NFL DEBRIEFING -- Cruising through hectic league's top stories

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NFL DEBRIEFING

November 1, 2018

CRUISING THE NFL

Bill Barnwell of ESPN has a look at the two-year futures of all 32 teams here.

Here is his explanation of what he did:

Recently, I was talking to Lindsay Jones of The Athletic on my podcast, and we started wondering what the 2020 Raiders' roster might look like as Jon Gruden & Co. make their move to Las Vegas. We didn't get very far, and that was before the Amari Cooper trade happened.

I think it's an interesting exercise, though, so I've gone ahead and tried to project which players from each team's 2018 roster are likely to make it onto their roster come Week 1 of 2020. Those rosters will obviously include 2019 and 2020 draft picks, and there are young players who will emerge as meaningful contributors between now and then, so consider this an imperfect look into what each team's long-term core currently looks like, nearly halfway through the 2018 campaign.

I've split each team into three groups. The virtual locks section is for players I think have at least a 90 percent shot of making the 2020 roster, given their contract situation and draft status. In most cases, I would expect 2017 and 2018 draft picks taken in the top three rounds to make it to 2020, which is reflected here.

The on the bubble group is for the players I think have something closer to a 55 percent shot of appearing on the roster in 2020. They might be starring veterans who have onerous contracts in the future, young players who haven't found their role, or placeholders who are likely to be usurped by a draft pick or let go as part of a regime change.

Finally, the unlikely notables section is for players who have no more than a 15 percent shot of making it to 2020 on the same team. This section is for mid-30s veterans who are likely to retire, young players who are riding pine, and regulars whose contracts will be even more difficult to swallow by the 2020 offseason. I've tried to limit this to more notable players, if only to avoid listing every practice-squad member or backup long-snapper and make this column five times as long.

As always, I'm sure a player or two sneaked through the list, but this should be some comparative insight into what each NFL organization has built for the future. Some of the cores surprised me.

We have some of his team recaps below, but feel free to hit the link for your favorite club.

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO

The ankle of KHALIL MACK may keep him out of Sunday’s game in Buffalo. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

The Bears played without linebacker Khalil Mack against the Jets last Sunday because of the ankle injury that he’s been dealing with for the last few weeks.

It was the first time that Mack did not play in a game since entering the NFL and the time off was not enough to get Mack on the practice field Wednesday. Mack was out as the team began working ahead of this week’s game against the Bills and head coach Matt Nagy said that things haven’t changed much from last week.

“Hopefully he’s getting better — I feel like he is,” Nagy said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s gonna be what we just went through last week. It’s gonna be very similar this week.”

Wide receiver Allen Robinson was also out of practice on Wednesday after sitting out last week with a groin injury. Robinson and Mack both practiced on Friday only the last two weeks and it seems likely that will be the most either player practices this week.

DETROIT

Coach Matt Patricia tries to explain why the Lions had to get rid of the very productive WR GOLDEN TATE. Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com:

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said trading receiver Golden Tate was a "difficult" decision but one the franchise believed was the "best logical decision" to make.

Tate, the team's leading receiver in catches (44) and yards (517) this season, was dealt to Philadelphia for a 2019 third-round pick. The 30-year-old receiver is in the final year of his contract.

"For us, it's again the holistic picture of taking a look at what's best for us to do as a team and in those situations. They are not easy decisions, and they are certainly difficult decisions," Patricia said. "Again, for us, it's not about one player. It's about a team. It's about everybody. We have a lot of guys that are really good on this team that can produce, and honestly, for me, we have confidence in everybody on this team right now, that everybody can go out and do their job.

"I think we've seen through the course of multiple different examples of years in the NFL where these things happen and people move on and they keep going and they keep winning. So, is it difficult to win in this league? One hundred percent it is. Every single week is hard, so we're just going to have to work harder and keep going."

Patricia said he spoke to his players about the deal and stressed to them that they have to start preparing for the Vikings on Sunday and that he believes in the players Detroit has on its offense even without Tate.

"The biggest point for me to make sure everybody understands is that this also shows a lot of confidence in the people that are in that room," Patricia said. "There's great players in that room and there's a lot of them and there's a lot of guys that have opportunities to go out there and make plays and go out there and play at a high level, and we're all good with that from that standpoint."

The first-year Lions coach said Detroit would replace Tate with a multitude of players depending on the situation and the game. Likely candidates include receivers TJ Jones and Brandon Powell, tight end Michael Roberts and running back Theo Riddick.

"You never want to see somebody go, whether it's one day or four-and-a-half years, you build a rapport with the people around you," Jones said. "So any time someone leaves, it's a shock. It's something you go through. You want to comfort them but also give 'em space to adapt to their new team and all of htat. I think everyone is just supporting him but we all know the task at hand here."

The decision to deal Tate, though, appeared to come down to short-term gains versus long-term goals in the team's evaluation of whether to keep Tate.

"it's important for us, when we evaluate everything that we do as a franchise, I think there's certain value that we can get at times during the season that will help us long term and obviously have faith and confidence in the people that are on this team right now," Patricia said. "So we put all that into play and we're trying to make the best decision we can in that moment, and it's hard, very difficult when you're in that 'one game at a time' mindset and that's really where we are, from the standpoint of it's week to week for us and that's good, but there's also a big picture here that is good for those to keep an eye on as we move forward.

GREEN BAY

QB AARON RODGERS was “limited” in practice due to his ongoing knee injury. He “fully participated” in all of last week’s practices.

Two key players out, no new players of note in – but GM Brian Gutenkist says the Packers are not giving up on 2018. Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:

Trading a former Pro Bowl safety, along with a contributor at multiple positions, without getting any immediate return could look to some like the Green Bay Packers are playing for the future and giving up on this season.

General manager Brian Gutekunst disagrees.

A day after he sent safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington for a 2019 fourth-round pick and running back/kick returner Ty Montgomery to Baltimore for a conditional 2020 seventh-rounder, Gutekunst explained his thinking and the impact it might have in his own locker room.

"I don't necessarily think there's a message it sends to the locker room," the first-year GM said Wednesday. "I think the decisions that we make are always in the best interest of our team, not only in the short term, but the long term, as well. But I think our locker room knows where we're headed and, like I said, I think we're humming at the right time and I think there's a lot of positive things going forward."

The moves came on the NFL's trade deadline day and within 48 hours of the Packers' 29-27 loss to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams. The loss dropped the Packers to 3-3-1 heading into Sunday's Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady showdown in New England.

Rodgers never got the ball back with a chance to beat the Rams after Montgomery brought a kickoff out of the end zone -- he was supposed to take a knee, per coaches' instructions -- and then fumbled.

Players criticized Montgomery's decision. He then responded by wondering who in the locker room he could trust.

That came a few weeks after Clinton-Dix said he expected to be playing elsewhere next season.

"I think you take everything into consideration when you make these kind of decisions, but performance comes first," Gutekunst said. "That's always the major factor in these decisions. Everything's taken into account, but it's never usually just one thing."

Though they have options, the Packers have not said how they will replace Clinton-Dix, a former first-round pick who made the Pro Bowl in 2016.

They could use cornerback Tramon Williams at safety; he moved inside to a slot position Sunday against the Rams. It also might force the Packers to finally play 2017 second-round pick Josh Jones, who had a standout special-teams game in Los Angeles but surprisingly has played only four defensive snaps all season while sitting behind former undrafted free agents Kentrell Brice and Jermaine Whitehead.

There's also the possibility that cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who was signed last month but has yet to play in a game, could move to safety.

At running back, Montgomery's departure could help dynamic Aaron Jones get more touches. He leads the Packers in rushing yards (274) and average (6.2 yards per carry) but has only 44 attempts.

"We've got to trust what Brian is doing and he's making moves that are in the best interest of the team," Rodgers said. "In this situation, we need guys to step up in those spots. Obviously Aaron and Jamaal [Williams] have been playing really well, so more opportunities for those guys, and the defense will take care of what they need to with the safety spot."

NFC EAST

DALLAS

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Cowboys:

Dallas Cowboys

Virtual locks: QB Dak Prescott, G Zack Martin, T Tyron Smith, LB Leighton Vander Esch, LB Jaylon Smith, DE Taco Charlton, S Xavier Woods, RB Ezekiel Elliott, CB Chidobe Awuzie, WR Michael Gallup

Though the Cowboys still might theoretically move on from Prescott, there really hasn't been a quarterback in recent memory who played as well as Prescott has during his rookie contract and subsequently failed to get an extension (barring injury).

