Tagged in: Rookie

New York Giants won’t exercise fifth-year option on QB Daniel Jones

The New York Giants have elected to decline the fifth-year option on quarterback Daniel Jones’ rookie contract, a source told ESPN’s Dianna Russini. It would have guaranteed the team’s starting quarterback $22.39 million next season.

The Giants did opt to pick up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, the team revealed. The 17th overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft is now guaranteed $10.8 million for the 2023 season.

Jones, 24, was the sixth overall selection in the 2019 draft out of Duke. But while the Giants still think he can be their quarterback into the future, he hasn’t yet shown it consistently on the field. Jones has missed matches because of injury each of his first three professional seasons and has thrown just 21 touchdown passes in the past two seasons combined.

Jones’ 24 touchdown passes as a rookie remains a career high.

That made the decision on the young quarterback rather obvious. The Giants didn’t want to guarantee Jones more than $20 million before they saw him perform consistently at a level where there was no doubt that he was a franchise quarterback. They might have high hopes, but it hasn’t happened in the first three seasons playing under three different offensive coordinators.

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General manager Joe Schoen mentioned the cautionary tale of the Carolina Panthers and Sam Darnold not long after he was hired. Darnold is guaranteed $18.9 million this season after the Panthers traded for him and picked up his fifth-year option before he ever played a game for the team. Meanwhile, Carolina spent this offseason trying to land an upgrade at quarterback and are stuck with Darnold on their books.

Cleveland, which ultimately landed Deshaun Watson, is in an alike position with Baker Mayfield, who also had his fifth-year option picked up last year.

It’s not that the Giants don’t have confidence and high hopes for Jones; they do. But if he performs as they expect — under the new regime led by coach Brian Daboll — they can always use the franchise tag next year at around $30 million or sign Jones to a long-term deal. They don’t feel the need to make any commitments at this point.

Jones will remain the Giants’ starter to start this season, and the organization has high expectations despite signing veteran Tyrod Taylor to a two-year deal this offseason.

“We do feel Daniel can play,” co-owner John Mara said earlier this year. “We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up since he’s been here. We keep changing coaches, keep changing coordinators, keep changing offensive line coaches. I take a lot of responsibility for that. But let’s bring in the right group of coaches now and give him some continuity and try to rebuild the offensive line and then be able to make an intelligent evaluation of whether he can be the franchise quarterback or not.”

Mara added later this offseason that either you have your quarterback or you don’t, and he considered the Giants had theirs. In the meantime, Taylor is signed for $5.5 million next year and could potentially serve as a relatively inexpensive bridge option should Jones not pan out.

Lawrence, 24, has been a three-year starter in the middle of the Giants’ defense. He had 52 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season.

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Jacksonville Jaguars’ Travis Etienne on track with rehab after missing ’21 with foot injury

Missing his entire rookie season because of a foot injury was rough on Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr., but the 25th overall pick in 2021 managed to find a bit of a silver lining.

At least he wasn’t as fully immersed in Urban Meyer’s disastrous 11-month tenure — which ended shortly before 1 a.m. on Dec. 16 — as his teammates were.

“Just seeing the results, you’re definitely like, ‘Whew, if there was any year to miss, I missed a great one,'” he said.

Jokes aside, Etienne is happy to be back on the field for the beginning of the Jaguars’ voluntary offseason conditioning program under new head coach Doug Pederson.

He stated he’s still limited in some of his weight-room work but is doing “the majority of the stuff” in terms of on-field work and is 85-90% recovered from the Lisfranc injury to his left foot that he suffered during a preseason match last August.

He expects to be fully cleared by training camp. Etienne said the only time the injury still bothers him is after a long workout. Then it’s a little sore.

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“It’s actually crazy because I was talking to my mom about this the other day,” Etienne said. “If I didn’t know I had a screw in my foot, I couldn’t tell. I feel like that’s a testament to where I’m at in my transition and how I’m healing.

“The screw is there. I think I will take it out. I could leave it there forever. I know most guys say leave it there, it never bothers them, but I just don’t want to be 40 years old with a screw in my foot, really.”

Etienne makes light of the injury now, but he wasn’t handling things as well in the days and months after his surgery.

