Alex Lewis is calling it a career. With just a few weeks to go before the start of the season, the guard has decided to retire from the NFL (Twitter link via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com).
This was the expected news after Lewis was placed on the exempt/left squad list earlier this month. Lewis’ reasons for leaving the game aren’t immediately clear. When asked about him recently, head coach Robert Saleh simply said that Lewis is battling issues “much greater than football.” With that said, Lewis sustained a head injury during a recent practice, which may have played a role in his decision.
Lewis, still only 29, agreed to a pay cut earlier this year, reducing his salary from $5.8MM to $3MM. That trim likely would have been enough to solidify his spot on the roster.
The Jets used Lewis as a starter for most of his New York tenure, dating back to the team’s 2019 saga with Kelechi Osemele. But, after 21 games as a first-stringer, the Jets traded up in Round 1 to draft USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. Between Vera-Tucker and Greg Van Roten, there might not have been a ton of reps left for Lewis.
Lewis leaves the game with 44 appearances across four seasons for the Ravens and Jets. We here at PFR wish him the best in retirement.
Alex Lewis has stepped away from the Jets, and the team responded by placing the veteran guard on its exempt/left squad list.
The multiyear Jets offensive line starter informed Robert Saleh of his decision, and the first-year HC said Lewis is battling issues “much greater than football,” via ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini (on Twitter). The team announced Lewis sustained a head injury in practice Thursday. The Jets, who have received a roster exemption, plan to remain in communication with the sixth-year O-lineman, Cimini tweets.
Gang Green has used Lewis as a starter for most of his tenure. A dust-up with Kelechi Osemele in 2019 led the Jets to move Lewis into their starting lineup, and he has started 21 games for the team since. The Jets, however, traded up in Round 1 to draft USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and still have Greg Van Roten on their roster. A 2020 free agency addition, Van Roten started 13 games last season. Vera-Tucker is set to replace Lewis as a starter, but the latter was receiving first-team reps due to a minor Vera-Tucker injury.
The Jets and guard Alex Lewis have agreed to a reworked contract (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates). Now, Lewis will earn a base salary of $3MM in 2021, down from his scheduled $5.8MM. Meanwhile, the final year of his deal in 2022 has been eliminated. Now, Lewis will have the opportunity to win the Jets’ starting right guard job and reach free agency next spring.
Lewis probably would have been released if he didn’t agree to the new terms. And, if he was cut at this stage of the offseason, he would have entered a fairly weak market, since most teams have filled their interior line needs (and allocated most of their dollars). On the plus side, the salary cap is set to jump to $208.2MM in 2022, so Lewis could land a solid deal next March.
Add veteran NFL reporter Tyler Dunne of GoLongTD.com to the list of writers who have heard that Texans QB Deshaun Watson is not budging on his desire to be traded, and that he continues to ignore every call from Houston brass. Of course, Watson has a no-trade clause that he could use to help dictate where he goes — assuming the Texans give in and deal him, which they have insisted they are not going to do — and we recently heard that the 49ers and Broncosare on his destination list.
Dunne’s source indicates that the Dolphins — who have been considered one of the frontrunners for Watson since trade speculation started to swirl — and the Niners are Watson’s top two preferred clubs. In Dunne’s view, a trade to Miami makes too much sense to not happen, and he believes the ‘Fins and Texans could line up on a deal that sends Watson to South Beach in exchange for the No. 3 and No. 18 overall picks in this year’s draft along with Miami’s 2022 first-rounder.
Now for more rumors from the AFC East:
Recent reports have indicated that Raiders QB Marcus Mariota is generating legitimate trade interest, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes the Patriots could be in the mix. New England obviously needs a quarterback, and Mariota is attached to a reasonable $10.6MM salary for 2021 and would not cost much to acquire in terms of draft capital. Although he could demand a raise if he is being acquired to serve as a starter, his current salary would not preclude the Pats from continuing to explore other options, like Jimmy Garoppolo — if the the 49ers land a different QB and release Garoppolo — or a collegiate passer.
Reiss does not expect the Patriots to make a deal with the division-rival Jets for Gang Green QB Sam Darnold, though what the Jets do with Darnold could certainly have a major impact on New England (for instance, if New York trades Darnold to San Francisco, Garoppolo could become available).
The Jets have among the most cap space in the league at just shy of $70MM, and they can easily create even more flexibility, thereby giving them a huge advantage in what could be a buyer’s market given the decreased salary cap. Connor Hughes of The Athletic believes New York will release DE Henry Anderson, which jibes with a report from December. That move will save the club $8.2MM in cap space, and Hughes suggests that guards Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis might be goners as well (their releases would save $3.4MM and $5.1MM, respectively).
Meanwhile the Jets don’t have too many of their own free agents that must be retained. Hughes expects safety Marcus Maye to be re-signed, and he also says OL Pat Elflein — who played well in 2020 after being claimed off waivers from the Vikings — is a logical candidate to return, especially if the team moves on from Van Roten and/or Lewis.
Earlier Friday, the Jets announced starting left guard Alex Lewis would not play against the Raiders because of an organizational decision. His absence will now extend longer than two games.
Mysteriously inactive in Week 12, Lewis will now land on the Jets’ reserve/non-football illness list, according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. He will be out at least three games. While that is not especially critical for a Jets team sitting 0-11, Lewis’ hiatus has been a rather unusual situation.
