It’s hard for teams to improve their rosters in-season; trades are a rarity and the best players are already on rosters. With that said, a player returning from injury that was placed on the PUP list can provide a boost.
Now in Week 7 of the NFL season, teams are able to activate players from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to its 53-man roster. Players on the PUP are barred from practicing or playing, but they are able to do conditioning work with the team’s trainers. The window to activate a player is the start of Week 7 until the end of Week 9, or the player is automatically placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Here are five candidates eligible to come off PUP that have a chance to help their respective teams.
Taylor Decker, OT, Detroit Lions
The Lions desperately need Decker to return. After being sacked at least five times in each of the last three games, quarterback Matthew Stafford is the NFL’s most sacked passer. Detroit is battling injuries with starting right tackle Ricky Wagner, and Decker’s backups are also banged up.
After starting the season 2-1, Detroit dropped three of its last four games and are in severe need of its blind side protector for Stafford to get back on the field.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are in a peculiar situation when it comes to the quarterback position. Sam Bradford’s had terrific moments, and Case Keenum is a viable backup that has performed well. However the player with the most long-term upside is Bridgewater.
Just before the start of the 2016 season, Bridgewater suffered a non-contact injury to his left leg. An MRI later reveled that he tore his ACL and suffered other structural damage, including a dislocated knee joint. Bridgewater has now been cleared to practice and will look to recapture the momentum he was building prior to the injury, when he appeared to be the Vikings’ franchise quarterback.
Minnesota declined Bridgewater’s fifth-year option, so both he and Bradford are free agents at the end of the season. With both players looking for big paydays, Bridgewater’s return adds competition, which could bring about elevated quarterback play for the Vikings.
DeShawn Shead, CB, Seattle Seahawks
After spending parts of five seasons in Seattle, Shead took over as the starter opposite of Richard Sherman last year and performed well. Just as his career seemed to be taking off, Snead suffered an ACL injury in last year’s playoffs. Despite the injury, Seattle signed Shead to a one-year contract after the season. While Shaquill Griffin and Jeremy Lane have had positive moments, they aren’t making anyone forget about the possibility of Shead’s return.
Passer rating against thus far for Seattle cornerbacks
Justin Coleman 33.1
Richard Sherman 63.5
Jeremy Lane 96.3
Shaquill Griffin 103.1
— PFF SEA Seahawks (@PFF_Seattle) October 6, 2017
Coleman is best suited to play in the slot, and Shead’s return can improve the starting lineup, sub packages and depth at corner.
Tamba Hali, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
It’s been awhile since Hali and fellow pass rusher Justin Houston have both been healthy for the Chiefs, but there is a chance they can soon be reunited. With 5.5 sacks already this season, Houston has found his form, and the threat of Hali coming off the opposite edge is an exciting proposition.
At 33 years old, Hali may not be the every-down threat he once was, but he knows how to beat blocks and rush the passer. After he took to social media to express concerns regarding his under-utilization in last year’s playoffs, he will be highly motivated to prove he can still make an impact.
Howard Wilson, CB, Cleveland Browns
Wilson was a personal favorite of mine in last year’s draft, and his ball skills will be a welcome addition to the Browns’ secondary if he can return this season. Playing behind a pass rush that recently received a boost with Myles Garrett’s return from injury, Wilson will have his share of opportunities to break on hurried throws.
An outstanding tackler in college, Wilson compliments his coverage skills with physicality. Game experience this season will prove to be vital for Wilson going forward, and he is capable of making an immediate impact on Cleveland’s defense.