Tue May 4 12:28pm ET
By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
BYU offensive lineman Brady Christensen runs down field during the school's Pro Day football workout for NFL scouts in Provo, Utah, in this Friday, March 26, 2021, file photo. The Panthers are hoping 24-year Brady Christensen came help solidify the left tackle position that has been a revolving door ever since Jordan Gross retired nearly a decade ago. The third-round pick from BYU is looking to do the same. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers have been looking for a player who can protect the quarterback's blindside for the past eight years.
They think they may have found one in consensus All-American Brady Christensen.
The team's third-round draft pick from Brigham Young has strong pass-blocking skills and there is optimism he can be the pass protector the team has coveted at left tackle ever since Jordan Gross retired following the 2013 season.
''He comes from that pro-style offense at BYU so he's done the things that we are asking guys to do,'' Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. ''He's been doing it there. He's a tackle candidate that can also go inside and play guard. Again, a great, great, great athlete. Intelligence, the whole package.''
The Panthers had their eyes on Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell in the first round, but when the Detroit Lions drafted him seventh overall - one spot ahead of them - they pivoted and took South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn. Carolina drafted wide receiver Terrace Marshall from LSU in the second round before filling the left tackle spot with Christensen in round three.
Christensen will have to earn a starting job in training camp, which means beating out free agent pickup Cam Erving and Greg Little, a second-round pick by the previous Panthers coaching regime who has struggled to get on the field.
''I think I'm an elite pass protector and I'll be able to pass protect at a high level,'' Christensen said. ''Also, the run game there is unbelievable and I'm excited to be able to run block. I feel like I have elite feet. I really can drive guys off the ball.''
They're big feet, too. The 6-foot-5, 302-pound Christensen wears a size 15 wide shoe.
But he may be outdone at some point by his newborn son, Ledger. Ledger was born on March 16 and was a modest 7 pounds, 13 ounces - with the exception of some really large feet. In fact, Christensen said he and his wife have struggled to find socks big enough to fit the newborn.
''His head was normal, which is crazy, because me and my wife both have big heads and we were shocked,'' Christensen said. ''But the funny thing about him is the doctors were like, `He has the biggest feet out of any newborn baby we've ever seen.' They measured it, and he was like 3 inches. They were like, `We've never seen that in our life.' He just has massive feet, and they stick out. There's pictures, and people are like, `Is that a real picture of his feet?'''
Christensen can relate. His family referred to him as having ''Fred Flintstone feet'' when he was a baby.
''We have a bunch of newborn socks, but none of them fit,'' he said. ''The heel, it only goes to half of his foot. But then we tried to get him six-to-nine-month socks. They fit length-wise, but his feet are still so skinny that they're just so baggy they still look really goofy.''
Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said he's not sure if he's ever drafted a player who is 24 years old like Christensen.
Christensen traveled overseas to New Zealand as an 18-year-old on a mission trip where he learned to love Polynesian food and bulked up on seafood.
''I wouldn't be the prospect I am today as a 22-year old without my mission,'' Christensen said. ''I really feel like it helped me mentally and physically out there. I was able to put on some good weight out in New Zealand and really be able to grow into my body. I was a late bloomer, so physically and mentally, I feel like I'm mature at this age.
Fitterer said that Christensen's maturity made him an attractive prospect, but added drafting him ''wasn't about that.''
''We liked the athlete,'' Fitterer said. ''I was at the BYU pro day, and he was really impressive in person. Then you hear about the character, the work ethic, the intelligence, the toughness, that's what really sold us on him.''
Christensen helped protect one of the nation's best quarterbacks in Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. This past season he received a 96 grade by Pro Football Focus, the highest grade ever given to a college lineman.
In 293 passing plays last season, he allowed two quarterback pressures.
''I think for sure I can play left tackle at a high level. I know I can,'' Christensen said, a three-year starter at BYU. ''I proved it in college. I feel like those skills can definitely translate to playing left tackle in the NFL.''
The Green Bay Packers will bring in quarterbacks Chad Kelly and Kurt Benkert to this weekend's rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Benkert went undrafted out of Virginia and spent the last three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, mainly on the practice squad. Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, was taken with the final pick of the 2017 draft by the Denver Broncos, but he washed out of Denver after two seasons. He's been with the Indianapolis Colts the last two years but was released. Both players could become camp arms with upside further down the depth chart if they sign in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love, last year's first-round pick, are the only signal-callers currently on the roster.
Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio said there is no pressure for rookie quarterback Davis Mills to perform in a hurry despite the turmoil surrounding Deshaun Watson and more than 20 lawsuits filed against him. "No different than any other player," Caserio said of the timeline of bringing along the first-year signal-caller. "Bring him in, teach him our system, teach him our terminology, take it one step at a time." It's unclear what will happen with Watson as the legal proceedings play out, but the Texans weren't looking to trade him, despite his public request, before his legal issues arose. Since then, trade chatter surrounding Watson has quieted down. The three-time Pro Bowler could remain with the Texans in 2021, but wherever he's playing, he could be facing a lengthy suspension as well.
