AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Bills, McCoy, Jets

The Dolphins are desperate for cornerback help, so much so that they’re working usual slot corner Bobby McCain on the outside, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. During this week’s practices, Miami used McCain opposite No. 1 corner Xavien Howard, with versatile first-round defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick in the slot. McCain became of the NFL’s highest-paid slot corners after agreeing to a four-year, $27MM extension earlier this year, but if he can stick on the outside, the 25-year-old would become a bargain. The Dolphins could conceivably look to the trade or free agent market in search of a new cornerback, but one of their recent visitors — former Redskins defender Bashaud Breeland — is reportedly unlikely to sign with Miami.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • While a few more details have emerged regarding Bills running back LeSean McCoy and the pending lawsuit against him (which alleges McCoy was responsible for a recent physical attack on his ex-girlfriend, Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane said “nothing’s changed” with regard to McCoy’s status with the club. “You take all allegations seriously, but until the police say there’s something there, we’re not going to act on anything without them saying there’s legit evidence,” Beane told Kate Brumback and John Wawrow of the Associated Press. “It’s an open investigation. Nothing has come forward that said any of these things are true. So until that would happen, I don’t think anything will ever change.” McCoy could potentially be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list depending on the state of the NFL’s investigation, but at this point, it appears he’ll be on the Bills’ active roster for Week 1, barring any further developments.
  • Bills punter Cory Carter suffered a torn ACL in Friday night’s preseason game, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Carter, who went undrafted out of Texas Southern in 2016, spent training camp with the Texans last summer but has never appeared in an NFL contest. While he was unlikely to unseat starting punter Colton Schmidt in Buffalo, Carter was one of only two punters on the Bills’ roster, so the team could conceivably add another specialist in the coming days. Carter, meanwhile, will likely be waived/injured and subsequently moved to injured reserve, where he’ll spend the 2018 campaign.
  • Speaking of injuries, the Jets will be cautious with guard Brian Winters as he continues to recover from the abdomen issue he dealt with in 2017, per Rapoport (Twitter link). Winters played through the ailment last season, but New York has no interest of rushing him back this year, and he’s not expected to play in any preseason games. The 26-year-old Winters has made 56 starts for the Jets over the past five seasons, and last year graded as the league’s No. 59 guard among 78 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Cardinals RB David Johnson “Encouraged” By Extension Talks

Cardinals running back David Johnson said earlier this week that he’s been “encouraged” by his ongoing extension negotiations, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.

“I think that’s what it is — I didn’t play,” Johnson said. “I didn’t play last year. I was hoping my production from my second year and what I did my first year would help out, but the NFL is what have you done for me lately, so hopefully I can prove it once the season starts.”

Johnson, of course, was arguably the NFL’s best offensive player during the 2016 season. In addition to being name first-team All-Pro, Johnson managed 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns plus 80 receptions, 879 yards, and four more scores in the passing game. However, a dislocated wrist forced Johnson to miss most of the 2017 campaign, and that absence will surely affect his upcoming contract.

Johnson skipped Cardinals minicamp earlier this year in something of a mini-holdout, but subsequently reported to training camp. Arizona has reportedly been working towards a contract with Johnson’s camp, and that progress shouldn’t be delayed by general manager Steve Keim‘s team-imposed suspension.

Rams running back Todd Gurley reset the running back market last month by agreeing to a new deal which contains a $14.375MM annual value and $21.95MM in guarantees, but it’s difficult to see Johnson approaching that figure. Not only is Johnson coming off a lost season, but he’s nearly three years older than Gurley. Still, a contract which tops double-digits annually should be expected for Johnson, who will earn just $1.907MM in 2018.

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Colts Not Currently Interested In Dez Bryant, Jeremy Maclin

While they don’t have much depth at wide receiver (especially after losing promising rookie Deon Cain to a torn ACL), the Colts are not currently interested in adding a veteran pass-catcher such as Dez Bryant or Jeremy Maclin, general manager Chris Ballard told Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk’s podcast (link via Andrew Walker of Colts.com).

“Good players, without question,” Ballard said. “Right now internally we’re just gonna continue to work with this young group we have, and continue to go down the preseason path.”

The Colts project to deploy T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant, and Chester Rogers as their top three receivers, but the depth chart following that trifecta is relatively barren. Fifth-round pick Daurice Fountain could conceivably log playing time, as could a cavalcade of other options including K.J. Brent, Kasen Williams, Seantavius Jones, James Wright, Matt Hazel, and Zach Pascal, among others.

