AFC West Notes: Miller, Verrett, Lewan

The Broncos intend to pick up the fifth-year option for star pass rusher Von Miller, but will wait until closer to the May 3rd deadline, writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. By exercising that option, the Broncos would be guaranteeing that salary in case of injury, and by holding back on picking up that fifth year early, the team is protecting themselves against the (unlikely) possibility that Miller suffers a two-season injury in the next week.

Florio also notes that due to Miller’s issues with substance abuse, this also gives the team more time to evaluate his off the field decisions. His next suspension would sideline him for an entire season, and while the team would obviously not have to pay a suspended player, it could change the team’s feelings on whether to commit to Miller long term.

More from around the AFC West:

  • The Broncos could look to select a defensive back with their first-round pick, and according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., TCU corner Jason Verrett could be the pick, writes Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. The team would prefer Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State, or Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech, but Gilbert will be long gone and Fuller might be already selected as well.
  • The Raiders prefer Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan to the more highly touted prospects of Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, reports Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune (via Twitter). Lewan was widely considered the third best offensive tackle in this draft, but has been considered a lock for the first half of round one since the end of his junior season. Lewan was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year following his junior and senior seasons, and could be drafted anywhere in the first half of day one, potentially as high as second overall to the Rams.
  • Troy wide receiver Eric Thomas, who previously visited the Colts, worked out for the Chargers yesterday, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Recent Signings Facing Former Teams In 2014

The 2014 NFL schedule has been released, and it gives us an interesting chance to see some players face their former teammates for the first time. Some of these players were traded or otherwise unwanted by their former teams, and others spurned their hometown fans for greener pastures elsewhere. In all cases, there are some fans or players who must be licking their chops to finally treat these players in their new colors as enemies for the first time.

The following players will get the chance to play against their former teams in 2014:

  • Matt Schaub will either get a chance to show up his replacement in Week 2, or possibly hope to avoid getting tormented by Jadeveon Clowney when the Texans visit the Raiders on September 14th (4:25 EST, CBS).
  • DeSean Jackson would love a chance to show the world the Eagles made a mistake, and he will return to Philadelphia for Week 3 on September 21st (1:00 EST, FOX). Jackson will get a second chance on Saturday, December 20th (4:30 EST, NFL Network/CBS).
  • Branden Albert got see Tamba Hali and Justin Houston in practice for years. He will get them in a game for the first time when the Dolphins host the Chiefs on September 21st (4:25 EST, CBS).
  • Julius Peppers can wreak some havoc in a new system in his former stadium when the Packers visit the Bears on September 28th (1:00 EST, FOX). Peppers will get a second chance in Green Bay on November 9th in primetime (8:30 EST, NBC).
  • Steve Smith told the fans to “Put your goggles on cause there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere,when he signed with the Ravens. Well have your goggles ready for Week 4, when the Ravens host the Panthers on September 28th (1:00 EST, CBS).
  • Alex Smith didn’t get to see Jim Harbaugh last year, but will finally get his shot to go after his former coach when the Chiefs travel to face the 49ers on October 5th (1:00 EST, CBS).
  • Eric Decker will get to watch Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense churn on without him when the Broncos play the Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 12th (1:00 EST, CBS).
  • Brandon Spikes will have to be prepared for the Patriots after a contentious offseason, as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been known to pick on players before. The Bills host the Patriots on October 12th (1:00 EST, CBS) and travel to New England on December 28th (1:00 EST, CBS).
  • Darrelle Revis will get to feast on a passing offense that struggled in 2013, and will likely invite Eric Decker to Revis Island when the Patriots host the Jets on Thursday Night Football on October 16th (8:25 EST, CBS/NFL Network). Revis will then get to return to a stadium filled with jeering fans on December 21st (1:00 EST, CBS).
  • Jared Veldheer seemingly couldn’t leave Oakland quick enough, and the Raiders will host his Cardinals on October 19th (4:25 EST, FOX).
  • Jason Hatcher had a career season with the Cowboys in 2013, and now returns to a 3-4 defense hoping to build upon his great season against his former team when the Redskins head to Dallas for Monday Night Football on October 27th (8:30 EST, ESPN). His second meeting with the Cowboys will be in Week 17, when the Redskins host their rivals on December 28th (1:00 EST, FOX).
  • Aqib Talib took the money to switch from the AFC runner up to the AFC champion, and he will take part in his third Brady-Manning matchup, his first as a Bronco, on November 2nd (4:25 EST, CBS).
  • Hakeem Nicks looked like he hated playing with the Giants in 2013, and this is his chance at revenge after feeling mistreated by the Giants organization and fans when the Colts visit MetLife Stadium for Monday Night Football on November 3rd (8:30 EST, ESPN).
  • Jared Allen gets to tee off against the Vikings offensive line he has been practicing against for the past six years, and for the first time since 2007 will finally get to share the field with Adrian Peterson on November 16th when the Bears host the Vikings (1:00 EST, FOX). Allen will head back to Minnesota on December 28th (1:00, FOX).
  • Lovie Smith gets his shot to beat the team that fired him, and will bring former Bear Josh McCown with him to move the football against a no longer feared Bears defense on November 9th (1:00 EST, FOX).
  • Mike Pettine left the Bills to coach the Browns, and will have to return to Buffalo on November 30th (1:00 EST, CBS).
  • Michael Johnson left the Bengals to be the featured pass rusher for the Buccaneers, and he will get his chance to beat Andrew Whitworth and the Bengals offensive line to get a hit on Andy Dalton on November 30th (1:00 EST, CBS).
  • Rodger Saffold can show the Raiders exactly how healthy he is after the team signed him to a huge money deal and subsequently failed him on his physical, voiding the deal. The Rams host the Raiders on November 30th (1:00 EST, CBS).
  • Henry Melton got hurt after receiving the franchise tag by the Bears, and will get a chance to prove he is still an effective player when the Cowboys visit the Bears for Thursday Night Football on December 4th (8:25 EST, NFL Network).
  • Chris Johnson will get to face the Titans for the first time, as he tries to show the team he still has some miles left on his tires when the Jets go to Tennessee on December 14th (4:05 EST, CBS).