Tennessee Titans TE Parker Hesse, LB Matthew Orzech and LB Nate Orchard were waived Monday, May 10.
Free-agent QB Kurt Benkert (Falcons) and QB Chad Kelly (Colts) will participate in the Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, according to sources.
Free-agent WR Dede Westbrook (Jaguars) has had preliminary conversations with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Washington Football Team signed wide receiver Curtis Samuel to a three-year deal this offseason, reuniting him with head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner from their time together with the Carolina Panthers. Rivera drafted Samuel in 2017, and Turner was the quarterbacks coach in Carolina from 2018-2019. "You can do a lot of different things with him," Turner said. "He's only 24 years old, I think he's just scratching the surface on what he's capable of." Samuel broke out in 2020, catching a career-high 77 passes for 851 yards and three touchdowns, adding 200 rushing yards and two more TDs. Samuel will be the No. 2 behind Terry McLaurin and will be an ideal fit for this offense. He'll be a low-end WR2 with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him passes.
The Los Angeles Chargers signed free-agent defensive tackle Christian Covington to an undisclosed deal on Monday, according to his agent. Covington was a sixth-round pick by the Houston Texans out of Rice in 2015. He's also spent time with the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals in his six NFL seasons. Covington started 14 of the 16 games he played in for the Bengals last season and was on the field for 53 percent of the team's defensive snaps. The 27-year-old had 39 tackles (14 solo) and one QB hit. In his NFL career, Covington has 132 tackles (15 for loss), 20 QB hits, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and 8.5 sacks in 82 games (29 starts).
The Kansas City Chiefs signed former linebacker Tamba Hali to a one-day contract on Monday so he can officially retire with the organization. The six-time Pro Bowler played with the Chiefs for his entire 12-year career. The 37-year-old last played in the NFL in 2017, but he made the Pro Bowl with Kansas City in five straight seasons from 2011 to 2015. He was the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft and finished his illustrious career with 596 tackles (105 for loss), 159 QB hits, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), 16 passes defensed, 33 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries (one for a TD) and 89.5 sacks in 177 regular season games (157 starts).
Ex-Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin has drawn interest from multiple teams and should find a home soon, according to sources informed of the situation. The fifth-rounder in 2018 appeared in 46 games for the Seahawks, recording one sack, six QB hits and 25 tackles. Griffin's twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, signed a big deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. The twins played together at UCF and in Seattle, so Griffin may be looking to join his brother in Jacksonville. His new club could be looking at him as a full-time pass-rusher after he played off the ball in Seattle. The 25-year-old became the odd-man out in Seattle after the team added Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven to the position in recent seasons.
Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher is signing a one-year, $9.4 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, according to a source. The former No. 1 overall pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 will now be quarterback Carson Wentz's blind-side protector in 2021. The 30-year-old tore his right Achilles before the Super Bowl last year and was cut by KC. The Colts won't rush Fisher back, though, so there's a chance that he's not ready to play until early October. Coming out of this year's NFL draft, the left tackle position was still a big area of need for the Colts, but this signing takes care of that and makes their offensive line even more elite. It's excellent news as Wentz tries to bounce back from a disastrous final season with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020. It's also great news for second-year running back Jonathan Taylor.
Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Antwaun Woods, who was waived last week, is visiting the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, according to a source. Woods, a former undrafted free agent out of USC, played two seasons with the Tennessee Titans before joining the Cowboys in 2018. The 6-foot-1, 310-pounder has recorded 83 tackles (25 solo), four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one pass defensed and two fumble recoveries in 40 career games (32 starts) with the Titans and Cowboys. Woods helped spark Dallas' midseason improvement on defense last year when he was moved into the starting lineup, and he finished with 23 tackles (seven solo), one sack and two QB pressures in 14 games (seven starts) in 2020. He'd be a rotational nose tackle for Indy if he were to sign.
Free-agent LB Tamba Hali (Chiefs) signed a one-day contract with the Kansas City Chiefs Monday, May 10, so he can retire as a member of the organization.
Free-agent DE Christian Covington (Bengals) agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Chargers Monday, May 10. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Free-agent QB Blaine Gabbert (Buccaneers) agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday, May 10.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers could realistically land with the Denver Broncos, who have the second-most salary cap space in football.
Fantasy Spin: Rodgers' fantasy value will be about the same wherever he calls signals next season. Denver's thin air can be brutal on a body, and Rodgers has a lengthy injury history. That would be the only concern for the upper-middle QB1.
Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley leads all receivers with 180 catches over the last three seasons while lined up in the slot, according to Pro Football Focus.
Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett has amassed 31 catches of at least 15 yards out of the slot since the start of the 2019 season - tied for the most in the NFL over that span - according to Pro Football Focus.