Wed Jun 16 7:35pm ET
By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, center, watches his NFL football practice Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
RENTON, Wash. (AP) For a decade, No. 50 was seemingly always on the field for the Seahawks.
Right now, the number is going unused in Seattle, and it may remain that way if the Seahawks have decided K.J. Wright's run as a lynchpin starter for the defense has truly come to an end.
''Of course, it's awkward. I'm entering year 10 and I'm used to seeing a particular face,'' linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''I'm hoping that everything still works out and we're able to get him back. I think he's a tremendous player, a tremendous person, someone that anyone would love to have on their team and so we'll see what happens.''
Wright is currently a free agent and without an employer for the 2021 season, raising the possibility the longest-tenured Seahawks player during Pete Carroll's regime may have played his final game with the team that drafted him 10 years ago.
The 31-year-old can still play, and that was evident last season. Wright switched positions from weakside to strongside linebacker early in the season following an injury to Bruce Irvin, yet went on to have one of the more productive seasons of his career.
But the team appears ready to move on. The Seahawks were thrilled with the rookie campaign by Jordyn Brooks playing off the line of scrimmage at weakside linebacker after Wright made his position switch.
Seattle is also intrigued by the potential of Darrell Taylor as a strongside linebacker on early downs and a rusher in passing situations, filling the role that once led to a big payday for Irvin. Taylor, a second-round pick in 2020, didn't play last season due to setback in his recovery from lower leg surgery, but he appears fully healthy heading into this season.
Those factors leave Wright without a role in Seattle, at least for now.
''The door is still open for players,'' Carroll said. ''We're still working at figuring out the roster and how it's going to go. Until we get on the field and can see how things are starting to come together, there won't be no major changes in what's going on because we're pretty committed at this point. That doesn't mean that we're not tuned in to all of the options and the opportunities that are out there, because we are.''
Seeing Wright playing elsewhere seems unfathomable, although there were indications early in free agency that there was interest on the market. Seattle general manager John Schneider said during the draft he was surprised Wright hadn't signed somewhere.
Wright was a fourth-round pick in 2011 by Seattle and instantly inherited a starting role. Last season, Wright was one of just five players on Seattle's roster who remained from the Seahawks' last Super Bowl appearance.
Wright started 140 of the 144 regular-season games he played - the only four games he didn't start came during his rookie season. Last season following Brooks' arrival and the position change, Wright went on to have 86 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks and 10 passes defensed.
There was still something there, although it was clear Seattle was eyeing Brooks as his eventual replacement.
''K.J. had an outstanding career here, he set the bar high for sure,'' Brooks said last month. ''So it's definitely no slack here. I'm just ready to get in and prove that I can do this.''
Cleveland Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (knee) took part in nearly every drill in minicamp on Tuesday and plans to be full go for the rest of minicamp. The three-time Pro Bowler said he "felt great" after surgery on his left meniscus ended his season early in 2020. "I felt great coming in, and I feel great now. I hope I continue on that phase into the next six-week phase and just keep getting stronger and faster for training camp," Clowney said. The 28-year-old pass-rusher played in just eight games for the Tennessee Titans and failed to record a sack. In 13 games for the Seattle Seahawks the year prior, Clowney managed just three sacks. The former No. 1 overall pick has played in just one full season in his seven years in the NFL, but he can be a game-wrecking force when healthy. If he can stay on the field in 2021, Cleveland's defense could be nasty.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said that wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) looked "great" on Wednesday at mandatory minicamp. Beckham suffered a torn ACL in Week 7 last year and missed the rest of the 2020 season. "It looks really great," Mayfield said. "After seeing him run and really just talking to him, as well. He feels comfortable. He's still getting used to some of these cuts and certain motions. You're talking about seven months since the (knee) surgery, so it's pretty impressive how quickly he's come back." OBJ has become an injury risk in a run-first offense, so fantasy managers should no longer treat him as a top-15 wideout. But he's currently healthy and his price will be much lower this year, making him a fine high-end WR3 target.
