Bills Re-Sign LB Deon Lacey

The Bills have re-signed linebacker Deon Lacey to a one-year contract, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets. The team also confirmed the move via press release. 

[RELATED: NFL Reinstates Karlos Williams]

Lacey was scheduled to become an exclusive-rights free agent, so the deal doesn’t mean a whole lot on its own. However, the Bills have made a concerted effort to re-sign their own free agents in recent weeks. After inking Lacey to a new deal for 2019, the Bills have only a handful of free agents left to address:

Earlier this month, the Bills signed Lorenzo Alexander to a new one-year deal, inked offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles to a fresh one-year pact, and locked down long snapper Reid Ferguson. By the time March 13 rolls around, the Bills should have a simplified to-do list that will allow them to focus mostly on the open market and the April draft.

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Ravens, Tavon Young Agree To Extension

The Ravens and cornerback Tavon Young have agreed to an extension, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (on Twitter). The Ravens will make it official with a press conference on Friday. Exact terms of the deal are not yet known. 

Young was already signed through the 2019 season, but GM Eric DeCosta has made it a priority is to lock up some of the Ravens’ young players before they reach their walk years. Young is a rising star at slot cornerback and inking him to a new deal this week may prevent them from a much larger expenditure before the 2020 season.

Young played much of last season with a sports hernia injury, but managed to gut it out and appear in 15 of the Ravens’ 16 regular season games. He proved to have a nose for the ball with three fumble recoveries, two of which were taken the other way for touchdowns. He also recorded an interception, giving him three in total for his career.

The former fourth-round pick graded out as the No. 75 cornerback in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus. The advanced metrics weren’t necessarily wild about him, but that ranking did place him above the likes of Morris Claiborne, Marcus Peters, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

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Jets Concerned About Le’Veon Bell’s Weight

Armed with $100MM+ in cap room, the Jets have been heavily connected to Le’Veon Bell. However, they have some concerns about the former Steelers running back’s weight, according to Manish Mehta of the Daily News

[RELATED: Jets Won’t Break The Bank For Bell]

Rumor has it that Bell, who typically plays around 225 pounds, beefed up to 260 pounds at one point during his holdout. It’s not clear whether Bell is still carrying extra weight, but the Jets are concerned regardless.

With that said, Mehta hears the Jets would still sign Bell at the right price. Mehta hears that Bell is seeking $48MM over the first three years of his upcoming deal, which might be too rich for Gang Green’s blood. The Jets, as previously reported, are not looking to break the bank for the 27-year-old.

Even with the potential red flags, Bell still profiles as a game-changing dual-threat running back for any team that signs him. Bell personally believes that he can spark the Colts’ offense, but their level of interest is unclear, so the Jets may be his best bet for a big payday.

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NFL Reinstates Former Bills RB Karlos Williams

Former Bills running back Karlos Williams has been conditionally reinstated by the NFL, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Williams has not played since his rookie year in 2015, but he may now have an opportunity to get his career back on track.

The letter informed Williams of the good news and noted he was humbled and committed to not squandering his second chance. Provided that Williams stays clean following his substance abuse suspension, he should be able to sign with a club and suit up.

Williams averaged 5.6 yards per carry as a rookie (with nine all-purpose touchdowns) and showed serious promise. But, before the 2016 season, he was a surprise cut when he showed up to Buffalo out of shape. He later hooked on with the Steelers, but never played a down for Pittsburgh.

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Extra Points: Panthers, Bucs, Kwon, Dolphins

The Panthers have hired former Alabama assistant Jake Peetz as their new running backs coach, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Carolina announced that Peetz’s predecessor, Jim Skipper, will retire after spending six seasons with the club. Peetz, 35, worked for the Raiders from 2015-17, serving as quarterbacks coach during his final campaign in Oakland. He was briefly rumored to be an offensive coordinator candidate in Indianapolis under presumptive head coach Josh McDaniels in 2018, but that never occurred after McDaniels spurned the Colts. Peetz will lead a Panthers backfield that was dominated by Christian McCaffrey — who played 91% of the team’s offensive snaps — last year.

