Extra Points: Marks, Cutler, Ponder, Bucs

With his sack tonight, Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks earned a fat $600K bonus, as Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union writes. Marks would already have earned the bonus if the league didn’t take away a sack he was credited with against Houston’s Ryan Fitzpatrick two weeks ago when the quarterback tripped and fell down and he was the first to touch him. However, he claims that he wasn’t upset about the ruling. More from around the National Football League..

  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune looks at what might be next for Bears signal caller Jay Cutler. The Cardinals will probably bring back Carson Palmer in 2015, the Raiders have Derek Carr, and Rams tight ends coach Ron Turner would probably talk coach Jeff Fisher out of the idea. Ultimately, Biggs sees the Jets and Titans as the most likely destinations for the veteran.
  • Matt Vensel of the Star-Tribune (video link) wonders if there will be a spot in the NFL for former Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder.
  • Matt Bowen of the Chicago Tribune ran down the Bears‘ problems from top to bottom, from the front office to the locker room.
  • Former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has agreed in principle to become the new head coach of the CFL’s BC Lions, a source tells Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports (on Twitter).
  • It seems likely that Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert will be staying on injured reserve for the rest of the year, according to Coley Harvey of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The athletic tight end has not practiced since Week 1.
  • Signing linebacker K.J. Wright to a contract extension shows the Seahawks‘ commitment to their core players, writes Terry Blount of ESPN.com.

Minor Moves: Thursday

We’ll round up Thursday’s minor moves from around the NFL, including practice squad signings and cuts, in this space, with the latest transactions added to the top of the list throughout the day:

  • The Seahawks added former Dolphins tight end Gator Hoskins to the practice squad, according to the NFL’s personnel notice (via Brian McIntyre on Twitter). Safety Dion Bailey was released to make room.
  • The 49ers are promoting nose tackle Mike Purcell to their 53-man roster for this Saturday’s game, head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters today (Twitter link via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com). The team had an opening on its roster after releasing defensive lineman Ray McDonald.

Earlier updates:

  • The Ravens have moved on to their third long snapper of the season, signing Patrick Scales today to replace Kevin McDermott, who is headed to injured reserve with an elbow injury, according to the team. McDermott had been signed in October to replace Morgan Cox, who sustained a season-ending knee injury. Within the same release, the club also announces a change to its practice squad, with running back Tauren Poole replacing tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi.
  • The Broncos have filled up their practice squad once again by signing offensive lineman Demarcus Love to take the 10th and final opening, tweets Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com.

Draft Notes: Thursday

Yesterday we learned that Nebraska star Randy Gregory is preparing to enter draft. The 6’6″ defensive lineman is likely to go top five, and there are many more underclassman draft candidates that will have a tough decision to make in the days ahead. We’ll keep track of today’s draft news here…

  • Florida State defensive back Ronald Darby is considered a lock to enter the 2015 NFL draft, multiple sources familiar with the underclassman’s thinking tell Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports. The junior hasn’t declared anything officially, but he has met with agents and begun the vetting process. Right now, Darby projects as a second- or third-round choice.
  • LSU defensive lineman Danielle Hunter is leaning toward staying in school for his senior year, sources tell Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links).

AFC West Notes: Carr, Sparano, Broncos

Chargers head coach Mike McCoy has no concerns about Philip Rivers heading into this week’s contest against the 49ers, writes Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego. “Philip had an outstanding day,” McCoy said. “A ball did not hit the ground in all the throws he made today. Philip was Philip, so he’ll be ready to roll.” The QB missed his first official practice in several years one day earlier, but all indications are he still start Saturday night against the 49ers. More out of the AFC West..

