Mon Nov 11 6:36pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Players: Philip Rivers
Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (11) catches a touchdown pass against Oakland Raiders' Daryl Worley (20) and Karl Joseph (42) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Karl Joseph was finally living up to his first-round draft billing when a season-ending foot injury derailed all that and left a major hole in the Oakland Raiders secondary.
Joseph hurt his foot as he jumped to intercept a pass from Philip Rivers, marking the second straight game that he provided the game-sealing defensive play.
Joseph, a first-round pick by Oakland in 2016, had dealt with injuries and some inconsistent play his first three seasons but has played a key role this year in helping the Raiders (5-4) move into playoff contention in the AFC.
''As a team, we started to click as a unit, especially in the secondary,'' he said Monday. ''I don't think it's just me necessarily. It's all of us playing good ball. As a team we're starting to click. That's what is most frustrating for me. We started to play some real good football and I wanted to be part of this team going forward. I believe we have a strong chance to go to the playoffs. That's what's frustrating for me.''
Joseph's status with the Raiders was in doubt heading into the season as the team failed to exercise his fifth-year option after drafting Johnathan Abram in the first round.
But Abram went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in the season opener and Joseph was given a bigger role than expected. That peaked when he broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth down from the 1 in the closing seconds of a 31-24 win over Detroit on Nov. 3 and then had the interception at the end of a 26-24 win over the Chargers last Thursday.
Joseph said he'd like to remain with the Raiders after his contract is up but things will remain up in the air until he gets healthy. He will visit foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay to determine whether he needs surgery and how long it will take to get healthy.
Joseph isn't the only member of the Raiders secondary who went down with an injury on the final drive against the Chargers, with slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner injuring his hamstring earlier in the drive.
Oakland had previously lost starting middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a season-ending suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit.
''It's hard,'' coach Jon Gruden said. ''You've already lost your middle linebacker, now you lose your second safety and you lose your nickel corner potentially. This is the National Football League, this is going to be a tough assignment and we're going to have to have a great week of preparation.''
The Raiders brought in some reinforcements by signing former Arizona safety D.J. Swearinger over the weekend to be in the mix to replace Joseph.
Swearinger spent two seasons playing for Gruden's brother, Jay, in Washington before getting cut by Arizona after four games this season. The Raiders had tried to get Swearinger last year after he was cut late in the year by Washington only to have the Cardinals win out because of a higher waiver priority.
Swearinger said he hopes to get up to speed quickly, especially because this defense is similar to the one run in Arizona.
''It's not that big a deal,'' he said. ''This is probably my eighth defensive coordinator. There are only about four or five defenses and I've played every one of them.''
The Raiders also added pass rusher Dion Jordan over the weekend but he can't join the team until his 10-game suspension for testing positive for Adderall ends Tuesday.
Jordan was drafted third overall in 2013 with a pick originally held by the Raiders. Oakland moved down nine spots to take cornerback D.J. Hayden and then tackle Menelik Watson in the second round, while Jordan went to Miami.
He had just three sacks his first two seasons and then missed all of 2015 for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He had 5 1/2 sacks in 17 games the past two seasons in Seattle.
''He's a talented guy,'' Gruden said. ''We liked him at Oregon, we liked his body of work in Seattle last year when we played against him. We're happy to have him and we need him, so we'll have a better piece of information after we actually get to see him.''
The Raiders also designated linebacker Marquel Lee as the team's second player eligible to return from injured reserve. Lee hurt his ankle in Week 3 and is allowed to practice for the next 21 days before being activated. The first game he is eligible to play is Dec. 1 at Kansas City.
Free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney isn't close to signing with a team in free agency, according to a few sources. A growing thought around the league is that Clowney could wait a while to find his new team, perhaps into training camp this summer. He hasn't gotten offers anywhere close to what he wants, which is a multi-year deal in the $20 million a season range. Instead, the consensus is that the Seahawks' offer to re-sign him was in the $13-15 million per-year range. The pass-rusher had only three sacks in 2019 and has a long injury history, which makes things more problematic with the current restrictions on physicals due to the coronavirus. Clowney can be a difference-maker when healthy, but he's a wild card because of his injury history and lack of a double-digit sack season.
The Dallas Cowboys agreed to a three-year deal with a base value of $7.5 million with former Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein on Friday, according to sources. Zuerlein will reunite with special teams coach John Fassel. The signing is bad news for Kai Forbath. Greg the Leg had a down year in 2019 because of a foot injury, making 24 of his 33 field-goal attempts (72.7 percent). He made just five of his 11 tries from 40-49 yards but did make all 42 of his extra points. The 32-year-old has one of the strongest legs in the league and should be able to rebound if healthy in a great environment where he'll get to kick indoors for at least half of his games. Zuerlein has made 82 percent of his field-goal tries in his eight seasons in the league.
The Philadelphia Eagles exercised tight end Zach Ertz's option for the 2021 season on Thursday, according to a source. Ertz will count for $8 million in 2020 and $8.25 million in 2021, and extension talks with him and the team will likely pick up in the coming months. The 29-year-old has proven to be one of the most valuable pass-catching tight ends in the NFL since he was drafted in the second round in 2013. Ertz caught 88 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games in 2019, and he's made the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons. He's had 70-plus catches and at least 816 yards the last five seasons, culminating in 1,163 receiving yards and eight TDs in 2018. He's a high-end TE1, but the emergence of Dallas Goedert is starting to make him a little bit more risky.
