Cliff Avril Not Thinking Retirement

Retirement is reportedly on the table for the Seahawks’ Cliff Avril, but that’s news to the injured defensive end. Avril told Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports on Wednesday that he is not considering walking away from football (Twitter link).

Cliff Avril

Head coach Pete Carroll announced Wednesday that Avril will go on injured reserve, noting that “he’s seeing a bunch of doctors” and is “seriously looking at a big decision.” Many deduced from Carroll’s comments that Avril was determining whether to continue his career, but those inferences were apparently incorrect.

“People are saying I’m retiring because of what coach Carroll said, but he’s referring to surgery,” Avril told Schultz.

Thanks to a serious stinger and numbness in his arm, Avril is likely done for the year, at the very least. He suffered the injury during the Seahawks’ win over the Colts on Oct. 1, forcing him to sit out their most recent game – a 16-10 victory over the Rams – the next week. Seattle, which is coming off a bye, is off to a decent start (3-2), but its defense ranks an uncharacteristically low 12th in DVOA and sits toward the bottom of the league in sacks (11).

Thanks in part to Avril and his 33.5 sacks, the Seahawks’ stop unit ranked between first and fifth in DVOA in each of the previous four seasons. But while Avril was a force during that four-year stretch, he didn’t perform like his usual self early this season – which helps explain the decline the Seahawks’ defense has experienced. The 31-year-old picked up one sack in four games, and his performance ranks just 100th among 104th qualifying edge rushers at Pro Football Focus.

Even if Avril’s career isn’t in doubt, his future in Seattle looks uncertain. If the Seahawks don’t think the longtime sack artist will return to form, they could cut him in the offseason and save $7.5MM of his $8MM cap hit in 2018 – the final year of Avril’s contract.

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NFL Workout Updates: 10/18/17

Today’s workout updates, with all links going to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter:

Atlanta Falcons

  • DE Ricky Ali’ifua; TE Anthony Firkser; DTs Joey Ivie (signed to practice squad), Nigel Williams, FB Malcolm Johnson; LB Kevin Snyder (link)

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

  • CB Josh Thornton; RB Marquez Williams (link)

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Los Angeles Chargers

  • S Malik Smith (link)

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

  • T Storm Norton (link)

NFC Notes: Hyde, Ngata, McAdoo, Bucs QBs

Despite the noise of a Carlos Hyde trade, Kyle Shanahan attempted to put an end to those rumors during a media session today. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along that the first-year 49ers head coach said that the reports of a speculative trade involving the running back were “absolutely, absolutely 100 percent false.” The rumors started to pick up after San Francisco was making calls to teams about now-former 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Despite the pushback, rookie Matt Breida has slowly started to cut into Hyde’s touches in recent weeks. The former Georgia Southern running back had his first double-digit carry game two weeks ago against the Colts, even though the rookie touched the ball just six times this past Sunday. Nevertheless, the 49ers are still winless through six weeks, which means that the trade winds will continue to swirl around the team with the deadline just a few weeks away.

  • Building off the news that Ben McAdoo gave up play calling to offenisve coordinator Mike Sullivan for their Sunday night contest against the Broncos, it is now known that neither owner John Mara nor Giants executive chairman Steve Tisch asked the head coach to give up the offensive playbook, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. It would seem that McAdoo made this decision on his own with the results being positive thus far as the team shocked many by going into Denver and winning by double digits.
  • Now that Haloti Ngata is out for the season with a torn biceps, the question remains: Just how long will the 33-year-old continue to play in the NFL? The Lions defensive lineman told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that he has not made any decision about the future yet. “We’ll have to see. To be determined,” Ngata told the pressThe veteran has not been the same player he was with the Ravens since he joined Detroit in 2015. Ngata did show signs of life this seasn, racking up two sacks in the team’s first five games, which matched the halfway mark of the number of QB takedowns he put up in the two seasons prior.
  • Although Jameis Winston left last Sunday’s game because of a shoulder injury, the Buccaneers still don’t expect to sign another QB for this week’s affair against the Bills, tweets Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. Auman reports that Tampa Bay seems to be comfortable with Winston suiting up as an emergency backup for Ryan Fitzpatrick, if he can’t start. The move sounds a bit risky considering that the team still does not have a third-string QB with Ryan Griffin currently working to get off the IR. However, the news may be encouraging to some as it seems Winston has most likely avoided a long-term injury.

Latest On Muhammad Wilkerson’s Future

Muhammad Wilkerson

Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is only in the second season of a five-year, $86MM contract, but the two sides might be headed for a divorce. The 27-year-old Wilkerson hasn’t lived up to expectations since signing his deal, which could lead the Jets to release him in the offseason, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com.

If the Jets do part with Wilkerson over the winter, he’d join Sheldon Richardson as the second high-profile defensive lineman they’d have jettisoned in recent months. Both players caused some behind-the-scenes headaches in 2016, but Richardson still brought Gang Green a quality return via trade, going to Seattle last month for wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and multiple draft picks, including a second-rounder in 2018. Wilkerson hasn’t done anything this year to boost his trade stock, though, having failed to register a single quarterback hit during the Jets’ 3-3 start. Despite that, head coach Todd Bowles told Rich Cimini of ESPN.com and other reporters on Wednesday that Wilkerson has played “well.”

