Month: May 2017

Extra Points: Trades, Falcons, Bills, Bouye, Pats

With the league’s trading deadline less than 24 hours away, Mike Sando of ESPN Insider and Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com try to guess where certain players might end up in the coming days. The Seahawks would make a perfect fit for Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, opines Sando, who also suggests the Packers try to acquire Torrey Smith and the Bears attempt to find a taker for Alshon Jeffery. Meanwhile, La Canfora focuses solely on Thomas, laying out the case for clubs such as the Cardinals, Broncos, and Colts to go after the future Hall of Famer.

Let’s take a quick spin around the league on this Halloween night:

  • Speaking of the deadline, two head coaches broached the subject today while speaking with reporters. The FalconsDan Quinn told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that while there are some “behind-the-scenes whispers about stuff” happening over the next day or so, Atlanta is unlikely to make a move. Bills head coach Rex Ryan, meanwhile, said he “doesn’t necessarily see” Buffalo working out a trade before tomorrow, per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • Looking ahead to 2017 free agency, Peter King of TheMMQB.com identifies Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye as one underrated player who could potentially score a hefty contract next spring. Bouye, whose role with Houston will grow even larger given that Kevin Johnson is now on IR, grades as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 corner, leading King to speculate that Bouye could be worth $8MM on the open market.
  • The Patriots worked out punter Brandon Fields, kicker Matt Wile, long snappers Tyler Ott and John DePalma, and wide receivers Wendall Williams and Bralon Addison, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • The Giants tried out rookie undrafted free agent linebacker Myke Tavarres , per Caplan (Twitter link). This marks the second time they have worked him out.
  • The Cowboys auditioned guard Kadeem Edwards, Caplan tweets. Edwards, who was cut by Jacksonville at the end of the summer, worked out for Kansas City last week.

Latest On Ezekiel Elliott Investigation

Ezekiel Elliott‘s legal advisor Frank Salzano today issued a press release stating his view that Elliott will eventually be cleared of domestic violence charges, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Reports yesterday indicated that Elliott’s ex-girlfriend/accuser is cooperating with the NFL’s investigation.Ezekiel Elliott (Vertical)

[RELATED: Barry Church, Morris Claiborne To Miss Time]

“For the past several days the media has elected to focus on allegations of domestic violence involving Mr. Elliott despite the Columbus, Ohio Prosecutor’s Office decision not to charge Mr. Elliott nearly two months ago,” the statement reads in part. “My office provided a mountain of exculpatory evidence demonstrating Mr. Elliott’s innocence and directly contradicting all of the false allegations contained in the Accuser’s two police reports…”

The statement goes on to call on the NFL to close its investigation of Elliott given that it has already interviewed him. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also seemingly wants the matter to end, or at least get some clarification as to its status, as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports that Jones attempted to speak with NFL investigator Lisa Friel during recent league meetings. Friel, however, did not engage with Jones.

Under the league’s old personal conduct policy, Elliott might have been in the clear after the Columbus DA passed on charges. Now, in the post-Ray Rice era, the NFL is taking DV allegations much more seriously. It’s also fair to say that the league is being extra cautious in the wake of the Josh Brown controversy which has dominated headlines for weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars’ Josh Wells To Return From IR

The Jaguars have designated offensive tackle Josh Wells as their player to return from injured reserve, the club announced today. Wells returned to practice on Monday, and Jacksonville now has a three-week window to decide whether to activate him.Josh Wells (Vertical)

[RELATED: Jaguars Fire Greg Olson]

Wells, 25, appeared in 12 games in 2014 after signing as an undrafted free agent out of James Madison. Injuries bit him last season, though, as a left thumb issue caused him to miss the entire year. In 2016, it’s again been a thumb injury — albeit to the right thumb — that’s kept him out. If he can get back on the field, Wells will serve as a backup to tackles Kelvin Beachum and Jermey Parnell.

Because each NFL club can only designate one player to return from IR, the other Jaguars on the reserve list are now officially out for the season. That means fellow offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, safety James Sample, defensive tackle Roy Miller, and others have no hope of returning this year. Center/guard Luke Bowanko, meanwhile, was placed on PUP before the season started and still has a shot to see the field in 2016.

