Practice Squad Updates: Friday

We’ll keep track of Friday’s practice squad signings and cuts right here, with the most recent moves added to the top. Here’s the latest:

  • The Patriots have filled the two openings on their practice squad, announcing today in a press release that they’ve signed linebacker Ja’Gared Davis and wide receiver Jonathan Krause.

Earlier updates:

  • The Cardinals have signed return specialist Solomon Patton, according to agent Hadley Engelhard (via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times on Twitter). The former Florida Gator signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent, but he was waived by the team earlier this week.

Raiders To Place Woodley, Young On IR

At least two Raiders players won’t be around to try to help lead the team to its first victory of the year, according to head coach Tony Sparano, who confirmed today that defensive end LaMarr Woodley and safety Usama Young have season-ending injuries (Twitter link via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle). According to Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter), practice squad players will likely be promoted to the 53-man roster when Woodley and Young are officially placed on injured reserve.

Woodley, who turns 30 next month, suffered a torn bicep on Sunday, prematurely ending his season and likely his stint with the Raiders as well. The veteran defender signed a two-year deal with the team in the offseason, but the contract didn’t include a signing bonus, which means it’ll be fairly easy for Oakland to get out of at season’s end. With Woodley recovering from this injury, it seems more likely that the Raiders would cut him than commit to a 2015 salary that includes a $3.85MM base and a $1MM bonus due on the fifth day of the ’15 league year.

As for Young, he also signed a two-year contract with the Raiders in the offseason. A frequent contributor on special teams, Young had also taken on a more significant role on defense this season, starting three of the club’s first six contests.

Assuming the Raiders add a pair of defenders to replace their injured players, candidates to be promoted from the practice squad include defensive ends Denico Autry and Shelby Harris, along with linebacker Spencer Hadley, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, and defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin.

Cap Notes: Rice, Kerley, Trades

With the trade deadline approaching, it’s worth keeping an eye on which teams have cap room to spare and which clubs don’t have much flexibility to make moves. Before we get into that though, we have a couple notes on how a pair of players will affect their respective teams’ (or former teams’) caps. Let’s dive in….

  • Because Ray Rice filed a grievance against the Ravens in an attempt to recoup his 2014 base salary, he’ll count against the cap for 40% of that disputed amount, tweets Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. Because Rice had been in line for a $3,529,412 salary, the cap charge for Baltimore works out to $1,411,765.
  • Adam Caplan of ESPN.com adds another note on Jeremy Kerley‘s contract details, tweeting that the Jets wideout has $3.841MM in fully guaranteed money at the time of his signing, with an additional $2MM becoming guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2015 league year.
  • As Albert Breer of the NFL Network considers whether there will be any deals of note before Tuesday’s trade deadline, he points out that 15 teams have less than $5MM in cap space, which could make it tricky to complete any sort of significant move.
  • Breer goes on to add that there are six teams with more than $10MM in cap room: The Jaguars ($22.84MM), Browns ($19.06MM), Eagles ($16.31MM), Jets ($12.82MM), Titans ($11.86MM), and Patriots ($10.54MM).

Cowboys Links: Okoye, Sam, Murray

Amobi Okoye practiced for the first time yesterday, and the clock has officially begun ticking. The Cowboys have three weeks to decide whether they want to activate the former first-rounder or keep him on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Regardless, practicing was a big step in the right direction for the 27-year-old. Okoye is recovering from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a brain condition that causes memory loss and seizures. This resulted in Okoye spending three months in a coma last year. Following such a traumatic experience, the defensive tackle was thrilled to return to the field (via Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com)…

“It was good, it was worth it,” said Okoye. “It was mixed emotions. It felt like it naturally was coming back. I’ve played six years in the league [and], it doesn’t take too long for stuff to come back to you.”

Linebacker Bruce Carter was impressed by his teammate’s determination to return to the game…

“He’s been through a lot,” Carter said. “His story is amazing. A guy like that who works real hard, I see him all the time working [with strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Woicik] one-on-one. Just to see him actually working with [us] and see it pay off is a great thing. I think he’s going to do great things for us.”

Let’s see what else is happening in the Cowboys organization…

  • Owner Jerry Jones attributed the release of Michael Sam to “a numbers game,” tweets Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Jones clarified that Sam was great at practice and worked “very, very hard.”
  • Members of the Cowboys’ 2013 draft class are already contributing to the team, and Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com points to first-round pick Travis Frederick as the best of the bunch.
  • The Cowboys have enough money under the cap to fit a veteran, but Archer doesn’t believe the team is going to be active at the trade deadline.
  • Despite DeMarco Murray‘s hot start to the season, Bob Sturm of The Dallas Morning News would still move on from the veteran in free agency if the team could draft a stud running back like Georgia’s Todd Gurley. Since the team won’t have that foresight, Sturm believes the team should franchise the running back.