On the bubble: C Travis Frederick, WR Amari Cooper, G Connor Williams, T La'el Collins, DE DeMarcus Lawrence, CB Byron Jones, CB Anthony Brown, DE Randy Gregory

Frederick's future, sadly, has been clouded by Guillain-Barré syndrome. The Cowboys will have the cap space to re-sign Lawrence and Jones this offseason, given that Tony Romo's contract will finally come off their books. Cooper is under contract through the end of 2019, although the Cowboys might choose to extend their new wideout this offseason.

Unlikely notables: WR Allen Hurns, WR Tavon Austin, DT Tyrone Crawford, LB Sean Lee, S Jeff Heath

When the Cowboys drafted Vander Esch, Lee's days in Dallas were numbered. The oft-injured star linebacker is under contract through 2019.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Giants:

New York Giants

Virtual locks: WR Odell Beckham Jr., T Nate Solder, RB Saquon Barkley, TE Evan Engram, G Will Hernandez, DL B.J. Hill, DL Dalvin Tomlinson, LB Lorenzo Carter

Lost amid the Giants' problems is that free-agent signing Solder has been a mess, allowing six sacks in eight games, per Stats. To contrast, Solder had allowed six sacks in a 16-game season just once during his time with the Patriots.

On the bubble: WR Sterling Shepard, S Landon Collins, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB Alec Ogletree, LB Kareem Martin, S Curtis Riley

Shepard is a talented wideout, but as the Giants move away from the three-wideout sets of the McAdoo era and toward the run-first approach GM Dave Gettleman wants, you have to wonder whether the Giants might want to let someone else pay a receiver who does his best work in the slot.

Unlikely notables: LB Olivier Vernon, QB Eli Manning, OL Patrick Omameh, RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Cody Latimer, CB B.W. Webb

Cutting Manning and Vernon next year would free up $32.5 million in cap space. If you want a reason to be anxious about that, consider that Omameh already has been benched after signing a three-year, $15 million deal this offseason.

WASHINGTON

The Redskins are excited to add S HA HA CLINTON-DIX for the playoff push. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

The Washington Redskins upgraded their defense at the trade deadline, adding Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from the Green Bay Packers.

The trade was an indication from the Redskins that they're all-in, and improving the backend of an already good defense could be the final piece.

Clinton-Dix will team with D.J. Swearinger to make one of the best safety units in the NFL.

"I was lit!" Swearinger said of adding the fellow safety, via the Washington Post. "It's going to be something that they ain't seen before. I don't think they're ready for it. I feel like they're really getting this defense right. They're banking on getting the defense right, and I got some extra help for sure on the back end. A veteran guy. A Pro Bowl guy. ... When he gets comfortable, it's going to be very scary. I don't know where they're going to throw it. ... With that D-line, we're going to be scary."

On paper, Swearinger has a point. The safety crew is joined by corners Quinton Dunbar (when healthy) and Josh Norman. The front-seven has been dominant, led by Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Zach Brown, Jonathan Allen, Da'Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, and Mason Foster.

With Clinton-Dix taking over, there isn't a glaring weak link in the group.

"Adding a big-time player like that in the middle of the season when you're in the hunt for everything," Foster said, "I think it shows everybody that we want our defense to continue to play at a high level and get even better each and every week. Here's another piece to help with that product. ... It's time to go now."

Sitting at 5-2, knowing a run is likely coming from the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins solidified their defense to take their shot at swiping the NFC East crown.

NFC SOUTH

CAROLINA

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com is impressed with how well QB CAM NEWTON is playing.

Coaching matters. Just ask Cam Newton, who received arguably the biggest coaching upgrade of any quarterback in the NFL when the Panthers replaced Mike Shula with Norv Turner. The hire of Turner, who had been coaching in the NFL for four years before Newton was even born, raised plenty of skeptical eyebrows given his history with deep drops and a vertical passing attack.

But Turner has taken the Panthers skill players and deployed them in an entirely different way and the trickle-down effect on Newton and the Panthers offense has been stunning.

For starters, let's simply look at Newton's statistics. Turner was roundly mocked for claiming Newton could complete in the high 60 percent of his passes -- understandably, given Newton's career completion percentage was below 60 percent coming into this year. But Norv wasn't wrong; Cam is now completing 66.4 percent of his passes after hitting on almost three fourths of his throws against the Ravens in Carolina's surprising 36-21 win over the NFL's best defense.

Newton's interception rate is also the lowest its been in his career and, without really drawing any attention, he is having a better year through seven games than he did in 2015 when he led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and won MVP.

That year Newton became the only quarterback to ever throw for 3,500 yards, throw for 30+ touchdowns and rush for 600 yards in a single season. He's on pace to become the second quarterback ever to do it.

But Panthers fans should be even more enthused about this year's rendition, because Newton is being hit far less often. He has been sacked just 10 times so far this season, registering by far the lowest sack percentage (4.0 percent) of his career.

Carolina's offensive line is playing at a surprisingly high level as well, managing to protect Newton when he does have to throw deep from a precarious position.

All of this is a culmination of a shift in personnel coupled with Turner's ability to adjust his offensive philosophy to fit Newton's and the talent around his unique quarterback. Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore are chess pieces, players who can seamlessly move around different formations and make an impact rushing or receiving. It's no surprise Moore leads the NFL with 12.1 rushing yards per game by a wide receiver, or that the Panthers are first in rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks and wide receivers or that they're sixth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns by running backs.

Turner hasn't messed around with trying to reduce Newton's running. There's no need to do that -- the Panthers idea of running Newton less before the 2017 season was asinine. Cam gets hurt when he spends too long in the pocket, holding the ball, waiting for plays to develop and then taking huge shots from defenders at full speed.

By putting an emphasis on quick throws and accuracy to playmakers, Turner has increased Cam's efficiency, improved the play of the offensive line, maximized his playmakers' skillsets and managed to create an offense that should keep Newton healthier over the course of the season.

The result has been an MVP-caliber start to the season for Newton and a Panthers offense that is beginning to really find its groove. If everything clicks for Carolina on that side of the ball in a 2015-type fashion, watch out.

Coach Ron Rivera, despite his military background, seems to be supportive of S ERIC REID’s National Anthem protest. Reid is not impressed by his coach having his back. David Newton of ESPN.com:

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera consistently has made it clear he has no issue with safety Eric Reid kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against social injustice even if it goes against his personal beliefs having grown up in a military family.

Rivera has said repeatedly Reid simply is exercising his First Amendment rights.

"Very respectfully, he doesn't have a choice,'' Reid said on Wednesday when asked about having Rivera's support in kneeling. "He's entitled to his opinion, but I know what my rights are. His family was a military family much like many of my people were in the military. My cousin just got back from Afghanistan. My mom was in the armed services. My uncle was enlisted. The list goes on.

"But when they get home they're still black in America. They're going to fight the same wars when they get home and still face the same things I'm talking about. So I get encouragement from my family that served in the armed forces because they agree with what I'm saying.''

The Panthers (5-2) will honor the military during Sunday's NFC South game against Tampa Bay (3-4) as part of "Salute to Service Week.''

Reid plans to kneel during the anthem just as he has the past four games since signing with Carolina. He is the only Carolina player who has taken a knee during the anthem since former San Francisco teammate Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during their 2016 season with the 49ers to protest police brutality and social injustice.

The closest the Panthers had to a protest before Reid's arrival came during Week 3 last season when defensive end Julius Peppers stayed in the locker room during the anthem. Peppers has been on the field and standing since that game.

TAMPA BAY

From Bill Barnwell’s exercise on what 2020 Buccaneers might look like:

Virtual locks: WR Mike Evans, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Gerald McCoy, LB Lavonte David, DT Vita Vea, TE O.J. Howard, RB Ronald Jones, S Justin Evans, WR Chris Godwin, CB Carlton Davis, CB M.J. Stewart, G Ali Marpet, G Alex Cappa

The Bucs are unique in not handing out signing bonuses, so the only players on their roster who would incur dead money in 2020 after being released would be their players on rookie contracts. It leaves Tampa with a ton of flexibility, so if it wanted to (for some reason) get rid of Evans, David and Pierre-Paul come 2020, it could without eating any dead money.

