Month: October 2020

NFL Hands Antonio Brown 8-Game Ban

2:58pm: Brown is not expected to appeal this suspension, Pelissero notes (via Twitter). This will shelve him until at least Week 9. However, the civil suit in which he’s currently involved could add more games to the ban.

1:45pm: The NFL has finally revealed the length of Antonio Brown‘s suspension. He will receive an eight-game ban, Robert Klemko of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). The league has announced the suspension, which stems from “multiple violations” of the personal conduct policy.

This suspension will begin Week 1, whether Brown is on a roster or not, and NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero adds that the acclaimed wide receiver could face additional discipline if further violations are uncovered in a civil suit in Florida (Twitter link). The civil suit is regarding former trainer Britney Taylor’s sexual assault allegations. The next hearing in that case is set for Sept. 15, Pelissero tweets. Brown has backed out of settlement talks in this case multiple times.

So, the finality the four-time All-Pro sought has emerged. But it will severely impact his 2020 status. Should Brown sign with a team before the regular season begins, he would, however, be eligible to practice, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Brown has backtracked on retirement a few times now; the most recent such occurrence took place last week. The mercurial free agent wanted clarity on an investigation that began almost a year ago. The NFL has investigated Brown for three separate incidents — the Taylor allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, an allegation of sexual misconduct by an unnamed artist (and the texts Brown sent regarding this matter), and the wideout’s alleged assault on a deliver driver in January — and a lengthy suspension was expected.

However, the league’s initial punishment does not include the Taylor case. The league is still investigating that matter, Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets. It will wait until the civil suit’s conclusion before handing down any additional punishment. That could further restrict Brown’s ability to play this season. Even if eight games will be the final number, Brown will have been out of action for more than 13 months by the time he returns.

The former Steelers superstar landed on the All-Decade team and was on a surefire Hall of Fame trajectory going into Week 17 of the 2018 season. Since his Pittsburgh tenure began to unravel after he missed his former team’s final 2018 game, the once-traded, twice-released talent has traversed a historic path of self-destruction. His Raiders stay involved a few high-profile controversies and ended with no games played. The Patriots did deploy Brown in a game but cut him before its Week 3 contest last year. Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady have lobbied for their respective teams to sign Brown, but his impact will be limited in 2020.

The NFL’s release mandates Brown continue undergoing counseling and warned him that any future violations of the personal conduct policy would result in a more significant penalty. Given the events of the past 19 months and Brown going into what would be his age-32 season, he is almost out of time to resurrect his career. That said, one of the game’s top pass-catching talents will be available (as of now) to potentially impact the 2020 playoff race.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills G Jon Feliciano Suffers Torn Pec

The Bills may need to make a new plan at guard. One of their starters, Jon Feliciano, will be out for a lengthy stretch.

Feliciano suffered a torn pectoral muscle and underwent surgery Friday, the team announced. Feliciano started in all 17 Bills games for the Bills last season. The former fourth-round pick will be a free agent in 2021.

Buffalo revamped its offensive line last season and saw substantial improvement, and Feliciano was one of the new cogs responsible. Signed to a two-year, $7.25MM contract, the former Raiders backup operated as the Bills’ right guard. The Bills improved from 30th to 15th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric from 2018-19. Pro Football Focus rated Feliciano as the better of Buffalo’s two guards, slotting him 38th and Spain 61st last season.

Feliciano, 28, appears an IR candidate. But the Bills have some interesting depth options. They re-signed left guard starter Quinton Spain and added former Panthers starter Daryl Williams, who saw time at guard last season after serving as Carolina’s right tackle in previous years. The Bills also have 2019 second-round pick Cody Ford. The Oklahoma product was part of a right tackle platoon with Ty Nsekhe last season, but he worked as a guard as well. Nsekhe remains on the roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/31/20

Here are Friday’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Waived: DB Jeff Hector

Cincinnati Bengals 

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Raiders Expected To Sign Jeremy Hill

3:49pm: This deal looks like it will come together. The Raiders indeed plan to sign Hill, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, though an agreement will be contingent on the former second-round pick passing a physical and a COVID-19 test.

3:40pm: The Raiders are looking to add to their running back group. They are hosting Jeremy Hill on a visit Friday, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

Hill, who has not played since the 2018 season, last popped up on the radar when he visited the Titans in November 2019. Under the current pandemic-reshaped landscape, teams are only allowed to bring in players for visits if they are seriously considering signing them. Hill may have a chance to continue his career in Las Vegas.