Bryant, for his part, has drawn limited interest since being released by the Cowboys earlier this year. His recent dalliance with the Browns doesn’t appear to be heading for an accord, and he’s reportedly “not on the front burner” in Cleveland. Maclin, meanwhile, was on the Eagles’ radar at one point, but no official meeting ever took place.

Ballard did not completely rule out signing Bryant or Maclin at some point down the road, admitting each would be “on the list” of free agent receivers the Colts would call if more depth is required.

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Carson Wentz Cleared For 11-On-11 Drills

As Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz continues his rehabilitation from a torn ACL, he’s been medically cleared to participate in 11-on-11 drills, per Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

The news isn’t a complete surprise, as Wentz had been expected to be cleared at some point over the next week. But the revelation is undoubtedly a positive, especially given that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson recently said Wentz would need to participate in at least a week’s worth of 11-on-11 work in order to suit up for Week 1. However, as Wentz said earlier this week, there is no guarantee he’ll be ready for Philadelphia’s season opener.

“I obviously would love to be out there,” Wentz said. “That’s been my goal all offseason ever since the injury. It’s going to be close. It’s going to be close. I’m still eyeing that date. At the end of the day, it’s not just my decision. There’s coaches and doctors that really have the final say. I really like where I’m at and time will tell here.”

Wentz has yet to be cleared for contact, the next step in his recovery, but the Eagles have options at the ready if he’s not available for Week 1. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is dealing with a shoulder injury but isn’t expected to miss extended time, and he’d fill in if Wentz misses any regular season action. Philadelphia also has Nate Sudfeld, Joe Callahan, and Christian Hackbenerg on its roster.

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Hunter Henry Could Return In 2018?

Chargers tight end Hunter Henry is now three months removed from undergoing surgery for a torn ACL, and there is reportedly a “glimmer of hope” the third-year pro could return during the 2018 campaign, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com.

Most ACL injuries require a minimum nine-month recover period, a timeline which should have ruled out Henry for the regular season. But Henry has been moving well during Los Angeles’ training camp, per Williams, who adds Henry “doesn’t look like someone who believes [his] season is over.”

The Chargers will almost surely place Henry on injured reserve during roster cutdowns in September, but there’s a chance he could be designated as an IR/return player. (A player with that designation must be carried through to his club’s respective initial 53-man roster before being moved to IR.) Henry would be able to play after missing Los Angeles’ first eight games, meaning he could return on November 11, just shy of six months after his ACL surgery.

At that point, the Chargers’ team record and standing within the AFC West would likely play a role in their decision on Henry. If Los Angeles isn’t in contention, it won’t risk Henry’s health in a lost season. As Williams notes, the Chargers must take into account the 23-year-old Henry’s long-term outlook with the club, not just his potential 2018 impact.

Without Henry available, the Chargers will begin the season with Virgil Green as their top tight end, while Sean Culkin, Braedon Bowman, Je’Ron Hamm, Cole Hunt, and Ben Johnson are also on the roster. However, Los Angeles is still negotiating with franchise icon Antonio Gates, who reportedly won’t play for any team besides the Chargers.

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Redskins To Work Out RB Orleans Darkwa

Free agent running back Orleans Darkwa will work out for the Redskins on Sunday, according to John Keim of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Washington is in serious need of backfield depth, especially after losing presumptive starter Derrius Guice to a torn ACL. Meanwhile, Samaje Perine is expected to miss at least a week with an ankle injury, and Byron Marshall could be sidelined for a month with his own ankle issue. The Redskins also waived/injured running back Martez Carter earlier today, leaving them with Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, and Kapri Bibbs as their only health backs.

If he were injury-free, Darkwa almost surely would have landed a new contract by now, but a May surgery to remove a plate in his leg likely concerned interested clubs. Darkwa received medical clearance more than a month ago, but still has yet to find a new home.

Playing for the Giants in 2017, Darkwa posted the best campaign of his NFL tenure in by setting career-highs in starts (11), rushes (171), yards (751), and touchdowns (five). Football Outsiders ranked Darkwa as a top-25 running back in both DYAR and DVOA (meaning he was both effective overall and efficient on a per-play basis), while Pro Football Focus noted his ability to create his own yardage. Per PFF, Darkwa not only managed 67% of his rushing yards after first contact, but performed well in Yards Created, a metric which filters out game situation, score, offensive line performance, and other variables.

Thus far, the ColtsPatriotsJets, and Bills have brought in the 26-year-old for a visits. The Jets reportedly don’t have any immediate plans to sign Darkwa, but the other clubs haven’t specifically ruled him out.