Prospect Profile: Mike Evans

Earlier today, Zach Links looked at the consensus top receiver in the upcoming draft, but Sammy Watkins might not be the only playmaking pass catcher selected in the top ten. Texas A&M standout Mike Evans might not have the pedigree of Watkins, but after two seasons with the Aggies he has jumped to the top of draft boards across the league.

Evans has a strength that makes him extremely valuable in the current NFL. Standing tall at 6’5″, even if he cannot separate with cornerbacks running down the field, Evans has the ability to separate with anyone vertically. Time and time again during his two seasons at College Station, Johnny Manziel was able to throw the ball up and watch Evans go up and over smaller defenders to come down with the football.

Where Watkins is considered the more polished receiver with the highest upside, he surrenders four inches or more when compared to Evans. While Zach writes that Watkins could have a similar impact to A.J. Green or Julio Jones did during their first two seasons, both those players are 6’3″ or taller. Other notable receivers that are 6’3″ or taller include Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon, Jordy Nelson, Vincent Jackson, and Jimmy Graham to name a few.

If that list of names does not include all of the best receivers in the modern NFL, it includes nearly all of them. The gives Evans a huge upside that could rival even Watkins. While taller receivers sometimes do not possess the top end speed required, Evans eased the minds of scouts when he ran a surprisingly fast 40-yard dash, posting a time of 4.53 seconds.

More importantly than his combine performance, Evans produced on the field. As a redshirt freshman, Evans caught 82 passes for over 1,100 yards and added five touchdowns. He only got better as a sophomore, catching 69 passes for 1,394 yards, for an incredible 20.2 yards per catch. His 12 touchdowns were tied for most in the SEC, as he torched some of the best defenses in the country. The Aggies lost to Alabama, but Evans caught 7 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown in that game. Texas A&M went on to beat the eventual SEC champion Auburn Tigers, behind Evans’ 287 yards on 11 catches, with four of those catches ending in the endzone.

Evans still will most likely have to wait for Watkins to come off the board ahead of him, but both players are looking at being selected in the top ten. The Buccaneers (No. 7) are rumored to be interested in Evans, and the Lions (No. 10) have been interested as well. The Bills (No. 9) could be a possibility, and it would be a surprise if he is passed on by both the Giants (No. 12) and the Rams (No. 13), assuming the Rams do not take Watkins with their earlier pick.

Richard Sherman’s Contract Extension

Richard Sherman spoke about his expectations for his next contract with the Seahawks, reports Albert Breer of the NFL Network (via Twitter). Sherman, who is in a position to be the highest paid cornerback in the NFL on his next deal, is coming off a Super Bowl that was largely possible due to the team friendly deals for stars such as Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Russell Wilson. He talked about the possibility of receiving that lucrative deal from the Seahawks as the league’s top cornerback.

“Whatever they feel I am due. I will take it as respect,” said Sherman. “It’s all about respect in this game and the only way people show respect is the dollars. We’ll see what happens.” 

Sherman’s dominance the past two seasons has brought in a new age of defense in the NFL, as a number of teams have followed the Seahawks’ lead in looking to acquire tall and lengthy cornerbacks to combat the increased size of elite NFL receivers. The lack of such players only drives Sherman’s value even higher. If he were to hit the open market, he could challenge some of the highest guaranteed money for a cornerback ever seen in the NFL.

Despite durability concerns, Aqib Talib signed a six-year $57MM deal with the Broncos, and Darrelle Revis signed a one-year deal worth $12MM guaranteed, which is a lot of money considering this is his third team in as many years. A healthy Sherman could potentially look to surpass both those deals.