  • There has been speculation for months about who will be the next coach of the Raiders but if he had it his way, rookie quarterback would like to have Tony Sparano stay in the position, writes Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “Yeah, we love him,” Carr said. “He’s our leader. Absolutely. We love him. Obviously, those decisions are going to happen, and we have no control in that. Those decisions will be made, and whoever is here is who we’ll play for.”
  • Mike Klis of The Denver Post looked at the Broncos that could depart in free agency, including Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas. “I don’t want to leave,” said the 335-pound athlete lovingly referred to as Pot Roast. “I want to be here. But I’ve been in the position before, and I know how it works.” Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton is also set to hit the open market and while he’s not as integral as the two offensive superstars, he badly wants to stay in Denver.
  • Bill Williamson of ESPN.com discussed the University of Michigan’s rumored offer to 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and how it impacts the Raiders. Williamson feels that if Raiders owner Mark Davis really wants Harbaugh, he knows that he’ll have to pay big, so matching or exceeding the Wolverines’ offer is not out of the question.

No Movement In Randall Cobb Contract Talks

Back in July, when training camp first got underway, Packers receiver Randall Cobb addressed the subject of a possible contract extension, telling reporters that he didn’t believe he’d done enough to warrant a long-term deal yet. Nearly five months later, Cobb and Packers don’t appear to be any closer to an agreement, with the wideout indicating today that little to no progress had been made, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

“There’s no contract talks that have been going on right now, so I guess not,” Cobb said, referring to the fact that perhaps he still hasn’t done enough to warrant a significant offer. “I guess there’s still more to do. So, just continue to put my nose down every day and focus on getting the team into the playoffs and doing everything I can to bring back the Super Bowl.”

Although Cobb admits that he can’t help but think about his contract situation, he certainly hasn’t let it adversely affect his play on the field. The 24-year-old has racked up a career-high 1,076 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on 76 receptions, and – most importantly – he and MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers have both stayed on the field all year, unlike in 2013, when both players were sidelined for a good portion of the season with injuries.

The Packers and Cobb are still viewed as likely to work something out, but there’s no guarantee that it will happen soon. A year ago, the team went down to the wire with cornerback Sam Shields, reaching a long-term deal with the free-agent-to-be just days before he was eligible to hit the open market.

For Cobb, the years and dollars in any Packers’ offer will be interesting to monitor — the former second-round pick is already putting up No. 1 receiver type numbers and is young enough that he could continue to improve, but his lofty stats are inflated somewhat by the man throwing Cobb the ball. Additionally, Green Bay will likely want to ensure Cobb isn’t getting paid more than the team’s actual No. 1 receiver, Jordy Nelson, who has topped Cobb’s 2014 totals in receptions (83), yards (1,320), and TDs (12) and signed a four-year, $39MM pact earlier this year.

The Nelson/Cobb pairing is somewhat reminiscent of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in 2013 in Denver, and a deal similar to the one Decker signed in free agency (five years, $35MM) might make sense for the Packers’ No. 2 receiver. Our Dallas Robinson took a more detailed look at Cobb’s extension candidacy back in October.

NFC Notes: Glennon, Vick, Rolle, Austin

A pair of playoff hopefuls will square off in two NFC divisional matchup this weekend, but it’s hard to view Cardinals/Seahawks and Saints/Falcons as equally important games. While the winner of the West showdown will have the inside track on the No. 1 seed for the postseason, the winner of the South contest will inch slightly closer to .500, and move closer to becoming the league’s worst division winner.

While we look forward to those two games and others, let’s check out the latest links from around the conference….

  • In the offseason, head coach Lovie Smith repeatedly referred to Mike Glennon as the Buccaneers‘ “quarterback of the future,” but he wasn’t willing to continue bestowing that title on Glennon this week, writes Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. “His future right now is, he’s on our football team,” Smith said of Glennon. “We’re not talking on the future right now. The future is about that last press conference — after the season.”
  • With his one-year Jets deal set to expire soon, Michael Vick has considered his 2015 destination, and is intrigued by the idea of joining his hometown team in Washington, as he tells Newsday’s Kimberley A. Martin. “I’m open to playing for anybody that wants to win. But obviously, going back home, I mean, that’ll be a dream come true,’‘ Vick said with a smile. “But I would hate to get my hopes up for something that wouldn’t happen. So I can’t even think about it right now.”
  • Nick Powell of NJ.com attempts to determine what a new contract for Antrel Rolle would look like as the Giants safety nears free agency.
  • Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who is on the Fritz Pollard list of top minority head coaching candidates, indicated today that he’ll interview with any teams interested in him as a head coach this offseason, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link).
  • Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, whose new four-year extension with the team was announced earlier today, said sticking with Seattle was his preference all along, and the Seahawks’ offer exceeded the dollar number had had in his head (Twitter link via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times).

