Month: February 2020

Jaguars To Decline Jake Ryan’s Option

Marcell Dareus isn’t the only Jaguars defender who will have his option declined. The Jaguars will also decline the 2020 option for linebacker Jake Ryan, as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets.

Had his option been exercised, $1MM of Ryan’s $5.5MM base salary would have been guaranteed for the coming season. Instead, they’ll wipe that out, and carve out some badly needed cap room.

At the start of the offseason, the Jaguars had just over $1MM in available cap space. By shedding Dareus and Ryan, they’ve carved out a bit of flexibility as they look to keep Yannick Ngakoue and address needs on both sides of the ball.

These were not particularly tough calls, and more cap clearing moves are likely on the way. Tight end Geoff Swaim and oft-injured receiver Marqise Lee are also expected to be dropped. In total, those four moves would save them more than $34MM. They can find even more space by cutting or trading Calais Campbell to save $15MM, though they’d probably prefer to find middle ground with him by way of an extension.

Ryan, who turns 28 this week, missed all of the 2018 season thanks to an ACL tear and played in just two games last year. Before that, he started in 27 games for the Packers between 2015 and 2017.

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Jaguars To Decline Marcell Dareus’ Option

The Jaguars will decline Marcell Dareus‘ option, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). The option would have locked in roughly $20MM in salary for the defensive tackle. Instead, the Jaguars will officially turn it down before the Tuesday deadline.

[RELATED: Looking Back At Blake Bortles’ Extension]

Dareus missed the bulk of the 2019 season thanks to a core muscle injury. In six games, he notched 13 tackles and half of a sack.

The news doesn’t come as a real surprise – the multiple-time Pro Bowler is coming up on his 30th birthday and the Jaguars have a number of needs to address this offseason. By moving on, they’ll clear the bulk of his would-be ~$20MM in earnings; they’ll be left with just $2.5MM in dead money.

The Jaguars acquired Dareus from the Bills midway through the 2017 season, taking on the remainder of his six-year, $95.1MM contract. At that point, Dareus had worn out his welcome with Buffalo coaches and the trade was pretty much a cap dump for Buffalo. The Jags only gave up a late-round draft pick for him.

Unless he’s brought back on a cheaper deal, Dareus will leave the Jaguars after appearing in 30 games (22 starts). Dareus might not have been worth the sizable paycheck for 2020, but that’s not to say that he didn’t deliver at times. In 2018, Dareus’ only full season with the Jaguars that wasn’t compromised by injury, his advanced metrics were roughly in line with his best work in Buffalo. If he’s healthy, he can still be a difference-maker and a quality run-stuffer for some team out there, but he’ll have to sign for something less than ~$20MM per annum.

With Dareus’ salary off of the books, the Jaguars can turn their attention to higher priorities, including a new deal for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Jaguars Extend Blake Bortles

Two years ago today, the Jaguars took themselves out of the quarterback market by committing to Blake Bortles for three more years. The move was widely panned and, ultimately, it did not work out for Jacksonville. 

The Jaguars were fresh off of an AFC Championship Game appearance and their first playoff appearance in nine years. Bortles, meanwhile, tossed a career-low 13 interceptions. Still, his overall body of work did not inspire a ton of confidence – his 60.2% completion percentage actually marked a new career best.

Despite the question marks, Bortles became the first 2014 first-round pick to receive an extension – stars like Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack were still negotiating for their new deals (They all, of course, secured long-term riches, though Mack has to get his elsewhere.)

Reported to be a three-year, $54MM pact, the deal included $26.5MM guaranteed with the potential to reach $66.5MM in total through bonuses. He did not earn those incentives, nor did he get to play out his deal – Bortles was cut loose in 2019, clearing the way for Nick Foles to take over.

Bortles went 3-9 in 12 starts for the Jaguars as head coach Doug Marrone flip-flopped him with Cody Kessler. During his five-year run with the Jaguars, Bortles led the league with 75 interceptions – more than one INT per start.

With his stock at an all-time low, the former No. 3 overall pick hooked on with the Rams last offseason. Playing behind Jared Goff, Bortles appeared in only three games and attempted two passes. Without a real opportunity to play in 2019, Bortles did not get a chance to silence his critics. Next month, he’ll be a free agent once again, and the Rams’ level of interest in bringing him back as their QB2 is unclear.

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Johnny Manziel Has “Zero Desire” To Play

Over the weekend, Johnny Manziel took to social media to make his case to the XFL. Then, he deleted his Twitter account. Hours later, he returned to the platform to let the world know that he has “zero desire to play any football these days. [I] just love stirring up controversy” (Twitter link). 

