Wes Welker Suspended For Four Games

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has been suspended four games for the use of amphetamines, sources tell ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Welker appealed the suspension two weeks ago and all parties were notified today that he lost that appeal, tweets Albert Breer of the NFL Network.Wes Welker (vertical)

A source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (on Twitter) that Welker took “molly” at the Kentucky Derby, which resulted in the positive test. Florio adds that the drug was cut with with amphetamines, which would mean that Welker had taken ecstasy rather than molly. The situation is, of course, reminiscent of Orlando Scandrick‘s. The Cowboys cornerback reportedly took ecstasy while on vacation in Mexico this offseason and because the drug included amphetamines, his positive test put him in violation of the CBA’s performance enhancing drug policy rather than its recreational drug policy.

Even though it’s a four game suspension, Welker will have to wait until Week 6 to make his 2014 debut. The Broncos have a Week 5 bye, so Welker won’t be eligible to return until Denver’s game against the Jets on October 12th. The Broncos have known about Welker’s four game suspension since before camp but were holding out hope on his appeal, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

The Broncos could be on the lookout for outside help though they have plenty of receiving weapons already in-house. Peyton Manning will have free agent addition Emmanuel Sanders and promising rookie Cody Latimer at wide receiver while Julius Thomas and longtime teammate Jacob Tamme will be at tight end. Tamme sits behind Thomas on the depth chart, of course, but he could see some additional work while Welker is sidelined.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor Moves: Tuesday

Here are the latest minor transactions from around the NFL:

5:17pm:

  • The Browns have cut offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann with a failed physical designation, according to Brian McIntyre (via Twitter). That clears a roster spot for Vinston Painter, whose signing was noted below.
  • The following players have been removed from their teams’ respective IR lists with injury settlements, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (all Twitter links): Ryan McKee (Chiefs), Larry Asante (Raiders), Greg Jenkins (Raiders), and Eric Ward (Titans). C.J. Davis (Seahawks) has also been removed from IR with a settlement, tweets Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

4:44pm:

  • The Jets have signed linebacker Jeremiah George and wideout Quincy Enunwa to their practice squad, the team announced today (via Twitter). New York selected the duo in the fifth and sixth rounds of this year’s draft, respectively.

4:13pm:

  • The Panthers have signed former Jets wideout Stephen Hill to their practice squad, cutting linebacker D.J. Smith, the team announced today (Twitter link). According to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the Redskins will also interested in bringing Hill in for a workout, but Carolina offered him a deal.
  • The Cardinals have added wideout Kevin Cone, defensive tackle Christian Tupou, and running back Dominique Williams to their practice squad, per Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com (via Twitter).
  • Tight end Jerome Cunningham has signed with the Giants‘ practice squad, according to agent Howard Shatsky (via Twitter).
  • The Chargers filled their practice squad by adding running back Marion Grice, who cleared waivers after being cut yesterday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
  • The Cowboys have also filled their 10-man squad, adding offensive lineman John Wetzel and defensive back Jemea Thomas, according to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Twitter). Presumably, one of the 10 players on the unit will be cut tomorrow if the team intends to bring Michael Sam aboard.
  • A.J. Jefferson of the Seahawks and Justice Cunningham of the Rams have both been removed from injured reserve lists with settlements, according to Caplan and Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter links).

3:28pm:

  • According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post (via Twitter), the Browns are signing offensive lineman Vinston Painter off the Broncos‘ practice squad, which will open up a spot on the 10-man unit for long snapper Kevin McDermott, whose signing was noted below. Cleveland will need to make a corresponding roster move to clear room for Painter.
  • The Redskins made a series of changes to their practice squad today, signing offensive lineman Braxston Cave and linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat. Linebacker Chaz Sutton and offensive lineman Tevita Stevens were cut.
  • Offensive lineman Matt Patchan has been removed from the Buccaneers‘ injured reserve list with a settlement, says Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune (via Twitter).

1:23pm:

  • A number of teams have filled their 10-man practice squads by adding a player. The Jaguars signed tight end Marcel Jensen, per John Oehser of Jaguars.com (via Twitter); the Bills signed tight end D.J. Tialavea, tweets Mike Rodak of ESPN.com; the Bengals signed wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, according to Coley Harvey of ESPN.com (via Twitter); and the Browns officially announced the signing of fullback Kiero Small, which had been previously reported by Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter).
  • A pair of clubs also swapped in one player for another on their practice squads. The Dolphins signed defensive end Gerald Rivers and dropped defensive end D’Aundre Reed, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald (via Twitter). And the Vikings signed offensive lineman Austin Wentworth to their squad to replace cornerback Kendall James, the team announced (via Twitter).
  • The Broncos are also making an addition to their practice squad, in long snapper Kevin McDermott, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post (via Twitter). But Denver already had a full 10-man unit, so we’ll have to wait to hear about the corresponding move.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link) provide the respective details for Ray McDonald‘s contract restructure with the 49ers and Glover Quin‘s reworked deal with the Lions.
  • The Buccaneers intend to open up a roster spot by placing running back Charles Sims on their injured reserve list with the designation to return, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Teams can begin to use that IR spot as of 3:00pm central time today.
  • Cornerback Bobby Felder has been removed from the Bills‘ injured reserve list after reaching a settlement with the team, tweets Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550.

