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Browns, Rashard Higgins Talk Extension

The Browns and Rashard Higgins have begun preliminary talks on a contract extension, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. The wide receiver is currently on track for free agency after his one-year, $910K deal expires. 

Higgins, a fifth-year pro, enjoyed a solid 2018 with 39 grabs for 572 yards and four scores. Unfortunately, a knee injury kept him from building on that in 2019, but he still drew a fair amount of interest as a free agent. Despite having more lucrative offers on the table, Higgins opted to re-up with the Browns, favoring his chemistry with Baker Mayfield over short-term dollars.

So far, that decision has paid off. Higgins has 25 grabs for 400 yards and three TDs through ten games, and he could be on the verge of a pay bump in Cleveland. And, after a 6/95/1 showing to help beat the Titans, there couldn’t be a better time for him to negotiate. If the season ended today, Higgins’ 16.0 yards per grab would represent a career best, and the season is far from over. The 9-3 Browns — with the Ravens on the horizon — are on track to break the league’s longest-standing playoff drought.

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NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/15/21

Here are the latest reserve/futures contracts given out:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

  • QB Kyle Sloter

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Lions QB Matthew Stafford Preparing To Play Tomorrow

In a sudden turn of events, it sounds like Matthew Stafford will play tomorrow after all. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Lions quarterback is “preparing to play” against the Titans.

Stafford landed on the injury report this week after suffering a hard hit from Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark that knocked him out of last week’s loss. The rib injury forced the veteran to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and he earned the ‘questionable’ designation after putting in limited work on Friday (per ESPN’s Michael Rothstein).

There was initial pessimism surrounding Stafford’s injury, and interim head coach Darrell Bevell said the team would likely wait to make a decision about their quarterback’s status.

“This may or may not be a workout situation,” Bevell said. “Obviously, the conversation of what he’s doing kind of on the side before we even get that far. But if we need to have a workout Sunday morning, then we’ll end up doing that as well.”

The former first-overall pick didn’t miss a single game between the 2011 and 2018 seasons. His 2019 campaign was cut short due to a back injury, limiting him to only eight games. Despite two separate stints on the COVID-19 list, Stafford has managed to play in each of Detroit’s 13 games this season. The 32-year-old has completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 3,522 yards, 22 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.

While it sounds like Stafford will be taking the field tomorrow, two key members of the offense will not. Wideout Kenny Golladay will miss his seventh consecutive game with a hip injury, while center Frank Ragnow is out as he recovers from a fractured throat.

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NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/11/21

A long list of reserve/futures contracts to pass along:

Chicago Bears

Indianapolis Colts

New York Giants

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Jets Waive Rashard Robinson

On Friday, the Jets waived cornerback Rashard Robinson. Pink slips were also handed to wide receiver Stacy Coley and defensive lineman Charles Tapper

[RELATED: Jets Sign 16 Undrafted Free Agents]

The Jets acquired Robinson prior to the trade deadline in 2017 and gave up a 2018 fifth-round choice in the deal. Robinson went on to appear in 16 games for the Jets between ’17 and ’19, but tallied just nine tackles in total.

The Jets still need veteran help at the cornerback position, but they were unwilling to keep Robinson around at a paltry $2MM cap hit. By cutting him, the Jets will take that entire obligation off of the books.

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Browns To Tender Rashard Higgins

The Browns will tender restricted free agent Rashard Higgins, according to GM John Dorsey (via Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer). However, Dorsey did not indicate whether the Browns will employ the first- or second-round tender to cuff the wide receiver. 

[RELATED: Teams Interested In Browns’ Duke Johnson]

The first- or second-round tender will determine what pick a team would have to give the Browns if they were sign him. The first-round tender in 2019 is worth $4.407MM and the second-round tender is worth $3.095MM. It stands to reason that the second-round tender would be enough to scare away interested teams, even though this year’s wide receiver group in both free agency and the draft is underwhelming.

Higgins caught 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. More importantly, he developed a nice rapport with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield in the second half of the season. With Jarvis Landry entrenched in the slot, Higgins should have an opportunity to start outside next year.

