2014 NFL Draft

AFC Rumors: Steelers, Patriots, Easley, Texans

The Steelers have used the majority of their pre-draft visits within the last week, and announced several more today. As Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes, the following players were in Pittsburgh today to meet with the club: Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones, West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, Virginia Tech linebacker Dadi Nicolas, Colorado cornerback Ken Crawley, Maryland safety Sean Davis, and Boston College safety Justin Simmons.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams is visiting with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium today, sources tell Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald (on Twitter). The Pats previously met with the tailback at the combine. Williams, 22, missed the 2015 regular season after undergoing foot surgery. In 2014, he racked up 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground despite splitting carries.
  • Patriots defensive lineman Dominique Easley has hired agents Drew Rosenhaus and Michael Katz of Rosenhaus Sports for representation, as Rand Getlin of NFL.com tweets. Easley, 23, has been plagued by injuries since being selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. In December of last season, he was placed on IR with a leg injury. In his injury-shortened sophomore year, Easley totaled 15 tackles and two sacks as a part-time player.
  • Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant is visiting the Texans, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle writes. The wide receiver/kick returner has also worked out for the Dolphins, Colts, and Jets. Grant returned four kicks for touchdowns over the course of his collegiate career with the Red Raiders and caught 90 passes for 1,268 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Dolphins Sign Billy Turner

The Dolphins have signed third-round pick Billy Turner, agent Michael Hoffman tells Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). With the signing, the Dolphins have signed all of their draft picks and there are now only two undrafted picks from the 2014 class in the entire NFL: Taylor Lewan (Titans) and Justin Gilbert (Browns).

Turner, 22, was pick No. 67 out of North Dakota State, where he started 56 games across four seasons. Though he played both left and right tackle in college, he will shift to guard in the NFL. Shelley Smith is probably safe as the Dolphins’ right guard, but Turner could push Dallas Thomas for snaps on the left side.

In Miami, Turner will be part of a totally revamped offensive line. Newly signed Branden Albert will start at left tackle, Thomas and Smith will man guard, and first-rounder Ju’Wuan James will handle right tackle. Center was supposed to be the Dolphins’ most stable position along the front five, but following Mike Pouncey‘s injury, Sam Brenner will likely hold down the spot until Pouncey returns.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

Latest On Four Remaining Unsigned Draftees

As we’ve discussed before when covering draft pick signings – as well as those draftees who remain unsigned – the NFL’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement has taken most of the drama out of the contracts for rookies. With set amounts on signing bonuses and total values for most rookie deals, players will haggle over things like offset language, types of payment, and guaranteed money, but for the most part, there isn’t much wiggle room.

That means that we shouldn’t expect to see many – if any – holdouts when training camps get underway later this month. Still, four of 2014’s 256 draft picks have still yet to ink their contracts, so it’s worth checking in on them to see if we can discern any particular reason why that’s the case. Here are the four draftees who remain unsigned, along with the latest updates on each of them:

  • Justin Gilbert, CB, Cleveland Browns (1.8): As of last Tuesday, Gilbert didn’t sound like he was too involved in his own negotiations, deferring to his agent when asked about contract talks by Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. He echoed that stance later in the week, suggesting that he wasn’t sure whether he’d be in attendance when the Browns’ training camp begins. Still, even with potential disputes over offsets and roster bonuses in play at the No. 8 spot, I’d be pretty surprised if the rookie cornerback wasn’t present for the first day of camp.
  • Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee Titans (1.11): Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote this week that he thinks the delay on Lewan may be a result of the offensive tackle looking to replace his fully-guaranteed base salaries with roster bonuses paid out during training camp. Last year’s 11th overall pick (D.J. Fluker) didn’t receive these bonuses in his deal, but Lewan’s teammate, No. 10 pick Chance Warmack, did get them. Considering Lewan is viewed as the Titans’ left tackle of the future, making him a more essential piece on the offensive line than Warmack, he has a reasonable case for those roster bonuses. In Florio’s view, a brief training camp holdout is a possibility for Lewan.
  • Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (2.39): Lee was long viewed as a likely first-round pick, so the delay on his signing may be related to his trying to recoup some guaranteed money after slipping to No. 39. In his latest mailbag, John Oesher of Jaguars.com couldn’t offer any specific details on the holdup for Lee, but stated confidently that something should get done before training camp.
  • Billy Turner, OT, Miami Dolphins (3.67): There haven’t been many rumblings about the contract talks, who is the last third-rounder to sign. Most recently, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote last Monday that the unresolved issues for Turner “are not insurmountable.”

