Alex Lewis

Ravens Trade Alex Lewis To Jets

Remember that time the Ravens released offensive lineman Alex Lewis? Well, that didn’t quite happen. 

Before formally releasing him, the Ravens struck a deal to trade Lewis to the Jets, as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. In the trade, the Jets will send a conditional 2020 seventh-round pick to Baltimore.

It’s not uncommon for teams to intend on releasing a player before an eleventh-hour deal was struck. Often times, teams will leak word of an impending release via the press in order to solicit interest. In this case, the Ravens told Lewis directly that he would be released, so it’s likely that they connected with the Jets after failing to find a trade in discussions with other teams.

It’s a mild return for the Ravens, but they did manage to recoup something for a player who was owed $2MM for 2019 and was about to be released anyway. For the Jets, it’s a modest expenditure that could pay some dividends – Lewis is a former starter who can provide depth along the offensive line. Meanwhile, they will get him into the fold immediately without having to first vie for his services against other clubs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Release OL Alex Lewis

The Ravens have released Alex Lewis, according to a social media post from the offensive lineman. Just this week, Lewis was cleared for action, but he’s apparently not part of the team’s plans for 2019. 

The Ravens shopped Lewis before cutting him and there was trade interest in him in recent days, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. That suggests that the former starter won’t be out of work for very long, especially after passing a physical.

Before today, Lewis was expected to compete for the Ravens’ starting left guard job. Over his last two healthy years (interrupted by a torn labrum in 2017), Lewis has made 18 starts in total.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Gordon, Colts, Ravens

The Patriots retained Josh Gordon‘s rights on via RFA tender, and the suspended wide receiver was spotted training with Tom Brady fairly recently. This does not mean the Patriots expect to have Gordon back. One of modern NFL history’s most unavailable players, Gordon is not in the Pats’ plans at this point, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com noted during a WEEI radio interview (via NBC Sports Boston). While the defending Super Bowl champions would welcome the 28-year-old talent back if he proved to be a “better version of himself” off the field than what showed up in New England last year, Rapoport adds he isn’t certain Gordon will receive another chance or if the mercurial standout would capitalize on it at this point. The Patriots made several receiver moves this offseason, drafting N’Keal Harry in Round 1 and signing Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman and Maurice Harris.

As the final offseason weekend (for several teams) progresses, here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Deviating from their long-held ways in free agency, the Packers splurged on a pair of pass rushers this offseason in bringing in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. The latter Smith was on the Colts‘ radar. Despite holding the most cap space in the league entering free agency, the Colts let the market’s top pass rushers sign elsewhere before agreeing to terms with Chiefs cap casualty Justin Houston. But Chris Ballard targeted Preston Smith at free agency’s outset, Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star notes. Green Bay landed the former Washington edge player for four years and $52MM (just $16MM guaranteed). Houston, 30, nearly matched the 26-year-old’s guarantee figure, with $15.5MM, on his two-year, $23MM accord.
  • Michael Pierce‘s offseason downtrend continued Saturday when the Ravens placed the nose tackle on their active/NFI list. In addition to the contract-year interior lineman starting camp with that designation, the Ravens placed offensive lineman Alex Lewis on their active/PUP list, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic tweets. Pierce, who skipped Ravens OTAs after not signing his RFA tender until June, was overweight to the point of needing to be yanked from practice at minicamp. Lewis underwent offseason shoulder surgery. Both starters can be removed from these lists and return to practice at any point during camp.
  • Broncos GM John Elway does not have near-future retirement plans, but the ninth-year executive is approaching his career year-by-year at this point.

Injury Updates: Redskins, Smith, Ravens, Jefferson, Texans, Reid

Alex Smith to recover from the devastating leg injury he suffered midway through the 2018 season, and Redskins team president Bruce Allen recently provided an update, per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Allen didn’t sound overly confident in Smith’s prospects of being ready for 2019, saying “If anyone can come back, it’s Alex”, but finishing with a “we’ll see.” He also left the door open to drafting a quarterback this April, and sounded as if the team is preparing for being without Smith.

He seemed open to the possibility of Colt McCoy starting, saying “we like Colt a lot.” McCoy initially filled in for Smith but soon went down with his own season ending leg injury. He was then replaced by Josh Johnson who looked a lot better than expected, but Allen didn’t mention Johnson at all in his comments. Smith was recently seen out in public for the first time since his injury, wearing a bulky apparatus on his injured leg.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • Recently extended Ravens coach John Harbaugh spoke to the media today, and provided updates on several injured players, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Harbaugh said guard Alex Lewis, who recently underwent shoulder surgery, should be back by training camp, and that safety Tony Jefferson, linebacker Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Tavon Young would all be out around 4-6 more weeks, putting them on track for OTA’s.
  • Texans rookie safety Justin Reid had a great rookie season, earning very high marks from Pro Football Focus, and he was playing hurt throughout the year. Reid had been dealing with wrist issues, and he will undergo wrist surgery, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. It’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined, but it doesn’t sound like anything major and he should be ready in time for offseason work.
  • In case you missed it, the 49ers hope to have Jimmy Garoppolo throwing by OTA’s.