On the bubble: QB Jameis Winston, WR Adam Humphries, T Donovan Smith, C Ryan Jensen, T Demar Dotson, TE Cameron Brate, RB Peyton Barber, DT Beau Allen, DE Vinny Curry, LB Kwon Alexander, CB Ryan Smith, P Bryan Anger, DE Carl Nassib, G Caleb Benenoch

Winston's future is obviously in question after being benched last week. The Bucs picked up his fifth-year option for 2019, but Tampa can cut or trade him without penalty after the year as long as he can pass a physical.

Unlikely notables: WR DeSean Jackson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, CB Brent Grimes

Fitzpatrick will turn 38 during the 2020 season. While he might still be on an NFL roster, chances are the journeyman will have moved to another NFL destination.

NFC WEST

ARIZONA

Bill Barnwell’s projection for the 2020 Cardinals:

Arizona Cardinals

Virtual locks: DE Chandler Jones, RB David Johnson, CB Patrick Peterson, ILB Haason Reddick, QB Josh Rosen, S Budda Baker, WR Christian Kirk, C Mason Cole, RB Chase Edmonds

Peterson will be entering the final year of his current deal in 2020, so the former LSU star is likely to see an extension during the 2019 season. Reddick seemed to be on the outs in September, but the 2017 first-rounder has made his way back into an every-down role.

On the bubble: WR Chad Williams, LT D.J. Humphries, G Justin Pugh, TE Ricky Seals-Jones, DE Markus Golden, DL Robert Nkemdiche, CB Bene Benwikere

Golden had a 12.5-sack season in 2016, but he has played just nine games over the past two seasons while recovering from a torn ACL. He might not get the multiyear extension he seeks. The Cardinals picked up Humphries' fifth-year option for 2019, but the 2015 first-round pick hasn't distinguished himself on the left side of the line, allowing five sacks in eight games this season, per Stats.

Unlikely notables: WR Larry Fitzgerald, G Mike Iupati, QB Sam Bradford, LB Deone Bucannon, S Antoine Bethea, LB Josh Bynes, S Tre Boston

Bucannon played 38 snaps against the 49ers after racking up just 13 over the three previous weeks, but the Cardinals might just have been showcasing their former first-round pick before the trade deadline. The 26-year-old is likely to leave after the season.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Terez Paylor of YahooSports.com on why DANTE FOWLER will be a hit with the Rams:

He seems a good candidate to benefit from a “Wade Bump” — a nod to their creative, respected and outstanding defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips.

I’d tend to agree. Phillips asks his unit to play aggressively and make plays, and that often frees up guys to go get the football and have fun. In turn, he often gets the best out of players, and there’s no doubting Fowler’s physical ability; he simply got nudged out of a starting job in Jacksonville by the 2017 signing of Calais Campbell (an All-Pro) and the arrival of 2016 third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue, a superior pass rusher who is also better against the run.

In Los Angeles, Fowler — who is slated to be a free agent in March — will be motivated to play his best football, and he’ll see a lot of single blocking next to Suh, Donald and Brockers. But for him to get the payday he wants, he’ll need to be more disciplined and sound against the run.

SEATTLE

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Seahawks:

Seattle Seahawks

Virtual locks: WR Tyler Lockett, QB Russell Wilson, RB Rashaad Penny, CB Shaquill Griffin, DE Rasheem Green, S Tedric Thompson, S Delano Hill, LB Shaquem Griffin, S Tre Flowers, P Michael Dickson, RB Chris Carson, DT Jarran Reed

The Seahawks have gotten off to a surprisingly impressive start this season, given that they're currently sixth in DVOA while running out one of the league's youngest starting defensive lineups. Coach Pete Carroll is going to count on those players as building blocks.

On the bubble: WR Doug Baldwin, T Duane Brown, C Justin Britt, S Bradley McDougald, OL Ethan Pocic, T Germain Ifedi, TE Nick Vannett, DT Nazair Jones, DE Frank Clark, LB Bobby Wagner, LB K.J. Wright, WR David Moore, G J.R. Sweezy, CB Justin Coleman, DL Quinton Jefferson

I would imagine the Seahawks will keep around Wagner, but he's a free agent after the 2019 season and hasn't signed an extension. The Seahawks have enough money to sign both Wagner and Clark over the next year, but they also had the money to sign Earl Thomas and chose not to do so.

Unlikely notables: S Kam Chancellor, K Sebastian Janikowski, S Earl Thomas, TE Ed Dickson, DT Malik McDowell, LB Mychal Kendricks

McDowell is still technically on Seattle's roster, although the 2017 second-rounder was waived with injuries suffered in an ATV accident before ever playing a game with the Seahawks. That's not even the weirdest reason a player is in this notables section.

AFC WEST

DENVER

The Broncos say the trade of WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS was all about clearing the way for WR COURTLAND SUTTON. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

The Denver Broncos' trade of Demaryius Thomas was as much about opening playing time for a younger stud as it was getting an asset for an aging player.

Jettisoning Thomas now opens snaps for rookie Courtland Sutton, who general manager John Elway said deserves more playing time.

"We thought that this would give Courtland a chance to get out there, play more and become a bigger part of it because we think he's ready to go," Elway said, via the Denver Post. "He's played well up to this point in time. Hopefully this accelerates his maturity."

Through eight games, Sutton has played 68.7 percent of the Broncos' offensive snaps, almost exclusively in three-receiver sets. Of the Broncos' 131 2-WR sets this season, the rookie has participated in just 21. Thomas, conversely, played in 104 of those two-receiver situations.

The Broncos' view Sutton as a star on the rise. Allowing him more opportunities in his young career could help escalate that growth.

"He's a second-round pick that probably should've been a first-round pick," coach Vance Joseph said on Wednesday. "Obviously, he's a gifted guy. He's not a finished product by any means, but our hope is that he's going to be special. That's our hope. He has to continue to work, to perfect his routes and to continue to play hard and to study. We'll see, but it's his time, so he has plenty of reps and time to prove he's that guy we think he can be."

Through the first eight weeks, the rookie has compiled 17 receptions on 37 targets for 324 yards and two touchdowns. The 45.9 catch rate puts him near the bottom of the NFL (183rd per Pro Football Reference).

THE RAIDERS

Not many locks for the 2020 Raiders roster according to Bill Barnwell:

Oakland Raiders

Virtual locks: T Kolton Miller, DT P.J. Hall, DE Arden Key, T Brandon Parker

That's it. Four players, all of whom were picks in this year's draft. We're not even sure if these guys are even any good. The Raiders have $112.5 million in 2020 cap space without making any other moves, and nobody on their roster besides Derek Carr would cost more than $1.4 million in dead money to release. This is going to look like an entirely different team in 2020.

On the bubble: QB Derek Carr, C Rodney Hudson, WR Seth Roberts, G Kelechi Osemele, G Gabe Jackson, DT Johnathan Hankins, CB Daryl Worley

Carr would cost $7.5 million in dead money to release in 2019 and $5 million in 2020, so if Gruden wants to find his quarterback, cap concerns aren't going to get in the way. Having players like Osemele and Jackson around would make any offense's life easier, but there seems to be little reason to think Gruden will keep them around.

Unlikely notables: WR Jordy Nelson, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Doug Martin, LB Bruce Irvin, LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Gareon Conley, S Karl Joseph, CB Leon Hall, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Marcus Gilchrist, S Reggie Nelson, T Donald Penn

Ten of these 12 players are over 30. The only exceptions are Conley and Joseph, who are first-round picks Gruden doesn't seem interested in playing. Everything's great.

AFC NORTH

CINCINNATI

Bill Barnwell on the roster makeup of the 2020 Bengals:

Cincinnati Bengals

Virtual locks: DT Geno Atkins, DE Carlos Dunlap, C Billy Price, RB Joe Mixon, DE Carl Lawson, WR A.J. Green, CB William Jackson, DE Sam Hubbard, LB Malik Jefferson, S Jessie Bates, DE Jordan Willis

The Bengals perpetually draft and develop their own talent, so the guys you see here aren't going to be joined by much outside the organization.