Patriots Exercise Nate Solder’s Option

The Patriots have officially exercised their fifth-year option on Nate Solder, reports Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter). As our tracker shows, it’ll be worth about $7.438MM.

The 26-year old Solder has started 31 of 32 games at left tackle for the Patriots over the past two seasons. The option will most likely keep Solder with the team for at least the next two seasons. While the team will most likely prefer to negotiate a long-term contract extension before or during the option year, they will still be able to exercise the franchise tag on Solder should they fail to secure a long-term deal.

Pro Football Focus graded Solder is the eighth best left tackle in 2013, and the ninth best tackle overall (subscription required).

AFC East Notes: Jets, Aikens, Lawrence

University of Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is visiting Jets tomorrow, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). The team is in desperate need of a playmaker at the position, as Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow struggled to provide a consistent option at tight end in 2013.

  • Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo visited the Jets today, reports Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com (via Twitter). The team could be interested in him should he be available in the second round.
  • Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be visiting the Jets tomorrow, reports Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). Clinton-Dix has visited the Pats and Eagles earlier this offseason.
  • The Dolphins are interested in Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens, writes Kevin Lerner of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. They need to add to their secondary, and were impressed by Aikens during Senior Bowl practices.
  • The Patriots had a pre-draft visit lined up for Demarcus Lawrence, but decided to cancel it, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. The defensive end/outside linebacker could go off the board within the top 50 picks.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Marcus Trufant To Retire As Seahawk

Veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant won’t be making an NFL comeback for the 2014 season, but he will be signing with a team this week. According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter link), the Seahawks announced today that they’ll sign Trufant to a contract so he can retire as a Seahawk.

Trufant, 33, spent nearly his entire NFL career in Seattle after the team drafted him 11th overall in 2003. In his 10 seasons with the Seahawks, Trufant played 136 games, including 125 starts, and racked up 21 interceptions. His best year came in 2007, when he picked off seven passes and earned the only Pro Bowl berth of his career.

Trufant’s last regular-season NFL action came in the 2012 season. Last year, the Washington State product signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars, but was released by the team before the season got underway, and didn’t catch on with another club.

Minor Moves: Panthers, Rams, Heyer

Here are today’s minor transactions from around the NFL, with any further Wednesday moves added to the top of the list throughout the evening:

  • Panthers offensive lineman Chris Scott has signed his exclusive rights free agent tender from the team that will keep him under contract for 2014, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. Scott started eight games for Carolina last season and could be leaned upon more significantly this year with longtime tackle Jordan Gross having retired and guard Travelle Wharton no longer under contract.
  • Wilson also reports (via Twitter) that wide receiver Justin Veltung has accepted and signed his ERFA tender from the Rams. Veltung didn’t see much action for St. Louis last season, but did return seven punts for the club near the end of the year.
  • Former Redskins and Raiders offensive lineman Stephon Heyer has signed with the CFL’s British Columbia Lions, tweets Alex Marvez of FOX Sports 1.

Lions Notes: Suh, Lora, Fortt, Couplin

A few hours before the NFL officially announcing its 2014 schedule, New York radio station WFAN broke news of the Giants’ slate for the coming season. According to the report, the Giants’ ’14 season starts off with a Monday night matchup in Detroit against the Lions. Here are a few more Wednesday updates on those Lions:

  • Citing a source, Scott Bischoff of New Era Scouting reported earlier this afternoon (via Twitter) that the Lions are open to the idea of trading Ndamukong Suh as a way of moving up as far as possible in the 2014 draft. I’m a little skeptical about how hard Detroit would push for a deal like that, even if the team could find a taker, and Bischoff himself notes that there’d be plenty of roadblocks (Twitter link).
  • In response to Bischoff’s report, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com takes a look at how a hypothetical trade of Suh would work, exploring some reasons why it could make sense for the Lions.
  • Eastern Illinois wide receiver Erik Lora will be paying a visit to Detroit to meet with the Lions on Friday, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • The Lions also hosted Cal linebacker Khairi Fortt and William & Mary safety Jerome Couplin for pre-draft visits today, tweets Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com.

Cowboys Sign Caleb Hanie

The Cowboys have signed former Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie to a one-year contract, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com (via Twitter). Since his stint in Chicago, Hanie has spent time with the Broncos and Browns.

Hanie, a Dallas native, likely won’t be a real factor in the Cowboys’ quarterback picture in 2014, considering the team already has Kyle Orton and Brandon Weeden on the roster to compete for the No. 2 job behind Tony Romo. Nonetheless, perhaps the signing is a signal that there are still lingering question marks about Orton’s future. As our Rory Parks wrote earlier this week, Orton’s absence from the Cowboys’ voluntary offseason workouts was worth keeping an eye on, given the rumors of retirement that surrounded the veteran signal-caller this year.

After being thrust into his first extended action in the 2010 NFC championship game against the Packers, Hanie appeared in six games for the Bears in 2011, losing all four of his starts, while completing 50% of his passes and throwing nine interceptions.

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