2019 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $2MM in 2019. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2019 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

Bears: RB Jordan Howard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Bengals: LB Nick Vigil

Broncos: G Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, S Justin Simmons

Browns: S Derrick Kindred, LB Joe Schobert

Buccaneers: G Caleb Benenoch, DE Carl Nassib, CB Ryan Smith

Chargers: LB Jatavis Brown

Chiefs: CB Kendall Fuller, WR Tyreek Hill, S Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson

Colts: QB Jacoby Brissett, T Joe Haeg

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown, DT Maliek Collins, QB Dak Prescott

Dolphins: RB Kenyan Drake

Eagles: CB Jalen Mills, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, G Wes Schweitzer

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Jets: LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Rashard Robinson, T Brandon Shell

Lions: C Graham Glasgow

Packers: LB Kyler Fackrell, DE Dean Lowry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Antonio Morrison

Patriots: G Joe Thuney, LB Elandon Roberts

Rams: G Austin Blythe, TE Tyler Higbee

Ravens: DE Matt Judon, OL Alex Lewis, CB Tavon Young

Saints: DT David Onyemata

Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave

Texans: DT D.J. Reader

Titans: S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Extra Points: CBA, London Team, Cardinals, Ravens

There’s been a lot of talk about the league’s current CBA. Many around the league, including the NFLPA, continue to view a lockout as a strong possibility when the current bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season. Owners are widely seen as having won the last round of negotiations, and players are sure to have stronger demands this time around. At first the league was anxious to get a new deal done and avoid a drawn out process, but the “NFL recently has shown less urgency to get a new labor deal done” according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.

A source told Florio that “the NFL previously had wanted to get a new labor deal in place by the next Super Bowl”, but that’s no longer the case. The change in heart is “fueled by the league’s happiness with the 2018 ratings performance” Florio writes. Florio notes that the ratings increases give the league more leverage in negotiations with networks which makes them “feel less compelled to bend to the union a bit in order to be able to sell labor peace deep into the next decade to the broadcast partners.” It’s an interesting angle that Florio presents, and the whole situation will be one of the biggest stories to monitor over the next year.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The league’s executive vice president of international, Mark Waller, thinks London is ready for an NFL team right now, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. Breer had an interesting conversation with Waller, who thinks the “pieces for a London team are in place.” It was rumored earlier this week that Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan had his sights set on moving the team to London.
  • Cardinals guard Justin Pugh broke his hand in the team’s loss to the Vikings, the lineman told Josh Weinfuss of ESPN (Twitter link). Lineman can often play with a club/cast on their hand, but it would seem likely Pugh misses at least a little time, and may need surgery. It’s a big blow to an Arizona offensive line that is already among the worst in the league.
  • Ravens guard Alex Lewis suffered a scary neck injury that had him down on the field for a while, but he appears to be alright. There was a lot of concern after Lewis was taken to the hospital, but he’s regained feeling in his extremitites and has “been cleared to travel back tonight with team”, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link). Lewis will have more tests tomorrow, but overall it’s very positive news after what initially looked like a very serious injury.

 

AFC North Rumors: Gordon, Steelers, Ravens

Josh Gordon‘s present designation with the Browns is on the reserve/did not report list. The Browns likely could not have placed the 27-year-old pass-catcher on the non-football illness list, since he would have had to fail a physical for that to occur. While Gordon does not currently count toward Cleveland’s 90-man roster, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk cautions the wideout’s road back to the team may not be a matter of him merely returning to Berea, Ohio. Gordon may have to have Roger Goodell approve his request for Browns reinstatement, Florio reports. The reasoning behind this is Goodell OK’d a Gordon return last year under the terms of a treatment plan, with Florio adding that possible Goodell approval would center around whether or not the embattled receiver has violated the terms of that plan. Gordon’s believed to be at a Gainesville, Fla., treatment facility. He spent 90 days in a Gainesville rehab center last fall. While Florio doesn’t expect Goodell to stand in the way of a Gordon return, he would have the right to suspend Gordon for another year under the substance-abuse policy.