On the bubble: WR Tyler Boyd, WR John Ross, T Cordy Glenn, G Clint Boling, QB Andy Dalton, LB Nick Vigil, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, S Shawn Williams

Boyd wasn't even a lock to make the 53-man roster this offseason after failing to make the game-day roster at times last season, but the former second-round pick has reinvigorated his career and is on pace for 1,240 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Dalton will be entering the final year of his deal in 2020, and if he doesn't lead Cincinnati back to the postseason before then, you would have to imagine the Bengals will look for a replacement under center. Right?

Unlikely notables: T Cedric Ogbuehi, TE Tyler Eifert, RB Gio Bernard, DE Michael Johnson, LB Vontaze Burfict, CB Darqueze Dennard

Ogbuehi has been a healthy scratch all season. Burfict's inability to play by the league's rules is going to shorten his career. Dennard is the rare Bengals first-round cornerback pick who hasn't panned out.

CLEVELAND

Gregg Williams is known for his outlandish statements. He made one on Wednesday. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

Gregg Williams was fired as the Bills’ head coach after the 2003 season, and since then he’s only been a defensive coordinator–until this week, when he became interim head coach of the Browns. But Williams claimed today that he’s had multiple offers to be a head coach since leaving Buffalo.

In his first press conference as the Browns’ interim head coach, Williams said today that he doesn’t see his current job as auditioning to be a head coach, because he’s already been given offers to be a head coach and turned them down.

“Since I left Buffalo, I’ve had 11 letters sent in to interview for head coaching jobs, and all of them behind the scenes I have, four of them I didn’t even have to show up, just sign the contract and come,” Williams said.

So why didn’t Williams take one of those four jobs? He said it’s about finding the right fit, and that other job offers he had were from organizations that had a different philosophy of what a head coach is supposed to be. Specifically, Williams said he wants to be a hands-on coach, and some teams want their head coach to delegate more.

“I’ve talked about all those other spots that have called me,” Williams said. “You know what is fun about sitting in a chair and being a head coach? Coaching football. Not coaching marketing, not coaching scouting, not coaching ticketing, not coaching analytics. Coaching football. So why would I not do that? And when people say you can’t do that and be the head coach, you don’t know.”

Suffice to say, a lot of people around the NFL will be extremely skeptical that Williams had four different offers to be a head coach and turned them all down only because he didn’t think they were the right fit. And the idea that four different NFL owners were willing to just hand the reins to Williams without even asking him to come in for an interview is ridiculous.

But Williams is a head coach now. Perhaps if he can win enough games he’ll have a real job offer to be a real head coach in 2019.

AFC SOUTH

JACKSONVILLE

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Jaguars:

Jacksonville Jaguars

Virtual locks: G Andrew Norwell, CB A.J. Bouye, CB Jalen Ramsey, OLB Telvin Smith, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Marqise Lee, T Cam Robinson, DL Taven Bryan, WR DJ Chark, WR Keelan Cole, DE Yannick Ngakoue, LB Myles Jack

This is going to be an expensive core, given that the Jags will likely need to pony up new contracts for Jack, Ramsey and Ngakoue by 2020 without having the benefit of tons of cap rollover.

On the bubble: QB Blake Bortles, T Jermey Parnell, C Brandon Linder, WR Dede Westbrook, RB Corey Grant, S Tashaun Gipson, DE Calais Campbell, DE Malik Jackson, CB D.J. Hayden, DT Abry Jones

The Jags can get out of Bortles' deal after 2019 with just $5 million in dead money. Their next step at quarterback might determine whether they can keep expensive veterans like Campbell or Jackson in the fold.

Unlikely notables: S Barry Church, DT Marcell Dareus, RB T.J. Yeldon, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Donte Moncrief

If Jacksonville has to sacrifice one of its defensive linemen to create cap room next offseason, Dareus makes the most sense, given that he hasn't shown much at all as a pass-rusher since 2014.

AFC EAST

BUFFALO

Fate has handed QB NATHAN PETERMAN a chance to change his destiny. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman has become a punchline during his short NFL career, throwing nine interceptions and just three touchdown passes during his two seasons with the Bills. But Peterman hasn’t lost confidence.

Peterman said that with Josh Allen and Derek Anderson both injured, he’s ready to start — and ready to win — on Sunday against the Bears.

“I’m ready to go win a game and be my best every time I take that field. I’m thankful every time I take that field,” Peterman said.

The Bills did win a game last year when Peterman started, a 13-7 win over the Colts in a blizzard. In that game Peterman completed just five of 10 passes for 57 yards. Suffice to say, most NFL games aren’t going to be won when the starting quarterback throws for just 57 yards.

“I’m going to go play my best every time I’m out there. That’s what I’m going to be focused on doing,” Peterman said.

So far, his best hasn’t been good enough.

For those keeping score – Peterman has thrown 3 TD passes to his teammates, 2 to the other team on Pick-Sixes.

MIAMI

Whatever the state of QB RYAN TANNEHILL might be, the Dolphins are going to continue to roll with QB BROCK OSWEILER against the Jets. Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com:

Brocktober will continue into November. Brock Osweiler will make his fourth consecutive start for the Dolphins Sunday against the New York Jets because Ryan Tannehill is still out.

Tannehill hasn't played in a game since injuring his right shoulder Oct. 7 at Cincinnati, and he was ruled out on Wednesday by coach Adam Gase.

Tannehill's progress has been slow, and he hasn't thrown a pass in the open period of practice since Oct. 11. He will likely need multiple full practice days in a row without any setbacks before he's able to play in a game.

The shoulder is still bothering Tannehill, which isn't a good sign considering that he often plays through minor ailments. Gase clarified that Tannehill's injury isn't a sprain, but he has yet to make public the actual injury. He has said surgery still isn't an option for Tannehill at this point.

"This is a rest type thing," Gase said.

There's a reasonable chance that Tannehill won't see the game field again until after the Dolphins' Week 11 bye. Their next game after the bye would be Nov. 25 at Indianapolis.

Gase said earlier this week that Tannehill's injury is "unusual," with "a lot of gray." He says Tannehill has been throwing with trainers, but he doesn't yet have the velocity or power required to throw in real action.

NEW ENGLAND

Bill Barnwell on the 2020 Patriots:

New England Patriots

Virtual locks: G Shaq Mason, T Marcus Cannon, RB Sony Michel, CB Stephon Gilmore, T Isaiah Wynn, LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, CB Duke Dawson

Not much, huh? The Patriots have a lot of flexibility, which is good, and they can shift their roster in a number of different ways depending on what happens with Tom Brady over the next couple of years, but they don't have a ton tied down.

On the bubble: QB Tom Brady, WR Julian Edelman, WR Josh Gordon, T Trent Brown, C David Andrews, G Joe Thuney, RB James White, RB Rex Burkhead, DE Trey Flowers, DL Lawrence Guy, DT Malcolm Brown, LB Dont'a Hightower, S Devin McCourty, LB Kyle Van Noy, S Patrick Chung, CB Jonathan Jones, LB Elandon Roberts

Plenty of these players -- specifically Andrews, White, McCourty, Hightower, Guy and Van Noy -- are under contract for 2020 at reasonable prices. The Patriots will keep some of them, but it would hardly be a surprise if half of those veterans are no longer on the roster. The looming Flowers negotiation could be difficult, given that he doesn't have huge numbers but is regarded in many front offices around the league as a valuable player. If the Patriots let him test the market, somebody's going to go over the top to bring Flowers in.

Unlikely notables: TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Chris Hogan, DE Adrian Clayborn, WR Matthew Slater

Given that Gronkowski was nearly traded this offseason and is going through another run of back problems, there's a good chance he'll retire by the time his contract expires at the end of 2019.

TE ROB GRONKOWSKI leaves his weekly press session abruptly. Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal:

Rob Gronkowski wasn’t feeling it on Wednesday.

The Patriots tight end abruptly ended his weekly press conference in Gillette Stadium on Wednesday evening after a little over three minutes. According to reporters, Gronkowski then walked briskly through the locker room and looked agitated as he spoke to a Patriots media relations member.

It seemed like Gronk was tired of being asked about his lack of production red zone. The 29-year-old has one touchdown, scored in Week 1. Early in the press conference, Gronkowski was asked what he could do to end his touchdown drought.

“I’m not really sure, Gronkowski said. “Yeah. Everything. Everything you said. I don’t know what to say.”

Does he miss the end zone?

“I think it misses me,” Gronk replied.

What does that mean?

