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 Alabama 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.

West Notes: Broncos, Raiders, Seahawks

Last night, the Raiders learned that they’ll likely be without defensive end LaMarr Woodley for the remainder of the season. In terms of morale, it’s a big blow to a team that is still searching for its first win of 2014. The Raiders will travel to Cleveland on Sunday and they hope to leave with a 1-6 record. Here’s more from the AFC and NFC West..

  • With the Broncos cutting off their in-season negotiations, their signing priority should be Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Chris Harris, and Wes Welker in that order after the season, opines Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). In a poll on the subject earlier today, nearly 70% of Pro Football Rumors readers said that Demaryius Thomas should be Denver’s top priority, followed by Julius Thomas (~20%), and Harris (~11%).
  • The Raiders tried out safeties M.D. Jennings and Larry Asante, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post (on Twitter). Jennings was a former starter for the Packers. Asante was with the Raiders before being waived/injured in August.
  • It was initially assumed that L.J. Fort was signed to the practice squad to play linebacker, but he could wind up being the Seahawks‘ answer at fullback, as Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times writes.

AFC East Links: Wilkerson, Dolphins, Pats

As we look forward to a showdown of the AFC West’s leaders tonight, let’s shift our focus to the other side of the conference and round up a few items from out of the AFC East….

  • While the Jets recently locked up wide receiver Jeremy Kerley through 2018, defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is the more notable extension candidate on the roster. However, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report suggests that because the Jets can keep Wilkerson under control at a relatively affordable price through 2016 due to his fifth-year option and the franchise tag, the team may not be willing to offer significant guaranteed money at this point.
  • The Dolphins could use a power running back, some help at linebacker, and a gunner on special teams, but it’s unclear if they’ll be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, if they’re even active at all, writes Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. If the Dolphins do decide to make a move, defensive lineman Jared Odrick looks like their most plausible trade chip, in Kelly’s view.
  • Rookie running back David Fluellen and former Tampa Bay defensive end Scott Solomon had workouts with the Patriots this week, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (via Twitter).
  • Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio is one of five NFL executives identified by Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post as potential general manager candidates this offseason.

Poll: Broncos’ Top Extension Priority?

ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reported earlier today that the Broncos don’t intend to discuss contract extensions with either Demaryius Thomas or Julius Thomas until after the season. That has since been confirmed by multiple reporters, including Mike Klis of the Denver Post and Albert Breer of the NFL Network, who indicated that the team hasn’t engaged in talks with either player since August.

The Broncos will do their best to keep all their impact players heading into next season, but the team will only have one franchise tag available, and the salary cap will almost certainly limit Denver’s ability to keep all its key free agents. Besides the Thomases, wideout Wes Welker and – more importantly – cornerback Chris Harris are among the team’s other players eligible to test the open market.

Harris, who is playing this season on a restricted free agent tender, ranked eighth among cornerbacks in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required), and has been even better so far this year. Per PFF, quarterbacks throwing into Harris’ coverage have completed 12 of 32 attempts for 101 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception, good for a 33.5 QB rating. The 25-year-old’s outstanding play has made him one of the cornerstones of Denver’s improved defensive unit.

Of course, in Demaryius and Julius Thomas, the Broncos have two players who rank among the best at their respective positions in the NFL. Demaryius has averaged 1,432 receiving yards over the last two seasons, and is on pace to blow past that mark this year, while Julius leads the NFL with nine receiving touchdowns in just six games. Even though Peyton Manning could post big numbers throwing to just about anyone, losing either Thomas would be a significant blow to the Broncos’ passing attack.

What do you think? Which of the Broncos’ top three prospective free agents is the most important for the team to extend? Does the club need to make sure it retains one or both of Manning’s top targets, or is keeping the young, shutdown cornerback the top priority?

Minor Moves: Thursday

Since Thursday is typically a quieter day for transactions during the NFL season, we’ll round up today’s minor 53-man roster and practice squad moves right here, rather than splitting them into separate posts. Here’s the latest:

  • The Broncos announced today (via Twitter) that they’ve released safety John Boyett from their practice squad following his arrest earlier this week on a misdemeanor third-degree assault charge.