Jacksonville Jaguars passing-game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said the team hasn't settled on a starting quarterback despite taking Clemson star Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall in this year's draft. Schottenheimer cautioned against assuming that Gardner Minshew II was entrenched as Lawrence's backup. The Jags also have C.J. Beathard and Jake Luton in the QB room. "We're letting them all roll. Everybody's getting reps. We want this thing to be really competitive. Ultimately, when we name a starter, we'll name a starter," Schottenheimer said. Lawrence, who was drafted to be the franchise QB, will most likely be the Week 1 starter, but he must first earn it this summer. While it's not technically official yet, the best bet is for Minshew to back up Lawrence from the get-go. With all the makings of a stud NFL QB, Lawrence will have some high-end QB2 upside in his rookie season.
Retired quarterback and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees took in the Los Angeles Chargers minicamp practice on Wednesday and was very impressed with second-year signal-caller Justin Herbert. "I think his physical tools are as good as anybody I've ever seen," Brees said. "By all accounts, he's a great worker. He's got great leadership qualities, he's got a lot of intangibles. So I think the sky's the limit for a guy like him." Herbert threw 31 touchdown passes, completed 396 passes and had eight 300-yard games last year, all rookie records. He also ran for 234 yards and five touchdowns while winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. The 23-year-old former sixth overall pick is learning a new offense under a new head coach and new offensive coordinator, but Brees is right, the sky is the limit for this kid. Herbert isn't quite an elite QB1, but he's a solid target as a midrange QB1 with upside for more in just his second season.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II said he doesn't have any contract-extension updates and sounded resigned to possibly playing the 2021 season on his one-year franchise tag. The deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to long-term deals is on July 15. Robinson will make $17.98 million if he plays on the franchise tag after leading the team with 102 catches for 1,250 yards last year. The 27-year-old skipped voluntary workouts but reported to the mandatory minicamp this week. He plans on reporting to training camp next month on time. Robinson has finished as a top-12 receiver in the last two years despite shoddy quarterback play. Veteran Andy Dalton might be an upgrade for A-Rob, giving him some more upside as a very safe low-end WR1.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is learning new offensive coordinator Matt Canada's scheme in his 18th NFL season. Canada intends to build off the strengths of Roethlisberger while also placing a renewed emphasis on a running game that is expected to feature rookie first-round running back Najee Harris after the team finished last in rushing in 2020. "We are going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it. Our job is putting every player in a position to make plays," Canada said. Pittsburgh is expected to continue running an up-tempo offense with Big Ben at the helm. If the ground game improves, Roethlisberger could continue to produce for fantasy managers after he threw for 3,803 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 15 games last year. But at 39 years old in what is likely his last season, fantasy managers will probably prefer a younger signal-caller with more upside as their QB2.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson, who spent two seasons with quarterback Sam Darnold with the New York Jets, said that Darnold has a different "aura" about him with his new squad. "I saw like a new energy out of him, a glowing charisma that I didn't really see in New York," said Anderson. Darnold is trying to resurrect his career in Carolina after they traded three draft picks for the former No. 3 overall pick in 2018. Carolina also exercised the 24-year-old signal-caller's fifth-year option, signaling that they are fully committed to him. Head coach Matt Rhule's system could unlock Darnold's talent, and having a familiar face in Anderson won't hurt. However, fantasy managers want to see it to believe it, and Darnold will be more of a low-end QB2 until he proves otherwise.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that defensive end Danielle Hunter (neck) "looks fantastic" after having surgery on a herniated disc in his neck last October and missing all of the 2020 season. The Vikings are hoping that Hunter can return to his Pro Bowl form and stay healthy after a disappointing year on defense last season. The 26-year-old had 14.5 sacks apiece in both 2018 and 2019. Hunter isn't taking part in mandatory minicamp, but the Vikings are just happy that he's healthy and back in the building as training camp approaches next month. If he can stay healthy all season and return to his pre-injury form, Hunter will be an excellent value pick in IDP leagues in 2021.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell, who will turn 35 on Sept. 1, is contemplating retirement after the 2021 season, which will be his 14th NFL season. The six-time Pro Bowler is taking things year-to-year at this juncture. Campbell was traded to the Ravens from the Jacksonville Jaguars last year, and he managed 28 tackles (five for loss), 10 QB hits, six passes defensed and four sacks in 12 games in his first year in Baltimore. He missed two games with a calf injury and also missed time due to COVID-19. Along with names like Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe and Justin Madubuike, the Ravens defense could once again be formidable, but Campbell shouldn't be high on your IDP radar at his age.