Bowles’ assessment notwithstanding, it’s fair to say Wilkerson’s play has dropped off dating back to last season. After combining for 36.5 sacks during his first five years, including a career-high 12 in 2015, Wilkerson has totaled just 4.5 since signing his big-money pact. As his traditional numbers began plummeting last season, so did his grades at Pro Football Focus. The site assigned Wilkerson a subpar rating in 2016 and, through six games this year, ranks his performance a lackluster 113th among 124 qualified interior D-linemen. In fairness to Wilkerson, injuries have likely played some part in his recent decline. The broken leg he suffered in the Jets’ 2015 regular-season finale may have slowed him to some degree in 2016, and this year he has dealt with a sprained shoulder and a toe problem. Nevertheless, he has appeared in 20 of 21 games dating back to last year, including all six this season. Wilkerson has never played in fewer than 13 games in a season, and has appeared in 98 of 102 since the Jets used a first-round pick on him in 2011.

Durability might not be enough to save Wilkerson if there isn’t an uptick in his performance over the final two-plus months of the season. Of course, it’s also worth noting that parting with Wilkerson would lead to significant savings for the Jets if he’s designated as a post-June 1 cut. The club would add $17MM in space (against $3MM in dead money) in 2018 if it goes that route, though it would have to carry his $20MM cap number until June 1. On the other hand, the Jets could cut eschew the post-June 1 designation and save $11MM of the $20MM by releasing him. With Wilkerson’s $16.75MM salary for next season set to become guaranteed on the third day of the league year in March, an answer on his future should come relatively early in the winter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Claim QB Brad Kaaya

The Lions have claimed quarterback Brad Kaaya off waivers and signed a pair of players – defensive end Jacquies Smith and offensive tackle Bryce Harris, per Field Yates of ESPN.com and Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com (Twitter links). To make room, the Lions have cut defensive linemen George Johnson, Datone Jones and Caraun Reid.Brad Kaaya (vertical)

Kaaya first broke into the league as a sixth-round pick of Detroit in 2016. Although he didn’t have the arm strength of others in his class, scouts were enamored with his football IQ and poise. When he was displaced from the Lions’ roster in early September, the Panthers were there waiting to grab him off of waivers. Now, he’s back where he started after the Panthers booted him in favor of Garrett Gilbert.

Smith, 27, was a serviceable edge rusher for the Buccaneers (13.5 sacks combined in 2014 and 2015) before a torn ACL shut him down just one game into the 2016 season. This fall, he was cut by Tampa Bay, freeing him up to try out for the Lions this week.

Johnson spent the 2014 season with the Lions and proved to be an effective edge rusher. They circled back to him this year and they were optimistic about what he could do.

He’s still the same guy that works extremely hard, heavy-handed guy that can make some things happen and the rest of it we’ll see,” coach Jim Caldwell said in September. “I mean, he had an outstanding year that year, and those are hard to duplicate, but he will contribute to our team.”

Johnson had six sacks for the Lions in 2014, but he recorded just two tackles in four games for them this year.

Jones signed with Detroit on October 10, but did not suit up for the Lions in their last game. He never got to actually play for the Lions, but on the plus side, he can say that he has been with three of the NFC North’s four teams.

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Seahawks To Place Cliff Avril On IR

It sounds like Cliff Avril’s season might be over. Coach Pete Carroll says the defensive end will be placed on injured reserve (Twitter link via SiriusXM). Avril is said to be considering retirement, so this sounds like the season-ending variety of IR rather than an eight-week stint. Cliff Avril (vertical)

[RELATED: Branden Albert Declines Seahawks’ Offer]

Avril was initially said to be dealing with a “serious stinger,” but the problem goes much further than that. The 31-year-old experienced numbness in his arm, a sign that he could be have a much more serious problem.

Avril appeared in 63 of 64 games for the Seahawks from 2013-16 and racked up 33.5 sacks during that time. Losing him will be a tough blow for Seattle, particularly given the lackluster play they’ve gotten out of the defensive line so far this year. At the same time, Avril has not been playing up to his usual level. He has actually been among the league’s worst edge defenders (among those with enough snaps to qualify), per Pro Football Focus.

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Setback For Colts QB Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck has suffered a major setback in his recovery and, for the first time this year, the Colts are leaving the door open to the possibility that he could land on injured reserve. At a surprise press conference on Wednesday, GM Chris Ballard announced that Andrew Luck will not be able to practice this week after experiencing soreness in his shoulder. 

The belief was that Luck could conceivably return in early November, but that seems impossible given the latest news. Instead of practicing, the Colts’ franchise quarterback will receive a cortisone shot and cease all football activities.

With Jacoby Brissett under center, the Colts are off to a 2-4 start. Heading into a date with the Jekyll & Hyde Jaguars and no timetable on Luck’s return, the Colts have reason to fear that this could be a lost season.

Hindsight is 20/20, but one has to wonder why the Colts did not fortify their backup quarterback situation in the offseason. Brissett has done his best to adapt to the new system on the fly, but there has been a significant dropoff on offense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DRC: I Never Asked Giants For Trade

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie clashed with Giants coach Ben McAdoo in a big way last week. But, the cornerback says that he never asked for a trade (Twitter link via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY). Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (vertical)

DRC wasn’t acting like someone who wanted to stay with the Giants last Wednesday when he bailed on a defensive meeting, cleaned out his locker, and left the team’s facility. When asked about why he did that, the veteran downplayed the significance of his actions.

I’m dramatic. I’m crazy,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.

Rodgers-Cromartie was banned indefinitely after four separate blowups with the team, including his choice to storm off the field in the midst of the team’s loss to the Chargers. But, on Tuesday, the Giants formally ended his ban. DRC probably isn’t McAdoo’s favorite person in the world right now, but the 1-5 Giants had little choice but to bring him back this week.

Should things sour between DRC and McAdoo again, the Giants may want to keep the Oct. 31 trade deadline in mind.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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