Colts Sign Jamon Meredith

The Colts have made a series of roster moves this evening, including signing offensive lineman Jamon Meredith, as Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun notes (Twitter links). Indianapolis cut Tyler Hoover from practice squad and Deji Karim was removed from injured reserve with an injury settlement. Meanwhile, the Colts have added tackle Reid Fragel to the practice squad while placing Xavier Nixon on injured reserve-designated to return.

Meredith signed a two-year contract with the Buccaneers for $2.7MM, with $350K in guaranteed money and up to $750K available in playing time incentives. However, Tampa Bay made the decision to let him go late last week as a part of their effort to get down to a 53-man roster. It was somewhat surprising given Meredith’s contract and his role in practice. The tackle/guard had been seeing some reps with the first-team offense, which intimated to outsiders that he could be a big part of the Bucs’ O-Line. That was not meant to be, but he’ll now try and make a mark with the Colts.

Saints Re-Sign Shayne Graham

The Saints have added a new kicker to their roster, and he looks an awful lot like the one the team cut over the weekend. Per Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate (via Twitter), the Saints have re-signed Shayne Graham, just three days after releasing him.

The series of moves seemed to suggest that Graham was the player the Saints’ had in mind all along for their kicking job, and that the team wanted to wait until today to re-add him to the roster in order to move a player to the injured reserve list with a designation to return. However, the corresponding roster move for New Orleans involved waiving quarterback Ryan Griffin, as Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets.

During a two-game regular season stretch last season with New Orleans, Graham was perfect, converting both of his field goal attempts and all seven of his extra point tries. He also didn’t miss a kick in the postseason, making four field goals in the team’s Wild Card win over the Eagles.

Josh Brent Reinstated, Can Return Week 11

Josh Brent will be reinstated to the Cowboys but won’t be eligible to return until at least Week 11, according to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report (on Twitter). The reinstatement is conditional, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (on Twitter), so it will presumably be contingent on good behavior. Brent has five days to appeal the decision, as Ed Werder of ESPN (on Twitter) notes. Any prohibited alcohol-related conduct will likely result in immediate suspension for the defensive tackle and, potentially, NFL banishment.

Dallas was said to be bracing for a four-game suspension just days ago, but Brent has been hit with a heavier punishment than that. Still, given the circumstances surrounding Brent’s case, it would be a surprise to see him put up a major battle to get back on the field sooner. Brent, who was charged with intoxication manslaughter, served a six-month jail sentence and already voluntarily taken a full season off, so he might have a case to make for himself. By the same token, the league has come under fire for its discipline as of late. Ravens running back Ray Rice was given a two-game suspension, viewed as far too lenient by the public, for his domestic abuse incident. Meanwhile, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended for all of 2014 for a positive marijuana test.

Brent played in 39 games for the Cowboys between 2010 and 2012, recording 44 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Cowboys Sign Jack Crawford

The Cowboys have placed second-round edge defender Demarcus Lawrence on their injured reserve list with a designation to return, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). With the active roster spot vacated by Lawrence, the team signed former Raiders defensive end Jack Crawford.

Crawford, who turns 26 this weekend, saw 126 defensive snaps last year for the Raiders, and also contributed occasionally in kick and punt coverage. The Penn State product, a fifth-round pick in 2012, logged 15 tackles overall, and doesn’t figure to play a significant role for the Cowboys.

As for Lawrence, the Cowboys liked him enough that they traded their third-round selection in May’s draft to move up and snag him at 34th overall. However, he suffered a fractured foot during training camp, with the original timetable for his return estimated at up to 12 weeks. He should be able to contribute for Dallas in the second half of the 2014 season.

Chiefs Sign Alex Smith To Four-Year Extension

TUESDAY, 4:42pm: Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter links) has the specific details on Smith’s new deal, which includes an $18MM signing bonus and $19MM in fully guaranteed money. The additional $26MM in reported guarantees will become fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2015 league year.

SUNDAY, 6:30pm: The Chiefs have officially announced the extension. General manager John Dorsey also released a statement:

“It was a priority of ours to get this deal done and keep Alex in a Chiefs uniform long-term. Alex is a proven leader on and off the field. He is a special individual with a lot of ability, and we are fortunate to have him here.

“John and his staff along with Tom and his group have worked hard to get this deal done. They’ve done a nice job,” Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid said. “Alex is a smart, talented football player that has adapted well to our offensive scheme. He also, obviously, has had a tremendous amount of success as a quarterback in this league. We as a team are very happy to have Alex as our quarterback moving forward.”

