Saints rookie defensive end Carl Granderson has been sentenced to six months in jail, according to The Casper Star-Tribune. Initially, Granderson was set to serve a year of probation, but a Wyoming judge went against the plea deal reached by prosecutors and Granderson’s attorney.
The Saints signed Granderson as an undrafted free agent despite his pending trial, but this sentence will completely rule him out for the 2019 season. It’s likely that Granderson will be released soon, with another player replacing him on the 90-man roster.
The Wyoming product is a talented player who almost certainly would’ve been drafted if not for his legal situation. Many analysts gave Granderson a mid-round grade and the Saints gave him a hefty $85K to sign this offseason.
The NFL’s Supplemental Draft order does not go by the inverted win/loss records of clubs. Instead, the order is dictated by a weighted lottery that uses a team’s win percentage as just part of the equation. Here, via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) is the complete order of the supplemental draft:
The supplemental draft is conducted via email. If multiple teams submit a pick for the same player in the same round, this order dictates which club gets the player. Of course, any team picking a player in the supplemental draft will sacrifice the corresponding pick in the 2020 draft.
It happens every year. A handful of top-tier teams will inevitably miss the playoffs. In 2018, a staggering seven teams who made the postseason in 2017 missed it the following season. So which of the 2018 playoff squads will underperform and miss the tournament in 2019?
The Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl champions, haven’t missed the postseason since 2008, when Tom Brady missed most of the season with an injury. The team has also produced double-digit wins in every campaign since 2002. Though they seem like a lock to extend that streak, the aforementioned Brady isn’t getting any younger, Rob Gronkowski retired following 2018 and the team’s defensive coaching staff is being headed by head coach Bill Belichick after the departure of Brian Flores to Miami and a deal with Greg Schiano fell through. Though the AFC East is perennially one of the worst in football, the Bills, Dolphins and Jets all have young quarterbacks who could take the next step and challenge New England in 2019.
The Ravens surprised in 2018, using an opportunistic defense and an unorthodox rookie signal-caller in Lamar Jackson to roll to a 10-6 record and a spot in the postseason. With an offseason to build the offense around its young quarterback, the Ravens could take another step in 2019. Or they could take a step back as opposing defenses catch onto the team’s run-heavy schemes. The Steelers are also due for a bounce back and the Browns have overhauled their roster in recent years to make a push not only for the playoffs, but for a Super Bowl run.
The Texans, the AFC South division champions, and the Colts, a Wild Card squad, have squads loaded with young talent. Houston boasts a loaded offense behind Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, and a strong defensive unit led by J.J. Watt. The Colts caught fire down the stretch, winning nine of their final 10 games to advance to the postseason. The team also fields the reigning Comeback Player of the Year (Andrew Luck) and Defensive Rookie of the Year (Darius Leonard). Though both teams should be strong again in 2019, only one can win the division, leaving the other to compete for one of the two Wild Card spots.
A pair of Super Bowl favorites, the Chiefs and Chargers both won 12 games in 2018 and are stacked with talent to inflate that number in 2019. Though the field the league’s MVP in Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have had a tumultuous last few months that has seen the departure of running back Kareem Hunt and legal troubles for Tyreek Hill. Though stacked on both sides of the ball, the Chargers have posted just one double-digit win season since 2009. Again, only one squad can win the division.
In the NFC, both the Cowboys and Eagles appear to be the class of the East, with solid quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott leading the charge. Both squads field excellent defenses and have plenty of talent at the skill positions. The question in Philly, however, is if Wentz can stay healthy. An MVP candidate when on the field, Wentz has missed eight regular season games and every postseason outing in the last two seasons. Though a strong unit in 2018, the Cowboys defensive front is not a deep one after Demarcus Lawrence and could be the weak link in 2019.
The Bears improved from a 5-11 squad in 2017 to a 12-win team in 2018. With a young quarterback at the helm and a loaded defense, Chicago is in good position for another division crown. However, how much will the team miss defensive coordinator Vic Fangio? The new Broncos head coach oversaw a unit that allowed the fewest points and third-fewest yards in the NFL. Chicago also plays in a strong division that features a Vikings squad poised to bounce back and an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team.
In 2017, the NFC South placed three teams in the playoffs. In 2018, only the Saints escaped the tough division. Atlanta and Carolina look ready to challenge for a postseason berth and a Bruce Arians-led Bucs squad could surprise. New Orleans is sure to be a Super Bowl favorite, but a tough division could see them underperform a hair and miss the tournament.
The NFC representatives in Super Bowl LIII, the Rams are still led by Sean McVay, a high-powered offense and a stout defensive front. The question with Los Angeles is an easy one, however, how will Todd Gurley fare in 2019? The NFL leader in touchdowns in each of the past two season, Gurley was a non-factor in the postseason and his health is a mystery. The Seahawks returned to the postseason following a one-year hiatus but can they do it again in 2019? The teams has to replace Russell Wilson‘s top target in Doug Baldwin, who retired in the offseason. How quickly DK Metcalf assimilates into that offense could determine Seattle’s postseason fate.
