NFL Training Camp Roundup: Clyde Edwards-Helaire Should Have Big Role in 2020
While NFL players have yet to take the practice field and won't do so for some time, training camps are technically in semi-full swing throughout the league.
So while we don't have any on-field news to react to thus far, plenty of NFL news emerged Wednesday.
Here's a rundown of the highlights from a busy late July day in the National Football League.
Damien Williams Opt-Out Could Pave the Way for Clyde Edwards-Helaire
On Tuesday, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski provided a rundown of the many players who opted out of the 2020 season as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams joined that list.
That could have major implications for the defending Super Bowl champions as well as fantasy football drafts across the country.
Williams might not be a superstar, but he scored eight touchdowns in his last four regular-season/playoff games in 2019. He was widely expected to play a major role again to start this campaign after racking up 133 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in the Chiefs' come-from-behind Super Bowl victory.
For fantasy purposes, Williams and highly touted rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire figured to siphon value from one another. But with Williams now sitting out the season, the Chiefs suddenly don't have an established veteran to spell Edwards-Helaire.
Kansas City could still sign a replacement for Williams (Devonta Freeman?) or bring back LeSean McCoy, but the pickings are pretty slim at this stage and McCoy is 32 years old.
So while Williams' opt-out is another hit for the Chiefs—veteran offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has already opted out—this could present an opportunity for the powerful and polished Edwards-Helaire to make a massive impact from the get-go in 2020.
Nate Solder Also Opts Out
Williams wasn't the only big-name player to opt out Wednesday. Veteran New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder is also stepping aside for the year.
Solder, whose young son has cancer, confirmed his decision in an emotional statement.
The absence of Solder could impact the Giants' ability to protect young quarterback Daniel Jones. The 32-year-old isn't a superstar, but he's an established veteran who has started every game for the past three seasons.
The Giants won't easily find a replacement on the free-agent market right now.
Solder's decision to opt out will put extra pressure on rookie tackles Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart, especially if the Giants can't find another veteran outside of in-house option Cameron Fleming, who has started only 26 games in six NFL seasons.
Tua Tagovailoa Passes His Physical, Will Compete for Starting Job
Eight months after suffering a career-threatening hip injury and days after assigning himself a clean bill of health, Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has taken another step toward suiting up in 2020.
Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said the highly touted Alabama product passed his physical and will practice without limitations, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Additionally, Flores made it clear Tua that will have a chance to compete with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job, per Jackson.
Yours truly thinks that's a bad idea. Even if Tagovailoa is fully healthy, he hasn't taken a live snap since November, and he won't have a chance to do so until the regular season begins in September.
In such a limited offseason, and with no preseason, football is going to be messy for much of the fall. The last thing the rebuilding Dolphins need to do is expose their prized future franchise quarterback to that mess.
The Dolphins should play this one slow, but it's easy to see why they're fired up to see Tua on the field. He's already one of the most hyped players in franchise history.
Is Vic Beasley MIA?
The Tennessee Titans are hoping 2016 first-team All-Pro and sack king Vic Beasley Jr. can revive his career and bolster their pass rush.
The problem is, they don't appear to know where Beasley is.
The 28-year-old edge defender has been absent from the first two days of Titans camp, and the team placed him on its reserve/did not report list Tuesday. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted "there has been no communication on why or where he is," and it's rare for a high-profile free-agent acquisition not to show up.
This is an exceptional year, and perhaps Beasley is weighing whether to play at all this season. But the lack of communication has to frustrate a team that handed him a one-year, $9.5 million contract in March.
George Kittle, 49ers 'Not Particularly Close' to a Contract Extension
Every star player still on a rookie contract is underpaid, but San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle takes that to the extreme.
Because he was a fifth-round draft pick, the first-team All-Pro made a $645,000 base salary in 2019 and will count only $2.2 million against the Niners payroll in 2020.
That's why there's been chatter about a potential contract extension for much of the offseason. But NFL Network's Mike Silver reported in May that Kittle and the Niners remained "far apart," and his colleague Ian Rapoport stated Wednesday that little has changed.
"From what I understand, the two sides have had conversations, have negotiated a potentially massive, long-term deal that of course would make him the highest[-paid] tight end in the NFL," Rapoport said. "From what I understand, though, it doesn't feel like the two sides are particularly close on anything."
Kittle did report for camp on time, but he's emerged as such a transcendent player that a 2021 franchise tag might make business sense for the 49ers. He's worth far more than the $10.6 million tag that has Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers leading the market at that position right now.
This could get complicated.
Joey Bosa Gets Paid
Heading into the option year of his rookie contract, star Los Angeles Chargers edge defender Joey Bosa showed up for the start of training camp Tuesday. A holdout could have been in the works considering his contract situation, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday night that Bosa and the team had agreed to a five-year, $135 million contract extension.
The deal contains a defensive record $102 million guaranteed, according to Schefter, which makes the 25-year-old the highest-paid defender in the league. (Cleveland Browns pass-rusher Myles Garrett held that crown for only a few weeks.)
Bosa was one of only five NFL players to record more than 30 quarterback hits in 2019 to go along with his 11.5 sacks, and he was the only one to do so while registering 60-plus tackles. Still, that's a lot of dough in the midst of an economic downturn for a player who has experienced some injury issues.
The Chargers are trying to win over fans in L.A. They're clearly all-in with Bosa leading the way on defense, but they'll need immediate production out of whoever takes over for departed longtime quarterback Philip Rivers on offense.
Lamar Jackson 'Still Hoping' Ravens Land Antonio Brown
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson met with the media at a distance Wednesday, and the reigning MVP made it clear that he isn't prepared to rest on his laurels.
Not only did Jackson state that he wants deep passes and out-breaking routes to be a larger part of the Baltimore offense in 2020, but he noted that he'd like to throw some of those routes to Antonio Brown.
"It was nice throwing to Antonio Brown [this offseason]," Jackson said in reference to spring throwing sessions involving the free-agent receiver, according to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley. "I was hoping we would get him. I'm still hoping—a little bit."
Silver stated last month that Brown likely faces "a suspension of about half a season" if he plays in the NFL this year following accusations of sexual assault and misconduct as well as his pleading no contest in an alleged assault case. So the Ravens could give him a try and—in the event of further problems—move on before ever having to play (or pay) him much.
Still, it's easy to see why head coach John Harbaugh wouldn't want to mess with a young locker room that might not need the shakeup.
After Positive Test, Lane Johnson Joins 2 Other Eagles on Reserve/COVID-19 List
Early in training camp, plenty of players have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That doesn't necessarily mean they have tested positive for COVID-19—potential exposure can also land a player on the list as a precaution—but the biggest name to hit said list Wednesday did confirm he has tested positive.
"I have tested positive for COVID-19, but feel strong and ready to go," Philadelphia Eagles star offensive tackle Lane Johnson wrote in a statement. "... I will follow all the protocols and I look forward to joining my teammates and coaches on the field soon!"
That won't happen until Johnson and teammates Nathan Gerry and Jordan Mailata pass several tests after quarantining. The good news for the Eagles is that they have time. They're a veteran team that doesn't have a game scheduled for another six weeks.
Matt Nagy: Bears Quarterback Competition Is 'Wide-Open'
It was never a secret that there's an open competition for the Chicago Bears' starting quarterback job. But on Wednesday, Bears head coach Matt Nagy emphasized that said competition is "wide-open."
According to Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper, Nagy acknowledged during a conference call that newcomer Nick Foles faces a "disadvantage" as a result of the lost offseason. However, both Foles and disappointing 2017 No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky have about six weeks to battle.
Trubisky averaged an NFL-low 6.1 yards per attempt while running the league's fourth-lowest-scoring offense last year. Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars gave up on Foles only four starts after giving him a contract with $50 million in guaranteed money.
Don't be shocked if neither player wins in the long run.