Indeed, Manziel has been a lightning rod for controversy throughout his career and post-career. During the early planning stages of the XFL 2.0, many were quick to connect the former first-round pick to Vince McMahon’s reboot. However, the league has shied away from Manziel.

Johnny has his own history, and we have coaches from the CFL who have seen him close up,” XFL commissioner Oliver Luck said when asked about Johnny Football recently. “He was in the draft pool. Coaches and scouts looked at him and didn’t think he was going to help their team. I think the guys we have on our teams are the best 560 that aren’t playing in the National Football League.”

This, apparently, marks the end of Manziel’s professional football career. Manziel, who won’t turn 28 until December, has not played in the NFL the 2015 season. At one point in time, the Saints were rumored to have interest in him, but there has been no real chatter about Manziel in NFL circles this offseason.

After capturing the Heisman Trophy following the 2012, the Texas A&M star wasn’t able to do much as a pro. In two seasons, he appeared in 14 games (eight starts) and completed 57% of his passes for 1,675 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He also tacked on another 259 rushing yards off of 46 totes.

Meanwhile, off the field, he’s been embroiled in a number of controversies, including a 2016 investigation into domestic violence allegations. Later, he was suspended for four games in the 2016 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

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AFC Rumors: Jones, Patriots, Browns, Tags

While the Chiefs are not planning to let Chris Jones get away, the dynamic interior pass rusher staying in Kansas City long-term is another matter. The Chiefs have a $20MM defensive lineman already, in Frank Clark, and will likely have to give Patrick Mahomes a deal in the $40MM-AAV neighborhood. Nevertheless, the Chiefs have the UFA-to-be entrenched as their top priority going into March.

Chris is obviously a great player, and he’s a priority,” GM Brett Veach said via KCChiefs.com’s B.J. Kissel on his In the Trenches podcast (h/t Chiefs Wire). “We have a lot of priorities. Look, we know how hard it is to win a Super Bowl. It hadn’t been done in 50 years and we won it with the group we had last year. So I think that as we attack this offseason, first up its free agency before the draft, our goal and mindset is to do whatever we can to retain as many players as we can. And Chris is at the top of that list because of the talent he is.”

It will likely take near-Aaron Donald-level money ($22.5MM per year) to lock down Jones long-term, but the franchise tag is only estimated to cost $16.3MM. Despite the Chiefs currently holding $13.7MM in cap space, that is likely where this situation is headed for the time being. Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Karl Dorrell‘s decision to leave the Dolphins to become Colorado’s head coach may impact other staffs. The Browns recently hired T.C. McCartney as an assistant, but Dorrell has the young coach on his radar, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. The Broncos’ 2019 quarterbacks coach, McCartney is the son of late Colorado quarterback Sal Aunese and grandson of longtime Buffaloes coach Bill McCartney. T.C. McCartney has worked on the Buffs’ staff previously. Signs point to the Browns having a job opening soon.
  • Three Patriots are changing agents. Both defensive tackle Danny Shelton and cornerback J.C. Jackson will now be Drew Rosenhaus clients, with Mike Reiss of ESPN.com adding that Pats right tackle Marcus Cannon will be represented by Joby Branion and Eugene Lee. Cannon recently said there is nothing to retirement rumors, and this move points to the 31-year-old blocker coming back for a 10th season. Shelton is an unrestricted free agent, while Jackson is due for restricted free agency in 2021.
  • With the CBA coming down to the wire before the 2020 league year, teams may be able use both their franchise and transition tags this offseason. There will be many players mentioned in tag rumors this week. The tight end market could lose a key member, with Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com writing it makes sense for the Chargers to tag Hunter Henry at the near-$11MM price. That move would help a Tom Brady pursuit. Additionally, Rosenthal sees Ryan Tannehill‘s franchise tag making a Derrick Henry transition tag sensible for the Titans. The running back transition tag is projected to come in at less than $9MM. If a new CBA is agreed to, however, teams can only use either their franchise or transition tags. That would complicate matters for the Titans.

Ben Roethlisberger Aiming For Full Clearance By Summer

On the road back to becoming the Steelers’ starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger cleared key hurdles this week. After a positive medical checkup, the future Hall of Famer resumed throwing.

But the 17th-year veteran remains a long way away from working out with his teammates in a full capacity. Roethlisberger said it will be around 2 1/2 to three months before he expects to be full go, according to Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter). Roethlisberger underwent elbow surgery in September.

The soon-to-be 38-year-old quarterback said his checkup went smooth enough he was given the go-ahead to skip the tennis ball-throwing stage of this rehab and go straight to footballs, and he has multiple additional throwing sessions coming up in California (Twitter link via Cook). However, it is unlikely he will be a full participant in any Steeler OTA session. Although Pittsburgh’s June minicamp is beyond the three-month window, that might be a stretch as well.