The pain was pretty intense in the first 48 hours, and he couldn’t put any weight on his foot for six weeks, which left him homebound and a little depressed.

It wasn’t until he was able to get back into the Jaguars’ facility to start rehab that he started feeling better.

“I didn’t realize it then, but I kind of was in a depressed state, just not being able to do the things I love to do,” Etienne said. “It was my foot, so I couldn’t do anything. So it was just really weird, and I really didn’t realize how much it took a toll on me, but having my mom there, she kind of helped me just stay in tune with myself and not let me lose myself. When I was able to get back into the building to the guys, that really helped me a lot, just seeing them each and every day and just living through them.”

It’s still too early to know how the Jaguars plan to use Etienne this season. Meyer envisioned a Percy Harvin-type role for Etienne as a rookie, which is similar to the way the San Francisco 49ers use Deebo Samuel.

Etienne said he’d be fine with that, but he might have to be the Jaguars’ feature running back early in the season if James Robinson isn’t fully recovered from the Achilles injury he suffered last December.

Regardless of how the Jaguars use him, they need him to produce the kinds of big plays he did at Clemson. The Jaguars had 31 big plays (runs of 20 or more yards and receptions of 30 or more yards) the last two seasons, which ranked last in the NFL.

Etienne was one of the most explosive players in the country during his four seasons at Clemson. He led all players in the NCAA with 55 runs of 20 or more yards from 2017 to ’20. On those big plays, he scored 21 touchdowns and rushed for 2,053 yards, an average of 37.3 yards per rush.

Etienne also had six receptions of 30 or more yards, giving him 61 explosive plays.

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Chicago Bulls’ Patrick Williams to make return against Toronto Raptors

Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams will return Monday night versus the Toronto Raptors to play in his first game since having wrist surgery in October, the team said Sunday.

Williams, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has not played since Oct. 28, when he tore ligaments in his left wrist during the fifth game of the season.

Although he started the season in the starting lineup, Williams is expected to return in a reserve role with a minutes restriction. “He’s anxious to get back,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Friday.

“Physically, he feels good. He knows the timing part is going to take a little bit of time. But I think just how he feels and where he’s at mentally, he wants to come back and play.”

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Williams, 20, had a promising rookie season as one of the youngest players in his draft class, but his second season didn’t get off to much of a start.

He averaged 6.6 points on 56.5% shooting and 2.2 rebounds in five games before he tore his wrist ligaments falling on a flagrant foul by the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson.

While the Bulls were on a three-game West Coast road trip this past week, Williams remained in Chicago to practice with the Windy City Bulls, the team’s G League affiliate.

Donovan said reports have been encouraging about Williams’ conditioning but that his timing was off after being sidelined for five months.

The Bulls are on a back-to-back Monday and Tuesday, and Donovan stated it was possible that Williams could play in both games.

Williams’ return comes as the Bulls are on a three-game losing streak and have dropped eight of their past 10 games. They started Sunday fifth in the Eastern Conference. “He makes our team better,” Donovan told reporters.

“There’ll probably be some growing pains of him finding a rhythm. With Patrick, the biggest thing is going to be how he fits into a rotation and what a realistic number of minutes look like for him.”

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Las Vegas Raiders releasing LB Cory Littleton after 2 seasons

The Las Vegas Raiders are releasing high-priced linebacker Cory Littleton after two underwhelming seasons, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The Raiders are expected to designate the move with a post-June 1 designation, according to the source.

After spending his first four campaigns with the Los Angeles Rams, Littleton, 28, signed a three-year, $35.25 million free-agent deal with $22 million guaranteed with the Raiders in 2020 and was expected to help in sideline-to-sideline pass coverage. Instead, he lost his starting job to rookie Divine Deablo late last season.

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The post-June 1 designation will save Las Vegas $11.75 million against the cap after that date but will cost the Raiders $4 million in dead money this year and $10 million in 2023.

Earlier Thursday, the Raiders restructured the contracts of foundation left tackle Kolton Miller and versatile running back Kenyan Drake to save $14.525 million in cap space.

They also informed fullback Alec Ingold they were not tendering his contract.

Littleton started 27 of 31 games for the Raiders and had just 0.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. He did not have an interception among his four passes defended. He also had six tackles for a loss among his combined 180 tackles.