Let’s take a look at a few more coaching notes from around the NFL:

  • Impending free agent linebacker Kwon Alexander has already met new Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians and wants to re-sign with Tampa Bay, as he told WDAE-FM (link via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times). Alexander doesn’t think the Bucs’ likely shift to a 3-4 front under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles would be a hindrance to his play. “Man, I’m a baller, period,” Alexander said. “I’m going to get to the ball whatever scheme it is. If it’s 4-3, 3-4, I know how to make plays and that’s what I’m going to do if I’m in there.” From a contractual standpoint, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com recently reported that Tampa Bay had no intention of paying Alexander $10MM per year even before he tore his ACL last October.
  • Panthers free agent linebacker David Mayo recently underwent sports hernia surgery, but is expected to make a full recovery, reports Joe Person of The Athletic (Twitter link). As of yet, there’s been no timeline reported for Mayo’s return to full health. A fifth-round pick in 2015, Mayo hasn’t been much of a factor on Carolina’s impressive linebacker unit, playing only 307 defensive snaps over four years. But he’s been extremely reliable on special teams. Mayo has played on at least 60% of the Panthers’ ST snaps in all of his NFL seasons, and has ranked either first or second in Panthers’ special teams snaps in each of the past three years.
  • Alabama special teams/offense analyst Brendan Farrell will join the Dolphins as an assistant special teams coach, per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com. Miami is attempting to rebuild its special teams staff after losing longtime coordinator/associate head coach Darren Rizzi to the Saints earlier this year. Farrell will work under Danny Crossman, the former Bills’ ST coach who joined the Dolphins earlier this month. Farrell previously served as the special teams coordinator at Northwestern State.

AFC Notes: Jets, Steelers, Ravens, Broncos

The Jets have “massive buyer’s remorse” after signing cornerback Trumaine Johnson a five-year, $72.5MM deal last offseason, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Johnson, who had been franchise-tagged by the Rams in both 2016 and 2017, is now the NFL’s second-highest paid corner behind only Josh Norman. While he may not have played like a No. 1 CB last season, Johnson’s numbers were much improved from 2017. After ranking as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 60 corner in 2017, Johnson finished 24th in PFF’s grades last year. Football Outsiders, meanwhile, ranked Johnson as a bottom-10 corner in success rate in 2017, but 30th in 2018. Gang Green can’t realistically exit the Johnson contract until after the 2019 campaign.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Steelers appear set to explore the trade market for wide receiver Antonio Brown, but the return for the superstar may not be as lucrative as Pittsburgh hopes. Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (video link) surveyed multiple NFL executives and reached the conclusion that the Steelers are likely to receive something in the neighborhood of a third-round pick in exchange for Brown. While he’s still among the NFL’s best pass-catchers, Brown is heading into his age-31 season and will be due north of $15MM in 2019. Additionally, it’s fair to wonder if some rival clubs are skeptical of Brown given his recent off-field antics. Earlier today, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert made it clear that he won’t simply give Brown away.
  • Speaking of embattled Steelers, kicker Chris Boswell is likely to face competition in training camp following a down 2018 campaign, as Colbert indicated to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). Boswell only converted 65% of his field goal attempts last season, a percentage that ranked him 30th among kickers. He’s due a $2MM roster bonus on March 15, and the Steelers are presumably willing to pay that total given that Colbert says Boswell will be at training camp.
  • Cornerback Jimmy Smith could be a potential cap casualty as the Ravens move forward this offseason, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. Smith is scheduled to count for nearly $16MM on Baltimore’s salary cap in 2019 (the highest figure on the club and second-highest among NFL corners), is now 30 years old, and has missed 13 games over the past three season due to injuries and a suspension. The Ravens have plenty of cornerback depth to withstand the loss of Smith (Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young), but he’s still playing at a high level.
  • The Broncos have begun negotiations with offensive lineman Billy Turner, and he may be the sole member of Denver’s unrestricted free agent class that will reach an agreement before the start of the new league year, writes Mike Klis of 9News. A former third-round pick of the Dolphins, Turner signed for $2MM last offseason and should receive a salary bump this year. He played 76% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps a year ago, and could return either as a starter or a valuable reserve in 2019.