Jay Cutler Notes: Thursday

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was the subject of frequent criticism and trade speculation even before he was benched, and now that the team has decided to tab backup Jimmy Clausen as the starter this Sunday against the Lions, the Cutler rumor mill is busier than ever. Here are the latest whispers about what Cutler’s future may hold:

  • Both Cutler and Marc Trestman spoke to reporters today about the decision, with Cutler indicating that he could play for Trestman next season and would like to remain with the Bears (Twitter links). The veteran quarterback added that while the security his contract provides is nice, he’s disappointed with the season, and would trade that contract security for a better record and better play (Twitter link via ESPN’s Michael C. Wright).
  • As for Trestman, he indicated that this decision applies to this weekend only, and that Cutler will be the team’s No. 2 quarterback against the Lions (Twitter links). In other words, Clausen could start Week 17 as well, but nothing’s guaranteed yet.
  • Two “accomplished and respected” Bears players tell Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com that a number of players in the Chicago locker room feel “confused and uncomfortable” over how Trestman has handled Cutler’s benching — especially when compared to the light discipline received by offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer last week.
  • According to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link), Trestman is hoping that the change in quarterbacks will prove that his system can still be effective without Cutler at the helm.
  • Mike Sando of ESPN.com tweets that he has talked to several people around the league who wonder why any team would give up anything more than maybe a seventh-round pick for Cutler.
  • The Bears need to overhaul their franchise, and moving on from Cutler would be a start, writes Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com.

Earlier updates:

  • Exploring potential trade suitors for Cutler, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes that many of the logical partners for Chicago are in the AFC, identifying the Bills, Jets, Browns, Texans, Titans, and Raiders as possibilities. Florio also writes that the Bears should be willing to essentially give Cutler away in a trade if necessary, rather than holding out for a higher draft pick, since the team could do a lot more with $15.5MM in cash and cap savings than it could with a mid- or late-round pick.
  • Dan Hanzus of NFL.com lists seven potential landing spots for Cutler, overlapping with Florio on the Bills, Browns, Titans, and Jets. Hanzus also singles out the Buccaneers, Rams, and Washington as possible suitors.
  • Appearing on CSN Chicago, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com took a shot at predicting what Cutler might be worth in a trade: “If they look to deal him, and my belief is that they will, then I think they can get something back for him. They’re not going to get what they gave up to get him. … Jay Cutler right now is on sale. He’s been devalued. My guess, just a guess today without speaking to personnel people around the NFL… I would guess that they could probably get back a fourth-round pick for Jay Cutler that could go to a third if he meets certain conditions such as taking a team to the playoffs. That’d be my guess. A mid-round conditional draft pick.”
  • Benching a quarterback with a massive contract is an irreversible decision in many ways, according to Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Tribune, who weighs the pros and cons for the Bears cutting, trading, or keeping Cutler.
  • Albert Breer of the NFL Network points out (via Twitter) that Marc Trestman‘s reputation as a quarterback guru, which has taken a hit this year, could be rejuvenated if Clausen lights it up this weekend. We’ve heard that the team is likely to part ways with Trestman at season’s end, but perhaps a strong finish would change those plans.

Seahawks Sign K.J. Wright To Extension

The Seahawks have locked up linebacker K.J. Wright for the next several seasons, announcing today that they’ve signed Wright to a four-year contract extension, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (via Twitter). Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) that the new deal, which will keep Wright from becoming a free agent this offseason, is worth $27MM.

Wright, 25, has been a starter in Seattle ever since being selected 99th overall in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He has been consistently effective in that role since becoming a Seahawk, recording grades of +7.2 or higher in each of his first three seasons with the club, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Wright has a more modest +3.2 grade in 2014, but that has been partly the result of moving around on the defense more often — as a 4-3 outside linebacker, the Mississippi State product still ranks 12th among 39 qualified players, per PFF.