AFC Links: Watkins, Shorts, Keisel, Raiders

Last night we not only passed along some Browns notes, but also asked whether Johnny Manziel’s off-the-field conduct was among the NFL’s most intriguing storylines. Let’s take a look at some more news from Cleveland, as well as the rest of the AFC:

  • Sammy Watkins revealed to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal that Browns general manager Ray Farmer met with him in Clemson just a few days before the start of last month’s draft. Watkins, of course, was thought to be an option for the Browns at pick No. 4, but Cleveland ultimately traded the pick to the Bills, who selected the 21-year-old receiver.
  • Negotiations between the Jaguars and Cecil Shorts could take awhile, but Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com thinks an extension could be signed sometime during the first half of the season. DiRocco agrees with a recent assessment that Doug Baldwin‘s contract with the Seahawks could be a template for a new Shorts deal, but cautions that if Shorts demands No. 1 receiver money, an agreement could stall.
  • In his latest mailbag, Scott Brown of ESPN.com writes that he still expects the Steelers to re-sign veteran Brett Keisel, though a reunion may not come until just before the start of training camp. Keisel would serve as a mentor to second-round pick Stephon Tuitt, and act as part of a rotation with the rookie and Cam Thomas.
  • 2011 Steelers fifth-round linebacker Chris Carter might be facing his last chance in Pittsburgh, according to R.J. Schaffer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Following the release of LaMarr Woodley, there is room for another pass-rusher to step up for the Steelers, but rumors persist that the team might add veteran James Harrison.
  • The Raiders still have more than $10MM left in cap space, and ESPN.com’s Paul Guiterrez wonders if the team should look to spend that money, while questioning why Oakland did not look into signing Brandon Flowers. Personally, I think it makes more sense for the Raiders to roll over that cap space into 2015, as there aren’t any high-impact free agents left on the market.

Patriots Sign Dominique Easley

2:05pm: 80% of Easley’s rookie contract is guaranteed, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).

1:45pm: Another first-round pick has signed his rookie contract, as the Patriots announced today in a press release that they’ve locked up defensive tackle Dominique Easley. The agreement for Easley leaves just five draft picks unsigned, including two first-rounders — Justin Gilbert of the Browns and Taylor Lewan of the Titans.

Easley, 22, was drafted 29th overall by the Patriots, perhaps seeing his stock slip a little leading up to the draft because he’s recovering from a torn ACL. While the Pats may not be counting on the former Florida standout to contribute on the defensive line in New England, Easley has plenty of upside and should develop into productive regular after he gets healthy.

Per Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap, Easley should be in line for a signing bonus worth around $3.632MM, with an overall four-year value of $7.304MM on his rookie deal. Since Easley is a first-rounder, his pact also features a fifth-year team option, which the Pats can exercise to keep him under contract for the 2018 season.

In addition to signing Easley, the Pats filled the 90th spot on the roster by signing rookie free agent Chris Martin to a contract, the team announced. Martin, a former Central Florida offensive lineman, signed with the Texans following the draft, but was cut last month — he was reportedly waived with a failed physical designation, but presumably he’ll be healthy enough to participate in New England’s training camp next month.

Browns Sign Second-Rounder Joel Bitonio

The Browns announced they have agreed to terms with their second-round pick, offensive lineman Joel Bitonio (Twitter link via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal). According to our draft tracker, Bitonio’s signing means there are only six draft picks who remain unsigned, including one of Cleveland’s first-rounders, cornerback Justin Gilbert.

Bitonio, 22, was selected with the No. 35 overall pick out of Nevada. Though he started 38 games at tackle while in college, he is expected to serve as the left guard on the Browns’ offensive front, where he will line up between All-Pros Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. In this scenario, John Greco, who played the majority of snaps at left guard for Cleveland in 2013, will likely shift to the right side, replacing the departed Shawn Lauvao.