The former Bengals and Patriots running back would join a Raiders group that houses Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Rod Smith and Devontae Booker. The latter, however, resides on Las Vegas’ reserve/COVID-19 list. The Raiders placed Booker, a 2020 addition, on the list Thursday.

Still just 27, Hill is attempting to come back after suffering another serious injury. He suffered an ACL tear in Week 1 of the 2018 season. His 2017 season in Cincinnati ended in an IR stay due to an ankle malady.

The LSU product rushed for a career-high 1,124 yards as a rookie in 2014 and scored a career-best 12 touchdowns in 2015. He rushed for nine TDs in 2016. Since, Hill has not delivered much in the way of notable work. He played in only seven 2017 games, after Joe Mixon‘s Cincinnati arrival, and has not averaged more than four yards per carry in a season since his rookie year. But the Raiders are planning to offer the veteran another chance despite a near-two-year hiatus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos To Release TE Jeff Heuerman

The Broncos are removing one of the players from a crowded tight end competition early. They are taking the most experienced of these performers out of the mix, with Mike Klis of 9News tweeting the team will release Jeff Heuerman.

A Bronco since their 2015 Super Bowl championship season, Heuerman was drafted during the Gary Kubiak regime. He stayed on through Vic Fangio‘s first season, but the Broncos made multiple additions to their tight end room this offseason. That will end a five-plus-year stay for the former third-round pick.

Denver signed Nick Vannett in free agency and drafted former Drew Lock Mizzou teammate Albert Okwuegbunam in Round 4. They join 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant, Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli and Austin Fort on the Broncos’ roster.

Heuerman did not quite live up to expectations, with injuries limiting the Ohio State product. Heuerman missed his entire rookie season. The Broncos re-signed him to a two-year deal in 2018, but he ended that year on IR. The 27-year-old tight end was set to make $3MM this season. With this cut, the Broncos will save $3.875MM.

For his career, Heuerman has 63 receptions for 678 yards and five touchdowns. He started 11 games last season and played a career-high 52% of Denver’s snaps in 2018, before going down with lung and rib injuries. But Fant’s role is expected to grow in 2020, and the Vannett and Okwuegbunam additions likely leave room for either zero or one of the non-Fant holdovers on this year’s roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Burrow, Ravens

The Browns have not honored David Njoku‘s trade request. The former first-round pick enters his fourth season in Cleveland, and while Kevin Stefanski said he had not spoken with Njoku in several weeks, the first-year Browns coach noted he is eager to work with him.

My stance hasn’t changed. The organization’s stance hasn’t changed in that we believe in David, excited to work with him,” Stefanski said, via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I’ll get to finally be in the same room as him this weekend as he is coming in for physicals and then get out on the field with him Monday.”

Njoku has not lived up to his Round 1 billing yet, leading the Browns to give Austin Hooper a tight end-record contract. While Njoku’s unhappiness was reported to predate the team’s Hooper addition, he tweeted that he “loves Cleveland” while noting the game includes “a lot of complications.” Regardless, Njoku is set to earn $1.76MM this season. The Browns picked up his fifth-year option (worth $6MM) but can cut bait on that cost before the 2021 league year.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic preventing teams from conducting on-field workouts throughout the offseason, the Browns have not changed their plan at tackle. First-round pick Jedrick Wills will begin his career as Cleveland’s starting left tackle, Stefanski adds. The Alabama product will make the interesting transition from college right tackle to NFL left tackle. Recently signed free agent Jack Conklin, a college left tackle, will continue his NFL right tackle work.
  • The Browns hired former Vikings QBs coach Kevin Rogers as a senior offensive assistant. Rogers was with the Vikings from 2006-10, which doubled as Stefanski’s first five years with the franchise, but has not coached since 2016. Rogers, 68, spent decades at the college level. He worked as the offensive coordinator for Syracuse (1991-98), Notre Dame (1999-2001) and Boston College (2011). His most recent gig was at alma mater William & Mary; that four-year stay ended after the 2016 season.
  • The Ravens will use Jimmy Smith in a matchup-based capacity. They are trying their longtime starting cornerback at safety and in the slot, John Harbaugh said. As of now, there is no plan to permanently move the veteran corner to safety. The Ravens are deep at cornerback, with Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey and slot man Tavon Young back in the fold. Young, however, has missed two of the past three full seasons. Harbaugh said the fifth-year corner is back to 100% after a neck injury last summer.
  • Ravens rookie UDFA tight end Jacob Breeland will miss the 2020 season, Harbaugh confirmed. The Oregon product was one of the top contenders for Baltimore’s No. 3 tight end spot, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (subscription required).
  • As expected, Joe Burrow‘s rookie year will consist of on-the-job training. The Bengals will not give one of their more experienced QBs the first snaps as their starter in training camp. Burrow will take them, Zac Taylor said, per Marisa Contipelli of Bengals.com (on Twitter). Cincinnati returns 2019 draftee Ryan Finley and agreed to terms with fifth-year quarterback Brandon Allen, who worked with Taylor in Los Angeles.