As a fourth-round pick, Wright had a rookie contract worth just $2.526MM, so his extension provides him with a significant pay raise. According to Condotta (via Twitter), the fact that the Seahawks were able to clear Percy Harvin‘s future salaries from their cap in October’s trade with the Jets likely afforded the team additional flexibility and contributed to accelerating talks with Wright.

With Wright locked up, the Seahawks have secured a number of their key defensive players, as the 2015 offseason approaches. Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Michael Bennett also signed long-term deals with the team within the last year.

Titans Put McCluster On IR, Sign Richardson

The Titans have officially ended the season of all-purpose weapon Dexter McCluster, the team announced today (via Twitter). McCluster has been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, and wide receiver Rico Richardson has been promoted from the practice squad to take his place on the roster.

McCluster, 25, inked a three-year deal with the Titans after spending the first four years of his career with the Chiefs. A Pro Bowler in 2013 for his exceptional work on punt returns, McCluster has underwhelmed in Tennessee this year. For the season, he recorded 26 catches for 197 yards, along with 40 carries for 131 yards for an average of 3.3 yards per carry. Those numbers are well below his Kansas City averages of 375 receiving yards per season and 4.4 yards per carry. McCluster also didn’t contribute much in the return game for the Titans.

While McCluster didn’t have an overly productive first year with the Titans, he’ll likely return to the team next season. He’s currently on the books for a cap hit of $3.35MM, and would count for $2MM against the cap if he were released.

Important 2015 NFL Offseason Dates

With just two weeks’ worth of games left in the 2014 NFL regular season, we’re only 11 days away from the offseason getting underway for 20 of the league’s 32 teams. As such, it’s worth looking ahead to the offseason calendar – which the NFL released yesterday (PDF link) – for an idea of which dates will be more important over the next several weeks and months. With clubs preparing to make changes to front offices, coaching staffs, and rosters, there are plenty of days to circle on the calendar.

Here’s a breakdown of a few of the NFL’s key offseason dates and deadlines:

December 29: Teams may begin signing players to reserve/futures contracts for the 2015 season. Teams may also begin exercising fifth-year options on 2012 first-round picks and signing 2012 draftees to contract extensions.

January 4: Assistant coaches for playoff teams with byes can interview for head coaching positions through the conclusion of the Wild Card games.
January 11: Assistant coaches for Wild Card teams that won their first round games can interview for head coaching positions through the conclusion of the divisional playoff games.
January 24: Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
January 25: Assistant coaches for teams in the Super Bowl who have previously interviewed for a head coaching job, can interview a second time with the club no later than the Sunday before the Super Bowl.

February 2: 2015 waiver system begins.
February 10:
As of 11:00am central time, NFL teams can sign players whose 2014 CFL contracts have expired.
February 16:
First day for teams to designate a franchise or transition player.
February 17-23: The NFL scouting combine will be held in Indianapolis.

March 2: As of 3pm CT, teams can no longer designate a franchise or transition player.
March 7:
First day for teams to contact agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents on March 10. Free agent contracts can’t be signed yet, but informal agreements can be reached.
March 10: The 2015 league year begins, and free agency opens. By 3pm CT, teams must make decisions on player options, submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents, submit minimum tenders to exclusive rights free agents, and be under the 2015 salary cap. Trades can be made after 3pm CT.
March 22-25: The NFL owners meetings will be held in Phoenix.

April 24: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
April 29: Deadline for previous club to exercise right of first refusal (ie. match offer sheets) on restricted free agents.
April 30 – May 2: The NFL draft will be held in Chicago.

May 18-20: The NFL spring meeting will be held in San Francisco.

June 1: Deadline for previous club to submit a June 1 tender to its unsigned unrestricted free agents, and to submit a June 1 tender to its unsigned restricted free agents who haven’t signed an offer sheet.
June 15: Deadline for teams to withdraw qualifying offers to their restricted free agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights via the June 15 tender.

July 15: Deadline for teams to work out multiyear contracts with free agents designated as franchise players (3pm CT).
July 22: Signing period ends for unrestricted free agents who received a June 1 tender, and for transition players with outstanding tenders. The player’s previous club retains exclusive negotiating rights from this date until Week 10 of the regular season.