AFC Links: Browns, Ravens, Titans, Broncos

Fourth-year guard Jason Pinkston has been absent from Browns training camp, and no one in the organization will say why. The 26-year-old played sparingly in 2013 but was expected to stick around for at least one more season. The guard was set to make about $1.4MM in 2014, but based on the quotes from those in the organization, money doesn’t seem to be the issue.

Pinkston’s unavailable to practice and, due to his circumstances, I cannot comment on it any further,” coach Mike Pettine said, per NFL Media’s Aditi Kinkhabwala (via NFL.com’s Mark Sessler). “I want to give you more, but just given the circumstances, I can’t. That’s where we are with Jason.”

General manager Ray Farmer didn’t add much: 

“I think coach addressed it the best way we could … right now there’s really no comment from our prospective, and when there is time to make a comment then that comment will be made.” 

Finally, Pinkston weighed in on Twitter

I can assure you I’m in no legal trouble & retiring hasn’t came up. As far as my situation I’ll leave it to them to explain.”

While we try to figure out what’s going on in Cleveland, take a look at some more notes from around the AFC…

  • Former San Jose State cornerback Brandon Driver tried out for the Ravens on Sunday, tweets Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. The workout went well, but Driver was not immediately signed to a deal.
  • A year ago on Sunday, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta fractured and dislocated his right hip in practice. After a year of recovery, the veteran believes he’s back to 100 percent. I feel good,” Pitta said (via Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun). “I’m out here not thinking about it. It’s not giving me an issue at all. I feel 100 percent. I’m encouraged with where I’m at.”
  • Titans safety Daimion Stafford made the majority of his impact as a rookie on special teams, but Terry McCormick 247Sports.com writes that the player will now be looking to make an impact on defense. “I just try to build every day. That’s our big message,” Stafford said. “That’s what I’m looking to do every day. I’m always trying to get better, whether it’s on special teams or moving up into a bigger role on defense.”
  • Kyle Rudolph‘s new deal with the Vikings will likely effect the negotiations between the Broncos and tight end Julius Thomas, tweets Joel Corry of The National Football Post.

NFC Links: Cowboys, 49ers, Suh, Cardinals, Redskins

Let’s see what’s happening around the NFC on this Sunday evening…

  • Cowboys owner Jerry Jones acknowledged that the team nearly selected Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, tweets NFL.com’s Dan Hellie. The owner added that he will rethink the decision “for the rest of (his) career.” Jones did clarify that he ultimately made the correct pick in offensive tackle Zack Martin (again via a tweet from Hellie).
  • 49ers running back LaMichael James dislocated his elbow in practice and will miss a month, writes Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee. With Kendall Hunter out for the season with a torn ACL, the team only has rookie Carlos Hyde and Jewel Hampton as backup options for Frank Gore.
  • With a depleted running back group, ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson can envision the 49ers placing Hunter on the IR and adding a free agent running back (Twitter link). ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweets out a list of possibilities: Willis McGahee, Felix Jones, Michael Bush, Kahlil Bell, Bernard Scott, LaRod Stephens-Howling and (in a separate tweet) fullback Brian Leonard.
  • Count Lions head coach Jim Caldwell among those who believe a contract extension will get done between the team and Ndamukong Suh“I’m always optimistic,” Caldwell said to ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein“I think you know me by now, and I think without question they are working at it, and I think something will be done at the appropriate time.”
  • The Cardinals used Robert Hughes as a fullback during practice, and ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss says the player is a “strong possibility” to be the team’s fourth running back.
  • The Redskins’ release of linebacker Brandon Jenkins should allow some younger players to shine, writes ESPN.com’s John Keim. “We like the play of the guys behind him,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “We thought the earlier we make that move to give Brandon a chance to go somewhere else would be beneficial to him.”

Jets To Sign Jason Babin To Two-Year Deal

JULY 27, 10:05pm: Babin will receive $3.25MM over two years, reports ESPN.com’s Field Yates (via Twitter). The veteran will have a base salary worth $1.1MM in 2014, with another $500K in roster bonuses.

