Month: October 2017

Mitchell Henry Dies Of Leukemia

Mitchell Henry, a tight end who played two years in the NFL, died on Friday after a battle with leukemia, ESPN.com reports. He was 24.

The Ravens released Henry from their practice squad in November of last year, and after returning home to Kentucky, he experienced pain in his shoulder. A subsequent hospital visit revealed a mass in Henry’s chest, leading to an acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis. He began chemotherapy treatments soon after.

Henry came to the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky. He initially entered the league as a Packers signee, but after being cut following the 2015 preseason, the former Hilltoppers standout landed with the Broncos via waiver claim.

Although Henry’s stint in Denver lasted just two games, the only two regular-season contests in which he would play during his two-year NFL career, he collected a Super Bowl ring for his efforts. Henry returned to the Packers after the Broncos waived him in midway through that season and signed a reserve/futures contract with Green Bay in 2016.

We were very saddened to learn of the passing of Mitchell Henry,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. “During his time with the Packers, he quickly became a beloved member of our family and made a terrific impression on everyone in our organization. We were fortunate to have had him in our lives. On behalf of the Packers family, we offer our condolences to Mitchell’s wife, Madison, and his family and friends.”

We at PFR offer our thoughts and condolences to Henry’s family and friends.

AFC East Rumors: Burris, Bills, Fins, Patriots

As the Jets attempt to conjure up a competitive team while fighting tanking perceptions, young players will emerge as key cogs. One such performer, in the eyes of the New York Post’s Brian Costello, will be cornerback Juston Burris. After being used intermittently last season, the 2016 fourth-rounder looks to be a threat for a much bigger role this year. Costello notes Burris has already passed Marcus Williams on the depth chart, despite the latter being given a second-round tender in March. The reporter is betting Burris will start alongside Morris Claiborne, with Buster Skrine in the slot, instead of Williams functioning alongside the former Cowboy. That would be interesting given Williams’ experience advantage, but Burris developing to this level would give Gang Green some depth at corner they lacked last season after Darrelle Revis‘ play tailed off considerably.

Here’s the latest coming out of the AFC East.

  • Although the Jets signed former Colts center Jonotthan Harrison, Wesley Johnson is expected to be the team’s starting center, Costello writes. Harrison, who was signed to compete for the starting job, may be more of a depth piece. Johnson started eight games after Nick Mangold‘s season-ending injury. He ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 33 center, out of 38 full-timers graded, so there’s work ahead for the fourth-year blocker.
  • On the subject of offensive lines, the Bills‘ is tentatively taking shape. The respective injuries of Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood are hindering the group, though. With Glenn still sidelined from the ankle injury he suffered last year, something new HC Sean McDermott called “a concern,” rookie Dion Dawkins took his place at left tackle during the offseason workouts. Dawkins was drafted to compete with Jordan Mills at right tackle, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News notes. Glenn being expected to return by camp may shuttle Dawkins over to the right side come August. Carucci adds that journeyman Vlad Ducasse was signed to push John Miller at right guard. The two split reps during OTAs and minicamp. Carucci also notes Wood’s 2016 broken right leg setback was not as severe as the broken left leg injury he sustained as a rookie in 2009. Wood participated sporadically in Buffalo’s offseason work.
  • The AFC East saw a recent first-year coach’s season that could turn out to be an aberration, with Todd Bowles‘ 10-6 debut preceding a dismal second season and a house-cleaning of most of the Jets’ veterans. But Adam Gase has ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss, Rich Cimini and Mike Rodak more convinced he will be the Dolphins‘ coach for the long haul. The Dolphins made the playoffs for the first time in eight years last season. Reiss and Cimini came away from Gase’s rookie HC season impressed with the culture he’s building.
  • A year featuring the arrivals of Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore places this year in the running for greatest Bill Belichick offseason with the Patriots, Reiss writes. He rates this one as Belichick’s second-best behind only 2001 — when the likes of Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Roman Phifer, David Patten and others arrived — in his 18 offseasons in New England.

Colts Uncomfortable With Zach Orr’s Health?

The second team to host recently unretired linebacker Zach Orr on a visit, the Colts may not be much closer to making a contract offer than they were before Orr arrived in Indianapolis on Friday.