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Browns Officially Re-Sign Rashard Higgins

The Browns have re-signed Rashard Higgins, per a club announcement. The wide receiver will return on a one-year deal, giving him an opportunity to prove himself before trying his hand in free agency next year. 

Higgins came into the league as a fifth-round pick of the Browns and he’ll return to Cleveland for his fifth pro season. Over the past four years, he’s tallied 76 catches for 1,016 yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, necessarily, but he did shine in 2018 when he finished out with 39 grabs for 572 yards and four scores.

Last year, a knee injury kept him from building on that performance, but a healthy season could put him back on the right track. Most of Baker Mayfield‘s targets will be going to the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and new addition Austin Hooper, but Higgins could benefit from the double teams against those stars.

In addition to Landry and OBJ, the Browns’ WR depth chart also features JoJo Natson and sixth-round rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones. Higgins is the longest-tenured player of the group.

In a corresponding move, the Browns have also waived defensive tackle Brandin Bryant.

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Browns To Re-Sign WR Rashard Higgins

The Browns are expected to re-sign wide receiver Rashard Higgins, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. It will be a one-year, $910K deal for the 25-year-old.

We heard back in March that Cleveland was likely to let Higgins test the open market but was interested in re-signing him if the price was right. Cabot says the Colorado State product received more lucrative offers from other clubs, but he elected to re-up with the Browns because he loves playing with quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The Browns selected Higgins in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, and after setting career highs in 2018 with 39 receptions for 572 yards and four touchdowns, he appeared primed for a key role in 2019 behind star wideouts Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. Unfortunately, he battled knee injuries early in the 2019 campaign and fell out of favor with prior head coach Freddie Kitchens upon his return. He ultimately caught just four passes for 55 yards and a score.

But with a new regime in place, Higgins will presumably have a good chance to rebuild his value. He will compete with sixth-round rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones and returning pieces like Damion Ratley for playing time.

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Clay Matthews Turns Down Broncos Offer

The Broncos inquired on veteran edge rusher Clay Matthews after losing Von Miller to injury, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). According to a league source, the Broncos were informed that Matthews is “not going to play.” However, that’s not quite the case. Agent Ryan Williams says he was “unable to come to an agreement with Denver,” but his client “remains open to playing in the NFL in 2020, provided it’s the right opportunity for him and his family” (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com).

[RELATED: Return Possible For Broncos’ Von Miller?]

Matthews, 34, racked up eight sacks in 13 games (all starts) last year, despite missing some time with a broken jaw. In the interest of equal time, the sacks may not tell the whole story – Matthews had just eleven QB hits in 2019, similar to his 12 QB hits in 2018 with the Packers, when he finished out with just 3.5 sacks.

Regardless, Matthews would have been a strong last-minute pickup to bolster the Broncos’ edge rush. They’ll be without Miller for three months at minimum, or the entire season at maximum. They might also have to get by without former first-round pick Bradley Chubb for a bit as he works his way back from last year’s ACL tear.

Matthews has 91.5 career sacks, putting him at the doorstep of the century mark. If he returns and hits 100 sacks, he’d be the 35th player in league history to join the club.

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Browns Want To Re-Sign WR Rashard Higgins

Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins will likely hit the free-agent market, but that does not mean a reunion with Cleveland is out of the question, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. In fact, Cabot adds that, per a league source, the team would still like Higgins back “‘at the right price.”

Higgins fell out of the Browns rotation this past season after a falling out with the previous coaching staff. However, now that Freddie Kitchens has been replaced by Kevin Stefanski as head coach, the new regime appears to have interest in a reunion.

A fifth-round pick in 2016, Higgins progressed into larger and larger roles in Cleveland’s offense over his first three seasons and seemed poised to be the team’s third receiver behind Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham last season.

After hauling in 39 receptions for 572 yards and four touchdowns in 2018, Higgins managed just four catches for 55 yards in all of 2019. At just 25, Higgins is not far from being a solid young prospect, but his dip in production could very well dampen his market.

Browns’ Rashard Higgins Wants Extension

Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins could receive some significant interest on the open market this offseason, but the young wideout is making it clear he wants to stay in Cleveland. “I want to be in Cleveland, no other team. Tell (John) Dorsey, Tell Lonzo (Alonso Highsmith) to get it done”, Higgins said this week at the Super Bowl, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

Dorsey, the Browns’ GM, said last week that the team had talked to Higgins’ representatives about a new contract, and it sounds like the interest is definitely mutual. Higgins is only scheduled to be a restricted free agent anyway so the Browns could match any offer he receives from another team, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll get to that point.

Higgins’ agent Michael Swensen told Kay Cabot “we’re getting there”, meaning a deal could be close. The Browns drafted Higgins in the fifth round out of Colorado State back in 2016. They cut him before the 2017 season, but quickly re-signed him. He didn’t do much as a rookie, but showed signs of progress last season before breaking out in 2018.

This past year he caught 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns in only 13 games, and showed a nice rapport with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. With Jarvis Landry entrenched in the slot, Higgins should have an opportunity to start outside next year. Higgins sounded excited to help turn around the Browns, raving about Mayfield, new coach Freddie Kitchens, and the organization in his comments to Kay Cabot. At this point it would be surprising if he’s not locked up by the time free agency rolls around in March.

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Rashard Mendenhall Retires

Free agent running back Rashard Mendenhall is retiring, reports ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Mendenhall, 26, spent his first five seasons with the Steelers, then started 13 games last year for the Cardinals, rushing for 687 yards and eight touchdowns.

A first-round draft pick from Illinois in 2008, Mendenhall totaled 4,236 yards and 39 touchdowns in his six-year career. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Mendenhall hinted at retirement in a February 25 column for Huffington Post: “And as I write this, today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace. Eagerly looking to a new way, which lies ahead.”

PFR’s Luke Adams ranked Mendenhall in the second tier of free agent running backs.

NFL Suspends Jets’ Rashard Robinson

Jets cornerback Rashard Robinson has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He’ll be eligible to return to the active roster on October 1 after the team’s Week 4 contest against the Jaguars. In the interim, he’ll be allowed to participate in all preseason practices and games.

The Jets acquired Robinson in a pre-deadline trade in 2017, giving up a 2018 fifth-round choice in exchange for the former fourth-round pick. Robinson appeared in six games but recorded just two tackles.

Robinson’s suspension stems from a December incident in which he was pulled over by cops and found to have marijuana-laced candy in his possession. Apparently, that was not the cornerback’s first instance of off-the-field trouble. The 23-year-old reportedly also had an “embarrassing and troubling incident” on a Niners team flight in 2017. He had words with SF coaches in the midst of that outburst, and that prompted the team to ship him to New Jersey.

Robinson’s first game with the Jets in 2018 – if he sticks on the roster – will be against the Broncos on October 7.

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Rams To Release Clay Matthews

Todd Gurley isn’t the only Rams star on his way out. The Rams have released linebacker Clay Matthews, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Rams Cut Todd Gurley]

Matthews, 34 in May, wasn’t easy to let go. Last year, the veteran racked up eight sacks in 13 games (all starts), despite missing some time with a painful broken jaw.

Jaw aside, Matthews has been durable throughout his pro career. That’s part of what helped Matthews earned six Pro Bowl nods through his ten seasons in Green Bay and he seemed on pace for a seventh before that setback.

The Rams will have to find edge pressure elsewhere as they remake their entire defense. So far, they’ve watched Eric Weddle retire while Cory LittletonMichael Brockers and Dante Fowler have all departed in free agency. They also turned down their option on slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman. Meanwhile, they’ve added a handful of players, including former first-rounder Leonard Floyd and A’Shawn Robinson.

Thanks to his re-emergence under Wade Phillips, Matthews figures to draw some degree of interest on the open market. Matthews, however, did not live up to the extension he signed with the Packers. He failed to produce a double-digit sack season from 2015-18, recording just 3.5 and 12 quarterback hits in 2018. Matthews managed just 11 QB hits last season.

While the former Pro Bowler’s career is winding down, he still has a chance to reach 100 sacks. The former Packers first-round pick is up to 91.5 for his career. Matthews getting there would make him the 35th player in NFL history to do so. The third-generation NFLer will need to find a third team to help him reach this milestone, however.

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FA CB Rashard Robinson Banned 10 Games

The Jets cut Rashard Robinson in May, and a clearer picture as to the possible reason for that move emerged two months later. The NFL suspended the free agent cornerback 10 games on Wednesday, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

This marks Robinson’s second suspension. He began his 2018 season in October because of a four-game substance-abuse ban to start it. The former fourth-round 49ers pick has not participated in a visit or a workout since the Jets waived him.

I would like to to take this opportunity to apologize and take full responsibility for the 10-game suspension I have received from the National Football League. I have no one to blame for my actions,” Robinson said in a statement (Twitter link). “I will work during my time away to better myself and be ready to contribute when I am eligible this coming season.”

The Jets gave up a fifth-round pick at the 2017 trade deadline to acquire Robinson from the 49ers, and the LSU alum played in 16 games for the franchise over the next two seasons. Robinson has started 15 games, but 13 of those came as a 49er. He registered eight tackles in 10 2018 contests, playing mostly special teams.

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This Date In Transactions History: Titans WR Rishard Matthews Requests Release

Two years ago today, Titans wideout Rishard Matthews requested his release. The veteran receiver was hoping the impending move would lead to a bigger role elsewhere. Instead, it likely spelled the beginning of the end for his career.

The 2012 seventh-round pick out of Nevada spent the first four seasons of his career with Miami, culminating in a 2015 campaign where he compiled 662 receiving yards on 43 receptions. This performance earned him a three-year contract from the Titans, and Matthews immediately became a contributor to his new team. The wideout’s first season in Tennessee proved to be the best of his career; he finished with career highs in receptions (65), receiving yards (945), and receiving touchdowns (nine). He missed a pair of games in 2017, but he still put up similar per-game numbers (53 receptions, 795 yards, four scores). Unfortunately, the wheels fell off in 2018.

It started with a preseason contract extension that was self-negotiated by Matthews. The deal was the equivalent of a team option that would pay the receiver $7.5MM, but none of that money was guaranteed. The deal was generally panned by pundits, and while the contract has never been explicitly attributed to Matthews’ dissatisfaction with the organization, you’ve got to wonder if it played a role.

Of course, Matthews was also unhappy with his role in the passing game. Through the first three games of the 2018 season, the receiver had only hauled in three receptions for 11 yards. He played only 50% of the team’s offensive snaps through three weeks (third among Titans receivers behind Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe), and he was ranked sixth on the team in targets. Part of that reduced production was thanks to subpar quarterback play from Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert, but Matthews also seemed to blame the coaching staff.

“I’ve been the leading receiver for two years,” Matthews said at the time. “Then all of a sudden I’m barely playing and not even starting. Using my injury as the scapegoat. Look at number of snaps and targets.”

Matthews ultimately got his wish, as he was released by the Titans the day after his public request. After hiring Drew Rosenhaus for representation, Matthews proved to be a popular free agent target, with the Browns, Cardinals, and Jets expressing interest. The receiver ultimately landed in New York, but he didn’t do much for his new team; in five games for the Jets, Matthews was limited to only two receptions for 13 yards before landing on the IR.

He caught on with the Saints during the 2019 offseason, but he was cut in August. Days later, Matthews announced his retirement. Who knows if things would have been different if Matthews ended up sticking in Tennessee. However, it’s obvious that his public release request — a move made two years ago today — certainly didn’t help his prospects of sticking around the NFL.

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Latest On Browns’ COVID-19 Situation

The Browns’ COVID-19 situation will keep at least four players out of their crucial Week 17 game. Linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant are the players who tested positive for the coronavirus, sources tell NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). They’ll be held out of Sunday’s tilt against the Steelers, along with linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Andrew Sendejo

[POLL: Which AFC Contender Will Miss Playoffs?]

Although the team reopened its facility after a contact tracing effort Wednesday, the Browns closed it again Thursday. They will, however, have their top four receivers back this week. Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge are off the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. So is linebacker Jacob Phillips. The Steelers-Browns rematch remains on schedule for 1pm ET Sunday.