5:47pm: Alex Smith will be the Chiefs quarterback for the foreseeable future, as Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star reports (via Twitter) that the two sides have agreed to a new deal. A league source tells Paylor that the deal is a four-year extension worth $68MM, with $45MM in guarantees. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport confirms the report, tweeting that the Chiefs are finalizing a deal worth about $17MM per season. ProFootballTalk.com reports (via Twitter) that the deal is worth $30MM guaranteed at the time of the signing, with another $15MM vesting next March.

"<strongSmith was entering the final year of his contract and was set to earn $7.5MM in 2014. There had been whispers over the past month that the two sides were negotiating, but a report in mid-August suggested that an extension wasn’t close. Smith addressed the rumors twice, stating earlier in the month that he wanted to “play out” his next contract. Last week, the quarterback stated that he didn’t want negotiations to bleed into the regular season.

Smith had a tumultuous career with the 49ers after being selected first-overall in the 2005 draft. However, once Jim Harbaugh took over as coach, Smith showed the potential that had previously warranted such a high draft pick. Smith had success in his final two seasons in San Francisco, but he was shipped to Kansas City following the 2012 season for a second-rounder and another conditional draft choice.

The 30-year-old had arguably his best season in 2013, earning himself his first Pro-Bowl birth. Smith threw for 3,313 yards, connecting on 23 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Smith also confirmed that he could perform in the postseason, as he threw four touchdowns in the Chiefs 44-45 loss to the Colts.

However, ProFootballFocus’ advanced metrics (subscription required) weren’t as high on Smith’s 2013 season. He ranked as the 20th-best quarterback in the league, coming in just ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Sam Bradford. In fact, Smith rated as a below-average passing quarterback but elite as a running quarterback, which shouldn’t be too surprising since Smith ran for a career-high 431 yards last season.

PFR’s Zach Links took a look at Smith’s extension candidacy in May, predicting that he could receive a contract similar to that of Tony Romo or Jay Cutler. Ultimately, Zach concluded that $18MM per year would be reasonable for a player of Smith’s caliber.

Chiefs Sign Kurt Coleman

4:08pm: The Chiefs have officially announced the signing of Coleman, moving linebacker Joe Mays to the injured reserve list with a designation to return, according to a team release.

9:53am: The Chiefs have reached an agreement to sign free agent safety Kurt Coleman, according to agent Blake Baratz (via Twitter). Coleman had hit the open market after being released by the Vikings over the weekend when the team went from 75 players to 53.

Coleman, 26, spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Eagles, who selected him in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. Although he was the team’s starter at free safety in 2011 and 2012, he ranked 85th out of 88 total qualified safeties in ’12, according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required). Those grades may have contributed to the team reducing Coleman’s role in 2013, a season in which he played just 74 defensive snaps. However, he still played a significant role on special teams, racking up nine tackles in kick and punt coverage.

Coleman, who also visited the Jets and Colts this offseason before signing with the Vikings, will join a Chiefs secondary that includes standout strong safety Eric Berry. However, the team has some question marks at the other safety spot, with Husain Abdullah looking like the probable starter, replacing the departed Kendrick Lewis.

In order to fit Coleman on the 53-man roster, Kansas City will need to make a corresponding move.

Bears Re-Sign Kelvin Hayden

The Bears have placed wide receiver Marquess Wilson in IR with a designation to return, opening up a roster spot to bring back defensive back Kelvin Hayden, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Hayden had been one of the Bears’ last cuts over the weekend when the team trimmed its roster from 75 players to 53.

Hayden, 30, tore a hamstring last August, which landed him on injured reserve, forcing him out of action for the 2013 season. For his career, Hayden has been active for 101 games, including 49 starts, racking up 12 interceptions and 45 passes defended in parts of eight seasons. He’ll be a depth piece in Chicago’s secondary.

Wilson had been poised to assume a larger role on the Bears’ offense this year, but won’t be eligible to return until at least Week 10, since the Bears have a bye in Week 9. When he gets back, he’ll look to carve out playing time on a receiving corps that now features Santonio Holmes behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

Lions Re-Sign Darryl Tapp

The Lions initially signed edge defender Darryl Tapp during the first week of free agency this offseason, and now the team is bringing him back during the first week of the regular season. According to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com (via Twitter), the club has re-signed Tapp, placing rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy on the injured reserve list with the designation to return in order to clear an active roster spot.

Tapp, who turns 30 this month, is coming off his least productive season, as he recorded just 10 tackles and one sack for Washington in 2013, well below his respective career highs of 55 and seven. Although he saw plenty of playing time during stints with the Seahawks and Eagles earlier in his career, Tapp probably won’t be more than a reserve defender for Detroit.

As for Van Noy, the second-round pick will be eligible to begin practicing after Week 6, and can return to game action after Week 8.