The Raiders have a new regime with general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels, who came over from the New England Patriots.

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Rookie Green has 32 as Rockets down Lakers in OT, 139-130

Rookie Jalen Green scored a career-high 32 points, including 10 in overtime, and the Houston Rockets outlasted the slumping Los Angeles Lakers for a 139-130 victory Wednesday night.

The Rockets, who have the worst record in the Western Conference, withstood a triple-double from LeBron James and 30 points from Russell Westbrook to get just their second win in 15 games.

The loss is the ninth straight on the road for the Lakers, who have dropped six of their last seven games and are running out of time to get things together before the playoffs start.

Green, the second overall pick in the draft, opened overtime with a layup before adding a 3-pointer and then swishing a hook shot soon after that to make it 127-120. Eric Gordon added a 3-pointer to push the lead to 10 before the Lakers finally scored in the extra period on a basket by Westbrook with 2 1/2 minutes to go.

But the Rockets used a 6-3 run with 3s from Kenyon Martin Jr. and Green around a 3 from James to extend the lead to 136-125 with a minute left in OT and seal the victory.

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James had 23 points, 14 rebounds and a season-high 12 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season. But his career-long streak of consecutive games with 25 points ended at 23 games on a night he was 9 of 26 overall and made just 1 of 9 3-pointers.

It was his first game since scoring a season-high 56 points Saturday night after he sat out Monday at San Antonio with a sore left knee.

Rookie Alperen Sengun set career-highs with 21 points and 15 rebounds to help the Rockets to the win.

A jump shot by Westbrook tied it at 120-all with a minute to go but he missed a shot a few seconds later to give Houston the ball back.

Green missed a layup under heavy pressure from James to give the Lakers another shot to take the lead.

James missed an off-balance shot in the lane with 17 seconds left but officials ruled that Houston knocked the ball out of bounds while vying for the rebound. The Rockets challenged the call, but it was upheld.

James drove into the lane and dished to Carmelo Anthony in the corner for the final shot of regulation, but his 3-point attempt was off to send it to OT.

A 5-2 spurt by the Rockets later in the fourth tied it up, but James drove into the lane and finished with a monster, one-handed dunk to put the Lakers up 113-111 with 5 ½ minutes to go.

Los Angeles trailed by 1 with about three minutes left when James made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 118-116.

Green scored four quick points to give the Rockets a 120-118 lead with about two minutes left. He made two free throws and then grabbed a rebound on the other end and finished with a jumper to put Houston on top.

Houston led by 3 late in the third quarter but the Lakers scored the last four points of the period to take a 98-97 lead into the fourth.

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Safety Jessie Bates III, with ‘a real role on our team,’ lands franchise tag from Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals placed their franchise tag on safety Jessie Bates III, the team revealed Monday.

Bates was on the verge of becoming a free agent once his rookie deal expired at the end of the league year. The franchise-tag deadline for all teams is Tuesday.

“Over the past year, we’ve tried to extend his contract here in Cincinnati,” Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said in a statement. “While that hasn’t come to pass, we want him here for 2022 to be a part of what we think should be an exciting football season and bright future for our organization.”

The franchise tag allows the Bengals to be in prime position to retain Bates’ services for the 2022 season. The franchise tender amount for safeties is $12.911 million, according to a memo obtained by ESPN on Monday.

At last week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Bengals executive Duke Tobin reiterated that the franchise’s intention was to keep him in Cincinnati.

“He’s a guy that developed and that has played well that has a real role on our team in a lot of different areas, particularly in leadership and playmaking skill,” Tobin said. “He’s a guy we want going forward.”

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The franchise tag allows Bates and the Bengals to negotiate a long-term deal until July 15 at 4 p.m. ET. If no multiyear contract is reached by then, Bates will not be eligible for a contract extension until after the season, according to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA.

Bates played a pivotal role in the Bengals reaching their first Super Bowl in 33 years.

In four postseason games, he had six pass deflections, 20 tackles and two interceptions, including one in the 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.

The safety, who turned 25 in February, sought a contract extension with the Bengals after a breakout 2020 campaign; however, those preseason discussions did not lead to a new deal.

He started 15 games last campaign, making 88 tackles with an interception, four passes defended and a fumble recovery.

