Tue May 17 6:22pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook laughs with his teammates as they take part in drills at the NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter takes part in drills at the NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell directs his team in drills at the NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith takes part in drills at the NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson takes part in drills at the NFL football team's practice facility in Eagan, Minn., Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) Danielle Hunter became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 sacks, an athletic marvel for the Minnesota Vikings who was as durable as they come in this violent sport.
About 2 1/2 years later, with his gaudy sack total stalled out from consecutive injury-wrecked seasons, Hunter has found himself in sort of a reinvention mode.
After legitimate question about whether he'd return this year to the salary-cap-strapped Vikings, Hunter is not only back on the roster - and healthy - but flanked by a new pass-rushing pal on the opposite side of the defense in Za'Darius Smith.
''It kind of hurts just watching people play when you're not able to play, so I'm happy just to be back with my teammates,'' Hunter said Tuesday, after one of the 10 organized practices the Vikings are allowed this spring prior to mandatory minicamp.
The Vikings converted an $18 million roster bonus into a signing bonus to spread out the cap hit and thus lessen the burden of his contract this year, but there's another megadeal awaiting him as long as he doesn't succumb to more serious injuries. Whether that comes with the Vikings or another club has yet to be determined.
''He's a really great player, so you don't just move on from great players very easily,'' new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in March.
Hunter befriended Smith, who was then with the rival Green Bay Packers, at the Pro Bowl after the 2019 season when they were teammates on the NFC squad. Their relationship goes back to the 2015 draft class as products of the mighty SEC, with Hunter out of LSU and Smith from Kentucky.
The Vikings made Smith, who is coming off a major back injury that limited him to one game in 2021, their top signing in free agency with a contract worth up to $47 million over three years.
''Just to be able to be here and have a chance to be on the opposite side of him is wonderful, man. I just can't wait,'' Smith said.
Hunter is officially an outside linebacker now, no longer listed as a defensive end as the Vikings switch their base scheme from a 4-3 to the 3-4 alignment Smith played in with the Packers.
As Hunter was quick to note Tuesday in his first interview session with reporters since last Sept. 29, the Vikings lined up in a 3-4 defense often at Arizona on Sept. 19 to try to contain dual threat quarterback Kyler Murray. Hunter had three sacks in that game. So he's not concerned about a significant transition, from working out of a three-point stance to standing up on the edge.
His primary focus these days is just relishing being back on the field again. After a herniated disk in his neck required surgery and sidelined him for the entire 2020 season, Hunter was back in his usual form until he tore a pectoral muscle during the Oct. 31 game against Dallas. After a three-month rehabilitation, he said, he was back to normal strength.
''Anything can happen out there while I'm playing, you know?'' Hunter said. ''I love the game of football. That's why I'm here. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't be here.''
Dynasty | With the trade of Baker Mayfield to the Panthers, the Browns could turn to Jacoby Brissett as their starter should Deshaun Watson face a long-term suspension. Dynasty Analysis: Deshaun Watson is potentially looking at a year-long suspension, or even an indefinite one. With Mayfield off to Carolina, Cleveland has Brissett now as the stopgap solution should Watson miss significant time. At this point, it seems highly likely Brissett is under center in week one and he's going to hold some potential in-season value. Brissett is currently unranked, but that's likely to change with the news of this trade.
Dynasty | The 49ers are likely going to be forced to release quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Dynasty Analysis: With Baker Mayfield off to Carolina, the number of suitors for the services of Jimmy G have dwindled yet again. At this point, Seattle may be the best bet for his next landing spot, but a trade between those two division rivals seems very unlikely. The 49ers will likely have to bite the bullet here and release him to get his salary off the books. Seattle still looks like the most likely destination for him moving forward.
Miami Dolphins RB Chase Edmonds appears to be the leading candidate for the starting running back job at this point but will share snaps with several other backs, in the opinion of DolphinsWire's Mike Masala.