“I don’t know,” Gronk said.

Gronkowski was then asked about Green Bay tight end Jimmy Graham and Gronk wasn’t willing to engage, saying, “Good player. Yeah.”

Gronkowski hasn’t had a 100-yard game since Week 1. On Monday night, he caught three passes for 43 yards. Is there a level of frustration for the big tight end?

“No. We’re 6-2. We just won five games in a row and we’re just trying to get the W every week,” Gronkowski said.

Gronk was then asked how he was feeling. He responded, “living.” When told he seemed subdued, Gronkowski replied, “Thank you.”

Then, Gronkowski was about where he thought his confidence level was it.

“It’s good,” Gronk said.

Why?

“Because we’re winning,” he replied.

“Alright guys,” Gronkowski said as he walked off the podium.

THIS AND THAT

2019 DRAFT

Luke Easterling of USA TODAY’s Draft Wire has a 2019 Mock Draft to chew on:

With all those factors in mind, here’s an updated look at how the first two rounds of the 2019 NFL draft could shake out, using the latest updated draft order after Week 8 action:

  1. San Francisco 49ers

Nick Bosa | EDGE | Ohio State

  1. New York Giants

Justin Herbert | QB | Oregon

  1. Oakland Raiders

Ed Oliver | DL | Houston

  1. Arizona Cardinals

Jonah Williams | OT | Alabama

  1. Buffalo Bills

Greedy Williams | CB | LSU

  1. Cleveland Browns

Deandre Baker | CB | Georgia

  1. New York Jets

Clelin Ferrell | EDGE | Clemson

  1. Indianapolis Colts

Raekwon Davis | DL | Alabama

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Daniel Jones | QB | Duke

  1. Denver Broncos

Will Grier | QB | West Virginia

  1. Detroit Lions

Brian Burns | EDGE | Florida State

  1. Tennessee Titans

Jeffery Simmons | DL | Mississippi State

  1. Oakland Raiders (from DAL)

Devin White | LB | LSU

  1. Atlanta Falcons

Josh Allen | EDGE | Kentucky

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jachai Polite | EDGE | Florida

  1. Philadelphia Eagles

Greg Little | OT | Mississippi

  1. Miami Dolphins

Dexter Lawrence | DL | Clemson

  1. Baltimore Ravens

A.J. Brown | WR | Mississippi

  1. Green Bay Packers

Mack Wilson | LB | Alabama

  1. Minnesota Vikings

Rashan Gary | DL | Michigan

  1. Seattle Seahawks

Deionte Thompson | S | Alabama

  1. Oakland Raiders (from CHI)

Montez Sweat | EDGE | Mississippi State

  1. Houston Texans

Kris Boyd | CB | Texas

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

Noah Fant | TE | Iowa

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Julian Love | CB | Notre Dame

  1. Washington Redskins

N'Keal Harry | WR | Arizona State

  1. Los Angeles Chargers

Dalton Risner | OL | Kansas State

  1. Carolina Panthers

Dre'Mont Jones | DL | Ohio State

  1. New England Patriots

Anthony Johnson | WR | Buffalo

  1. Green Bay Packers (from NO)

Chris Lindstrom | OL | Boston College

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

Amani Oruwariye | CB | Penn State

  1. Los Angeles Rams

Taylor Rapp | S | Washington

NFL DEBRIEFING

October 31, 2018

CRUISING THE NFL

A tweet from Andrew Siciliano:

Over 1/3 of 1st round of 2015 @NFL Draft now traded or released.

#3 Dante Fowler, Jr.

#4 Amari Cooper

#9 Ereck Flowers

#12 Danny Shelton

#18 Marcus Peters

#19 Cameron Erving

#26 Breshad Perriman

#28 Laken Tomlinson

#29 Phillip Dorsett

#30 Damarious Randall

#31 Stephone Anthony

The two QBs at the top, JAMEIS WINSTON and MARCUS MARIOTA are still with their teams, although neither has set the world on fire. Winston could be on his last legs.

WR KEVIN WHITE of the Bears at #7 is still there but oft-injured. #14 WR DaVANTE PARKER of the Dolphins is so-so.

Good players in the first round in 2015 include #5 G BRANDON SCHERFF of the Redskins, #10 RB TODD GURLEY II of the Rams (thought to be a reach at the time), #8 DE VIC BEASLEY of the Falcons, #11 CB TRAE WAYNES of the Vikings and #15 RB MELVIN GORDON of the Chargers among others.

NFC NORTH

DETROIT

Trading WR GOLDEN TATE III was a vintage “Patriot” move says Jeff Risdon of USA TODAY:

The Golden Tate trade to the Philadelphia Eagles caught a lot of Detroit Lions fans, players, even Tate himself, by surprise. Not New England Patriots followers, however.

Trading Tate at Tuesday’s deadline is yet another great example of the Lions deep roots transplant from the New England Patriots. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia tapped into those Patriot roots and pulled off a trade eerily reminiscent of some moves from their New England heritage.

Sending a productive starter with an expiring contract away at the trade deadline is familiar turf. The Patriots did just that in 2016 by dealing LB Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns at the deadline. The price? A third-round pick, one which the Patriots included in the Brandin Cooks trade with the Saints.

Collins was the team’s leading tackler at the time of the trade, a multi-year starter who did a little of everything (he also had a sack and two INTs) for a Patriots defense that didn’t have much proven depth to replace him.

The Patriots knew from preliminary negotiations Collins was going to want more money than what they were going to be willing to give him once he hit free agency. It was a preemptive move, sacrificing immediate value with a look to the long-term salary cap and viability of paying a quarterback over $20 million a year. Ironically, the Patriots wound up replacing Collins with failed Lions draft pick Kyle Van Noy.

That wasn’t the first time the Patriots dispatched a highly productive player in lieu of paying him open-market value. Months before dealing Collins, New England traded Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals. Jones was coming off a career-high 12.5 sacks at just 25 years of age, his second double-digit sack season and his first Pro Bowl.

It didn’t matter. The Patriots traded Jones to the Cardinals for a 2nd-round pick and disappointing guard Jonathan Cooper. In an odd turn, Cooper got cut in preseason and the Patriots traded the 2nd rounder for Malcolm Mitchell and Joe Thuney, the man who ultimately beat out Cooper for the left guard spot. Mitchell caught 32 passes as a rookie for the Super Bowl champs but has not played since. Jones is an All-Pro and the reigning NFL sack champ, though he’s toiling on a team destined to pick in the top 10 once again.

Two years before that, New England dealt away perennial Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, a player Bill Belichick called “the greatest guard I’ve ever coached”, for reserve TE (and future Lion) Tim Wright and a 4th-round pick from Tampa Bay. That pick became current starting DE Trey Flowers.

Mankins was about to start his fifth season into a six-year mega-deal that wasn’t perceived worth the return on investment for the Patriots, even though the only players on the roster to replace him were nobodies.

That Patriots team also won the Super Bowl.

That’s the hope for Detroit in parting with Tate: trading a highly productive player, one popular with fans and one the team doesn’t appear to have anyone who can replace him, will pay off long-term and erase the short-term anguish.

It’s the blueprint Quinn and Patricia learned well from their days in New England. The Patriot Way is alive and (hopefully) well in Detroit.

Kyle Meinke of MLive.com on how the Lions will cope without Tate who was having a big year:

Golden Tate led the Lions in catches in 2014, and 2015, and 2016, and 2017. Not bad for a guy who played half those seasons with Calvin Johnson, and he shot up all the way to fifth on the team's career catches list because of it.

He was back at it again this year with another 44 catches for 517 yards and three touchdowns. All are team highs.

So, yeah, the Lions have a bit of a void to fill now that they've shipped Tate to Philadelphia for a third-round pick.

TJ Jones and Brandon Powell are the leading candidates to replace him in the slot. Jones is the more experienced option, a fourth-year vet who has played inside and out. He caught 30 passes as Detroit's do-everything backup last year, but has been used sparingly this year.

He has just three catches heading into Sunday's game against Minnesota, and was a healthy scratch for last week's loss against Seattle.

Powell, on the other hand, was up for that game over Jones. He has more athleticism too, and led the Lions in receiving during the preseason.

"I think the best thing about him, once he gets the ball in his hand, he's kind of a like a running back," Tate once said. "He could be the YAC king some day."