This visit — sandwiched in between Lions and Jets summits — was more of an information-gathering exercise, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star reports. The Colts, Holder reports, wanted to gauge Orr’s readiness after the recently discovered congenital spinal condition forced him to retire earlier this year. So far, the team isn’t comfortable enough with the 25-year-old to foresee a future — based on the current information — where he’s playing in Indianapolis.

Orr has drawn interest from around half of the league, so this could be a lengthy process. He’s planning to visit the Jets on Saturday. The Ravens are also debating a reunion push. But teams’ medical staffs will determine Orr’s future, with the off-ball ‘backer having already established he can be a standout player when on the field.

Orr said he’s feeling great and describes the condition as a birth defect rather than a severe injury. He said he retired after speaking with one doctor but returned after other doctors said he’s not at greater risk of injury by returning to the gridiron.

The Colts made several linebacker signings during Chris Ballard‘s first offseason as GM, but most of the additions came at outside linebacker. The team has needs on the inside after cutting D’Qwell Jackson and not investing high-end draft resources in the spot. Indianapolis took Anthony Walker out of Northwestern in Round 5, though, after signing Sean Spence in free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC South Notes: Orr, Titans, Texans, Colts

A number of teams are interested in Zach Orr, with his agent relaying that about half of the league has contacted him regarding the linebacker. Some teams are standing pat, though. The Titans appear to be one of them. Tennessee is content with its linebacker situation, and according to Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com (on Twitter), has not reached out to Orr. The Titans have Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard penciled in to start on the inside of their 3-4 scheme. That’s been the team’s arrangement inside for the past three seasons, since Woodyard migrated east from Denver, and it looks like the team will roll with this duo for a fourth campaign as Williamson enters his contract year.

Orr’s Lions visit concluded Friday, and he subsequently made the trip to Indianapolis to meet with the Colts. The fourth-year linebacker’s Jets powwow will occur after the Colts summit ends.

Here’s more regarding Orr and the latest out of the AFC South.

  • Orr told SiriusXM (Twitter links) that he feels great, despite his condition. Orr explained that he’s dealing with a birth defect, but not something that is necessarily an injury. Orr also responded to talk of him cherry-picking medical opinions in an effort to get the diagnosis that he wanted. The 25-year-old says that he retired after seeing only one doctor, but the rest of doctors he spoke with say he’s not a greater risk.
  • ESPN.com’s Field Yates recalls Jon Robinson enduring scrutiny for only getting reserve offensive lineman Dennis Kelly from the Eagles in last summer’s Dorial Green-Beckham trade (Twitter link). Now that Philly cut Green-Beckham after one season, the second-year Titans GM’s decision doesn’t look so short-sighted. A former fifth-round pick of the Andy Reid-era Eagles in 2012, Kelly played in 145 snaps last season and suited up for all 16 Titans games. DGB’s talent will make him one of the more interesting waiver cases in recent years, but he’s now seen two NFL teams give up on him after one season. This comes after he transferred to Oklahoma only to sit out his junior year in 2014. The last time Green-Beckham played for the same team in consecutive seasons was during his freshman and sophomore campaigns at Missouri.
  • The Colts‘ early-season schedule and Chris Ballard‘s presence make Chuck Pagano a hot-seat candidate if the sixth-year Indianapolis leader doesn’t get the team off to a strong start, ESPN.com’s AFC South reporters posit. The Colts have started three straight seasons 0-2 but this year have the Rams, Browns, 49ers and Jaguars in their first seven games. Pagano not being Ballard’s handpicked coach figures to have him as a lame-duck candidate if the Colts are unable to return to the playoffs, however.
  • The Texans want Will Fuller to concentrate on developing as a wide receiver instead of focusing on the return game, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle notes. The speedster out of Notre Dame averaged 15 yards per punt return (11 returns) and took back one punt for a touchdown as a rookie. McClain notes backup running back Tyler Ervin has a chance to be a double-duty specialty player. Fuller’s status and kick returner Akeem Hunt‘s uncertainty to make Ervin a candidate to serve as Houston’s kick- and punt-return man.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Hicks, Packers, Bears

Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks suffered a hand injury while exiting a pool on Thursday, according to Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice, but the issue isn’t expected to be serious, tweets Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Hicks will only be sidelined for three-to-four weeks, per Bowen, meaning he should be available for the start of training camp. Currently on vacation in Greece, Hicks sent video of his hand to Eagles doctors in order for the club to get some idea regarding the severity of the injury. Hicks, 25, played 95% of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps a season ago, managing 86 tackles and five interceptions while grading as the league’s No. 5 linebacker, per Pro Football Focus, which labeled Hicks as the NFL’s second-best coverage ‘backer.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Although general manager Ted Thompson and the rest of the Packers‘ front office doesn’t often target external free agents, they did sign defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois to a one-year, $3MM deal in March. “To get that phone call that the Green Bay Packers want you is rare,” Jean-Francois tells Stu Courtney of PackersNews.com. “It’s rare that you see them go outside and pick guys up and if they do, it’s for a reason. On the first day of meetings when all the new guys stand up, I’m used to seeing like five or six guys stand up and there were only three guys to stand up. I’m blessed to get picked up.” Jean-Francois was released by the Redskins before signing with Green Bay, so he won’t affect the Packers’ compensatory picks (a key factor in Green Bay’s decision making). Entering his age-30 campaign, Jean-Francois will back up Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark on a Packers defensive line that already ranked sixth in adjusted sack rate in 2016.
  • Like Jean-Francois, cornerback Prince Amukamara landed a one-year pact with an NFC North club this spring, as the veteran defensive back signed a deal with the Bears. But he’s hoping his relationship with Chicago extends beyond simply the 2017 season, as Chris Emma of CBS Chicago writes. “I don’t want to start bouncing around teams,” Amukamara said. “I want to find a home somewhere soon, what I did in New York. I’m trying to give this team everything I’ve got. Every one-year deal is a prove-it deal for the player. That’s just my mindset this year.” Amukamara, 28, will be playing on his second consecutive single-season accord after spending the 2016 campaign in Jacksonville. While he did earn a bump in pay (from $5MM to $7MM), it’s understandable that Amukamara hopes to ink a long-term deal.
  • The Eaglesdecision to waive wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was due in part to the club’s confidence in fellow pass-catchers Marcus Johnson and Mack Hollins, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Johnson, a 2016 undrafted free agent out of Texas, spent last year bouncing on and off Philadelphia’s practice squad before earning a futures deal in January. He has yet to appear in an NFL contest, but the Eagles clearly like what they’ve seen from Johnson on the practice field. Hollins, meanwhile, was selected in the fourth round in the 2017 draft, and should spent most his rookie season in special teams. Philadelphia currently has 11 wide receivers on its depth chart, including new free agent additions Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.

Ravens TE Darren Waller Suspended At Least One Year

Ravens tight end Darren Waller has been suspended for at least one year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Baltimore announced today.Darren Waller

Waller previously served a four-game substance abuse ban in 2016, meaning that he’s now run afoul of the league’s drug mandate for a second time. Waller, 24, played in 12 games for the Ravens last year (including three starts), racking up 10 receptions and 85 yards for two touchdowns. While his offensive output was minimal, Waller appeared on nearly half of Baltimore’s special teams snaps a year ago. He’d been set to earn $615K in 2017.

Already down one tight end following the release of Dennis Pitta, the Ravens will now more heavily rely on internal options such as Ben Watson (who is recovering from a torn Achilles at age-36), Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore, and Nick Boyle. As Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun notes (Twitter link), Waller was still in the developmental stage of his career, but was the most “physically gifted” tight end on the club, so his absence will be felt.

If the Ravens look to the free agent market for a new tight end, options could include Gary Barnidge, Ladaraius Green, Jacob Tamme, and Larry Donnell.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears QB Mitch Trubisky Won’t Hold Out

Although Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky is one of only 10 unsigned 2017 draft picks, he has no intention of holding out once training camp begins, as Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times details.Mitch Trubisky (Vertical)

“I’m not going to miss any practices or anything like that,” Trubisky said. “I’m excited to sign my contract as soon as possible, however that goes down. But I don’t see that being held out through training camp; even if it did, I’m going to be practicing and all that. I’m looking forward to getting it done as soon as possible. I’m a Chicago Bear, no matter if they let me sign or what. I guess not, but I am.”

Seven of the 10 unsigned 2017 picks are first-rounders, so Trubisky, the second overall selection, isn’t much of an outlier just yet. A first-round pick, and especially a quarterback like Trubisky, can often exert a bit of leverage in rookie contract negotiations. Though the NFL contractual bargaining agreement makes rookie signings a breeze, small terms — such as timing of bonus payments or offset language — can be brokered.