JULY 23, 12:21pm: The Jets have officially announced their agreement with Babin, indicating that cornerback Lowell Rose has been cut to make room (Twitter link).

10:36am: After visiting the Jets earlier this week, veteran free agent Jason Babin has agreed to terms with the team, reports Kimberly Jones of the NFL Network (via Twitter). According to Jones, it’ll be a two-year deal for the former Jaguars edge rusher.

Babin, who turned 34 in May, played in all 16 games last season for the Jaguars, racking up 31 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and two passes defended. However, after re-signing with Jacksonville in March, the former first-round pick was released by the team last month, making him an unrestricted free agent. While Babin has always been a fairly one-dimensional player, his value has declined as his ability to rush the passer has slipped from elite to simply above average.

With experience in both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, Babin figures to compete for a roster spot and playing time at outside linebacker for Rex Ryan‘s team. The club’s projected OLB starters – Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples – and top reserve Garrett McIntyre all graded better against the run than as pass rushers last season, according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required).

Terms of the agreement aren’t yet known, but when Babin signed with the Jaguars earlier in the offseason, his three-year contract had a total base value of just $7.275MM with only $500K guaranteed. When I examined his free agent stock a couple weeks ago, I suggested that a salary in the $1.5-2MM could be about right for Babin — a deal that includes a modest base salary with several incentives may also make sense, as Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap tweets.

The Jets were believed to have a full 90-man roster, so a corresponding move will be necessary to clear room for Babin.

Vikings Sign Kyle Rudolph To Extension

The Vikings and tight end Kyle Rudolph have agreed to a five-year, $36.5MM deal, reports Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer (via Twitter). The player will receive a practical guarantee of $19.4MM and his new money average is $7.3MM, according to a tweet from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling tweets that Rudolph will receive a $6.5MM signing bonus and a $960K guaranteed salary for 2014, with the remaining $12MM being guaranteed for injury only. Goessling also tweets that the deal could be worth as much as $40MM.

Rudolph discussed his new extension on Vikings.com

Kyle Rudolph“I’m extremely excited to get this extension completed and continue my career with the Minnesota Vikings. I’ve said all along I wanted to stay in Minnesota. I love the fans, the community and, most importantly, I’m excited about where this team is going. I’m looking forward to the 2014 season and helping this organization reach our ultimate goal.”

General manager Rick Spielman also addressed the new contract…

“I’m very excited to get this extension done with Kyle. We drafted him, he’s done a tremendous job since he’s been here. Our whole focus on moving forward in this organization is to draft our players, develop them and keep them here. He’s one of our young guys who is going to be a building block as we go forward in the future and just very excited to get this behind us so we can look forward to seeing him produce over the coming years.”

The former second-round pick battled through a foot injury last season and only appeared in eight games, but he was on track to surpass his previous career-highs. The Notre Dame product ultimately caught 30 passes for 313 yard and three touchdowns. As PFR’s Dallas Robison noted in the Extension Candidate series, Rudolph ranked among the top-15 tight ends in both 2011 and 2012, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). However, his DYAR (a Football Outsides metric that ranks players based on only receiving) placed 43rd28th, and 27th over his three-year career.

As Brian McIntyre notes (on Twitter), the tight end was set to make a bit over $956K next season. Now, Rudolph will be among the highest-paid tight ends in the league. According to OverTheCap.com, the total value of the contract ranks fifth (between Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates) while the estimated $7.4MM guaranteed would rank 12th (between Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham).

Minor Moves: Sunday

We will post any and all “minor moves” right here over the course of the day:

  • The Colts have signed undrafted rookie tackle Matt Hall, the team announced. Hall originally signed with the Vikings in May, but was cut by the team on Friday.
  • The Redskins have waived 2013 fifth-round draft pick Brandon Jenkins, and activated Mo Hurt after he passed his physical, reports Mike Jones of the Washington Post (via Twitter). Moving on from Jenkins was not a surprise, as John Keim of ESPN.com, Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington, and Jones all took to Twitter to comment on the player’s struggles and inability to contribute.
  • The Panthers have signed former Brown Fozzy Whittaker to replace the injured Tyler Gaffney, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Whitaker can contribute both as a tailback and kick returner.
  • The Bears have waived guard James Dunbar out of TCU, reports Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com (via Twitter).
  • The Dolphins have signed offensive tackle Steven Baker, reports Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter).