But Powell is also an undrafted rookie who has played just one career offensive snap, and has never caught a pass. And at 5-foot-8, he's locked into the slot.

GREEN BAY

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com has no problem with the Packers sending S HA HA CLINTON-DIX to Atlanta.

Say this much about Brian Gutekunst: The first-year general manager isn’t afraid to clean house and rebuild the Green Bay Packers' roster with his own mold.

If there was any doubt about that, it should have been answered Tuesday at the NFL’s trade deadline, when he shipped out safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and running back Ty Montgomery for future draft picks -- a fourth-rounder next year from Washington for Clinton-Dix and a seventh-rounder in 2020 from Baltimore for Montgomery.

While neither move made the middling 3-3-1 Packers instantly better for 2018, it might not have made them much worse. Montgomery’s spot on the team became untenable, especially after his comments Monday following his fumbled kickoff return in the final minutes of Sunday’s loss at the Rams, and after Clinton-Dix’s unpredictable play became a point of frustration for the team.

Meanwhile, Gutekunst’s first draft looks strong. No less an authority than Bill Belichick gave a glowing review of first-round pick Jaire Alexander in advance of Sunday’s Packers-Patriots game in New England.

Gutekunst’s stock of draft picks is replete next year with 10 selections: his own in every round plus an extra first (from the Saints in the draft-day trade), an extra fourth (from the Redskins) and an extra sixth (from the Seahawks for quarterback Brett Hundley this summer) plus whatever compensatory picks he’s awarded.

The fourth-rounder for Clinton-Dix was a solid value at the trade deadline, even for a former first-round pick. That’s probably about what the Packers would have gotten for him in the compensatory-pick formula had he left in free agency -- something Clinton-Dix said he expected -- but that pick wouldn’t come until the 2020 draft. And it also could’ve been jeopardized had Clinton-Dix gotten hurt or flamed out in the second half of the season and didn’t sign a high-priced deal with another team.

It also created salary-cap space. A total of $3,533,028 will come off the Packers' books for this season -- $3,153,705 (or nine-seventeenths of Clinton-Dix's $5.957 million salary) plus $379,323 (nine-seventeenths of Montgomery's base of $716,500). There will be some cap charges for the players who replace those two on the roster, but if they're minimum-salaried players it will be less than $1 million. That cap savings can be carried over to next year.

The Packers weren’t exactly stellar at safety with Clinton-Dix. In the interim, don’t be surprised to see veteran cornerback Tramon Williams play some at safety; he moved inside to a slot position Sunday against the Rams. That could get rookie second-round pick Josh Jackson on the field more after he played only three defensive snaps against the Rams. It also might force the Packers to finally play 2017 second-round pick Josh Jones, who had a standout special-teams game in Los Angeles but surprisingly has played only four defensive snaps all season while sitting behind former undrafted free agents Kentrell Brice and Jermaine Whitehead. There's also the possibility that cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who was signed last month but has yet to play in a game, could move to safety.

In moving Montgomery, Gutekunst all but closed the book on the 2015 draft class, which might go down as Ted Thompson’s worst in his 13 years as GM. There’s not a player from that class left on the 53-man roster, and the only one even still tied to the Packers is fourth-round linebacker Jake Ryan, who is on injured reserve after he tore his ACL in training camp.

As it now stands, here’s how the 2015 class turned out:

First round: Damarious Randall (traded to the Browns in March)

Second round: Quinten Rollins (out of the NFL)

Third round: Montgomery (traded to the Ravens on Tuesday)

Fourth round: Ryan (on IR)

Fifth round: Hundley (traded to the Seahawks in August)

Sixth round: Aaron Ripkowski (out of the NFL)

Sixth round: Christian Ringo (Cowboys practice squad)

Sixth round: Kennard Backman (out of the NFL)

If Gutekunst can continue to build through strong draft classes -- like Thompson did in his first decade on the job -- it could make up for those last three drafts, which combined have the third-fewest current starters in the NFL.

Alexander looks like a cornerstone player, although he’s not the only potential star; Jackson and fifth-round receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling have the makings, while sixth-round receiver Equanimeous St. Brown also has shown flashes.

Alexander, the 18th pick of the draft, shined against the Rams, with five pass breakups and seven tackles (without a miss). He played all 78 defensive snaps and spent a good portion of the game as Rams receiver Brandin Cooks’ shadow.

When asked what stands out about Alexander, Belichick said Tuesday on a conference call: "Everything."

"He’s going to have a great career in this league; we thought that in the draft," Belichick said. "I thought that was an excellent pick. It was a little bit ahead of where we were picking [at No. 31] and he was certainly one of the top players on the board. He’s a great kid. He’s got great energy. He loves football and has great football skills -- fast, athletic, good hands, good ball skills, can tackle, can play inside in the slot, can play outside on the perimeter, good zone vision, breaks on the ball, good man-to-man coverage, has good quickness, can match up with fast receivers, can match up with quick receivers. The guy’s a really good football player, and I think he’s got a great future in this league. I think he’ll be one of the top corners in the game for a quite a while here."

NFC EAST

PHILADELPHIA

Three ESPN writers call the acquisition of WR GOLDEN TATE their favorite draft deadline move:

Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Golden Tate to the Eagles. Tate's route running and versatility can be highlighted in the Eagles' offense. He will be a middle-of-the-field target for Carson Wentz, and his ability to create after the catch can lead to explosive plays on high-percentage throws. Think quick passing game here, with targets off RPO concepts (bubble, pop pass) and the inside verticals from a slot alignment.

Mina Kimes, NFL writer: Golden Tate to the Eagles. Thanks to this move, Wentz, who has been fantastic over the past few weeks, now has one of the best receiving trios in the league. The Eagles already get solid production of out the slot, and the addition of Tate, a shifty yards-after-catch monster, should put this passing offense over the top.

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Golden Tate to the Eagles, and Dante Fowler Jr. to the Rams. The two acquiring teams are contenders flush with projected 2019 compensatory picks, making it easier for them to pay what they needed to pay. Both coaching staffs seem well-equipped to use these new acquisitions properly. Tate adds toughness to the Eagles, which should help for the stretch run. And Fowler has been a pretty good pass-rusher, so even if he leaves after the 2018 season, the Rams could pick up a 2020 compensatory pick if another team signs him.

This from Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

The Eagles beat the trade deadline to swing a deal for wide receiver Golden Tate on Tuesday.

Tate comes to Philadelphia from Detroit and the Eagles will be sending a 2019 third-round pick to the Lions as compensation for the veteran wideout. Tate is in the final year of his contract, so that may wind up making him a pricey rental for the Eagles but executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said that the focus is only on the present in Philly right now.

“The message to our fans, to our players, to our coaches, to everyone in this organization is our foot’s always going to be on the gas,” Roseman said, via Zach Berman of Philly.com. “We’re always trying to win. . . . What we can do now is try to do that for this season and this moment.”

Roseman said Tate “fits what we do offensively” and he’ll have the rest of this week and all of next week to work on making sure he has the system down before the Eagles resume their schedule with the Cowboys in Week 10.

WASHINGTON

Field Yates of ESPN.com liked the Redskins’ acquisition of S HA HA CLINTON-DIX:

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Redskins. The Redskins have a vision of their roster that seemingly puts an emphasis on building from the inside out. That doesn't just mean up front with linemen; it extends to the third level of the defense in acquiring a productive and dependable safety in Clinton-Dix. He was a near every-snap player for most of his Green Bay career and figures to play a massive role in Washington, as well.

NFC WEST

SAN FRANCISCO

There is a chance the 49ers will start someone you have never heard of at quarterback on Thursday. The AP:

San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard missed practice with an injured right wrist that could keep him out of Thursday night's game against the Oakland Raiders.

"His wrist hurts," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "He's struggling today to hold a ball. So, we'll see how he is tomorrow."

Beathard got hurt in the second quarter of a loss on Sunday at Arizona when he hit his hand on a helmet. He stayed in the game and finished 14 for 28 for 190 yards and a touchdown, falling to 1-9 in his career as a starter, including losses in all five starts this season.

"I definitely felt it during the game," Beathard said. "I felt it when it happened. But, I think with adrenaline going, I don't think it was affecting the way I was throwing the ball."