Seattle Seahawks DL Robert Nkemdiche is 'going to be a real competitive part of this (defensive line) group,' according to head coach Pete Carroll. 'He's got a really good spirit about him. He's upbeat, active, he's explosive and has really good quickness. He's over 300 pounds and he moves really well. He's going to be a real competitive part of this group. ... His mentality is like he has a second chance on his football life and he knows that, which is really important. He's trying to seize every opportunity and ... we're really happy to have him as part of this thing. We think he's going to be a factor,' Carroll said.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, who is heading into the final season of his rookie contract, said that he wants to remain in Cleveland long-term. "Cleveland drafted me and trusted me and put their faith in me to help build this culture and this team I'm a part of. Cleveland is where I want to be. Hopefully everything can work out in that direction," Chubb said. The Pro Bowler said his agent and the team have already discussed a potential extension this offseason. The 25-year-old has averaged 5.25 yards per carry the last two seasons and finished 47 yards behind rushing leader Derrick Henry in 2019. He finished seventh in the league with 1,070 rushing yards in 2020 despite missing four games with a knee injury. Kareem Hunt's presence limits Chubb's overall ceiling, but behind this offensive line, Chubb should still be a strong midrange RB1 for fantasy managers.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who was once again the subject of trade rumors this offseason, reasserted his desire to remain with the team on Tuesday. "I'd probably quit football if I had to play for somebody else," Carr said. He was briefly the highest-paid player in the history of football when he signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders in 2017. The 30-year-old posted career-highs in passing yards (4,103) and passer rating (101.4) last year, and the Raiders remain committed to him as their starter. Carr also has franchise records for passing yards (26,896) and touchdown passes (170) and could be in line for a new extension. Despite looking better last year and having the full support of the coaching staff and front office, Carr just doesn't have much fantasy upside and is a middle-of-the-pack, uninspiring QB2.
Free-agent CB E.J. Gaines (Bills), TE Jake Butt (Broncos) and DT Mike Pennel (Chiefs) are participating in the Chicago Bears minicamp this week on a tryout basis. Undrafted free-agent TE Sal Cannella (Auburn) and OT Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (Stony Brook) are also trying out for the team.
Chicago Bears LB Robert Quinn (back) did not participate in practice Tuesday, June 15, because of a lower back issue.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson (personal) has been excused from the mandatory minicamp because of the birth of his child.
Fantasy Spin: Carson will continue to be the main running back for the Seahawks and should see plenty of carries each game. He can be considered a No. 2 running back in most fantasy leagues.
Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny (knee) is not participating in practice this week because he recently had knee surgery.
Free-agent WR Amara Darboh (Panthers), WR De'Mornay Pierson-El (Raiders) and TE Kyle Markway (Browns) are participating in the Denver Broncos minicamp on a tryout basis. Undrafted free-agent LB Gabe Sewell (Nevada) is also trying out for the Broncos.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (undisclosed) needed to receive some attention from the trainers during practice Tuesday, June 15, but head coach Mike Tomlin indicated that it was nothing serious.
Fantasy Spin: Roethlisberger struggled during the second half of the season in 2020 but will be working with a new offensive coordinator this season. He should be considered a No. 2 quarterback that likely will be a bye week replacement or an occasional starter depending on the opponent.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (undisclosed) left practice early Tuesday, June 15, because of an undisclosed injury, but head coach Mike Tomlin indicated that it is nothing serious.
Fantasy Spin: Smith-Schuster probably will miss the last few minicamp practices but should be ready for camp. He has a good connection with Ben Roethlisberger and should continue to see plenty of targets in the passing game. He can be a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues.
Baltimore Ravens CB Tavon Young (knee) participated in practice Tuesday, June 15. He missed most of the 2020 season because of a knee injury.