With NFL free agency right around the corner and the 2022 NFL Combine not too far away, here are the latest news and rumors around the league from PFN National NFL Insider Aaron Wilson. Make sure to continue to check back here as we update you with the most recent NFL news and rumors on February 27, 2022.
NFL News and Rumors: Raiders sign Andrew Billings
The Las Vegas Raiders have signed former Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Andrew Billings, according to his agents at Sports Trust Advisors. Billings, 26, has started 37 career games.
A former Bengals fourth-round draft pick from Baylor, the 6-foot-1, 328-pounder has recorded 81 career tackles and 3.5 sacks. After being cut by the Browns in 2021 after opting out of the 2020 season due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, Billings spent time on the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squads.
Billings was a Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
A former powerlifter in high school, he broke Mark Henry’s Texas high school record with 2,010 pounds lifted with an 805-pound squat, a 500-pound bench press, and a 705-pound deadlift.
Latest update on the NFL Combine
As we get closer to Combine workouts, PFN Insider and Draft Analyst Tony Pauline is hearing more and more that players who participate in the bench press in Indianapolis won’t run the 40. And vice versa, those who don’t bench press during Combine workouts are more apt to run the 40.
And while this doesn’t apply to all players, you’ll likely see this trending at the speed positions — running back, receiver, tight end, and defensive back.
Steelers’ general manager search includes three more candidates
No one could accuse the Pittsburgh Steelers of not being thorough and diligent in their search for a new general manager to replace retiring GM Kevin Colbert.
While many league sources believe that Steelers pro personnel coordinator Brandon Hunt or Steelers vice president of football operations and business administration Omar Khan will ultimately land the job, the Steelers are running a wide-open process.
Several strong candidates already interviewed
That includes the team announcing this weekend that they have completed interviews with Baltimore Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz, San Francisco 49ers director of player personnel Ran Carthon, and Philadelphia Eagles vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl. All are highly regarded.
The Steelers have also interviewed Green Bay Packers co-director of player personnel John Wojciechowski, Indianapolis Colts director of college scouting Morocco Brown, Carolina Panthers assistant general manager Dan Morgan, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vice president of player personnel John Spytek, Tennessee Titans vice president of player personnel Ryan Cowden, Colts assistant general manager Ed Dodds, Los Angeles Chargers director of player personnel JoJo Wooden, and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick in addition to Hunt and Khan.
Hortiz also interviewed for the New York Giants GM position that went to Joe Schoen. He has worked for the Ravens for 19 years and was promoted to director of college scouting in 2009 and named director of player personnel in 2015.
Carthon was named to his current job in 2017. Meanwhile, Weidl is a former Ravens scout who has been moving up the scouting ranks with the Eagles.
NFL News and Rumors: Texans DT Roy Lopez eager to build on rookie season
Emerging as a rookie starter for the Texans, Roy Lopez adapted to every blocking scheme, challenge, and obstacle during his rookie season. Now, Lopez is hoping to build on a successful first NFL season by preparing this offseason to maintain his status and continue to grow as a starting defensive tackle.
The recent major changes surrounding the Texans — both the familiar element of Lovie Smith being promoted to head coach and maintaining his defensive play-calling duties, and the unfamiliar, hiring a new defensive line coach in Jacques Cesaire to replace Bobby King — are being embraced by the former sixth-round draft pick from Arizona.
Strong bond with Lovie Smith
“When I got the news of coach’s hiring, I was very excited,” Lopez said. “It’s nice to be able to come back and play for a defensive coordinator who is the same guy every day and that’s to be the best Lovie Smith there is.
“It’s something I grew up on: to be the best Roy Lopez I can be every day. The way you represent yourself is the mark you leave on people. We can play for Lovie. We all are looking forward to continuing growing. Last year was a stepping stone, and we can keep growing. We know exactly what he wants.
“To be able to grow under Lovie would be a great success. He’ll sit down and talk to you. He will critique you. But at the same time, he will show you love and make you understand what he is saying. If you ever want to talk football, you can go up to his office or call him at any time of the day. That’s the biggest thing: to have a coach you can rely upon.”
As a rookie, Lopez established himself as a gritty, reliable force in the interior defensive line. He recorded 31 tackles, 5 for losses, 2 quarterback hits, and 1 sack in 16 games for a 4-13 squad.
Hiring Cesaire as the replacement for King, the new inside linebackers coach for the rival Titans, is another development Lopez is enthused about. Lopez recently met with Cesaire, 41, along with defensive end Jonathan Greenard and defensive tackle Ross Blacklock.
Cesaire is a former starting defensive lineman for the Chargers. He was part of the Buffalo Bills’ top-ranked NFL defense last season as their assistant defensive line coach.
“It was good because being able to bring in his mind and we were all in the same room. Me, Ross, and J.G. with him and he just, at first we learned about each other and where we’re from,” Lopez said.
“But once football got into the picture, it was a different story. He stands up and you can tell he just loves football. He lives it. Being able to play for someone like that is who you want to play with.
“It’s the same thing with Lovie. You can feel when someone loves football and lives football. So, you can tell he just wants the best out of us. He wants to make us the best player we can possibly be. So, we’re looking forward to playing for him and looking forward to being able to grow every day.”
Known for toughness
After starting 15 games last season, Lopez has made an impression. And his reputation for toughness and strength precedes him.
“Absolutely, very stout at the point of attack. Great quick first step, very strong, powerful hands. Strong, powerful player,” Cesaire said. “And he’s young, too, so he’s almost going to be like an empty canvas that I can just mold him however I want right now. So, I’m excited to work with Roy as well.”
Stay up to date with the latest in NFL free agency
As the league transitions into free agency, there will be plenty of news and rumors from around the NFL in regard to your favorite team. That includes chatter about players who will be on the move (or not) in free agency. Stay updated and keep track of Pro Football Network’s Top 50 Free Agent Rankings to better understand the free-agent market.