Shanahan said he believed Beathard would be able to play if the game this week were on Sunday but doesn't know if he'll be ready on the short week for the 49ers (1-7). Beathard remained hopeful he'll be able to go, otherwise the Niners will turn to untested Nick Mullens.

Mullens joined the 49ers as an undrafted free agent last year after breaking all of Brett Favre's records in college at Southern Mississippi. He earned himself a practice squad spot.

Mullens played well in the preseason this year and got promoted to the active roster following a season-ending knee injury to starter Jimmy Garoppolo in September.

"Nick comes in there, moves the chains, competes hard, made some plays with his legs and his arm," Shanahan said. "Guys believe in him and he's as competitive and confident as a guy I've been around. If he needs to play this week, he'll be on it."

Mullens has not taken an NFL snap and has worked mostly with the scout team in practice.

Mullens won't get much practice time this week either if he plays, with the Niners holding only a walkthrough on Tuesday and then a light practice Wednesday before playing the game.

Mullens threw 87 career TD passes in 41 games at Southern Miss. He had a 20-21 record.

He is from Hoover, Alabama near Birmingham, but he did not go to Hoover H.S. whose football team was featured in a reality TV series. His alma mater is Spain Park H.S.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

The Rams continue to load up on talented, troubled players. So far so good and now they add LB/DE DANTE FOWLER. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

The Los Angeles Rams have their pass rusher.

L.A. acquired pass rusher Dante Fowler from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick, the Jags confirmed Tuesday.

The Rams reportedly outbid the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers for Fowler's services just 30 minutes before Tuesday's trade deadline, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport added. The Jaguars were initially asking for at least a second-round pick and change for their former high selection.

In a corresponding move, the Rams waived backup guard Jamon Brown.

In Fowler, the Rams' defense has its seventh former first-round pick. The 2016 third-overall pick joins Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Mark Barron on a Super Bowl-contending unit piloted by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips*.*

Having solidified the interior of their defensive line in the offseason with Donald and Suh, the Rams had been searching for months for an edge rusher worthy of a title run. They may have found one in Fowler.

It's unclear where Fowler fits in on the roster as of now. L.A. could slot him in for outside linebackers Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre or defensive tackle Michael Brockers.

It's an unceremonious departure from Duval for the former third-overall pick. Fowler couldn't find playing time on a stacked Jaguars defensive line in 2018. He played just 32.7 percent of Jacksonville's snaps through eight weeks, recording just eight tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.

Fowler has had discipline and injury issues. He missed his entire rookie season with a torn left ACL and began this year's training camp on the PUP list with a left shoulder injury. Fowler was suspended for the first game of the 2018 season for violating the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy and was banned for a week during the preseason for jawing with reporters.

Fowler is in the final year of his rookie deal after the Jags neglected to pick up his fifth-year option. His stay with the Rams will act as an audition for future employment after the 2018 season. Helping L.A. stay undefeated and the defense get pressure on opposing quarterbacks will go a long way toward a pay day.

AFC WEST

DENVER

WR COURTLAND SUTTON becomes the winner in Denver with WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS off to Houston. At least from a Fantasy view. Scott Pianowski of YahooSports.com:

Denver rookie WR Courtland Sutton was the biggest winner of the day. Simply put, the Thomas deal pushes Sutton into a starting gig. Sutton has two touchdowns and 182 yards over the last four games, playing about two-thirds of the time. Now, he’ll be heavily utilized as a primary player. Not every rookie receiver is ready to contribute in his first season, but Sutton is an exception to the rule.

Thomas’s value stays close to lateral, though he could push forward if he quickly connects with Deshaun Watson. The Texans obviously were in dire need of a receiver after Will Fuller got hurt. Thomas’s first game, coincidentally enough, is against the Broncos in Week 9.

Collateral Tweaks: Watson gains a little bit; Keke Coutee loses a little bit. Also, given how limited Case Keenum is, I’m not investing in a Broncos wideout past Emmanuel Sanders or Sutton.

THE RAIDERS

The Raiders did not make any further moves on Tuesday. Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:

Some two hours later, 2017 first-round draft pick Gareon Conley was still a Raider and was on the field to start practice. Same with strong safety Karl Joseph, the team's first-round pick in 2016, and defensive end Bruce Irvin. So too was quarterback Derek Carr. In fact, the only player missing was veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who announced his own retirement on social media earlier in the day, after telling his fellow cornerbacks of his plan the night before.

It made for a relatively quiet trade-deadline day for a 1-6 team expected to make a splash with a full-blown fire sale heading into Thursday night's game at the San Francisco 49ers. Besides, the deconstruction of the Raiders under returning coach Jon Gruden had already been well underway, what with Oakland having dealt its first rounders from 2014 and 2015 in All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack on Sept. 1 and Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper on Oct. 22.

The signs were there all along. All you had to was sift through the noise.

Because almost from the moment Gruden returned, both he and owner Mark Davis talked about the need to "build this thing up" in Oakland. Wait, what?

Sure, the Raiders were coming off a down season in which they only won six games a year after going 12-4 and playing in the postseason for the first time in 14 years.

But wasn't Gruden and his incoming coaching staff supposed to be the difference in getting the Raiders back into contention? The team just needed a good scrub down from Chucky, rather than a full-blown teardown and rebuild, no?

Plus, that would counter what Davis said after the Raiders received approval to move to Las Vegas in March 2017 -- they would do everything in their power to win a Super Bowl for Oakland before relocating in 2020. The future seemed bright after the highs of 2016.

But deconstruction and reconstruction takes longer than two years. Remember, the Raiders went through this after Al Davis died in 2011. As Mark Davis said at the time, it was a two-phase, four-year project -- two years of deconstruction overseen by then-new general manager Reggie McKenzie in 2012 and 2013, followed by two years of reconstruction, in 2014 and 2015.

It worked, too, the Raiders becoming a league darling in 2016, with Carr a league MVP candidate and the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in Mack.

And yet, here we are. Again. Seemingly building for Las Vegas, and giving Oakland a parting gift not quite as shiny as a Lombardi Trophy. The team's highest-paid player is not exactly thrilled, either.

"This is my fifth year," quarterback Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million extension in the summer of 2017, said after the Raiders were pummeled by the Seahawks on an international stage in London two weeks ago. "I don't, we don't like [talk of a rebuild], you know? I feel like we've done that a little bit, right? Nobody likes to do that ... this being my fifth year, you want [success] now, you want everything now. I know our fans want it now, and trust me, we're trying to do it now."

Currently, just eight of McKenzie's 50 pre-Gruden draft picks are on Oakland's 53-man roster (that number will jump to 10 when defensive tackles Eddie Vanderdoes and Justin Ellis get activated off the PUP and IR lists, respectively, in the coming weeks).

Plus, only 21 players on the Raiders' current 53-man roster spent any time on the team's active roster last year.

And no, McKenzie does not take it personally. Not even with the roster he built being so dismantled. Because if you take him at his word, the 2016 NFL Executive of the Year is a willing participant in this teardown.

The way McKenzie sees it, his job as general manager is to provide his coach with players the coach wants, rather than give him a roster he likes with the coach expected to, well, coach it up.

That's what happened in 2016, when Jack Del Rio and the explosive offense authored by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave got Oakland off to a 12-3 start. Then Carr broke his leg in Week 16 and Del Rio fired Musgrave and replaced him with Todd Downing.

Regress much?

"We've got to understand, coaching plays a part from the standpoint of systems," McKenzie said recently. "We're talking [about] the 12-4 team and the staff that made a couple of changes, schematically, and we didn't win last year. You know what I'm saying?"

Indeed, that the scheme Del Rio switched to with Downing did not fit the personnel. And don't fix something that ain't broke -- or some-such.

"I'm not going to sit here and point to the players," McKenzie continued. "It's a lot of change, and those teams that really do well consistently, [there's] not a lot of change, organizationally, when you're talking about coaches. That's probably on me -- too many coaching changes since I've been here."

AFC NORTH

PITTSBURGH

And so, no trade for RB Le’VEON BELL who remains out of camp. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

Now that the Steelers can’t trade running back Le'Veon Bell, the possible outcomes to the relationship are more limited.

Here are the options: (1) Bell shows up, signs his franchise tender by 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 13, and finishes the season as a member of the Steelers; (2) Bell doesn’t show up by 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 13, which prevents him from playing for the Steelers or anyone else in 2018; or (3) the Steelers rescind the franchise tender before Bell can sign it, making him a free agent.