Since joining the Bengals, the 2018 second-round pick has been one of the team’s most dependable starters. He has appeared in 63 of a potential 65 games in four NFL seasons, starting all of them.

A neck injury suffered in a Week 3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers snapped Bates’ streak of 51 consecutive starts, the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.

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Indianapolis Colts’ Julian Blackmon out for season after tearing Achilles

The injuries just won’t stop for the Colts in 2021, as second-year free safety Julian Blackmon suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in practice Wednesday, the team revealed.

This is Blackmon’s second significant injury in less than two years. He tore an ACL during the Pac-12 championship game while at Utah in 2019. Blackmon, who was selected in the third round of the 2020 draft, recovered quickly enough to play in 15 games and intercept two passes as a rookie.

Blackmon’s season ends with 34 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass defended.

“It’s how we respond that matters!” Blackmon tweeted. “Let’s get this W this week!!” Expect the Colts to add a safety to the active roster, because Khari Willis, George Odum and Andrew Sendejo are the only players at the position presently on the roster.

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Blackmon’s injury adds to what has been a season-long list of injuries for the Colts (2-4). Quarterback Carson Wentz, guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Darius Leonard, kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, wide receiver Parris Campbell and right tackle Braden Smith are some of the key players who have been out or are currently out for multiple weeks due to substantial injuries.

Blackmon had 34 total tackles and forced one fumble in the Colts’ first six games of the season.

The second-year safety was just eight tackles away from matching the mark he set during his rookie season.

Blackmon, despite tearing his ACL during the Pac-12 championship game, was selected by the Colts in the third round of the 2020 draft and made 14 starts as a rookie. He finished that campaign with 42 tackles and two interceptions.

The Colts (2-4) have placed 19 players on injured reserve since the beginning of training camp in late July, with Blackmon set to be the 20th. Indianapolis plays at San Francisco on Sunday night.

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New York Giants WR Kadarius Toney has ankle injury, apologizes for throwing punch Sunday

Add Kadarius Toney to the New York Giants’ list of injuries to monitor.

The rookie wide receiver is dealing with an ankle problem that has his status in doubt for Sunday when the Giants host the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium.

“He was at the doctor when we went through our squad meeting [Monday] but we’ll see where that comes out right there,” coach Joe Judge said. “I don’t think it’s anything significant, in regards to season-ending. We’ll see how it affects us immediately in the future for this week.”

The Giants also have to monitor starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who is in the concussion protocol. The Giants won’t know much officially on him until later in the week, according to Judge. Mike Glennon would start if Jones is unable to play.

New York did receive fairly encouraging news on running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hyperextended knee). X-rays on Barkley’s left ankle were negative, although the Giants wouldn’t put a timetable on his return. His injury was described by a source on Sunday evening as a “sprain.”

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Golladay and Barkley were undergoing further testing Monday afternoon but Judge was “hopeful they dodged a couple bullets right there.” Neither injury is anticipated to be long-term.

A source told ESPN on Monday afternoon that most of the injured Giants were probably out a “couple weeks.” In the grand scheme of a 17-game season, this was fairly encouraging news.

The Giants (1-4) did lose rookie cornerback Rodarius Williams for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

Toney had an X-ray immediately after Sunday’s 44-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys when he had a career-best 189 yards receiving. They came back negative.

He didn’t seem to think it was anything that would affect his status for this week.

“Yeah, I’m good,” Toney said Monday when asked about his ankle and if he would practice and play this week.

The 20th-overall pick in this year’s draft also apologized Monday on Twitter for throwing a punch that got him an ejection late in the fourth quarter.

Judge stated the incident would be handled in-house and a league source told ESPN on Monday that Toney would not be suspended. He would go through the standard discipline process with the league that will likely result in a fine

Toney didn’t think this incident would be anything more than a one-off.

“Me and (Head Coach Joe) Judge talked, and you know, stuff like that. Really, it was just a one-time thing,” he said. “I’m a rookie making early mistakes. I’ve just got to learn from them and build from it.

“I felt like I needed to apologize to mainly everyone, because as far as little kids looking up to me and stuff like that, it’s not the example I want to set for them, you know what I’m saying? I feel like, everybody makes mistakes and stuff like that, but at the end of the day we always have to be accountable for our emotions and our actions also.”