Earlier updates

  • The Colts have waived tackle Jack Breckner, tweets Craig Kelley of Colts.com.
  • The Panthers have signed safety Tom Nelson, tweets David Newton of ESPN.com. Newton adds that the club still has a roster spot to replace injured RB Tyler Gaffney.
  • The Patriots have waived wide receiver Greg Orton, tweets Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald. Howe adds that Orton will revert to IR once he clears waivers. Shalize Manza Young of The Boston Glove tweets that the team has signed wideouts Cole Stanford and Brian Tyms and that the 90-man roster is once again full.
  • The Colts have signed running back Davin Meggett, tweets Matt Zenitz of The Baltimore Sun. Meggett, who has spent time on the practice squads of four different NFL clubs since leaving the University of Maryland in 2011, signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League in June but was released by the team earlier this month. Meggett provides backfield depth in the wake of Vick Ballard‘s season-ending injury. Prior to the signing, Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star examined the different options the Colts might pursue to replace Ballard, options that still may be on the table after acquiring the unproven Meggett.
  • In a corresponding move, the Colts have place LB Aaron Morgan on IR, tweets Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.

Rob DiRe and Ben Levine contributed to this post.

AFC East Notes: Ridley, Bills, Vick

Patriots running back Stevan Ridley should have plenty of motivation heading into the season. After struggling with fumble issues for much of last year, the former third-rounder was replaced by veteran LeGarrette Blount towards the end of the regular season and playoffs. With Blount gone, Ridley has a great opportunity to reestablish himself as a premier back. The opportunity to regain his starting gig isn’t the 25-year-old’s only motivation, however – Ridley is also entering the final year of his contract.

The fourth-year player addressed the situation and acknowledged that a future contract is certainly on his mind (via Phil Perry of CSNNE.com)…

“I have to be honest about it, it’s there,” Ridley said. “But it’s not my first concern. My first concern is going out there and being the best player for this team. If I go out there and have a productive year and do what I need to do, the contract will take care of itself.

“I’m not really gonna put too much thought into it. As you guys know, if I start thinking about that, it can easily be a distraction. I can’t worry about that. I’m gonna have some good days, have some bad days, I’m just gonna keep working, keep grinding, keep my head in the dirt and keep grinding it out.”

As the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe tweets, the Patriots haven’t had any discussion with Ridley’s camp regarding a new contract. Howe doesn’t expect any type of action until after the season, “if at all.”

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

  • The Bills lost another tight end to injury as starter Scott Chandler left the field on Sunday with a groin injury, writes Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550. The team was already without Tony Moeaki and Chris Gragg, but coach Doug Marrone indicated that the Bills would rely on their own players to fill the void. The only healthy tight ends on the roster are Lee Smith and Dominique Jones, and Buscaglia suggests that fullback Evan Rodriguez could get some reps.
  • Michael Vick had an impressive weekend at Jets training camp, but the veteran quarterback is aware of his position on the depth chart behind Geno Smith. “It’s a very fine line,” he said (via USA Today Sports’ Jarrett Bell). “I accept this role and I embrace it and I appreciate it. But I know this is not my football team. So that’s why I’m able to deal with it. At the same time, I feel like I’m one of the best quarterbacks in the league. That’s the way I feel.”
  • During the 2013 season, only one Jets starter (Demario Davis) played more than 29 percent of the team’s snaps on special teams. As Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com writes, that will certainly change in 2014 as the team looks to improve a lackluster unit. “We’re going to use a bunch of those guys on all of our special teams,” said head coach Rex Ryan“We think we have to get better on ‘teams.’ We want to be one of the best special teams units in the league. It’s really all hands on deck, especially the punt team. We want to have a great punt team.”