Fantasy Spin: Edmonds probably will receive a majority of the carries in the running game but will not see extended playing time because of the other running backs on the roster. Edmonds could be considered a No. 2 or No. 3 back in fantasy leagues.
Free-agent DT Eddie Goldman (Bears) signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons Wednesday, July 6. Financial terms were not disclosed. The team also waived S Brad Hawkins.
Dynasty | Sam Darnold is the odd man out after the Panthers traded for quarterback Baker Mayfield. Dynasty Analysis: The Panthers acquired Mayfield today, moving Darnold to the bench. The Panthers famously traded a second, fourth and sixth round pick just last season in the hopes Darnold could be their long-term answer. Unfortunately, he faceplanted in 12 games, throwing for 2,527 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His QBR of 33.2 tells you just about everything you need to know about his season. Darnold was even briefly replaced by Cam Newton after floundering. He should compete with Mayfield this off-season, but it's highly unlikely he beats him out. Darnold's dynasty value is on life support and his ranking of WB37 will likely drop even further now.
Updating a previous report, Carolina Panthers QB Baker Mayfield agreed to trim $3.5 million off his 2022 base salary and the Cleveland Browns will pick up $10.5 million more, leaving the Panthers to pay around $5 million for him this coming season. Cleveland also saves $8 million against the salary cap with this deal.
Fantasy Spin: The financials make this even more of a win-win trade for both sides. The Browns get rid of one of their problems and save money in the process, and Carolina gets a look at a potential long-term solution at quarterback for a very cheap price tag. Mayfield enters 2022 as a QB2.
Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield was traded to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday, July 6, in exchange for a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick, per sources. The deal is pending a physical and it isn't clear exactly how much of Mayfield's money the Panthers will pick up.
Fantasy Spin: Mayfield will now join a Panthers roster that has a good amount of weapons in DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson and Christian McCaffrey. Assuming he wins the starting role, Mayfield is a QB2.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport is reporting the Panthers are acquiring quarterback Baker Mayfield from the Browns for a 2024 conditional 5th-round draft pick. The deal is pending a physical.
Dynasty | Chase Edmonds is currently at the top of the Dolphins depth chart. Dynasty Analysis: The Dolphins depth chart currently consists of Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, ZeQuandre White, and Gerrid Doaks. In short, this is a mess. The most likely scenario this season is all of these running backs fail to have very much real value as they're nearly destined to vulture off each other. On the plus side, Edmonds is likely the best pass catcher of the group and while Mostert and Michel will split carries on early downs, he looks like the favorite to handle the passing game work. Edmonds remains our RB35 at this point in the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans believes retired TE Rob Gronkowski will stay retired. 'I feel like he's done,' Evans said. 'He takes a pretty big beating; I've seen his body after some of them games and I understand why [he would retire].'
The Dallas Cowboys signing free-agent LB Anthony Barr (Vikings) remains a possibility, according to multiple beat writers.
New Orleans Saints QB Jameis Winston (knee) posted a video of him throwing to social media without a knee brace.
Fantasy Spin: He looks to be progressing well as there were reports he was still limping at the end of May. He's a QB2 in fantasy.
Updating previous reports, Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield has received interest from the Seattle Seahawks, according to NFL insider Josina Anderson. Anderson tweeted she understood why the report that the Seahawks aren't interested came out because it helps them manage their quarterback situation if they don't land Mayfield.
Fantasy Spin: Mayfield's fantasy potential could be a little better in Seattle, but he'll be a QB2 regardless.
Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher Micah Parsons had 13 sacks as a rookie and won Defensive Rookie of the Year, but he's setting his sights higher in his second NFL season. "Yeah, 15's like the minimum. 15's what I wanna hit. But definitely 23 is that goal, to break the record," Parsons said. The 23-year-old pass-rushing linebacker also added 84 tackles (64 solo), 20 tackles for loss, 30 QB hits, three passes defensed and three forced fumbles in 16 games in his first NFL season to finish as the No. 12 linebacker in fantasy points in IDP leagues. Parsons will surely be a menace for opposing QBs again in 2022, but he'll also generate plenty of attention from opposing offensive lines.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who finished last year 18th in the NFL in receiving yards and 18th in catches, is a huge fan of new quarterback Matt Ryan. Pittman has been very impressed with the ball placement of Ryan, and the new signal-caller should help Pittman achieve his 2022 goal of proving that he's a true No. 1 receiver in the league. "Working on route discipline," Pittman said of his main area for improvement. "Sometimes you just go out there and start playing football. Yes, I can make plays like that but you want to stay on QB timing because it helps everybody else flow so I'm really working on that." The 24-year-old third-year wideout is being ranked as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 heading into fall fantasy drafts, and he should see an uptick in production if he continues to gain chemistry with Ryan in training camp.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara has had a tumultuous offseason thanks to an offseason arrest following an altercation in Las Vegas back in February, and he could be looking at a suspension from the NFL. However, his court hearings have already been continued twice, each time relative to delivery of evidence to his team. His next hearing is currently scheduled for August, but if it's pushed back again or if the case moves along beyond the hearing, the process could extend into the regular season or even further. A six-game suspension is expected for Kamara, but the legal process will need to wrap up before the NFL hands down their suspension. A looming six-game suspension obviously hurts the 26-year-old's fantasy value, and he's extremely risky while on the RB1/2 borderline. If you draft Kamara, you better handcuff him with Mark Ingram II.
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't expected to offer wide receiver Diontae Johnson anything near what Terry McLaurin got from the Washington Commanders or any other receiver that received more than $20 million per year. The Athletic's Mark Kaboly sees the Steelers offering him something, but it won't be what he thinks he can get on the market and he'll get paid somewhere else in 2023. Spotrac projects Johnson's market value at $22 million per season, but Kaboly writes the Steelers won't pay a wideout $22 million per year. The 26-year-old had his first 1,000-yard season and a career-high eight touchdowns on 107 receptions, but he could take a step back with Mitchell Trubisky under center this year. Still, Johnson should see plenty of volume as the team's No. 1 wideout, and he's a high-end WR2 in fantasy.
Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson will be the team's starting running back this year after he led the team with 153 carries and 618 yards in 2021, but he had only 71 rushing yards in the last four games and averaged 2.3 yards per carry in that span. The Athletic's Josh Kendall writes that it's overly optimistic to expect Patterson to be fully available to carry a full load at RB this year. The 10-year veteran took all of the spring workouts off, and the Falcons will likely continue taking it slow with him in training camp and the preseason. He's 31 and coming off his most active NFL season -- he had 205 combined catches and carries in 2021, with his previous career-high at 85 in 2020. Don't pay for last year's production in fantasy. Patterson should be an RB3/flex target.
The Atlanta Falcons took running back Tyler Allgeier in the fifth round of this year's draft because they think he can eventually carry the bulk of the load in their backfield. He set a single-season record at BYU last year with 1,601 yards and was fourth in rushing attempts (276) in college football. Seventy percent of Allgeier's yards last season also came after contact. But if Cordarrelle Patterson is healthy, the Falcons are unlikely to rush him into the RB rotation in 2022. But if Patterson isn't healthy or if the team is trying to keep him on a pitch count, the 22-year-old could get a lot of early playing time in his rookie season. Patterson should open the season as Atlanta's starter and Damien Williams and Qadree Ollison are around, but Allgeier probably has the best chance of anyone on Atlanta's roster of making a run at the starting job in 2022.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said on the Pat McAfee Show that the Seattle Seahawks "have never really been that interested" in trading for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Something could change in training camp, but as of now in early July, the Seahawks are comfortable having Geno Smith and Drew Lock battle for the starting gig under center entering the 2022 season. Mayfield is ready to move on from the Browns despite the fact that Deshaun Watson could be suspended for the entire season, but Cleveland will need to eat most of his guaranteed salary this year in order to entice a team to trade for him. The Carolina Panthers have been the most aggressive on the Mayfield front, but even if he is wearing a new uniform this fall, he won't be guaranteed a starting job at QB.