If you had to plant your flag on one of these teams missing the 2019 playoffs, which one would it be? Vote in the poll and give us your reasoning in the comments.
Not only did Larry Holder of The Athletic leave him off his recent New Orleans roster projection, he also sounds very pessimistic about his chances of making the team. He writes that there “are probably receivers I’ve left off the roster right now that would have a better shot at sticking” than Meredith does. Harsh.
It’s been a tough couple of years for Meredith since his breakout 2016 season, when he racked up 888 yards in just 14 games with the Bears. Meredith was supposed to be Chicago’s top receiver in 2017, but he suffered a devastating injury in the preseason which included a torn ACL and additional damage to his knee. After missing the entire year, he signed a two-year offer sheet worth $9.6MM with the Saints as a restricted free agent.
He never really recovered from the 2017 injury, and he was placed on injured reserve after just six games with the Saints last year due to issues with the same knee. He finished with only nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in his first season in New Orleans. He had a scope on his knee after the season, and hasn’t participated in any practices this offseason. Even though he’s still only 26, his longterm health appears to be in question.
It’s a tough situation, and hopefully Meredith can get back on the field soon and make an impact. The former undrafted free agent from Illinois State is undeniably talented, and if he can prove he’s healthy then we haven’t heard the last of him. Holder also left Rishard Matthews, a recent veteran receiver signing, off his roster projection.
Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata was recently suspended for the first game of the 2019 season, but at least he won’t be facing any further legal trouble. Onyemata completed a diversion program and won’t be prosecuted in his marijuana case, per Ramon Antonio Vargas of NOLA.com. Unfortunately for Onyemata this didn’t all happen before the new CBA took effect, as the league is reportedly likely to stop punishing players for marijuana use. Onyemata, a 2016 fourth-round pick, has blossomed into a key contributor for the Saints, and New Orleans’ defensive line will be a bit thin in Week 1 with him and Sheldon Rankins both sidelined. Last year Onyemata played around 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps as a run-stuffer, and received very strong marks from Pro Football Focus.
Former West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms worked out for half of the NFL’s teams on Monday, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com. The Jaguars, Saints, Seahawks, Colts, Jets, Redskins, Chiefs, Browns, Eagles, Lions, Packers, 49ers, Vikings, Ravens, Raiders, and Falcons.
The 49ers and Vikings both sent directors of scouting while the Ravens had their personnel director on hand. The Raiders, meanwhile, had general manager Mike Mayock on hand, which may be an indicator of strong interest.
Simms’ 40-yard-dash times of 4.49, 4.45 and 4.40 seconds were strong, while his 36 inch vertical showed decent hops for the position. While he’s not considered to be as strong of a pro prospect as Washington State safety Jalen Thompson, Simms has a chance at being selected when the NFL Supplemental Draft takes place later this month.
Unlike the AFC, where the same team has been the annual favorite for a few years now, the NFC has featured different Patriots opponents over the past three seasons. Since the Packers’ back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 1996-97, only the 2013-14 Seahawks have repeated as conference champions.
When determining who should be considered the 2019 NFC favorite, we should first look at conference’s two best 2018 teams. While the Saints have one of NFL history’s greatest arguments for being the team that should have gone to a Super Bowl, the Rams did. Both teams bring back most of their core players.
Lagging just behind the Rams in Super Bowl LIV odds, the Saints lost Mark Ingram but added Latavius Murray. Max Unger retired, but New Orleans added both free agent Nick Easton and second-round pick Erik McCoy. The 2018 trades the Saints made left them without first-, third- and fourth-round picks this year, limiting their ability to enhance their roster cheaply. Drew Brees heads into his age-40 season, and while his arm strength may not be what it once was, he broke his own completion percentage record and was Pro Football Focus’ top-graded QB last season. The cogs chiefly responsible for the Saints’ No. 6 weighted DVOA defensive ranking also return.
The next tier, per Vegas, features the double-doink game’s participants. The Eagles were again active this year, bringing back DeSean Jackson and replacing Michael Bennett with Malik Jackson. Zach Brown also headed to eastern Pennsylvania on a low-cost deal. Philadelphia brought back Brandon Graham and Ronald Darby and extended Jason Kelce. Carson Wentz‘s extension will hit future Eagles caps harder, but his 2019 number ($8.393MM) helps Howie Roseman‘s ability to fortify the roster. After a busy 2018 free agency, the Bears had a quiet offseason. They lost DC Vic Fangio, the NFL’s assistant coach of the year, and may be in line for changes under replacement Chuck Pagano. Scrutinized quarterback Mitch Trubisky (No. 3 in 2018 QBR, No. 18 in Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric) obviously has the biggest say in where the Bears go.
