will simply be one of the seven, for now. Also, with the practice squads expanded from eight to 10 players, the Cowboys have enough guys available to get the reps in throughout the week, even if Romo is contributing nothing.
It could all change, quickly. If the Cowboys lose to Washington on Monday night, Dallas may view the situation very differently by Tuesday. But if the Cowboys win — and if the Giants and/or Eagles lose — Dallas could still end up being the best of four bad teams assigned to the NFC East, and they could still have Romo when the time comes to play the best teams from the rest of the conference.
The Patriots addressed their shortage of healthy pass catchers Tuesday with a host of roster moves.
The team signed veteran wide receiver Damaris Johnson to the active roster and wide receiver Austin Hill to the practice squad. The Patriots also claimed running back Trey Williams off waivers from the Cowboys and placed rookie defensive lineman Trey Flowers on injured-reserve.
Earlier Tuesday, the Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski released a statement regarding Gronkowski’s knee injury. It said he suffered no structural damage and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
Wide receiver Chris Harper was cut Monday, a day after he misplayed a punt in a loss to the Broncos. The Patriots played that game without wide receiver Danny Amendola and will be without Julian Edelman for an indefinite period of time.
The addition of Johnson should fill the punt return role. Johnson previously played for the Eagles and Texans.
Williams is an undrafted rookie who was with the Redskins prior to spending a month with the Cowboys. The 6’3 Hill is an undrafted rookie who’s bounced around rosters and gives the Patriots a healthy receiver on the practice squad to play on the scout team.
No NFL team has clinched a playoff berth yet, but three teams can punch their playoff tickets on Sunday.
The Panthers have the clearest path to the playoffs: If they beat the Saints on Sunday, they win the NFC South. The Panthers can also win the NFC South even if they lose, as long as the Falcons lose to the Buccaneers. And the Panthers can clinch a playoff spot even if they lose and the Falcons win, as long as the Seahawks lose or both the Cardinals and Packers lose.
The Patriots also have a fairly clear path to the playoffs: If the Patriots win and the Jets lose, the Patriots win the AFC East. The Patriots can also clinch a playoff berth even if the Jets win, as long as the Patriots win and either the Chiefs or Steelers lose.
The Bengals need more help: Cincinnati can’t clinch the AFC North this week, but the Bengals can clinch a playoff berth with a win, a Texans loss, a Colts loss and either a Jets loss or both a Broncos win and a Chiefs loss.
Bottom line: The Panthers will probably get their playoff ticket punched this weekend, the Patriots need a little help and the Bengals need a lot of help.
Jimmy Graham is done for the season after tearing the patellar tendon in his knee, leaving the Seahawks in need of some more depth at tight end for the final five weeks of the regular season and what they hope will be more football in the postseason.
They acquired that depth on Tuesday by signing Chase Coffman as a free agent. Coffman entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Bengals in 2009 and has also spent time with the Buccaneers, Falcons and Titans over the course of his career. He had four catches for 42 yards in one appearance for the Titans this season, but has been out of the league since being released at the end of October.
To make room for Coffman, the Seahawks released center Drew Nowak. Nowak opened the season as the team’s starter at center and made seven starts up front before giving way to Patrick Lewis. Nowak’s standing dropped to the point that he was inactive the last three weeks and the Seahawks will continue to use Lemuel Jeanpierre as Lewis’s backup.
While addressing rumors linking him to a departure from the Eagles, Chip Kelly said Monday that he was “totally committed” to remaining the coach in Philadelphia.
Kelly also said that he didn’t feel a need to directly address the chatter with the team’s players because “a lot of times we just chuckle and laugh” about them. Kelly reversed course on that Tuesday, however.
Running back Kenjon Barner said that Kelly told the team “as long as they have me here, I’m here” during a morning meeting. Barner added that he thought it was a good thing for Kelly to put any worries in the locker room at ease.
“I think giving the younger players some confidence and some reassurance is good,” Barner said, via Philly.com. “I’m sure there were some young players [that were wondering about Kelly leaving]. It’s only human nature. You hear certain things, of course, you’re going to question certain things. Chip did kind of put that all to rest today during the meeting just by reassuring everybody.”
As plenty of other people have mentioned in the last few days, coaches have been known to say one thing and then do something different when it comes to speculation linking them to other jobs. For now, though, Kelly remains adamant that the only place he sees himself in 2016 is the City of Brotherly Love.
The statement said Gronkowski has a bone bruise/sprain in his right knee and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. No timetable for his return was offered, and the statement said any timetable reported “prior to that final determination would be speculative.”
So, Bill Belichick really doesn’t want a bunch of questions about Gronkowski’s knee.
With Julian Edelman out indefinitely and Danny Amendola having missed last week’s game, Tom Brady and the Patriots clearly need Gronkowski in the lineup. The 10-1 Patriots host the reeling Eagles this week before playing at the Texans Dec. 13.
Gronkowski has 57 catches for 931 yards and 9 touchdowns this season.