Denzel Ward, however, is the latest Browns player to run into COVID trouble. The Browns’ No. 1 cornerback tested positive for the coronavirus and is out Sunday, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports (on Twitter). He is out for Sunday’s game and would be a long shot to play in the Browns’ playoff opener, should they qualify.

The Browns are playing to snap the NFL’s longest active playoff drought. If they win, they’re in. If they lose, they’ll need the Colts to do the same, but that would hinge on a quality performance from the lowly Jaguars. If the Browns lose and the Colts win, they’ll need a Titans loss, plus wins from the Ravens and Dolphins to sneak into the postseason.

On the plus side, the Steelers indicated they will rest Ben Roethlisberger this weekend. Plus, they’ll be without top defenders Devin Bush and Bud Dupree, who limited the Browns to just six points in their October meeting. As it stands, Football Outsiders gives the Browns a 44% chance to hold at the No. 6 seed and a 20% chance to make it as the No. 7 seed.

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Saints Sign Rishard Matthews

The Saints have signed wide receiver Rishard Matthews, according to the NFL’s transactions wire. To make room, the team waived fellow wide receiver Travin Dural

The Titans granted Matthews’ request for release in late September after he grew frustrated with his lack of playing time. He hooked on with the Jets in October, but posted just two catches for 13 yards before landing on injured reserve.

Prior to that, Matthews was the Titans’ leading receiver for two seasons. And, prior to that, he had something of a breakout season with the Dolphins in 2015.

Matthews isn’t the only ex-Jet to join the Saints’ WR group. The Saints also added Chad Hansen earlier this week, giving them a baker’s dozen of receivers on the 90-man roster.

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Jets CB Rashard Robinson Facing Charges

Jets cornerback Rashard Robinson was charged with drug possession following a December arrest, as Manish Mehta of the Daily News writes. Robinson no-showed his court date on Monday, Darryl Slater of NJ.com hears, and he is now scheduled to appear in front of a judge on Jan 29. If he does not show up at the end of the month, an arrest warrant will be issued. Rashard Robinson (vertical)

The Jets acquired Robinson in a pre-deadline trade this year, giving up a 2018 fifth-round choice in exchange for the former fourth-round pick. Robinson appeared in six games but recorded just two tackles.

Police say that they found a marijuana-laced candy in Robinson’s possession after pulling him over for careless driving. Apparently, this is not the cornerback’s first off-the-field incident. Mehta hears that the 22-year-old (23 in July) had an “embarrassing and troubling incident” on a Niners team flight in 2017. He also had words with SF coaches, an outburst that prompted the team to ship him east.

Mike Maccagnan‘s Jets have rolled the dice on players with iffy track records in the past, but they might not have patience with Robinson given his lack of on-field performance.

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Browns Close Facility Due To COVID-19

3:13pm: While several Browns remain on the coronavirus list, they have completed a contact tracing effort and reopened their facility, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com tweets. They also added center Javon Patterson to the practice squad COVID list, Cabot adds (via Twitter).

11:06am: On Wednesday, the Browns closed their team facility due to a positive COVID-19 test. This comes after the Browns learned that a coach and a practice-squad player have tested positive for COVID-19 (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero).

The Browns have also placed safety Karl Joseph, Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Bryant on the reserve/COVID-19 list, a sign that he was likely in close contact with one or both of those individuals.

The Browns were in similar territory last week with the ripple effect of B.J. Goodson‘s positive COVID-19 test. Contact tracing deemed several Browns wide receivers Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones to be high-risk close contacts, keeping them out of Sunday’s game against the Jets. The Jets went on to win 23-16, bumping the Browns to 10-5 and knocking themselves out of the No. 1 draft pick sweepstakes.

The Browns can make the playoffs for the first time in a long time with a win over the Steelers in Week 17. Alternatively, they can still reach the postseason if the Colts fall to the Jaguars. There’s also a third scenario that would give them a playoff berth, though that would be dependent on the outcome of three different games.

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