NFL Training Camp Latest Buzz: Julio Jones Could Be Huge Boost for Tom Brady, Bucs
Every NFL team has officially checked into training camp. By the end of Tuesday, all veterans had to report for their clubs' offseason summer programs.
As most players jumped back into the grind, others retired Tuesday. Tennessee Titans cornerback Buster Skrine decided to hang up his cleats. The Seattle Seahawks will release one of their top running backs. The player will walk away from the game as he recovers from a serious injury that required surgery.
Some general managers and coaches shared updates on players who want new contracts and battled injuries during the spring. One front-office executive chose not to speak on the uncertain future of two key players on the roster.
Also, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a splashy signing, which will put a Kool-Aid smile on Tom Brady's face.
On the first day with all training camps open, we have a lot to discuss as teams prepare for the 2022 season.
Julio Jones Signs with Bucs, Chris Godwin Cleared for Training Camp
Quarterback Tom Brady received good news about his wide receiver group in twofold Tuesday.
First, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cleared Chris Godwin for training camp, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. That's a strong positive for him since he's less than seven months removed from a torn ACL. The Pro Bowl wideout avoided the physically unable to perform list and may start the upcoming campaign on the active roster.
Even if Godwin has a slow start to the season, Brady can rely on a new wideout who is joining the team with an impressive resume. Seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro Julio Jones will sign with the Buccaneers, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Though Jones had a disappointing 2021 campaign with the Tennessee Titans, recording career lows in catches (31), receiving yards (434) and touchdowns (one), he still averaged 14 yards per reception while battling a hamstring injury throughout the year. If the 6'3", 220-pounder is healthy, defenders must respect his big-play pass-catching ability over the top.
As a perennial playoff contender, the Buccaneers can limit Jones' snaps through the early part of the campaign and unleash him down the stretch. He could play a big role in the postseason.
In January, Tampa Bay released wideout Antonio Brown, and tight end Rob Gronkowski retired in June. Yet Brady still has enough offensive firepower to put up gaudy passing numbers with four-time Pro Bowler Mike Evans, Russell Gage, Godwin and Jones.
Roquan Smith, Robert Quinn Report to Bears Training Camp
The Chicago Bears' new regime has to untangle situations with two of the team's most productive defensive playmakers from the 2021 term.
Roquan Smith, who led the Bears with 163 tackles last season, isn't expected to participate in training camp as he waits for an appropriate offer on an extension, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Yet Brad Briggs of the Chicago Tribune noted that the fifth-year linebacker reported to camp.
Briggs also mentioned that Robert Quinn reported with the Bears veterans Tuesday.
Chicago may have a more complicated situation with Quinn, who skipped mandatory minicamp in June. The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain thinks it’s "tough to feel confident" that the team's 2021 sack leader will open the 2022 season on the roster. He also suggested that the edge-rusher's late-spring absence indicates that the 32-year-old doesn’t want to play for a team in rebuild mode.
Coming off a Pro Bowl 18.5-sack campaign, Quinn should draw some offers, but Chicago holds the cards and may be stubborn about what it wants in return for him.
Jessie Bates III Doesn’t Report to Camp; Bengals Not Entertaining Trade Offers
The standoff between the Cincinnati Bengals and starting safety Jessie Bates III has officially lingered into training camp. The team designated him as the franchise-tagged player, but according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, he hasn't signed the $12.9 million tender and didn't report to camp Tuesday.
Because Bates hasn't signed the franchise tag, he's not subject to fines for missing training-camp practices.
Per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the Bengals remain "confident" that Bates will be ready to play whenever he rejoins the team. Owner Mike Brown commented on the subject Monday, per Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"He fits with us," Brown said. "We were two years trying to extend him. We weren't able to get there. I regret that we didn't. We will have another chance at the end of the season."
Despite the Bengals' optimism that Bates will eventually show up, one has to wonder how long the fifth-year safety will hold out because of dissatisfaction with his contract. If he's absolutely frustrated with the club, this storyline isn’t going away anytime soon.
Nonetheless, the league's July 15 deadline for extending franchise-tagged players has passed, so the Bengals may have to at least listen to trade offers if Bates doesn't budge on his holdout. Keep in mind that Cincinnati selected safety Daxton Hill in the first round of the 2022 draft. He’ll probably see significant reps in the veteran safety's absence.
Colts All-Pro LB Will Go by Middle Name, Chris Ballard Shoots Down Rumors
Indianapolis Colts linebacker formerly known as Darius Leonard will now go by Shaquille Leonard. He explained that his family mostly called him by his middle name.
"I was only called Darius when I was in school or when I was in trouble," Leonard said.
Listening to Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, who said, "Keep your mouth closed, keep eyes and ears open," Leonard didn't correct anyone about his preferred name. Now a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, he's more outspoken.
Leonard underwent back surgery in June, and though he hasn't targeted a specific date for his return to action, the Colts defender plans to play when the season kicks off.
"The way I'm going, I'm very happy," Leonard said. "Get ready to rock 'n roll when time comes."
Aside from updates on Leonard's preferred name and condition, general manager Chris Ballard addressed the chatter about the Colts' rumored interest in reuniting free-agent wideout Julio Jones with quarterback Matt Ryan.
"I know there's reports out there, but those reports are wrong," Ballard said about buzz that connected Indianapolis to Jones.