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Roethlisberger throws 2 TDs, Steelers top Broncos 27-19

Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers silenced the noise. At least for a week.

Funny how having something resembling a running game for the first time in a long time will do that.

Riding an offensive balance nonexistent for most of the last two years, the Steelers held off Denver 27-19 on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak.

Rookie Najee Harris ran for a career-best 122 yards and a touchdown for Pittsburgh (2-3) before a cramping issue in his calves forced him to stand on the sideline while a late rally by Denver fell short.

The Broncos (3-2) trailed by 18 in the fourth quarter before a pair of Teddy Bridgewater touchdown passes brought them within striking distance.

Bridgewater’s fourth-down heave to the end zone with 11 seconds left was intercepted by James Pierre, permitting the Steelers to exhale. For a minute anyway.

Asked if the triumph will quiet withering criticism he’s endured over the last month, Roethlisberger just smiled.

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“Probably not,” he said. “But we won the game, and that’s all that matters.”

And won in a way they’re probably going to need to keep pace in the highly competitive AFC North. With Harris churning through holes that didn’t exist over the first four games, the Steelers didn’t have to rely exclusively on their 39-year-old quarterback to make something happen.

That was kind of the plan all along and got lost amid a difficult first month. The Steelers dropped three of four behind a retooled offensive line that at times looked overmatched.

Not so much versus the Broncos.

The Steelers gave up one sack and kept Denver outside linebacker Von Miller in check while running the ball 35 times and passing just 25, the kind of ratio Roethlisberger is more than happy to live with.

Several times Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun with the option to run or pass, saw coverage that indicated he should probably throw it and opted to hand it off to Harris anyway because the 22-year-old runner and the five linemen in front of him had it going.

“Why take it out of his hand when you’re grinding it, you’re getting it?” Roethlisberger stated. “It was kind of fun to watch him excel and take over.”

Yet cramps forced out Harris in the middle of the fourth quarter. Bridgewater, who spent the bulk of the week in the NFL’s concussion protocol before returning to practice Friday, nearly drew the Broncos even.

Bridgewater completed 24 of 38 passes for 288 yards with a pair of scores: a 2-yard dart to Kendall Hinton and a 39-yard rainbow to Courtland Sutton with 5:46 to go that drew Denver within 24-19.

Bridgwater then drove Denver to the Pittsburgh 3 in the final seconds before Pierre’s first career interception ended the threat.

“We can’t wait until the game is out of hand to have a sense of urgency,” Bridgewater said.

The loss made Denver’s perfect September look more like a mirage. The Broncos piled up wins against the Giants, Jaguars and Jets last month. Tested by Baltimore and Pittsburgh in back-to-back weeks, the Broncos came up short.

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Chicago Bears QB Andy Dalton could miss additional time because of knee injury

Justin Fields made his first NFL start Sunday for the Chicago Bears, and there is an opportunity the rookie quarterback could get the starting nod for another game or two.

Bears quarterback Andy Dalton, who was out Sunday with a bone bruise on his left knee, could miss an additional week or two depending on how quickly he recovers, league sources told ESPN.

Dalton has a bone bruise from his femur and tibia colliding, according to a source. Dalton did not suffer damage to any cartilage or ligaments and does not need surgery, but his return will be determined by how quickly the bone bruise heals.

The Bears have not placed Dalton on injured reserve, which would mandate that the 11-year veteran miss at least three matches. There is hope within the organization that Dalton will return sooner than that three-week threshold.

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Bears coach Matt Nagy stated this past week that Dalton would remain Chicago’s starter when healthy.

The franchise entered the season planning to stick with Dalton as long as possible, allowing Fields time to grow during his rookie year.

Fields, who Chicago selected with the No. 11 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, stated Wednesday that he is ready to start Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns, emphasizing that he has been “preparing for this moment for a long time.”

Dalton, who turns 34 next month, suffered the knee injury last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals after landing awkwardly on the Chicago sideline following a scramble.

His left knee appeared to buckle, and the three-time Pro Bowler immediately pointed to Fields to enter the game. Fields went 6-for-13 passing for 60 yards with an interception and rushed 10 times for 31 yards versus the Bengals. He threw two passes, both completions, in a Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

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