Raiders Nearing Deal To Play In Oakland For 2019

The Raiders are nearing a deal that will allow them to play in the Oakland Coliseum for at least one more season, according to Phil Matier of the San Francisco Chronicle. An announcement is unlikely to be made this week, tweets Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review Journal, but it could come next week.

The Raiders are expected to pay a $7.5MM fee to play in the Coliseum in 2019, a price tag that has been agreed upon for some time. Additionally, the deal will come with an option that would let the Raiders spend the 2020 campaign in Oakland, as well. Per Matier, that option is something of an insurance policy, a fail-safe in case the Raiders’ Las Vegas stadium isn’t ready by its scheduled 2020 launch date.

Reports emerged in late January indicating the Raiders would stay in the Bay Area for 2019, and the club reportedly reached an agreement to play in San Francisco’s Oracle Park, the home of MLB’s Giants. That accord ran into issues, however, as the 49ers refused to waive their territorial rights to the San Francisco area.

The NFL, meanwhile, reportedly preferred the Raiders share the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium for the 2019 campaign. While the Niners and the Raiders discussed the viability of such a setup, it’s not clear how serious the discussions were, per Matier.

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Landon Collins May Hold Out If Franchised

Giants safety Landon Collins may or may not have cleaned out his locker earlier today, but the 25-year-old defensive back has already made it clear he doesn’t want to be franchise-tagged this offseason. Indeed, Collins may sit out spring and summer practice sessions if he is franchised, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (link via Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com).

The impact of Collins holding out for a long-term deal isn’t exactly clear. For one, many franchise players refuse participate in spring/summer workouts and practices as a way of expressing their frustration with the franchise tender, but few (Le’Veon Bell aside) actually sit out the season. Second, Collins is facing a four-to-six month recovery period after undergoing December surgery for a torn labrum, so he probably won’t be allowed to be on the field until the summer anyway.

The Giants seemingly have expressed no interest in working out a long-term agreement with Collins (reports as far back as November and as recently as this afternoon suggest as much). Therefore, New York has until March 5 to decide whether it wants to deploy the franchise tag — at a cost of around $11.2MM — on Collins.

Collins, a second-round pick in the 2015 draft, has been a full-time starter for the Giants since entering the league. A two-time Pro Bowler, Collins posted 96 tackles, four passes defensed, and a forced fumble in 2018 while grading as the NFL’s 39th-best safety, per Pro Football Focus.

If he does reach the open market, Collins will be among the most-coveted safeties in a crowded positional field. Among the other safeties scheduled to hit free agency are Earl ThomasHa Ha Clinton-DixLamarcus JoynerAdrian Amos, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tre Boston.

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Broncos Haven’t Asked Sanders For Pay Cut

The Broncos have yet not approached Emmanuel Sanders or his agent about taking a pay cut, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. At this time, it sounds like Sanders will be a Bronco in 2019, Pelissero adds. 

Sanders made waves this week when he indicated that he will not consider taking a pay cut from Denver. The Broncos could still theoretically make that request, but as of this writing, they have not done so. Ultimately, Sanders might not have much to worry about as the Broncos appear to still have him in their plans.

Sanders recorded in 71 catches for 868 yards and four touchdowns last season. He also rushed for a touchdown and threw a touchdown pass. Those numbers weren’t in line with his previous career bests, including a 101-catch, 1,404-yard season in 2014, but big numbers were hard to come by on a listless Broncos offense in 2018.

In theory, the Broncos could cut Sanders and save his full $10.25MM salary against the cap while eating his bonus proration of $2,687,500. But, cap space is not at a premium, even when factoring in Joe Flacco’s contract. We should know the score in a matter of weeks – $1.5MM of Sanders’ $10.25MM salary becomes fully guaranteed if the Broncos exercise his option and a decision must be made by March 12.

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