Last year, of course, the Chargers failed to sign No. 4 selection Joey Bosa until the end of August as the two parties haggled over contractual details. After giving up a haul of draft picks to move up to the No. 2 overall pick, Chicago clearly doesn’t want the same situation to play out with Trubisky, who is expected to play behind starter Mike Glennon, at least to start the 2017 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Waive WR Dorial Green-Beckham

The Eagles have waived wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the club announced today. In a related move, Philadelphia has signed quarterback Dane Evans to a three-year contract.Dorial Green-Beckham (Vertical)

Green-Beckham’s stint with the Eagles is now over after less than a calendar year, as Philadelphia acquired DGB from the Titans in mid-August of 2016, sending offensive lineman Dennis Kelly to Tennessee in the process. Betting on Green-Beckham’s draft pedigree and natural athleticism, the Eagles decided to give the former second-round choice a chance despite persistent questions about his work ethic.

While playing as the Eagles’ third wideout behind Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor, Green-Beckham saw action on roughly 57% of Philadelphia’s offensive plays, but didn’t do much with those snaps. On 74 targets, DGB managed only 36 receptions for 392 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles have since acquired multiple receivers, including free agents Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and draft picks Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson, lessening the need for Green-Beckham.

As Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes (Twitter link), the Eagles are aiding Green-Beckham by waiving him now as opposed to later this summer, as he’ll have a chance to latch on with another club before training camps begin. Entering only his age-24 campaign, DGB still offers youth and upside despite his struggles through two NFL seasons, and — if he’s not claimed off waviers — he’ll enter a free agent receiver market dominated by veterans such as Anquan Boldin, Vincent Jackson, and Stevie Johnson.

Evans, meanwhile, went undrafted out of Tulsa earlier this year after completing 59.5% of his passes for 3,348 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions during his senior season. In a predraft scouting report, Pro Football Focus said Evans has an excellent arm but inconsistent touch and a sub-par ability to read opposing defenses.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Former Jags DT Roy Miller Drawing Interest

It’s almost July and Jaguars free agent defensive tackle Roy Miller remains on the open market. According to the player, that could be changing soon. Miller claims that he’ll soon be visiting interested clubs. Roy Miller (vertical)

[RELATED: Branden Albert Not A Lock To Start For Jaguars]

There’s a few teams that have shown some interest here and there,” Miller told Mike Kaye of First Coast News. “I believe my agent has a few – there’s a couple of trips I have to take – this month. It was always [the plan] to kind of wait until mid-July, so I can go out there with enough time to heal and time to get back in shape and then go out there and compete.”

Miller made 50 starts for the Jaguars from 2013 through 2016. Unfortunately, his 2016 campaign ended early when he suffered a torn ACL in Week 6 against the Raiders. The 29-year-old (30 in July) was expecting the Jaguars to circle back to him, but Jacksonville did not show interest in retaining him. At least he’s not alone in that regard – the Jags also moved on from defenders Sen’Derrick Marks, Tyson Alualu, Jared Odrick, Davon House, and Dan Skuta.

Now that he’s healthy, Miller might finally be able to find work for 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Meeting With LB Zach Orr

The Zach Orr free agent tour continues. Today, the linebacker is meeting with the Colts, (Twitter link via Alex Marvez of SiriusXM). Zach Orr (vertical)

[RELATED: Jets, Zach Orr To Meet On Saturday]

The Colts visit is sandwiched between his Lions visit on Thursday and his upcoming powwow with the Jets on Saturday. Orr tells Marvez that he expects to hear back from the Lions later today and his agent (Twitter links via Josina Anderson of ESPN.com) indicated that everything went well in Detroit. It’s not uncommon for scheduled visits to get canceled when a player reaches a deal with another team, but since Orr has interest from roughly half of the teams in the NFL, it stands to reason that he will get together with at least a handful of them before making a decision.

The Colts have already made major renovations to their linebacker group this offseason. Adding Orr would give GM Chris Ballard‘s team an embarrassment of riches, but no team has ever complained about having too much talent in the front seven.

The Colts project to start three free agent additions – John Simon, Sean Spence, and Jabaal Sheard – as linebackers in the 3-4 scheme, along with the returning Edwin Jackson. The reserve group also new faces in rookies Tarell Basham and Anthony Walker Jr. plus free agents Barkevious Mingo and Jonathan Bostic. An Orr signing would be the Colts’ sixth major free agent linebacker pickup of the offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.