AFC East Notes: Ayers, Brady, Jets, Pryor

Akeem Ayers finds himself in a much different situation with the Patriots than he with his previous team, the Titans. The former second-round pick apparently fell out of favor with Ken Whisenhunt and his coaching staff, but the 25-year-old is happy for a chance to contribute in New England. Via Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald

“I’m pretty much just happy to be here. Obviously, I wasn’t playing there, and I just happened to get in a good situation here,” Ayers said. “As I’m learning the playbook, I’m trying to simplify things as much as I can and the coaches are helping me out with that. We’re trying to keep things simple and try to learn to the best I can to play as fast as I can when I’m on the field.”

Let’s check out some more notes from the AFC East…

  • ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss believes Tom Brady will finish his career with the Patriots. However, based on the team’s previous handling of franchise players, Reiss warns that it isn’t a guarantee.
  • While Bill Belichick has received some criticism for releasing veteran Tommy Kelly, Reiss points out that the veteran didn’t put forth much effort in the team’s preseason opener. The writer opines that Kelly wanted out and forced Belichick’s hand.
  • Following an eight-win season in 2013, the Jets should have done a better job of addressing some of their weaknesses in free agency, writes Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Entering the season with the league’s second-highest salary-cap surplus is an “embarrassing truth,” the writer opines.
  • Among the Jets disappointments this season has been first-rounder Calvin Pryor. Coach Rex Ryan attributed the rookie’s struggles to a missed interception earlier in the season. “Probably started with the first game when he dropped that pick-six. But, he hasn’t had the impact necessarily that I think all of us had expected, but quite honestly, our defense has been played a little differently than maybe we had anticipated,” Ryan said (via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com). “So, I think we’ve had to make some of those adjustments along the way. It hasn’t gone according to plan so to speak.”

Patriots To Sign Alan Branch

FRIDAY, 9:25am: The deal between the two sides still hasn’t been finalized. ESPNBoston.com’s Lee Schechter writes that the defensive lineman was spotted in the locker room, but Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald clarifies (on Twitter) that Branch still hasn’t signed.

Meanwhile, ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss suggests that the Patriots could wait a week to sign Branch. As the writer notes, if the team ultimately decides that Branch can’t help them this weekend, it’s make little sense to rush the process.

TUESDAY, 7:42pm: The Patriots are expected to sign free agent defensive lineman Alan Branch to help fill the void left by Chandler Jones‘ injury, tweets Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe. Branch was released by the Bills after he was arrested for a DUI in August.

Branch, 29, was signed to a three-year, $9.1MM extension in December of last year, which included a $3.1MM signing bonus. The former Cardinals second-round pick was set to earn $1.85MM in base salary in 2014, $875K of which was guaranteed for injury only, but Buffalo decided to part ways with him after his incident. Branch started 13 games for the Bills last season, and has started 47 during his career, racking up 112 tackles and eight sacks in total.

New England also acquired defensive end Akeem Ayers from the Titans earlier today.

Poll: Who Will The Titans Trade?

The NFL trade deadline is just days away and recently there has been a lot of chatter about the 2-5 Titans, who apparently don’t want to wait until the offseason to start their newest rebuilding process. Tennessee traded linebacker Akeem Ayers and a seventh-round choice to the Pats for a sixth-round pick earlier this week and that might not be the last trade they pull off in October.

Three veteran players in particular have been identified as trade candidates, and wide receiver Nate Washington is the biggest of the bunch. Washington is in the final year of his six-year, $26.8MM deal and the Titans, who aren’t in the playoff picture right now, aren’t eager to pay out ~$282K per game to the 31-year-old. Of course, that doesn’t mean other clubs wouldn’t be willing to take on that obligation. The Bengals are one team that could benefit from adding Washington to the fold. Rutgers alum Mohamed Sanu has emerged as a legitimate option in the passing game, but Cincinnati could use reinforcements, especially if A.J. Green isn’t back on the field this Sunday. Moving Washington wouldn’t just save money, it would allow the Titans to see how sophomore Justin Hunter responds to being their unquestioned No. 1 receiver.

Safety Michael Griffin, who has a Tennessee tenure nearly as long as Washington’s, is said to also be on the block. Like Washington, Griffin also boasts an impressive track record of durability, playing 16 games per season from 2007-2012, 14 games in 2013, and playing in all seven games thus far in 2014. In those 14 games last season, Griffin recorded 82 tackles, four pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) was also bullish on him, giving him an overall grade of 6.1, good for 14th amongst all qualified safeties in the NFL last season. The advanced metrics haven’t been nearly as kind to him this season – he’s 75th out of 82 safeties – but another team could try getting him back to his old form in a different scheme.