PFR Originals: 7/20/14 – 7/27/14

The original content produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

  • We continued our Offseason in Review series, as Ben Levine covered the Eagles, David Kipke covered the 49ers, and Zach Links evaluated the Giants and the Cowboys.
  • As we finished up our Offseason in Review series in the NFC East and NFC West, PFR took to the polls to see who our readers thought would win each division. The Eagles took a good lead in the East and the Seahawks barely edged out the 49ers in the West.
  • Our Extension Candidate series plugged along, as Dallas Robinson examined the case for 49ers guard Mike Iupati.

Week In Review: 7/20/14 – 7/27/14

The headlines from the past week at PFR:

Extended:

Signed:

Released:

Suspended:

Retired:

Other:

  • Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen steps down from his position with the team due to his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease (link)
  • Seahawks‘ RB Marshawn Lynch holds out of training camp (link)
  • 49ers‘ TE Vernon Davis reports to training camp despite contract dispute (link)
  • Texans‘ WR Andre Johnson reports to training camp despite trade demand earlier this offseason (link)

Panthers’ De’Quan Menzie To Retire

Panthers cornerback De’Quan Menzie has decided to retire from the NFL, reports Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer (via Twitter).

Person noted that Ron Rivera had announced the decision earlier today, and that Menzie’s Twitter account posting “Officially done…” all but confirmed the report.

Menzie was drafted by the Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He was released by the team during the following offseason, when he was claimed off of waivers by the Lions. The Panthers signed him to a reserve/future contract early this past January.

NFC East Notes: McClain, Williams, Beckham

Cowboys‘ wideout Terrance Williams is going to have a chance to improve on his 2013 campaign, writes Jon Machota of DallasNews.com. The second year receiver is looking to avoid a sophomore slump by emerging as a dependable number two receiver and the third option in the passing game after Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Bryant is even more optimistic about Williams’ chances.

“Terrance done blew up,” Bryant said. “He’s lightning fast, outstanding hands, probably one of the best route runners I’ve ever seen. He’s going to do some big things.” 

Head coach Jason Garrett said that Williams would have an increased opportunity to show off his talents. 

“I think he has a little confidence based on how he played and he’s going to have a big role for our football team,” said Garrett. “He earned a bigger role on our football team last year. We’re excited to see him play.”

Here are some other notes from around the NFC East:

  • New Cowboys‘ linebacker Rolando McClain is being given every opportunity to win a starting job with middle linebacker Sean Lee out of the season, writes Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com. McClain has been working mostly with the second team, but showcased his natural talent during his first practice with the team.
  • If McClain does earn that spot on the Cowboys‘ defense, he will be part of a unit trying to go from worst in the NFL in 2013 to the best in 2014. At least that is the goal cornerback Morris Claiborne has set for the defensive squad, write Machota“We were last in the league in defense and we’re trying to be No. 1,” said Claiborne. “That’s our goal. We’re not shying away from it.”
  • Giants‘ head coach Tom Coughlin is frustrated with his first-round pick’s absence from training camp, as Odell Beckham Jr. is sidelined with a hamstring injury, writes Jordan Raanan of NJ.com. Coughlin said that he was disappointed not to see Beckham on the field. “It would be nice to get him back practicing,” Coughlin said. “He actually looks pretty good out there. He’s moving around, catching the ball, he doesn’t favor anything. I’m just hoping it’s a real short amount of time.”
  • The Eagles have a shot to really hurt defenses in the passing game with their backfield in 2014, writes Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com. LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles are talented receivers out of the backfield, and could find some intriguing mismatches in the defense.
  • The two most important statistics of training camp for the Eagles thus far are a pair zeros, zero injuries and zero interceptions, according to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com. The team has managed to get through camp unscathed so far, and none of the four quarterbacks has turned the ball over through the air. Of course, while this is a positive for the team’s offense, the linebackers and secondary are not so happy with their part in that second zero.