If Bell signs the tender before November 13, he’ll get credit for fulfilling the contract in 2018, forcing the Steelers to choose between applying the franchise tag in 2019 (they won’t, because by rule it would be the quarterback tender), applying the transition tag (they possibly would, but likely wouldn’t match an offer sheet he signs elsewhere given the presence of James Conner), or letting him walk away in free agency. If Bell doesn’t sign the tender before November 13, the Steelers could apply the franchise tag in 2019 at the same amount as it was in 2018, i.e. $14.54 million. The Steelers also could use the transition tag or let Bell walk away in 2019.

Here’s a thought that emerged during Tuesday’s #PFTPM podcast, in response to a question from a listener. What if the Steelers privately tell Bell that if he doesn’t show up at all in 2018 (saving them $855,000 per week for the remaining seven weeks of the regular season) the Steelers won’t tag him again in 2019?

It would be an unenforceable agreement, and technically a CBA violation, but teams and players routinely strike unenforceable agreements that technically violate the CBA. In this case, the Steelers would avoid spending nearly $6 million on a player they no longer want, and Bell would avoid feeling compelled to show up for the final seven weeks in order to ensure that he’ll become a free agent.

It would be a win-win outcome, with the Steelers letting Bell leave in March and getting consideration toward compensatory draft picks in 2020. And it makes the most sense, even if no one would ever admit that it happened.

So, basically, don’t be shocked if Bell doesn’t show up, and if the Steelers don’t tag him next year. That would be at best circumstantial evidence of a wink-nod agreement that allows Bell to get to free agency without forcing him or the team to continue a relationship that neither side seems to be interested in continuing.

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON

Evan Bleier of RealClearLife.com on the growing strength of the Texans:

The NFL season did not start well for the Houston Texans.

The team dropped their first three games of the season to the Patriots, Titans, and Giants, struggling to move the ball and failing to score more than 22 points in any of those contests.

Star quarterback Deshaun Watson looked out of sorts coming off a torn ACL that ended his season a year ago and Houston’s defense, while solid, failed to get the stops it needed.

But then their season really began. Watson and the offense kicked into gear in Week 4 during a 37-34 win over the Colts. Then it was the defense’s turn to roar back to life in Weeks 5, 6, and 7 as the Texans held the Cowboys, Bills, and Jaguars to 36 points combined with none of the three scoring more than 16.

Which brings us to Week 8 when the Texans thumped the Dolphins 42-23 on Thursday Night Football behind five touchdowns passes from Watson to take complete control of the AFC South and sit atop the division at 5-3.

With eight games remaining on their schedule, the Texans are in prime position to stay in first place as only two of their remaining opponents, the Eagles and Redskins, have a .500 record or better.

Adding to the Texans’ odds of making some noise in the rest of the season and beyond is the fact that they added wide receiver Demaryius Thomas from the Broncos at the trade deadline in exchange for a fourth-round pick.

A 30-year-old wideout with a big contract, Thomas gives the Texans an elite receiving option next to DeAndre Hopkins and lessens the pressure on emerging pass-catcher Keke Coutee. The acquisition also dramatically reduces the impact of losing wide receiver Will Fuller for the season to a knee injury in Week 8.

Now armed with a clear No. 1 target in Hopkins and a well-above-average second option in Thomas, Watson should be ready to roll and sustain the momentum he generated with his quintet of TD passes against the Dolphins.

While they likely won’t run the table, the Texans do have a legit chance go going 6-2 or 5-3, marks which would both likely put them in the mix for the third or fourth, and possibly even second, seed in the AFC.

JACKSONVILLE

The Jaguars weren’t just shipping out DE/LB DANTE FOWLER on Tuesday. They signed former Steelers QB LANDRY JONES.

AFC EAST

BUFFALO

We haven’t seen the last of QB NATHAN PETERMAN. Mike Rodak of ESPN.com:

With Derek Anderson recovering from a concussion, the Buffalo Bills are expected to start Nathan Peterman at quarterback against the Chicago Bears, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

Bills coach Sean McDermott said Tuesday that Anderson was in the concussion protocol but did not rule out him playing Sunday.

"We'll see where things stand as we go through the week with Derek," McDermott said. "Then we'll take it from there."

McDermott ruled out rookie quarterback Josh Allen for Sunday's game, meaning he will miss his third consecutive contest after spraining his right elbow in an Oct. 14 loss to the Houston Texans. McDermott said Allen remains week-to-week and is "making good progress" in his recovery but has yet to resume throwing.

Anderson was escorted off the field after he was sacked by New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy with 1:25 remaining in the Bills' 25-6 loss Monday night. Anderson completed 22 of 39 passes for 290 yards but threw a fourth-quarter interception to Patriots safety Devin McCourty that was returned 84 yards for a touchdown.

Peterman has started three games since the Bills selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. He has thrown seven interceptions in those games and his 16.8 passer rating in starts ranks last among all NFL quarterbacks to have started since last season.

Overall, Peterman has thrown 10 interceptions on 84 pass attempts in eight appearances, including playoffs. Peterman replaced an injured Allen against the Texans, throwing a go-ahead touchdown before he threw two interceptions, including one returned for a score, to lose the game.

"We're going to support Nathan if, in fact, he is called upon to play," McDermott said. "We're going to support him with everything we've got and we expect him to go out and execute, and execute at a high level."

The Bills' 2-6 record is their worst start since 2010, when they began 0-8. They have a 0.1 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.

The injuries to Anderson and Allen leave Peterman as the only healthy Bills quarterback. McDermott said Tuesday that he and general manager Brandon Beane were "looking at" whether they need to sign another quarterback.

The Bills also made official their signing of free-agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, who visited with the team Monday.

McDermott did not want to say whether Pryor, a former quarterback, would be a candidate to serve as Peterman's backup Sunday.

NEW ENGLAND

Bill Belichick sounds anxious to get RB SONY MICHEL back despite New England’s solid results of late. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

The New England Patriots' leading rusher in Monday's win over the Buffalo Bills was Cordarrelle Patterson, a wide receiver.

In a game the Pats won by 19 points, they ran the ball just 25 times (including Tom Brady's 8-yard lope) for 75 yards. Running back James White had just eight carries for 15 yards and Kenjon Barner earned two totes for four.

Despite the need at running back, the Pats did not make a move ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline.

Coach Bill Belichick noted on WEEI Radio in Boston on Tuesday that the position is a concern for New England.

"We just got back a few hours ago, so we'll kind or recalibrate here and see where we're at relative to who's available and how we want to structure our game plan and what we want to do there," Belichick said, via NBC Sports Boston. "That's one of the things we're going through (Tuesday). But it's a consideration, and I'd say it's a concern."

Rookie running back Sony Michel missed last week's game with a knee injury. The pounding tailback, however, avoided a major injury and is considered week-to-week. Michel's return down the line was likely a factor in the Patriots not shelling out an asset in return for a short-term option at running back.

Until the rookie is back to full force, New England will make it work piecemeal in the backfield, and rely on Brady's arm to stack wins, which is just fine with Pats Nation.

THIS AND THAT

FORMER PLAYERS

Kellen Winslow the Younger says he’s innocent of all three rape charges. They got together to take his money, he says, while throwing him in prison. ESPN.com:

Former NFL player Kellen Winslow II spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since being accused of raping three women.

Winslow, 35, had been set for arraignment in San Diego Superior Court on Tuesday on three rape charges, two from 2018 and one from 2003, but the hearing was rescheduled for Nov. 15.

On Tuesday, Winslow maintained his innocence, telling Fox 5 that the charges are an attempt to take his money.

"It's a money grab, and unfortunately that's the society we live in now," Winslow said.

Prosecutors said Winslow began a crime spree last March that included rapes, kidnappings, indecent exposure and burglary and continued until just before his arrest.

According to charging documents, he allegedly kidnapped and raped a 54-year-old woman on March 13 and then a 59-year-old woman on May 13.

On May 24, prosecutors said, he exposed himself in a public place, the location of which wasn't disclosed.

The burglary charges involved alleged break-ins at the home of a 71-year-old woman on June 1 and an 86-year-old woman on June 7.

Winslow played 10 seasons in the NFL and was a 2007 Pro Bowl selection. His final season was 2013, his lone campaign with the New York Jets.

Comments

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