Month: April 2017

AFC Notes: Fins, Jones, Texans, Broncos, Colts

The Dolphins have not ruled out renegotiating, or even extending, the contract of safety Reshad Jones, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Jones was planning a holdout in the hopes of landing an extension from Miami, and reportedly even mulled a season-long boycott, but eventually reported to camp in June. The 28-year-old Jones doesn’t seem very worried about his deal at this point, telling Jackson that he’s “just worried about helping [his] team win.”

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Offensive tackle Chris Clark attracted interest from four teams over the offseason, and the free agent was able to use that leverage to land a two-year, $6MM deal from the Texans, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. Clark, who will act as Houston’s swing tackle, is set to serve in an especially valuable role given that starting left tackle Duane Brown is recovering from a torn quadriceps. But Clark might needed on the right side as well, as starter Derek Newton suffered a strained hamstring today and will be sidelined for a few weeks, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
  • The Broncos don’t have a clear line of succession at owner, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post details, noting that the club is currently run by president/CEO Joe Ellis. Ellis is one of three trustees who will determine which of Pat Bowlen‘s seven children will take over as the team’s primary owner as Bowlen himself deals with Alzheimer’s disease. For now, though, Ellis, along with strong leadership by GM John Elway and head coach Gary Kubiak, have the team moving a good direction.
  • Although Eric Fisher‘s new contract is probably an overpay, the Chiefs are both spending on future performance and working under a “fear of the unknown,” writes Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap. With fewer qualified offensive tackles entering the league due to the prevalence of the spread offense in the NCAA, Kansas City was willing to extend Fisher now rather than wade into the draft to find a risky tackle option. Plus, given that Fisher was effectively guaranteed $15.3MM over the next two seasons, his new guarantee of $22MM isn’t completely out of left field.
  • The Colts are working out former Panthers offensive lineman Edmund Kugbila, Mike Chappell of Fox59 tweets. The Panthers selected Kugbila in the fourth round of the 2013 draft but he has yet to play a single professional snap due to various injuries.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/31/16

Today’s minor moves from around the league:

  • The Vikings announced that they have waived cornerback Keith Baxter and linebacker Jason Whittingham. Baxter, for his part, had recently been in the hospital, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • Just one day after signing him, the Cowboys have waived linebacker Darius Eubanks, tweets Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
  • The Rams have waived wide receiver Deon Long, reports Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link), who notes that Long was added to the club’s practice squad late last season.

Earlier updates:

Latest On Reggie Bush, Bills

While one report last week indicated the Reggie Bush could be waiting for a club’s backfield to suffer an injury before determining where to sign, a source tells Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) that if Bush decides to continue his career, it will be with the Bills. Bush has been engaged in ongoing negotiations with Buffalo, and his decision on whether to ink a deal could come this week, per Cole.Reggie Bush (vertical)

[RELATED: The Beat — Q&A with Bills beat writer Vic Carucci]

The Bills are said to be “working out the deal points” of a contact with Bush, while other reports have stated that the two sides have significant obstacles to overcome in order to reach a deal. If signed, Bush would add depth to a backfield that has seen each of its top options — LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, and Jonathan Williams — involved in varying levels of off-the-field drama over the past several months. Karlos Williams is already facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, while Jonathan Williams could be looking at his own ban after being arrested for DUI.

Bush announced in February that he was intent on playing in 2016, though it was unclear at the time whether that feeling was being reciprocated back from any of the league’s 32 teams. Recently, the veteran indicated that there was at least a pair of clubs that would be interested in having him aboard. Thanks to the Bills’ unfortunate series of events in recent weeks, it seems that Buffalo is his most fervent suitor.

The Lions cut Bush prior to the 2015 season to save money after he missed much of the previous campaign with ankle injuries. Bush went on to sign with the 49ers, but he played just five games before tearing his left ACL on the concrete at the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis.Bush later sued the St. Louis Regional Convention and Stadium Authority over his injury, which capped his season’s statline at a grand total of 28 yards. Now, Bush says he has recovered from his ACL tear and is ready for action.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Sign Billy Winn

The Broncos have swapped out one former Brown for another, announcing today that they’ve signed defensive lineman Billy Winn and placed defensive tackle Phil Taylor on injured reserve.Billy Winn (Vertical)

[RELATED: Broncos sign WR Marlon Brown]

Winn, 27, spent the first three years of his career in Cleveland before being traded to the Colts right before the 2015 campaign got underway. He didn’t play much of a role, appearing in 12 games but playing less than 400 snaps as a rotational defensive lineman. Winn piced up six tackles and two fumble recoveries, and graded out as the league’s No. 112 interior defender among 123 qualifiers, according to Pro Football Focus.

As Roster Resource shows, Denver didn’t acquire a veteran this offseason that can adequately make up for the loss of Malik Jackson, as Vance Walker and Jared Crick are thought to be the primary contenders for playing time at end. Neither option is particularly inspiring, meaning Winn could have the opportunity for playing time if he makes the roster and can beat out raw second-round pick Adam Gotsis.

Taylor, meanwhile, was signed by the Broncos in February after spending last season out of the NFL while dealing with knee injuries. Taylor suffered another knee ailment on Friday, tweets James Palmer of NFL.com, but the former first-round pick has been dealing with chronic knee pain for years. In four seasons with the Browns, Taylor started 42 contests, losing nearly two years to various injuries, including a torn pectoral.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Lynch, Cards, Mathis

49ers linebacker Aaron Lynch unsuccessfully attempted to appeal his four-game substance abuse policy, as he explained to reporters, including Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). Lynch entered stage one of the NFL’s drug program via positive tests in college, and he maintains he failed his most recent test due to a “unreliable specimen” caused from drinking too much water, tweets Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. While he’ll be allowed to attend training camp, play in the preseason, and attend regular season team meetings, Lynch won’t be able to practice once the regular season begins, writes Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.

Let’s take a look at more from the NFC West:

  • If he’s able to win another Super Bowl with the Cardinals in 2016, Evan Mathis says he’ll retire immediately, according to Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports 910 (Twitter link). “Absolutely,” said Mathis, when asked if he’ll hang up his cleats. “Not even thinking twice.” Mathis, 34, won a title during his first (and only) season with the Broncos, and proceeded to join Arizona on a one-year, $4MM deal. The veteran guard can earn another $2MM via incentives.
  • The Cardinals could conceivably keep a third quarterback on the active roster, but that No. 3 QB will have to compete with a fourth tight end, fourth running back, or sixth wide receiver, head coach Bruce Arians told reporters, including Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. Arizona’s third signal-caller battle will come down to Matt Barkely and 2016 undrafted free agent Jake Coker, each of whom will compete to work behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.
  • Trent Baalke knew Tom Gamble‘s promotion to assistant general manager would invite more scrutiny as to who holds the power in the 49ers‘ front office, as Branch writes in a full piece. Gamble spent two seasons with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia in between two stints in San Francisco, so Gamble acquiring a stronger voice could make it appear as though Kelly is usurping control. “I don’t live in a cave,” Baalke said. “I think I understood exactly what was going to happen. And that should show you even more that I don’t care. In all honesty, (Gamble is) deserving of the position.”
  • Meanwhile, Baalke says the 49ers will carry over the nearly $50MM in cap space that they currently possess, and could use it on extensions for players like Eric Reid, Carlos Hyde, Jimmie Ward, and others. Maiocco has the details and Baalke’s full statements in a separate piece.

Giants Considering Extension For Justin Pugh

The Giants were among the most active teams during the free agent period, spending freely on the open market and handing nearly $200MM in contracts to veterans Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, and Damon Harrison. But with the regular season approaching, the club is turning its attention to incumbent players, and have had discussions about hammering out extensions for offensive linemen Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, general manager Jerry Reese told reporters, including James Kratch of NJ.com (Twitter link), today.Justin Pugh (vertical)

[RELATED: Giants extend punter Brad Wing]

Pugh is under team control for two more seasons, as the Giants announced earlier this year that they would exercise Pugh’s fifth-year option for the 2017 campaign. As such, Pugh will earn abut $1.5MM during the upcoming season before making $8.821MM in 2017, meaning New York has its 2013 first-round pick locked up for a relative bargain. But if the Giants want to extend Pugh beyond next year, they’ll likely have to offer him an increase, likely working off that $8MM figure.

In his age-25 season, Pugh started 14 games at left guard after spending the first two years of his career dabbling (and struggling) at tackle. The move inside worked extraordinarily well, and Pugh helped New York’s offensive line to finish sixth in adjusted sack rate and 11th in adjusted line yards. Among left guard contracts, Pugh’s $8.821MM 2017 salary would rank second only to Kelechi Osemele‘s $11.7MM annual rate, and any negotiations would likely revolve around an $8MM average.

Like Pugh, Richburg has performed much better after undergoing a position change, as he transitioned to his natural center spot after playing guard as a rookie in 2014. The 25-year-old played the most snaps of any Giants offensive lineman, and graded out as the league’s third-best center, according to Pro Football Focus. However, because he was a 2014 draft pick, Richburg can’t renegotiate his deal under after the 2016 season, so any “discussions” New York management has had about extending him must have been internal and merely hypothetical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

7 Key Stories: 7/24/16 – 7/31/16

Our long national nightmare is over. After months of speculation, offers, negotiations, denials, stories, and tweets, Ryan Fitzpatrick is — as we all expected — headed back to the Jets, having agreed to a one-year contract worth a fully guaranteed $12MM. Because of New York’s tight cap space situation, the pact contains a void year in 2017 that will Ryan Fitzpatrick (vertical)help spread out the cap charge. Gang Green reportedly set a Friday night deadline for talks to end, which may have helped spur a resolution. Controversial defensive end Greg Hardy is now the only member of PFR’s top 50 free agents list that remains unsigned.

Another quarterback hits the market. The Nick Foles deliberations never quite reached Fitzpatrick levels, but it was readily apparent that the veteran quarterback was never going to head into the regular season with the Rams. Los Angeles granted Foles his release this week after he agreed to lower his 2016 guarantee, as the club opted to roll with Jared Goff, Case Keenum, and Sean Mannion. As many as 10 teams, including the Vikings and Cowboys, have expressed some level of interest in Foles.

Extensions galore. With free agency and the draft complete, clubs have turned their extensions to signing their incumbent talent to new contracts. Two members of the 2013 draft class — first overall pick Eric Fisher (link) and second-round corner Darius Slay (link) — landed large deals, while veterans such as Darren Sproles (link), Kurt Coleman (link), and Willie Young (link) all signed more modest pacts.

Three notables get reinstated. Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is expected to hit the field for the first time since 2014, as the NFL granted him conditional reinstatement (but also handed him a four-game suspension). Former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan, meanwhile, will be back with the Dolphins, although he was placed on the non-football injury list earlier today. And 49ers tackle Anthony Davis, who took the 2015 season off on his own accord, was also reinstated off the reserve list.

Veterans find landing spots. After sitting on the free agent market for several months, wide receiver Anquan Boldin finally found a new destination, agreeing to a one-year pact with the Lions. Boldin wasn’t the only veteran pass-catcher Anquan Boldin (Vertical)to ink
a deal, as Andre Johnson signed with the Titans and Hakeem Nicks latched on with the Saints. On defense, the Bears landed slot corner Brandon Boykin, while two former Chargers linebackers — Donald Butler (link) and Kavell Conner (link) — signed with the Cardinals and Ravens, respectively.

Leadership gets extended. A number of clubs opted to lock in their executive and head coaches for years to come, hoping that continuity will help maintain success. The Seahawks reached new deals with both general manager John Schneider (through 2021) and head coach Pete Carroll (through 2019), while another NFC contender, the Vikings, extended head coach Mike Zimmer. Meanwhile, two AFC clubs on the upswing, the Raiders and the Texans, each signed their general managers to long-term contracts, reaching new deals with Reggie McKenzie (link) and Rick Smith (link), respectively.

Pre-camp retirements pepper the news. After presumably spending the past few months attempting to find a new home, several veterans decided to hang up their cleats before training camp begins. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams probably posted the best career of the bunch, but three other former Vikings — tackle Phil Loadholt (link), receiver Greg Jennings (link), and defensive end Corey Wootton (link) — also announced their retirements, while former Falcons/Panthers safety Charles Godfrey decided to call it quits, as well.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR Originals: 7/24/16 – 7/21/16

The original content and analysis produced the PFR staff during the past week:

NFC North Notes: Stafford, Lions, Slay, Vikings

Matthew Stafford was pleased that quarterback Andrew Luck landed a mega-extension with the Colts, and he hopes that contract will help every other signal-caller during their respective negotiations. “I thought it was a good deal,” Stafford told Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. “I’m never against anybody making as much money as they can. That’s great. This is a limited-time business. We don’t get to play this game until we’re 50, and he’s a heck of a player, deserving of every cent.” Luck is now the league’s highest-paid player, but Stafford himself could soon hold that moniker, as his current contract expires following the 2017 season.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • After signing Darius Slay to a lucrative extension earlier this week, the Lions have turned their attention to punter Sam Martin, as Rothstein writes in a separate piece. Martin, who is entering a contract year and who has established himself as one of the better punters in the league, had the best net punting numbers of his career last season at 41.95 yards per punt, while opponents averaged only 6.12 yards per return. Detroit is in negotiations with Martin’s representatives, and the fourth-year pro could soon be clearing more than $3MM per year.
  • The aforementioned Slay extension is a representative of the Lions‘ strategy going forward under new general manager Bob Quinn, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press“That’s the plan,” said team president Rod Wood. “Build our own through the draft and find good guys, then extend them and keep them here. It’s a lot easier when you know the guy then signing them from free agency when you’re hoping that you know them, so we’re really happy that it worked out this way.” Detroit will have a chance to execute that approach next offseason, when offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Larry Warford are scheduled to become free agents.
  • Offensive lineman Mike Harris is on the non-football injury list while he deals with an illness, and there’s not a specific timeline for his return to Vikings‘ camp, writes Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. As such, Harris’ training camp battle with right guard Brandon Fusco has essentially become a non-competition, and Minnesota’ starting offensive line is now all but certainly going to feature Matt Kalil, Alex Boone, John Sullivan, Fusco, and Andre Smith. I wrote about the Vikings’ depth up front earlier this year, but several of those options are now out of the picture.
  • Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway hinted that 2016 will be his last year in the league, per Shari L. Jones of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (video link). That does not come as much of a surprise, as Greenway hinted even before signing his current one-year deal with Minnesota that he would be hanging up his cleats at season’s end.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

DeAndre Hopkins Ends Holdout

2:36pm: Hopkins has officially returned to camp, and Texans have expressed an willingness to engage in contract talks, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

1:49pm: DeAndre Hopkins‘ holdout is over after after one day, as the Texans wideout has released a statement and will return to camp, according to Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Hopkins will hold a press conference tomorrow.DeAndre Hopkins (Vertical)

[RELATED: Texans extend GM Rick Smith]

“I too am disappointed that the Texans organization has elected not to enter into contract negotiations to secure my future as a Texan,” reads Hopkins’ statement. “I have expressed my sincere position regarding my contract status and with sound mind have expressed my stance to the Texans organization. My focus also is on the 2016 season and to help my team reach our ultimate goal. Having said that I am returning to the Houston Texans to play for a Super Bowl…”

The 2013 first-round pick is set to earn $1MM in 2016 via his base salary and an additional $445K via a roster bonus, and the team recently picked up the receiver’s $7.92MM fifth-year option for 2017. Paying less than $10MM for two years of All-Pro production is an obvious bargain, and Hopkins’ 2016 base salary ranks 65th in the league. For comparison’s sake, Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery leads all wideouts with a $14.59MM base salary for next season.

Following a breakout 2014 campaign, Hopkins truly established himself as one of the league’s top receivers in 2015. Hopkins finished with career-highs in receptions (111), receiving yards (1,521), and touchdowns (11), earning him his first Pro Bowl appearance, while Pro Football Focus placed Hopkins sixth among their rankings of the league’s pass-catchers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.