Two out of the past three NFC champions missed the playoffs the year prior, and Vegas places the Packers as the top such candidate for 2019. Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur have expressed a difference of opinion about Green Bay’s offensive structure, but the Packers enjoyed their most active offseason in years. Brian Gutekunst spent wildly on edge rushers, with both Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith now each a top-five highest-paid 3-4 outside linebacker, and brought in Adrian Amos for $9MM annually. Did they do enough to get back in the Super Bowl mix?
While the Cowboys re-routed their season after their Amari Cooper trade, Las Vegas is not bullish on their chances. Dallas sits at 25-to-1 Super Bowl odds, the same as Seattle, Minnesota and San Francisco. Despite their NFC East title, the Cowboys ended last season as the No. 21 DVOA team.
The Seahawks lost one of the top receivers in franchise history, with Doug Baldwin retiring at age 30, and traded their best pass rusher. Ziggy Ansah and first-round pick L.J. Collier represent the team’s top edge options. Minnesota is all-in on this nucleus, with the Anthony Barr deal furthering Rick Spielman‘s massive financial commitments to the core he built. Do the Vikings (ninth in weighted DVOA last season) have enough talent to justify these expenses?
Will a team emerge unexpectedly? The 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo set to suit up again and, after acquiring Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, boast their best edge corps in years. Are the Falcons (40-1) being undervalued? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your NFC assessments in the comments section.
It’s an otherwise slow Friday afternoon, but we already have our second suspension of the day. Not long after Rams center Aaron Neary was slapped with a four-game ban, Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata is being suspended for the first game of the 2019 season, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
Schefter reports that it’s for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Onyemata was cited for Marijuana possession back in February, and the suspension likely stems from that incident. Onyemata was drafted in the fourth round back in 2016, and he’s taken on a big role in New Orleans. He played nearly 60 percent of the defensive snaps for the Saints last year, so this is a big loss.
Onyemata had an interesting path to the NFL, as he grew up in Nigeria. After moving to Canada, he became a breakout football star despite never having played the sport prior to moving. He was invited to the East-West Shrine Game despite never playing American college football, and the Saints drafted him 120th overall.
After playing a rotational role as a rookie, he started playing a lot more the last couple of years. In 2018 he racked up 35 tackles and 4.5 sacks while appearing in all 16 games and starting four. He received very strong marks from Pro Football Focus, grading out as their 24th-best defensive lineman last year. Sheldon Rankins tore his Achilles at the end of last season, and with Onyemata now on the shelf the Saints could be pretty thin at defensive tackle in Week 1.
The Saints and Michael Thomas seem to be making some progress on contract talks, as Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune tweets. Thomas’ camp has lowered its asking price to $22MM/year, though they remain about $4MM apart in terms of average annual value. Nothing is imminent, as Thomas is currently on vacation in Europe.
Already, the Saints are willing to go to $18MM/year, which would match Odell Beckham Jr.’s average annual value. If the two sides meet in the middle and split the difference, Thomas will be the league’s highest-paid wide receiver in terms of new money AAV, though a forthcoming extension for Julio Jones could knock him down a notch.
Thomas, who leads the league in receptions (321) over the past three seasons and ranks fifth in yards (3,787) since the start of the 2016 season, is likely looking to be the NFL’s highest-paid receiver in every major contract category, which would include AAV, total value, total guarantees, and full guarantees. It’s a safe bet that he’ll check most of those boxes after notching a league-leading 125 catches, a career-high 1,405 yards, and a career-high matching nine touchdowns.
Thomas’ effort landed him a First-Team All-Pro nod in 2018 and at the age of 26, he’s just getting warmed up.
The Saints and Michael Thomas are far apart in contract talks and no extension is imminent, according to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com (on Twitter). Still, the two sides remain motivated to get a deal done and hope to have one in place by the start of training camp.
For one reason or another, the two sides have hit a snag. It’s possible that the Saints have offered to make Thomas the highest-paid wideout by certain metrics such as average annual value, but his guarantees might not be on par with that of Odell Beckham Jr., who leads the way with $65MM in total guarantees and a whopping $41MM guaranteed at signing. Thomas, who leads the league in receptions (321) over the past three seasons and ranks fifth in yards (3,787) since the start of the ’16 campaign, is likely seeking to be the new leader across every major category.
Thomas recently signed with agent Andrew Kessler after cutting ties with David Mulugheta in November. a sign that he is not content with simply cracking the top five at the position. The Saints may want to get something done with Thomas sooner rather than later, because his asking price could inch up if the rival Falcons sign Julio Jones to a multi-year extension first.