Earlier updates:

  • The Chiefs have signed linebacker Darin Drakeford to their practice squad, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). Paylor adds that Drakeford takes the practice squad spot vacated by linebacker Orie Lemon, who has signed to the Buccaneers‘ 53-man roster. Tampa Bay had an opening on its roster after Da’Quan Bowers was moved to the reserve/suspended list for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
  • After clearing waivers, tight end Rashaun Allen has returned to the Seahawks, signing to the club’s practice squad, tweets Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

NFC Notes: Jackson, Murray, Seahawks

Here’s a round-up of a few Thursday notes from around the NFC:

  • Vincent Jackson has been cited frequently as one of the trade candidates to watch as Tuesday’s deadline approaches, but if it were up the Buccaneers wideout, he wouldn’t be going anywhere, as he tells Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com. “I think bringing Lovie in and the staff that he’s brought and his mentality and his goals are aligned with mine and I think a lot of guys in this locker room,” Jackson said. “I hope for us to start the tradition here of winning football in Tampa Bay. I hope to stay in this uniform and this jersey and help bring that.”
  • While having a monster season in a contract year typically bodes well for a player’s future earnings, former Packers executive Andrew Brandt of TheMMQB.com examines whether DeMarco Murray‘s big numbers, buoyed by a huge workload, may actually be hurting him financially.
  • Before he signed with the Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Nate Askew was one of a handful of players to work out for the Seahawks, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). In addition to Askew and players previously reported, the club also auditioned defensive end Sammy Brown and tight end Michael Egnew, as well as bringing in defensive end Austen Lane for a visit (Twitter links).
  • A few more tryouts, via Wilson: The Buccaneers are working out punter Brock Miller (Twitter link), the Cowboys took a look at offensive lineman Keavon Milton (Twitter link), and Washington auditioned defensive end Lawrence Sidbury (Twitter link).

Lions Unlikely To Make Trade At Deadline

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has been the subject of some trade speculation this year, but general manager Martin Mayhew doesn’t anticipate moving the star defender, or anyone else for that matter, as he told reporters today in London, including Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com (Twitter link). With Tuesday’s deadline just five days away, the Lions don’t expect to be active, according to Mayhew.

“We kind of talk to everybody around the league, getting calls from different teams and things like that,” Mayhew said, per Mike O’Hara of DetroitLions.com. “I don’t anticipate us making any moves at the trade deadline.”

The Lions are one of the NFL’s pleasant surprises so far, having jumped out to a 5-2 record and a share of the NFC North lead, despite kicking issues that cost the team at least one win. For a team with playoff – and even Super Bowl – aspirations, a modest addition or two could help solidify the roster, but Mayhew indicated he’s confident in the club’s current makeup.

“There’s no magic formula, schemes. There’s no magic trade I’m going to do that all of a sudden is going to bring some guy in here and we’re going to start winning,” the GM said. “It’s about how far our players are going to take us. I think they understand it.”

South Notes: Panthers, Griffin, Titans, Bucs

Plenty of Panthers players were caught off guard by the team’s release of veteran defensive back Charles Godfrey, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, who says words like “shocking” and “surprising” were used to describe the move.

“With a guy of his stature who’s been here for as long as he had, and all of a sudden you wake up and he’s not here, it’s definitely got to be a shock. It’s shocking to me,” said fellow defensive back Roman Harper. “But it’s a job. We’ve got to take it seriously and understand that nobody’s job is safe from top to bottom. They’ll always fire you before you get them fired. That’s just what I’ve always been taught.”

As the Panthers’ defense adjusts to life without Godfrey and one of the newest additions to the free agent market looks for work, let’s check out a few more items from around the NFL’s two South divisions….

  • We heard yesterday that the Titans had been entertaining trade discussions involving wide receiver Nate Washington, and it sounds like he’s not the only veteran the team is mulling moving. In addition to confirming the Washington report, Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com says he has heard defensive back Michael Griffin may be on the block as well (Twitter link). The Titans, who announced last night that Zach Mettenberger will start at quarterback this weekend, seem to be “embracing” a rebuild, notes McCormick.
  • Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link) adds several new names to the list of players to audition for the Panthers this week. According to Wilson, the club took a look at cornerbacks Trevin Wade, Robert Steeples, Ellis Lankster, and Josh Victorian, as well as offensive linemen Ryan Miller and Matt Patchan.
  • Besides the players they signed to their 53-man roster or practice squad, the Buccaneers also worked out linebackers Erin Henderson and Lawrence Wilson this week, tweets Wilson. Per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Henderson had a tryout with the Titans too.
  • Cornerback Deveron Carr auditioned for the Jaguars this week, according to Wilson (via Twitter).