Barry Church, Morris Claiborne To Miss Time

The Cowboys lost two important pieces of their secondary on Sunday, as both safety Barry Church and cornerback Morris Claiborne suffered injuries. Church fractured his arm and will miss three-to-five weeks, according to Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link), while Claiborne may require surgery for a sports hernia and could be out indefinitely, reports Todd Archer of ESPN.com.Barry Church (Vertical)

[RELATED: Darren McFadden On Trade Block]

Church, who likely won’t undergo an operation, has played extremely well this season, grading as the league’s No. 17 safety, according to Pro Football Focus. In seven starts, Church has managed 34 tackles, two interceptions, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. The 28-year-old Church’s contract is up at season’s end, so the injury puts a damper on his free agent prospects. J.J. Wilcox is likely to replace Church in the starting lineup, but Dallas also has Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Jameill Showers available at safety.

Claiborne, meanwhile has transformed from a former draft bust to a legitimate top corner in his fifth NFL season, ranking as PFF’s eighth-best corner on the year. Re-signed to a one-year deal worth only $3MM, Claiborne has started all seven games and posted one interception. Like Church, Claiborne is also head for unrestricted free agency after the season. For the time being, he’ll be replaced by Orlando Scandrick, who just returned to game action on Sunday. The Cowboys’ only other corner is Anthony Brown, so they could potentially make a move for another defensive back soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pats LB Jonathan Freeny Won’t Return From IR

Patriots linebacker Jonathan Freeny was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago, and he won’t be healthy enough to be designated to return, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald (Twitter link). Per the NFL’s IR rules, Freeny could have come back after eight weeks and helped out New England during the stretch run, but his shoulder injury will keep him out for the rest of the year.Jonathan Freeny

[RELATED: Jamie Collins Turned Down $11MM/Year]

The Patriots could conceivably be in the market for linebacker depth after making the surprising decision to trade Jamie Collins to the Browns, but Freeny won’t be part of any cavalry that comes along. New England already made a move to acquire a linebacker last week, picking up former second-round pick Kyle Van Noy from the Lions by swapping late-round picks. Meanwhile, rookie Elandon Roberts and Barkevious Mingo figure to form a duo to replace Collins’ production, as Doug Kyed of NESN reported earlier today.

Freeny, who agreed to a two-year extension before the season began, played in five games (four starts) before getting injured. The 26-year-old had managed six tackles and a forced fumble, and was also a factor on special teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Reaction To The Jamie Collins Trade

The NFL’s official transaction wire lists the Patriots’ return for linebacker Jamie Collins as a conditional 2018 fourth-round pick, not a 2017 third-round compensatory pick as originally reported, according to Doug Kyed of NESN (Twitter link). That could because the deal is stipulated on Cleveland actually receiving a third-round comp pick — if it doesn’t, the Patriots would receive a fourth-round selection, tweets Tony Grossi of ESPN.com.Jamie Collins (Vertical)

Here’s where things get tricky: the Patriots must relinquish their highest fourth-round pick in 2017 as part of their Deflategate punishment. So, as Field Yates of ESPN.com explains (Twitter link), the two sides may have worked out an agreement that allow New England to get a fourth-rounder for now, but have that pick turn into a third-rounder — in either 2017 or 2018 — depending on future events. Confused? You’re not alone, but reports should flow in soon that will elucidate the situation.

Let’s take a look at some of the reaction and fallout from today’s shocking trade, from both the Patriots’ and Browns’ point-of-view…