Both Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are confident Big Ben will make a full recovery and be ready to resume his role as the Steelers’ starter. Years ago, Roethlisberger hinted at retiring by this age. But he since changed course. The Steelers gave Roethlisberger a new contract last year; the two-year, $68MM extension runs through 2021. Of the class of 2004 quarterbacks, he will soon be the last one standing on his original team. Eli Manning retired, and the Chargers will not re-sign Philip Rivers. Big Ben is the second-longest-tenured quarterback in the league, and if Tom Brady surprises most and leaves the Patriots, he will ascend to the top spot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Seahawks Use Transition Tag On Steve Hutchinson

With the NFL taking the rare step to move its window for teams to apply franchise and transition tags, let’s take a look at one of the most pivotal developments in tag history. A fascinating tag-related sequence began 14 years ago today. After Steve Hutchinson reeled off three straight Pro Bowl seasons — two of them producing first-team All-Pro acclaim — the Seahawks placed their transition tag on the standout guard on Feb. 23, 2006.

Hutchinson had just helped Shaun Alexander race to MVP honors during Seattle’s 2005 NFC championship season. Not only did this transition tag not work out for the Seahawks, it set in motion a chain of events that led to a change in NFL offseason procedures.

The Seahawks frequently used their tag in the years leading up to this, franchise-tagging Walter Jones from 2002-04. The Hall of Fame tackle played on the tag in each season but signed a seven-year, $52.5MM extension in February 2005; that figure became important in the Hutchinson proceedings. The Seahawks also franchise-tagged Alexander in 2005, and his status as a free agent loomed large a year later as well.

Seattle opted to use the lesser transition tag, which provides no compensation for successful offer sheets, on Hutchinson. The Vikings then signed Hutchinson to a seven-year, $49MM offer sheet in March, making him the highest-paid guard in league history. But a clause in this contract became the story.

Minnesota’s offer sheet stipulated all of Hutchinson’s $49MM would become guaranteed were he not his team’s highest-paid offensive lineman at the time he signed the contract. With Jones in place on his $7.5MM-per-year deal, Hutchinson would have not been Seattle’s highest-paid O-lineman. That would have triggered the guarantee. Because of the Vikings’ tactic here, the term “poison pill” became a common phrase that offseason. An NFL arbitrator ruled in favor of the Vikings, keeping this language in the contract and sending then-28-year-old lineman to the Twin Cities.

Rather than match the onerous offer sheet, Seattle used that money to give linebacker Julian Peterson a seven-year, $54MM deal. Prior to the Vikings’ Hutchinson contract, the Seahawks had already authorized an eight-year, $62MM deal for Alexander. That decision burned the Seahawks quickly, while Hutchinson continued his prime with the Vikings.

As a revenge measure in this unique offseason feud, the Seahawks then pilfered Vikings restricted free agent wide receiver Nate Burleson for the same amount — seven years and $49MM — despite Burleson never making a Pro Bowl. But Seattle’s “poison pill” was even weirder. That RFA offer sheet stipulated Burleson’s $49MM would become guaranteed if he played five games in the state of Minnesota. The Vikings naturally passed on this offer sheet.

While both teams were admonished at the ensuing league meetings, the Vikings got the better end of these transactions. Hutchinson played six seasons with the Vikings, made four more Pro Bowls while helping Adrian Peterson‘s rise and was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this year. Alexander’s production fell off considerably in 2006, and he was out of the league by 2009. A Seattle native, Burleson was a Seahawk from 2006-09. The NFL discontinued “poison pill”-type clauses in offer sheets in 2012.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jim Irsay On Luck, QBs, Castonzo, RBs

After Andrew Luck‘s retirement created the most uncertainty the Colts have faced at the quarterback position since Peyton Manning‘s career-threatening injury in 2011, they now project to be one of the key players in this offseason’s complex quarterback derby.

Presenting a quarterback market that features Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater as free agents — along with nominal UFAs Drew Brees and Dak Prescott — to go with Cam Newton and Andy Dalton as likely trade chips, 2020 brings unusual uncertainty at the NFL’s glamour position.

Colts owner Jim Irsay addressed several topics Sunday but focused on the quarterback position, where the team’s current starter — Jacoby Brissett — is not a lock to stay in that role.

I won’t talk about specific players; I would just say all options are open,” Irsay said, via Mike Chappell of Fox 59. “We have challenged each other to keep the ancient enemy of rationalization out of the room. The quarterback position, the three of us (Irsay, GM Chris Ballard and HC Frank Reich) will make it. We have to. It’s too big of a decision. All options are on the table. I’ve never quite seen a year when this was so unusual if you will. It’s exciting. I look at it as a challenge.”

The Colts, who hold this year’s No. 13 overall selection, have also been linked to making a first-round quarterback pick. While calling Indianapolis’ Brissett-Brian Hoyer depth chart “better than probably half the league,” Irsay will keep the draft avenue open. Although, the Colts are extremely unlikely to be in position to draft one of this year’s top three quarterback prospects at No. 13.

We’ll keep evaluating that position. I know we’ll find the right answer and Jacoby can have a much higher ceiling that he has now. That’s a possibility,” Irsay said. “We could draft someone. That’s a possibility. Doesn’t have to be the first round. There’s a lot of good players out there.

“I know we were going to take Russell Wilson the year (2012) we took Andrew in the fourth round, but he was gone in the third. We would have taken him, but that’s a long story.”

As for who will be Brissett or his replacement’s blindside protector, Irsay is confident Anthony Castonzo will be back. The nine-year veteran is considering retirement. Ballard believes the former first-round pick has several years left in the tank.

“I haven’t talked to Anthony personally, but he’s a Pro Bowl left tackle and we want him to come back,” Irsay said. “I think there’s a strong likelihood that he will, but I think Chris will have more on that in the coming weeks.”

Irsay added that the Colts have not discussed an extension for Marlon Mack. While indicating the Colts like Mack and want him to stay beyond his 2020 contract year, the longtime owner mentioned how much the organization likes 2018 draftees Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines.

Lastly, Irsay did get around to Luck. The owner said both Ballard and Reich still have dinner with the retired passer and that he has not given up on the prospect of the former No. 1 overall pick returning to the Colts at some point.

I try to make the argument (with him) also, ‘What about the $700MM (seems high) you’re leaving on the table?‘” Irsay said, after noting he respects Luck’s decision to retire. “I think we’ll have an outstanding decade, and I think Andrew will have an outstanding life. Will those things meet? It’s very possible, but it’s also not possible. … We have to go on with the assumption that he’s not going to be back. If he comes back, that’s easy.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Opinions: Jenkins, Backup QB, Ertz, Goedert

The Eagles will pay for deciding to wait on signing defensive back Malcolm Jenkins to an extension last season, according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP. Philadelphia declined to restructure Jenkins’ very team-friendly deal last offseason, but now the team faces a cap crunch on the rest of the roster as well. At 32 years old, there is reason to be concerned about giving Jenkins a large contract, but his production over the past few seasons has been on par with some of the best in the league.

Here’s some more commentary on the Eagles offseason:

  • Few teams require a better backup quarterback than the Eagles and Shorr-Parks identifies six plausible targets for Philly. Obviously, starter Carson Wentz has shown he has the potential to be an elite quarterback, but an extensive injury history will always make fans and team officials nervous about the team’s prospects if there is not a strong backup behind him. The Eagles, of course, were eliminated from the playoffs when Josh McCown had to play under center after a series of injuries at quarterback.
  • Zach Ertz expressed some apprehension about his future with the Eagles organization at the end of the season. With two years left on his contract, many were caught off guard by his cautious comments. However, Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer discusses the impact tight end Dallas Goedert could have on the Eagles (and Ertz’s) future. Goedert was selected in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft and has been an effective contributor for the Eagles. McLane points out that 49ers tight end George Kittle is set to reset the tight end market as well. The team’s confidence in Goedert combined with the increasing cost of tight ends could soon lead to Ertz’s departure.

AFC Injury Notes: Landry, Phillips, Beckham

Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry was unable to avoid offseason hip surgery, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Landry had been hopeful that rest and rehab would be enough to deal with his injury during the offseason but instead opted to go under the knife. The news did not come as a huge surprise given the fact that Landry had previously mentioned he regretted not getting surgery sooner, but it remains noteworthy nonetheless.

The timetable for his return appears to be six-to-eight months, which would allow him back onto the field at some point during training camp.

Here’s some more injury notes from around the AFC:

  • Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips discussed the grueling recovery process from a torn ACL with Bills Insider Chris Brown. Phillips described his experience going through the “very long, slow process” working back to the field. On top of his original rehab, Phillips suffered a major setback in September, which delayed his recovery timetable even further. At this point, Phillips does not expect to be a full go until training camp.
  • Unlike teammate Jarvis Landry, Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. should be back at full strength from surgery in less than a month, per Cabot. Beckham, who underwent core-muscle surgery in late January, is on pace to be recovered in time to participate in offseason minicamp. While he did not attend minicamp last offseason, the combination of a new head coach in Cleveland and his attempts to come back from an injury could make his attendance more likely.