Jimmy Haslam did not comment when asked Saturday if the NFL needed to approve Gordon’s Browns reinstatement, and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes the league has not provided clarity on this situation yet. Haslam added he does not have a timetable for Gordon’s return.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North, shifting to a potentially troublesome situation in Pittsburgh:

  • Ramon Foster has played more Steelers snaps than anyone since the 2009 season (h/t Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com), but he was carted off the practice field Saturday. During a full-contact workout, Stephon Tuitt rolled into Foster’s right leg, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter links). Mike Tomlin did not elaborate on the issue, only saying that the 10th-year guard is being evaluated for a “lower-body” injury, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). A Foster loss would represent a major setback for the Steelers. Foster’s a seven-season full-time starter and is in the final year of his deal. Ben Roethlisberger consoled the 32-year-old guard as he was carted away.
  • Roethlisberger has shown up to camp in noticeably better shape, with La Canfora noting the Steelers expected their quarterback to show up prepared to earn one final blockbuster extension. Although a report surfaced about the Steelers and Roethlisberger were planning to discuss a re-up this offseason, the 15th-year quarterback said he didn’t want to do a deal before this season. But he’ll be set for a contract year in 2019.
  • While the Steelers do, however, have a Chris Boswell extension slotted as a preseason priority, JLC adds the team shouldn’t be expected to make a Joe Haden-style addition before the season. Pittsburgh added the longtime Cleveland cornerback on a $9MM-per-year deal late last summer but holds barely $5MM in cap space presently. Boswell is entering a contract year.
  • Greg Robinson resides in the Browns‘ concussion protocol, Hue Jackson said Saturday (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, on Twitter). The Browns brought the former No. 2 overall pick this offseason. He has a clearer path to the 53-man roster now that Donald Stephenson has retired, but Robinson has not proven reliable during his four-year career.
  • Only Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda are locks to be Ravens offensive line starters, with Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic noting (subscription required) the team used numerous O-line combinations Saturday. Expected to vie for Baltimore’s right tackle job, James Hurst is working primarily at right guard while Alex Lewis — whom Zreibec projects as the left guard starter — has worked plenty at center. The Ravens’ right guard starter, Yanda remains on the PUP list. Zreibec still contends Hurst will settle at right tackle, with rookie Orlando Brown in the mix at that spot as well.

AFC Notes: Mason, Herndon, Foreman

Zack Martin just inked a massive extension with the Cowboys, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com wonders what effect Martin’s contract will have on Shaq Mason‘s future with the Patriots. Mason is not on the same level as Martin or Andrew Norwell — who signed a similarly large deal with the Jaguars this offseason — but he is still a very good guard and should command upwards of $10MM per year when he hits free agency at the end of the 2018 campaign. Reiss is skeptical that New England will pony up that much cash for a guard, so this could be Mason’s last year in Foxborough.

Reiss also observes that other key players, like DE Trey Flowers and K Stephen Gostkowski, are entering the last year of their respective contracts, but he does not offer an opinion as to how those negotiations will play out.

Now for more notes from the AFC:

  • More details have emerged regarding the arrest of Jets‘ rookie TE Chris Herndon. Herndon, a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, was charged with driving while intoxicated several weeks ago, and per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, an eyewitness told New Jersey State Police that an SUV believed to be driven by Herndon was traveling at least 100 mph. Herndon’s SUV flipped after colliding with another vehicle, which caught fire, and the SUV slid approximately 700 feet after initial contact. Eyewitness reports are notoriously shaky, but if this one is accurate, it will not bode well for Herndon, either from an NFL or legal perspective.
  • The Bills‘ WR corps is pretty thin overall, so second-year wideout Zay Jones — whom the team selected in the second round of the 2017 draft — is generally considered to have a stranglehold on Buffalo’s No. 2 wideout job opposite Kelvin Benjamin. However, Jones has dealt with some issues this offseason, as he was arrested in March and underwent knee surgery, and new GM Brandon Beane said the East Carolina product will not be handed anything. During an interview with WGR 550 (via Ryan Talbot of NewYorkUpstate.com), Beane said, “He’s not just going to necessarily go right to the top of the line. He’ll have to earn his way. Part of that will just be just getting his feel. He’s only played with Nathan Peterman. He has not got to play with Josh Allen or A.J. [McCarron] yet. So that bond there will just have to form.”
  • Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle provides an in-depth look at Texans RB D’Onta Foreman‘s recovery from a torn Achilles, which ended his rookie campaign prematurely in November. There is still no specific date for Foreman’s return, and it is unlikely he will be a full participant at the beginning of training camp next month (even the 2018 regular season opener is up in the air at this point). However, the former Texas standout remains confident that he will eventually regain the form that made him a 2017 third-round pick and the heir apparent to Lamar Miller.
  • The Ravens have some depth along their offensive line, part of which is last year’s fourth-round pick, Nico Siragusa. Siragusa suffered a brutal injury last August, as he tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL. Of course, that ended his rookie campaign before it began, but as Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun writes, Siragusa was able to fully participate in last week’s minicamp. He will compete for a backup role this year and could soon become a starting guard or center if he can remain healthy. Alex Lewis, who also missed the entire 2017 season, is expected to start somewhere along the O-line this year — either at left guard, center, or right tackle — but he was held out of minicamp due to back spasms. Head coach John Harbaugh said Lewis should be ready for training camp, but the Nebraska product’s injury history will be cause for concern until he can manage to stay out of the training room for an extended period of time.
  • Tyler Matakevich, a 2016 seventh-round pick, will be given every opportunity to win the Steelers‘ starting ILB job alongside Vince Williams, per Will Graves of the Associated Press. Pittsburgh has a gaping hole at that spot due to Ryan Shazier‘s horrific injury, but the team is confident Matakevich is ready to take the reins. He will need to fend off veteran Jon Bostic, whom the team signed this offseason.