New England Patriots

  • The Patriots could have received a third-round compensatory pick by simply letting Collins walk in free agency, but that would have meant waiting until 2018 to recoup the selection, as Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap tweets. Additionally, New England would have had to “tip toe” in 2017 free agency, making sure that it didn’t sign any high-priced outsiders that would cancel out the Collins comp pick.
  • Former Patriots/Browns executive Michael Lombardi also offered his take on the trade (all Twitter links), stating that he wasn’t surprised by the deal given that Collins had been freelancing on defense, specifically pointing to two plays against Buffalo on Sunday. Moving Collins, says Lombardi, also serves as something of a wake-up call to the rest of the defense.
  • Collins’ absence could offer leverage to fellow linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who is also set to become a free agent next spring, opines Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). By dealing away Chandler Jones over the summer, and Collins now, the Pats are seemingly signalling that they’ve chosen Hightower for the long term. In the immediate future, expect to see more of sixth-round rookie ‘backer Elandon Roberts, with Barkevious Mingo chipping in on passing downs, says Kyed (Twitter link).
  • In dueling opinion pieces, Mike Sando of ESPN Insider and Kyed offer disparate opinions on today’s trade, with Sando arguing that the deal makes sense for New England, while Kyed labels it a “head-scratcher.”

Cleveland Browns

  • The acquisition of Collins means the Browns need to ramp up talks with impending free agent receiver Terrelle Pryor, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports tweets. With only one franchise tag to deploy, Cleveland can’t risk allowing both players to hit free agency. Luckily, the Browns have already reportedly engaged in negotiation talks with Pryor.
  • In a full-length piece, Fitzgerald writes that the deal doesn’t make a ton of sense from Cleveland’s perspective, even though the team has plenty of cap space to use. Additionally, Collins doesn’t necessarily play an impact position, meaning the franchise tag is less useful. If the Browns don’t re-sign Collins, they could reap a comp pick the following year, but that would likely entail sitting out the free agent period once again.
  • Cleveland could theoretically turn Joe Thomas into Collins (and more), say Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). If the Browns are able to get a second-round pick for Thomas, they’ve essentially acquired a younger player while trading up in the draft.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/31/16

Today’s minor moves:

  • The Packers have reached an injury settlement with safety Chris Banjo, who was on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, tweets Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Banjo, who had appeared in 37 games with Green Bay, becomes the second Packer to be released from IR in the past week, joining wide receiver Jared Abbrederis.
  • The Browns waived tight end Connor Hamlett, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Hamlett appeared in three games after being promoted from the practice squad earlier this month.
  • Tight end Ifeanyi Momah suffered a broken wrist on Sunday and will be waived by the Cardinals with an injury settlement, per Kent Somers of AZCentral.com (Twitter link). Momah, an undrafted free agent in 2012, was seeing the first NFL action of his career.

Jamie Collins Rejected $11MM/Year From Pats

Before he was traded to the Browns, linebacker Jamie Collins turned down a contract offer of $11MM per year from the Patriots, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). While no other details of the proposal, such as guaranteed money or contract structure, are known, $11MM is far less than the $15MM franchise tag that Collins would have required.Jamie Collins (Vertical)

[RELATED: New England Patriots Depth Chart]

At one point, Collins was asking the Patriots for “Von Miller money” — six years, $114.5MM — Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick were never likely to pay that total, nor assign Collins the franchise tag, says Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). As such, negotiations between the club and Collins were predictably going nowhere. Talks had “not progressed,” per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter link), while a source tells Volin that New England was “having a lot of trouble” in negotiations (Twitter link).

Both sides appeared ready to “move on,” according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links), and today’s trade allows both parties to do just that. “The thinking is, if they don’t want me, go someplace that does,” Bus Cook, Collins’ agent, Rapoport after the deal was completed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Re-Sign RB Mike James

The Buccaneers have engineered a reunion with running back Mike James, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link), who reports that Tampa has re-signed James after waiving him with an injury settlement earlier this year.Mike James (Vertical)

[RELATED: Buccaneers Waive Johnthan Banks]

Tampa is looking for backfield depth after Jacquizz Rodgers went down on Sunday against the Raiders — Rodgers has a sprained foot, as Jenna Laine of ESPN.com (Twitter link) reported earlier today, and won’t be playing on Thursday night. The Bucs are already down to their third running back in Rodgers, as starter Doug Martin is still battling an injury and Charles Sims is on injured reserve.

James, 25, managed 79 carries with Tampa from 2013-14, but missed the entire 2015 campaign due to injury. He didn’t make the Buccaneers’ 53-man roster this year, and was ultimately waived with a settlement. That settlement was for four weeks, as Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweeted earlier this year, meaning James only recently became eligible to re-sign with Tampa Bay.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.