Just hours ago, linebacker Wesley Woodyard was added to the list of Titans trade possibilities. Woodyard just signed with the Titans in the offseason on a four-year deal worth up to $16MM with $4.75MM in guarantees, so his inclusion came as something of a surprise. Still, with a youth movement taking place in Tennessee, it appears that GM Ruston Webster is willing to move Woodyard and possibly carve out more snaps for rookie Avery Williamson.

So, with the Tuesday deadline drawing closer, who do you think will be on the move?

AFC South Notes: Titans, Woodyard, Mallett

They say the “idiot on the field” doesn’t belong there, but that’s not always the case. 23-year-old Kryshana Pierce, who rushed the field during the Colts-Bengals game, is actually a former professional women’s football player, as Dana Hunsiger Benbow of the Indy Star writes. The former wide receiver was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, and resisting law enforcement. She did not get a contract offer from the Bengals, however, even though A.J. Green is sidelined with an injury. More from the AFC South..

  • Last night we heard that wide receiver Nate Washington is on the block and today safety Michael Griffin was mentioned as a Titans trade candidate. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) now adds linebacker Wesley Woodyard to the list. Woodyard, 28, signed a four-year deal worth up to $16MM with the Titans in March. The veteran’s deal includes $4.75MM in guaranteed money. With Zach Mettenberger under center on Sunday, the Titans are apparently looking towards the future.
  • Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req’d) looked at some backup quarterbacks from around the league who could start in 2015, including Texans pending free agent Ryan Mallett. The QB free agent class looks like it’ll be rather thin and the same can be said of the QB talent pool in the draft. That could make Mallett a desirable starting option on the open market for another team or it could lead the Texans to re-sign him to be their own No. 1 guy.
  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald (on Twitter) is perplexed by the Jaguars‘ apparent waste of resources. Jacksonville has had top-10 draft choices in each of the last seven seasons and top five picks in each of the last three years. Despite that, they’re currently 1-6.

Latest On Ray Rice Case

Yesterday, a judge ruled that commissioner Roger Goodell will be forced to testify at the Ray Rice hearing. The decision was not unexpected, but also not a given, and it should make things very interesting. Now, it sounds like the heat will really be turned up on the commissioner based on what we’re hearing tonight. The latest on the Ray Rice appeal..

  • In addition to commissioner Goodell, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome and team president Dick Cass will also be required to testify at the Rice hearing, tweets Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
  • NFL nemeses Jeffrey Kessler and Peter Ginsberg will be questioning Goodell at the hearing, Florio writes. Ginsberg, who was retained directly by Rice, has handled several cases in recent years against the NFL, including the StarCaps case involing Pat Williams and Kevin Williams.
  • Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and director of team security Darren Sanders won’t be among those called to testify by the judge in the case, tweets Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
  • Ultimately, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith could decide to get in on the fun and question Goodell, Florio hears from a source. Smith, a practicing lawyer before becoming the NFLPA boss, routinely adds his own name to the roster of lawyers handling a given case which allows him the option to directly participate as an advocate.

East Notes: Beckham Jr., Kerley, Pryor, Murray

Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was always destined for greatness, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “My mom told me when I was four years old…I was outside playing, she came outside and said ‘What are you doing?’ I looked in her eye and told her I was practicing for Sundays. She said the way I said it she had no choice but to believe it,” the LSU product said. Here’s more from the AFC and NFC East..

  • Jeremy Kerley‘s new four-year extension with the Jets calls for $14MM in new money, including a $3MM signing bonus, according to Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com (on Twitter). ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan reported earlier this week that the wide receiver has $5.4MM in guaranteed salary under the new deal.
  • Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters today that first round pick Calvin Pryor hasn’t “had the impact necessarily that all of us had expected,” writes Cimini. Part of that probably has to do with the hard-hitting Louisville product playing out of position. Pryor made a name for himself by delivering highlight reel hits near the line of scrimmage. Instead, he’s playing deep-middle safety thanks to the Jets’ injuries in the secondary.
  • Bob Sturm of The Dallas Morning News is really high on Georgia running back Todd Gurley. In fact, in a hypothetical where the Cowboys could part ways with DeMarco Murray and replace him with Gurley rather than franchising him or re-signing him to a big long-term deal, he would go with the rookie tailback. Of course, Dallas will have to make their call on whether to franchise Murray in advance of the draft and it doesn’t seem like Gurley, projected to be a top ten pick, will be around when the Cowboys are on the clock.