According to Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap, Bitonio is in line for a four-year deal with a total value of ~$5.462MM, with a signing bonus of approximately $2.292MM, and a 2014 cap hit of about $993K.

Dolphins Sign Ju’Wuan James

One of eight 2014 draftees who had yet to officially sign his rookie contract has done so today. First-round offensive tackle Ju’Wuan James tweeted out a photo that shows him inking his deal with the Dolphins, accompanied by the caption “Happy to officially be apart of the @MiamiDolphins for many years to come #FinsUp.”

James, the 19th overall selection in last month’s draft, will be in line for a signing bonus worth nearly $4.45MM, according to Jason Fitzgerald’s figures at OverTheCap.com. The four-year contract, which will include a fifth-year team option for the 2018 season, will have an overall value in the neighborhood of $8.428MM, and that total is fully guaranteed, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

With James locked up, the Dolphins have one unsigned pick remaining, in third-round tackle Billy Turner. I wouldn’t be surprised if the club was working on finalizing that deal as well, with the intention of formally announcing both signings at once. Besides the two Dolphins linemen, six other draftees have yet to put pen to paper, including three first-rounders. You can check out our tracker for all the updates.

Bucs Sign Austin Seferian-Jenkins

JUNE 19: The Bucs’ deal with Seferian-Jenkins is now official, tweets Smith.

JUNE 12: The Bucs have agreed to terms with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, according to Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com (via Twitter). An official release is expected soon.

The 21-year-old Washington standout was selected in the second round with the 38th overall pick. Like many of today’s NFL tight ends, Seferian-Jenkins has a basketball background and the 6’6″ athlete was a member of the Huskies basketball team in his frosh year. The Bucs thought highly of the underclassman and made him the second TE selected in the draft, ahead of Jace AmaroTroy Niklas, and C.J. Fiedorowicz. Most projected Seferian-Jenkins as a second round choice but there were teams reportedly considering him in the later part of the first round.

Over the course of three seasons at Washington, Seferian-Jenkins hauled in 146 catches for 1840 yards and 21 touchdowns. His talent hasn’t been questioned but he did raise a red flag for teams in March of 2013 when he was arrested for a DUI.

After signing third round tailback Charles Sims earlier today, Tampa Bay has now signed or agreed to terms with every player in its 2014 draft class, as shown in PFR’s running list.

Steelers Sign Second-Rounder Stephon Tuitt

The Steelers have become the latest team to lock up their entire 2014 draft class, announcing today (via Twitter) that second-round defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt has signed his rookie contract.

Tuitt, 21, played his college ball at Notre Dame, racking up 19.5 sacks in his last two seasons with the Fighting Irish. As the 46th overall pick in last month’s draft, Tuitt will receive a signing bonus worth around $1.672MM, per Jason Fitzgerald’s figures at OverTheCap.com. The overall four-year value of his contract will be about $4.609MM.

I wrote yesterday that only 13 draftees remained unsigned, and since then, five more have been locked up, meaning just eight have yet to put pen to paper. Now that the Steelers have secured all their draftees, only five teams still have picks to sign.

Jaguars Sign Blake Bortles

8:15am: There are no offsets in Bortles’ deal, tweets Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports.

8:07am: The Jaguars have locked up the third overall pick from last month’s draft, announcing today that they’ve signed quarterback Blake Bortles. As a first-rounder, Bortles’ four-year rookie deal will also feature a fifth-year club option for the 2018 season.

“It’s awesome,” Bortles said of signing his contract. “It’s awesome to be able to kind of put this in the past. It’s a once in a lifetime thing, signing your first contract. It’s a cool feeling.”

The first quarterback selected in the draft, Bortles will receive a signing bonus worth in the neighborhood of $13.342MM, according to Jason Fitzgerald’s figures at Over the Cap. Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union notes (via Twitter) that the entire amount ($20.65MM+) of Bortles’ four-year deal is guaranteed, though it’s not clear whether offsets are included in the agreement.

By signing Bortles, who currently ranks behind Chad Henne on the team’s depth chart, the Jaguars move a step closer toward locking up their draft class. Two of Henne’s and Bortles’ targets, second-round receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, remain unsigned, as our tracker indicates.