NFL Suspends Lions S Jayron Kearse

Jayron Kearse will begin his post-Vikings career a bit late. The NFL handed the fifth-year safety a three-game suspension Friday.

This ban stems from Kearse’s October 2019 DUI arrest. The new CBA includes harsher penalties for such incidents, with three games now the DUI baseline. The Lions signed Kearse to a one-year, $2MM deal in March.

One of several Vikings cogs to leave the team in March, Kearse played in 62 of a possible 64 regular-season games with Minnesota since 2016. He started five of those contests and played 270 defensive snaps last season, when he also continued his work as one of the Vikes’ top special-teamers.

The Lions have seen some turnover at safety recently. They traded Quandre Diggs last season and traded for longtime Patriots cog Duron Harmon this year. Kearse, however, has a better chance of upward mobility in Detroit than he did playing behind Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris in Minnesota. He will have to wait for a chance to potentially see first-string action, however.

Jaguars’ Al Woods Opts Out

Jaguars defensive tackle Al Woods has opted out of playing in 2020, per an announcement released from the team. Woods had at least another week to make the call, but he didn’t need time to think it over. 

[RELATED: 2020 NFL Opt Out Tracker]

While I was excited to join the Jaguars, I have made the tough decision, given the current status of COVID-19, to opt out for the 2020 season,” Woods said. “The health and safety of my family has always been the most important thing in my life. I love the game of football and will be rooting hard for my teammates this season, and I look forward to re-joining the Jaguars in 2021.”

Woods joined the Jaguars on a one-year, $1.5MM deal earlier this offseason. His contract will toll, meaning that he’ll play under the same terms in 2021.

Woods, 33, is coming off of one of his best seasons ever. In his tenth pro season, he appeared in 14 games for the Seahawks (including five starts) and played the second-most defensive snaps (450) of his NFL tenure. He was especially sharp against the run – Pro Football Focus ranked him 12th among interior defenders in run defense grade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals’ DT Josh Tupou Opts Out

Bengals nose tackle Josh Tupou will opt out of the 2020 season, sources tell Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). On the other side of the ball, offensive tackle Isaiah Prince has also chosen to sit out, per a club announcement.

Tupou appeared in all 16 of the Bengals’ games last year, including seven starts. This year, the Bengals were counting on him to once again serve as a key rotation piece behind defensive tackles Geno Atkins and D.J. Reader. They’re looking thin without him, especially after releasing Ryan Glasgow earlier this week. Tupou was set to earn $2.133MM in 2020. Now, that salary will be pushed into 2021 as his contract tolls.

Tupou and Prince are the first Bengals players to opt out of the season. In total, 30+ players have decided against playing, and many of those players are linemen. Given their body mass and the higher risk factor, that’s not a huge surprise. On the defensive side, Tupou joins a list that includes Eddie Goldman, Michael Pierce, Star Lotulelei, Kyle PekoEddie Vanderdoes, and John Atkins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Hopes To Finalize Opt Out Agreement Today

The NFL’s opt out deadline could be set by the end of the business day. The NFL and its players hope to execute the necessary revisions to the collective bargaining agreement this afternoon, a source tells Mike Florio of PFT. If everything is signed, sealed, and delivered, players will have until next Friday, August 7, to make their decision.

[RELATED: 2020 NFL Opt Out Tracker]

Per the agreement, players can choose to skip the 2020 season with written (and irrevocable) notice. The due date was set for seven days after final execution of the CBA revision. In other words, it’s all dependent on how fast the lawyers can move.

Already, upwards of 30 NFL players have decided to sit out, and there could be dozens more on the way. The Patriots – who lost six players including Dont’a Hightower, Marcus Cannon, and Patrick Chung – have the most holes to fill of any team. Other notables to opt out include Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Giants tackle Nate Solder, and Eagles wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.