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Browns, Dez Bryant Not Close On Contract

Now that Josh Gordon has appeared at Browns training camp, Dez Bryant is “no longer on the front burner” in Cleveland, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, who adds the Browns and Bryant did not come close to reaching a contract agreement during the Bryant’s recent visit. While the Browns will keep tabs on Bryant, they’re not expected to sign him in the near future.

The Browns are searching for help at wideout after trading former first-round pick Corey Coleman to the Bills last week, and while Bryant wasn’t initially returning general manager John Dorsey‘s phone calls, the veteran pass-catcher finally agreed to come in for a meeting. Speaking on a conference call earlier today, Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson said Gordon’s presence at camp wouldn’t affect the club’s plans with Bryant (but Cabot’s sources say that isn’t the case).

“No, I think one has nothing to do with the other in my opinion,” Jackson said. “Again, things will unfold as they will. The most important thing we know is that Josh is here, and again, we’ve had a good conversation with Dez and until he’s a Cleveland Brown, I can only worry about the guys that are on this football team.”

Bryant, 29, is reportedly looking for a one-year, “prove-it” deal and wants to play for a contending club. Whether the Browns will fulfill the latter requirement in 2018 is unclear, but Bryant could conceivably wait until a wide receiver injury elsewhere opens a roster spot.

While a number of teams have been tangentially linked to Bryant since he was released by the Cowboys, no clubs aside from the Ravens and Browns have been directly interested in the former first-round pick. In fact, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com has reported many teams are unwilling to consider Bryant even at the minimum salary.

Gordon, for his part, is currently not allowed to practice after the Browns placed him on the non-football injury list earlier today. However, Jackson did allow Gordon could be available for Cleveland’s regular season opener on September 9.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 8/18/18

Today’s minor moves:

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Signed: LB Kyle Coleman

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Signed: WR Darius Prince
  • Waived: DT Adam Reth

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Redskins

CB Kayvon Webster To Visit Three Teams

It’s been a quiet offseason for Kayvon Webster, but it sounds like the cornerback is finally lining up some suitors. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the free agent will visit with the Texans, Bills, and Lions next week.

After the Rams added some high-profile cornerbacks to their roster, the team released Webster back in April. While the 27-year-old hasn’t shown the promise that made him a third-round pick out of South Florida in 2013, he has had some productive stretches. He had one of his best NFL seasons in 2017, compiling 38 tackles, seven passes defended, and one interception in 11 games. A torn Achilles’ tendon ended his season in December, and he finished the year in the lower half of Pro Football Focus’ cornerback rankings.

Each of Webster’s three suitors could use some cornerback depth, especially the Lions. The team is currently rostering only three players at the position behind starters Darius Slay and Teez Tabor, so Webster could easily push for a roster spot. The same is true in Buffalo, where the team has only four backups in Phillip GainesTaron JohnsonLafayette Pitts, and Breon Borders.

It might be a bit tougher for the free agent to earn a roster spot in Houston, as the Texans currently have eight cornerbacks on their roster. However, considering Webster’s productive 2017 season, he could logically push for a key reserve role, as he’d have to compete with the likes of Kevin Johnson, Johnson Bademosi, and Treston Decoud.

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LB Junior Galette To Visit Rams

It sounds like Junior Galette has another suitor. The free agent linebacker is set to visit with the Rams tomorrow, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter).

There’s been plenty of interest in the 30-year-old’s services, but he still hasn’t been able to catch on with a team. The Rams and Browns reportedly had interest in the veteran earlier this offseason, and the Raiders were considering a pursuit. We most recently heard that Galette could still return to the Redskins, where he had spent the past three seasons. There were even rumblings that the linebacker could consider retirement, but it sounds like it hasn’t gotten to that point.

Galette broke onto the scene in 2013 and 2014, compiling 22 sacks between the two seasons. A pair of torn Achilles injuries forced him to sit out the 2015 and 2016 season, and he looked a step slower in his return to football last year. He ultimately finished the 2017 season with 20 tackles, three sacks, two passes defended, and one forced fumble in 16 games off the bench. Galette also finished with 25 pressures, and he was graded as the league’s No. 30 edge defender among 106 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Behind the projected starters, the Rams linebacker depth chart is composed primarily of recent draft picks, including Ogbonnia OkoronkwoEjuan PriceTrevon Young, Micah Kiser, and Bryce Hager (as well as free agent addition Ramik Wilson). The team could benefit from adding a veteran to that mix .

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