Jones is signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Per Nate Atkins of the Indianapolis Star, T.Y. Hilton is "in the mix" among wide receiver options, though Ballard says he doesn't see "the desperation" for help at the position.
In the second round of the 2022 draft, the Colts selected wideout Alec Pierce, who could carve out a big role in the passing attack as a starter and complement to Michael Pittman Jr. As a big-play collegiate receiver, he averaged at least 17 yards per reception in three of his four terms at Cincinnati.
Kyle Shanahan Turns the Page on Jimmy Garoppolo, Confirms It's Trey Lance's Team
In an interview with The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on The TK Show, head coach Kyle Shanahan referred to Jimmy Garoppolo's starting tenure in the past tense (h/t Niners Nation's Marc Delucchi).
"We had an awesome run with Jimmy [Garoppolo]... I was so happy with how Jimmy played last year," Shanahan said. "This is something that we did last year knowing where we wanted to go with this salary cap and how you balance out a salary cap and how you balance out a roster."
On Tuesday, Shanahan made a strong statement about his quarterback situation.
"This is Trey’s team," Shanahan said. "That's nothing against Jimmy. We made that decision a year ago. We're not going to mess around with that anymore. Jimmy understands that fully. He's a big guy. Nothing against him. It's a business decision."
San Francisco may hold on to Garoppolo throughout the preseason in case a team loses its quarterback to an injury. In that scenario, the veteran signal-caller could become a hot commodity on the trade market if he's fully healed from offseason shoulder surgery on his throwing arm. As the primary starter, he led the 49ers to two playoff appearances from 2019 to '21, which included a Super Bowl run.
With that said, the 49ers will probably have to pay a good portion of his $27 million salary.
As for Trey Lance, he can add new dimensions to the offense with his big arm and mobility. The 49ers may be able to attack defenses over the top more frequently than they did with Garoppolo under center. Opposing defenders will also have to account for the quarterback’s ability to take off with his legs. Lance rushed for 1,325 yards and 18 touchdowns in 19 games at North Dakota State. He ran for 168 yards and a score in six outings last year.
John Lynch Provides Update On Contract Talks with Deebo Samuel
Back in April, Deebo Samuel told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that he asked the San Francisco 49ers to trade him, and he scrubbed his Instagram account of any affiliation with the team.
Since then, Samuel has refollowed the 49ers on Instagram, attended mandatory minicamp and now he's back with the club for training camp. On Tuesday, general manager John Lynch discussed the ongoing talks to extend the wide receiver, per Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News.
“We've had productive and substantive talks,” Lynch said. “Don't want to get people excited that we're imminent because we're not there yet. .... Deebo's here today, and we're excited to move forward with him on this team. We're focused on getting something done."
For now, the 49ers have avoided a messy holdout with their star receiver, but their negotiations with him may have multiple layers.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Samuel wants the coaching staff to dial back on his rushing workload in addition to a new contract. He recorded 59 carries for 365 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
In the third round of the 2022 draft, San Francisco selected running back Tyrion Davis-Price. Assuming he makes the final roster, the LSU product can help lighten Samuel's load on the ground.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson Retires
Since Chris Carson underwent neck surgery in November of last year, the Seattle Seahawks haven't had much clarity on his playing future until Tuesday when the 27-year-old running back retired.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Seahawks will release Carson with a failed physical designation, which will allow him to collect money for injury protection benefits under the collective bargaining agreement.
Seattle selected Carson in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. He went on to lead the team in rushing for three consecutive seasons (2018-20), logging 1,151-plus yards in two of those terms.
Over the past two campaigns, Carson missed 17 outings as the wear and tear took its toll on his body. Nonetheless, he exceeded expectations as a late-rounder out of Oklahoma State.
Looking ahead, the Seahawks will likely lean on Rashaad Penny, who had a strong finish to the 2021 season, and rookie second-rounder Kenneth Walker III.
Because of Penny's spotty availability, with 28 missed contests in four seasons, Walker may have a significant role in a two-man ground attack.
Titans Provide Update on Treylon Burks' Conditioning
Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver Treylon Burks had a rough start to the offseason.
Wide receivers coach Rob Moore revealed that Burks had complications with asthma, which limited his participation in spring practices. Head coach Mike Vrabel said that the rookie wideout was "unavailable" as he missed mandatory minicamp in June.
The Athletic's Joe Rexrode projected Burks to open the 2022 season as the No. 3 wideout on the depth chart, but he noted that Vrabel isn't worried about the rookie wideout's ailment.
“Mike Vrabel said that shouldn’t be an issue, but Burks clearly isn't in top shape, and it may take him some time to become a major producer,” Rexrode wrote.
On a positive note, team executive vice president and general manager Jon Robinson spoke optimistically about Burks' conditioning Tuesday, per Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com.
"He did a nice job in the conditioning test and has been running around here the last couple of days," Robinson said. "We're excited about the trajectory he is on."
Even with the addition of Robert Woods, who's coming off a torn ACL, Tennessee may need Burks to fill a significant role in the passing attack.
Amid a contract dispute, the Titans traded A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles, and they released Julio Jones. Third-year wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine may take another step in his development, but that's not a given. Incoming tight end Austin Hooper is coming off a down season (38 catches for 345 yards and three touchdowns) with the Cleveland Browns.
If healthy, Burks has the skill set to line up all over the offensive formation. At this year's NFL Scouting Combine, the Arkansas product said he models his game after 49ers wideout Deebo Samuel.
College football statistics are provided by cfbstats.com.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.