The Cardinals placed running back Chris Johnson on injured-reserve/designated for return Tuesday, two days after Johnson suffered a fractured tibia.
The IR/return designation means Johnson must miss a minimum of eight weeks. He’d be eligible to return only if the Cardinals make the Super Bowl.
Johnson would be eligible to return to practice in six weeks, so if he’s progressing and the Cardinals are still playing the team could try to have him ready for the Super Bowl.
His loss is a significant one. Johnson is fourth in the NFL with 814 rushing yards this season and has been a big part of the 9-2 Cardinals’ offense.
The injury is also a potentially expensive one for Johnson, 30, who signed with the Cardinals during training camp. He had a $2 million incentive that would have been reached had he run for 1,300 yards and made the Pro Bowl.
With Andre Ellington dealing with a toe injury, rookie David Johnson is likely the No. 1 back, at least for now. Stepfan Taylor was already on the active roster, and Kerwynn Williams was promoted from the practice squad after Johnson was moved off the active roster Tuesday.
The Broncos saw safety T.J. Ward go down with an ankle sprain in their victory over the Patriots and he’s expected to miss some time, which likely led to a roster move they announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Denver signed safety Josh Bush to the 53-man roster and released tight end Richard Gordon. If Bush does play in place of Ward this week, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Bush opened the season with the Broncos and played 17 defensive snaps in the season opener when Ward was serving a one-game suspension. He spent two more weeks with the team before getting released and spent a week on the Bills’ roster a bit later in the year. Bush also played two games for the Broncos in 2014 and played in 35 games for the Jets from 2012-2014.
The Dolphins were running out of healthy defensive tackles, so they cut one of the injured ones.
Via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins waived defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, who was dealing with a calf injury. To fill his roster spot, they signed defensive tackle Robert Thomas off the Patriots’ practice squad.
Mosley signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in June, reuniting with his former Lions teammate Ndamukong Suh.
Patriots fans are getting upset. Or, as the case may be, more upset.
In confirming the PFT report that referee Pete Morelli’s crew has been removed from Sunday night’s game between the Colts and Steelers, the Associated Press also reports that Morelli and crew have been reassigned to the game between the Eagles and Patriots.
The move comes at a time when plenty of Patriots fans have become convinced that the NFL and/or the referees are out to get the Patriots, presumably for #DeflateGate. Fueling the theory is, among other things, a regional Sports Illustrated cover featuring Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler throwing a pass in the foreground — and Patriots defensive lineman Dominique Easley being blatantly held in the background.
The burgeoning belief overlooks the fact that the Patriots won 10 games to start the season. But maybe that’s the genius of it.
Regardless, if the reaction will be that dramatic after the team’s first loss in 11 games, it’ll be a lot worse if they lose in the postseason.
The Panthers are the last team with a chance to go undefeated this season, but a 16-0 record was a topic that coach Ron Rivera didn’t feel much like discussing after they improved to 11-0 on Thanksgiving.
Rivera said last week that thinking about going 16-0 means “you are not focusing on the details” that have contributed to Carolina’s strong start to the season. That message seems to be resonating with his quarterback.
Cam Newton said Tuesday, via Steve Reed of the Associated Press, that the team won’t be “lured in” by talk of an undefeated season, calling it “ink for the media” that isn’t of concern to Panthers players.
We don’t use any ink in these parts, but we’re willing to take a look at Carolina’s chances of running the table all the same. They play at New Orleans, face Atlanta twice, take a trip to Jersey to face the Giants and close with a home game against Tampa in Week 17. It’s neither an underwhelming schedule nor one larded with creampuffs, leaving the Panthers with a decent chance at getting through unscathed if they keep playing at the level they’ve been at through the first three months of the year.
The Patriots showed no patience with the last returner to make a mistake, so the new guy better know where the bar is set.
According to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, the Patriots are signing receiver/return man Damaris Johnson.
He’ll replace Chris Harper, whose muffed punt Sunday night turned the tide against the Broncos and cost him his job Monday.
Johnson, who entered the league as an undrafted rookie from Tulsa, spent two seasons with the Eagles and last year with the Texans. He hasn’t been able to find work this year, but has averaged 25.1 yards per kickoff return and 9.5 yards per punt return.
With injuries riddling their offensive line, the Giants have added a healthy player from the Raiders practice squad.
The Giants announced Tuesday that they have signed Adam Gettis and placed Geoff Schwartz on injured reserve. Schwartz fractured his leg in last Sunday’s loss, which means he’s seen his season come to an early end for the second year in a row.
Gettis is familiar to the Giants after spending the last few weeks of last season and all of the offseason with the team. He spent some time on their practice squad earlier this year before being released and signing with Oakland. Gettis was a fifth-round pick of the Redskins in 2012 and saw action in 13 games for them in 2013, but has never made any starts at the NFL level.
Schwartz’s injury came in a game that the Giants played without left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg. Coach Tom Coughlin said he hoped to have at least one back for this week, although the nature of their injuries — Pugh is in the concussion protocol and Richburg has a high ankle sprain — makes that far from a sure thing.