The Minnesota Vikings re-signed running back Ameer Abdullah to an undisclosed deal on Friday. Abdullah, a second-round pick of the Lions in the 2015 draft, only had 23 rushing attempts for 115 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and no rushing scores in his first full season with the Vikings in 2019. He added 15 receptions on 21 targets for 88 yards and one touchdown. Behind Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison and Michael Boone on the running back depth chart, Abdullah is unlikely to move the needle in fantasy once again in 2020 unless Minnesota's running backs are hit hard by the injury bug.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said that the team will look to bring in a "pass-catching back" in free agency and/or the draft to complement running back Ronald Jones II. Jones was brutal in his rookie season but stepped up in his sophomore campaign to run 172 times for 724 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and six touchdowns in 16 games (nine starts). He was splitting time with Peyton Barber, although he was the much better back for most of the season. He corralled 31 passes for 309 yards in the passing game, but his pass blocking still leaves a lot to be desired, and Tampa can't afford mistakes with Tom Brady under center in 2020. If Jones is sharing touches once again, especially through the air, it'll significantly lower his fantasy ceiling. Just because Brady is in town won't necessarily mean that Jones will break out. Don't overpay.
The Green Bay Packers are expected to re-sign running back/return man Tyler Ervin on an undisclosed one-year deal. Ervin was picked up off waivers midway through last season and gave the Packers a boost in the return game. The 26-year-old had 11 punt returns for 106 yards and also returned six kickoffs for 160 yards in four games in Green Bay in 2019. He did next to nothing on offense, though, carrying the ball just one time for 10 yards and catching two passes for 11 yards. He's strictly a special teams guy and is behind Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Dexter Williams on the running back depth chart.
The Baltimore Ravens announced on Thursday that they wouldn't be signing defensive tackle Michael Brockers after being unable to agree on the terms of a contract after his high ankle sprain from last season was flagged on a physical. Instead, he's getting a three-year, $31.5 million deal to re-sign with the Los Angeles Rams, according to a source. It's a similar deal to what Baltimore had offered. The 29-year-old returns to the only team he's called home since being the 14th overall pick in 2012. He's not much to look at in fantasy in IDP leagues, but he'll return to strengthen the interior of LA's defensive line along with Aaron Donald.
The belief is that Denver Broncos recently signed running back Melvin Gordon III will be the team's bell-cow back in 2020. We have a long way to go before the start of the regular season and Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman will still get their touches in this crowded backfield, but Gordon could be the lead man in this backfield after coming over from the Chargers in free agency. On the surface, Denver's backfield looks like one to avoid in fantasy because of all the bodies in play, and Gordon's signing surely destroys Lindsay's fantasy upside as an RB2. The question now is how much upside will Gordon have and how large of a share will he command in his first season in Denver? He had a weak 3.8 yards per carry alongside Austin Ekeler in LA in 2019, and the Broncos could change up their plans if Gordon struggles out of the gates as the bell-cow.
Free-agent LB Elijah Lee (49ers) agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Detroit Lions Friday, March 27.
Free-agent LB Reggie Ragland (Chiefs) agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Detroit Lions Friday, March 27.
Free-agent RB Tyler Ervin (Packers) is expected to sign a one-year deal with the Green Bay Packers Friday, March 27. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
Free-agent DT Michael Brockers (Rams) spurned an agreement with the Baltimore Ravens Friday, March 27, and he agreed to a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams. The deal is worth up to $31.5 million. Brockers' high ankle sprain from late last year was flagged in his physical with the Ravens, and the two sides couldn't agree to contract alterations.
Chicago Bears RB Tarik Cohen picked up a first down on only 18 of his 79 catches in 2019. The resulting 22.8-percent first-down rate was the lowest in the league among all players with at least 50 receptions.
Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs managed 63 catches - the second-lowest mark of his career - and was charged with a drop on 6.4 percent of his 94 targets - a dramatic increase from two percent in 2018 - but he still finished with a career-high 1,130 receiving yards in 2019 with the Minnesota Vikings due in part to averaging 13.1 yards before the catch per reception. That figure was more than double his 5.6 yards before the catch per reception the previous season.
Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler hauled in 92 of his 108 targets last season. The resulting 85.2-percent catch rate led the league among all players with at least 50 receptions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians shut down the possibility of free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown landing with the Bucs on Thursday. "Theres no room and probably not enough money. Its just not going to happen here. Its not a fit here," Arians said. New quarterback Tom Brady is close with Brown and reportedly wanted him to follow him to his new home in Tampa, but that won't be happening. For one, it's not even known if the NFL will have Brown back amid all of his off-field issues and ongoing investigations. It was mostly a pipe dream all along after Brady and Brown played in one game together for the Patriots in 2019. Having Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his top two receivers is already a huge upgrade on what Brady was working with in Boston last year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans picked up a first down on 54 of his 67 catches in 2019, while Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker did so on 58 of his 72 receptions. The resulting 80.6 percent first-down rate for both players led the league among players with at least 50 receptions.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce recorded 1,229 receiving yards in 2019, becoming only the fifth tight end in NFL history to top 1,000 yards four times in his career. However, he is the only one ever to do so in four consecutive seasons.
Denver Broncos RB Melvin Gordon is believed to be in line for a bell-cow role in 2020, according to James Palmer of NFL Network Thursday, March 26.
Fantasy Spin: While promising for Gordon's fantasy value in 2020, it's bad news for those with shares of either Phillip Lindsay or Royce Freeman. Gordon is likely to be low-end RB1 or high-end RB2, while fantasy managers will have to choose between the other two as an RB4/5 later in drafts.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) won't be signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to head coach Bruce Arians Thursday, March 26. 'There's no room and probably not enough money,' Arians said. 'It's just not going to happen here. It's not a fit here.'