North Notes: Vikes, Browns, Ravens, Sutton

At Vikings OTAs this week, they placed Mike Remmers back at right tackle, per Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Remmers finished last season playing guard, and the Vikings used a second-round pick on tackle Brian O’Neill out of Pittsburgh. Minnesota had UFA signee Tom Compton working as its first-string right guard during OTAs, per Rand. Compton has never been a full-time starter in his six-year career, coming closest with the 2014 Redskins, who used him as a nine-game starter. Last season, the Bears started Compton in five of the 11 games he played. Minnesota lost its most effective blocker, Joe Berger, to retirement and did not make any notable additions beyond Compton at the guard spot.

Here’s more from the north:

  • The Browns have made some adjustments to their front office and scouting department, and Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com expects that to continue. She targets the VP of player personnel decision as a possible turnover spot. Alonzo Highsmith, Ken Kovash and Andrew Berry currently reside in that role. John Dorsey just hired Highsmith, and Cabot reports Berry is safe from a change despite being an integral part of the previous regime. The Browns promoted Kovash shortly after the Sashi Brown regime took over in 2016 after he’d previously worked as the franchise’s director of football research.
  • Converted cornerback Damarious Randall will be the Browns’ starter at free safety this season, relocating Jabrill Peppers to strong safety, per Cabot. Gregg Williams‘ deep placement of Peppers, sometimes more than 25 yards off the ball, became a constant source of discussion and derision among Browns fans, and Peppers himself may be a bit tired of the jokes. But the Browns will now place him closer to the line of scrimmage, which is similar to the role he had at Michigan.
  • Optimism exists around Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith, who saw a strong season end early in 2017 because of a torn Achilles, but Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun notes the veteran may not be ready for the start of training camp. The career-long Raven is going into his age-30 season.
  • Additional Ravens’ timelines are coming into focus as well. Defensive lineman Carl Davis, who started nine games last season, underwent surgery to repair a tear in his shoulder earlier this offseason, Zreibec reports. The former third-round pick is questionable to participate in minicamp. Offensive lineman Nico Siragusa also had an operation this offseason. The 2017 fourth-round pick missed all of last season because of ACL, MCL and PCL tears and required an additional knee surgery this year. Zreibec reports the goal for him is a training camp return. As for Alex Lewis, Baltimore’s projected guard starter opposite Marshal Yanda, he’s fully recovered from the shoulder injury that nixed all of his 2017 season, Zreibec notes.
  • The Steelers aren’t sure where to station Cameron Sutton. The 2017 third-round pick played 117 snaps as a rookie after an injury delayed his NFL debut. Pittsburgh may be planning to use him at outside or slot cornerback, or as a safety alongside Morgan Burnett, Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. But he notes that Artie Burns and Sean Davis will still have first crack at their respective jobs, outside cornerback and the non-Burnett safety starter, with the Steelers still hoping for the high draft picks’ upside to show. Mike Hilton remains the frontrunner to be the Steelers’ slot corner, where the former UDFA fared well in 2017.

North Rumors: Richardson, Steelers, Ravens

The $3MM incentive package for Sheldon Richardson will center on the interior defender’s sack production. Richardson’s one-year, $8MM Vikings deal will include a $667K bump if he reaches six sacks, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes. Should Richardson register eight sacks, that number spikes to $1.3MM. It rises to $2MM for a 10-sack slate. These benchmarks will be difficult to hit. The former first-round pick has only exceeded six sacks once in five seasons (eight in 2014). Richardson can also earn $500K if he makes the Pro Bowl, which he has done once (in that ’14 season). That will increase to $1MM if a first-team All-Pro nod follows the Pro Bowl acclaim, per Goessling.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions.