It’s not exactly the midway point of the season, but we’re almost there …
• Eagles OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai continues to be a name of interest on the market; plenty of teams have offensive line needs, and Vaitai, in a contract year, could help. Philadelphia is stocked at the position, and if GM Howie Roseman does move the fourth-year pro, who started at left tackle for the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, I wouldn’t be stunned to see a player coming back. The team has explored the corner market, and there are tackle-needy teams (Cleveland, New England) with depth at that spot.
• NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Redskins reversed course on Trent Williams Monday afternoon, and are now open to the idea of trading their franchise left tackle. I’m told Washington has begun the process of circling back with teams that had called to ascertain interest. The price? For right now, my understanding is that the Redskins are looking for a first-round pick. And it’s important to note there are still questions health-wise here that interested teams would want answered.
• Sharp move by the Jets to flip Leonard Williams, who they weren’t keeping in 2020, for the market price of a third-round pick, and getting an extra pick in the transaction (it’ll be a fourth-rounder in 2021 if Williams re-signs with the Giants before free agency starts, a fifth if he doesn’t) in part because of their willingness to use unaccounted for cap space as a commodity. They’ll pay $4 million of the $7.52 million Williams has left for 2019.
• So what are the Giants getting? Here’s one pro scouting director’s report back on the big defensive lineman: “Best position is 5-tech, which fits the Giants’ system. Can be a disruptive player. Not as stout or physical as you would like, but he can defeat blocks and make tackles in the run and can disrupt the pocket off the edge or inside. Has been more inconsistent this year. Good not great, $11 million-plus a year is too much for this player though he will get that on the open market.”
Playing next to the mountain that is Dexter Lawrence probably won’t hurt Williams. And building up the middle like this is just how GM Dave Gettleman did it in Carolina. There, he got Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short with two of his first three draft picks in charge.
• Denver’s Chris Harris has been the highest-end corner on the trade market (it’ll take a second-round pick to pry him from John Elway), but that hasn’t stopped teams from asking Miami about Xavien Howard. And the Giants have been dangling Janoris Jenkins around the league too. Bottom line: If you need corner help, it’s out there.
• Which brings us to Detroit’s Darius Slay. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported earlier Monday that Philadelphia made a bid for the 28-year-old corner. I’m told that the Lions are making Slay available on the market. Doesn’t mean they move him, but it does mean they’re open to it. Slay is under contract through next year and his 2020 financials (a total of $10.5 million) are very reasonable.
• We mentioned in this week’s MMQB the Ravens, Buccaneers, and Falcons expected to get calls on tight ends Hayden Hurst, O.J. Howard and Austin Hooper, respectively. On Howard, in particular, after checking back this afternoon, I found out that Tampa has been fielding inquiries, which is a subtle shift from where they were earlier in the month, shutting those down as they came in.
• My understanding is the Texans will not trade receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
• Saints DE Cam Jordan pointed out that New Orleans’ defense hasn’t allowed an opposing running back to hit 100 yards since Nov. 19, a stretch that covers 34 games (regular season and playoffs). In that time, the team has shored up its pass defense and moved to add guys like Marcus Davenport and Eli Apple to the mix.
“Yeah, defensively speaking, I’m openly confident in what our secondary, what our front seven is able to do,” Jordan told me. “The last year-and-a-half, two years now, we’ve been stopping the run at a very successful rate. And when you talk about what we’re able to do to a run game, we make teams one dimensional in terms of them having to pass. And once we’re able to focus on that, we’re able to clean up on a lot of different things.”
• The mechanics of how Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski works with assistant head coach/offensive advisor Gary Kubiak on Sundays are fascinating. Kubiak’s influence in the scheme is obvious, but his impact has gone well beyond teaching the coaches and players how to run certain plays.
“He is my eyes and ears upstairs,” says Stefanski, an OC who calls the game from field level. “And he does an outstanding job. My relationship with Gary is very, very strong, let me put it that way. ... I just think having a guy of his stature, a guy who’s called plays in the Super Bowl, won Super Bowls, I can’t say enough about how valuable that is to me, to have him up in the booth. He has great vision of what’s going on and then in-between series he can tell me what he thinks. ... I’m so lucky to have a guy of his ability right there for me helping me through this thing.”
How the relationship came to be is interesting too. Stefanski can remember watching cutups of the Texans’ bootleg game back in 2009 (Kubiak was Houston’s head coach, Kyle Shanahan its OC at the time) from cubicle at the Vikings’ old facility, Winter Park, and “I just had so many questions about how they taught it and how they got these explosives.” Four years after, Kubiak’s son, Klint, arrived in Minnesota as a quality control coach, and he and Stefanski built a relationship, which led to Stefanski building a relationship with the elder Kubiak. And now they’re all working together, in an offense that brings together a bunch of Stefanski’s influences, but is grounded in a lot of things that he was wondering about in his cubicle all those years ago.
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