Adam Gase confirmed he and Lewis had a discussion that preceded the O-lineman being scratched for the team’s Dolphins rematch. The fifth-year blocker does appear to be dealing with a medical problem, with NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport indicating Lewis is seeking help for a non-football health issue (Twitter link). The Jets plan to pay Lewis while he resides on their NFI list. The Jets went to the NFL to determine the best way to move forward with Lewis, per The Athletic’s Connor Hughes (on Twitter).
This marks the latest odd development between the Jets and a recently acquired offensive lineman. An injury-related dustup between the team and 2019 trade acquisition Kelechi Osemele emerged midway through last season, leading to Osemele’s release and a grievance. Lewis’ issue is not on that level. The Jets have denied this is an injury-related situation, and Lewis did not indicate any hostility between he and the team, Cimini adds.
The Jets made a long-term commitment to Lewis, bringing him back on a three-year, $18.6MM deal. Though, the team could shed Lewis’ contract nearly free of charge after 2020. He is due a non-guaranteed $5.8MM base salary in 2021.
Following the trade deadline, Deshaun Watson revealed how much of an issue a Will Fuller trade would have caused for him. Now, the Texans quarterback does not want Week 12 to have been his final game throwing to the deep threat. Despite Fuller’s six-game PED suspension set to drag into next year, Watson wants the Texans to bring back the impending free agent.
“That’s very important,” Watson said of the Texans re-signing Fuller, via ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop. “That’s definitely one guy that I’m going to be working on this last month and offseason, for sure.Will’s my brother. The whole organization knows that too. And you know, make sure that we get him back for next year, especially in this organization.”
A 2016 first-round pick, Fuller has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. He did in his contract year and was on pace to venture well into four-digit yardage territory. The 26-year-old receiver finished his shortened season with 53 receptions for 879 yards and eight touchdowns — all career-high numbers — and will be one of the top free agents in 2021. The Texans will have exclusive negotiating rights with Fuller until the legal tampering period begins in mid-March.
Here is the latest from the AFC, shifting first to Houston’s Week 13 opponent:
Philip Rivers has not missed a game due to injury as a pro, having made 235 straight starts since the Chargers let Drew Brees defect to the Saints in 2006. But Rivers appeared on the Colts‘ injury report this week, being reduced to a limited practice Thursday because of a toe malady. Praising Rivers’ toughness, Quenton Nelson revealed (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson and Jim Ayello) the 17th-year quarterback is playing through a “really bad” foot problem presently. Rivers said he has no concerns about being able to play in Week 13.
Also expecting to play Sunday: Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa. After Brian Flores said Tagovailoa was “very close” to being able to play against the Jets, the first-round passer expects to start this weekend against the Bengals, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald notes. Although Tua struggled in Denver and was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Flores said the job is the rookie’s when he is medically cleared. Tagovailoa has been limited in both Miami practices this week.
Garett Bolles‘ belated breakout resulted in a big payday from the Broncos, who went from not picking up the once-embattled left tackle’s fifth-year option to signing him to a four-year, $68MM deal. That contract contains $38MM guaranteed and $21MM fully guaranteed over the first two years, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Although the $17MM-per-year figure places Bolles as the NFL’s sixth-highest-paid tackle, the full guarantee is more in line with his uneven performance through three-plus seasons. That number ranks 20th among tackles and comes in $43MM south of what the Ravens recently gave Ronnie Stanley in full guarantees.
More weirdness out of New York. Jets guard starter Alex Lewis did not play against the Dolphins last week, and Adam Gase said the absence was not injury-related. This may stem from a dustup between Lewis and Gase. The second-year Jets HC indicated the two had a “conversation” but stopped short of calling it a verbal altercation, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes (Twitterlinks). Gase did not confirm if Lewis will return in Week 13. A 2019 trade acquisition, Lewis signed a three-year deal to return to the Jets in March.
Adams, among other Jets players, reportedly do not “trust” Gase and are skeptical of his leadership abilities. Offensive lineman Alex Lewis, however, took to Instagram to defend his HC.
“I have mad respect for Coach Gase,” Lewis wrote. “We are building a winning culture and mentality from the top down. I believe in this staff, this organization, and most importantly my teammates.”
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News was the one who reported the animosity that Adams and his teammates feel towards Gase, and Lewis addressed Mehta directly.
“I felt like all of this needed to be said on the heels of reading Manish Mehta’s article lumping all players in one mindset disparaging the head coach,” Lewis continued. “You (Mehta) don’t speak for the locker room or myself. You got no place in the locker room if you are going to overgeneralize all players. Manish you are a poison to this team.”
Regardless of how he is perceived by his team, plenty of folks outside of the Jets’ locker room are also unsure about Gase’s viability as a head coach, but he remains at the helm for now. Gase was asked today about his relationship with Adams, and he had nothing but good things to say.
“My relationship with Jamal has been good since the time I’ve gotten here,” Gase said (via Brian Costello of the New York Post). … “To me, we’ve always gotten along well. There’s been a lot of dialogue between us, especially about on and off the field type topics.”
Gase confirmed that he wants Adams to stay with the Jets, though he did not say whether the team is amenable to giving him the extension he wants before the season starts. He did, however, talk about Adams as a player.
“He’s been one of our best players and most consistent guys that we had last year,” the 42-year-old HC said. “I covered a lot of this at the end of the season, the value that he brings to this team and what he does on not only game day but in practice. This is the tough part of the business. It’s something that we’ve got to keep working through.”
Dennis Kelly (Titans), Three years, $17.25MM, $8.75MM guaranteed, $4.75MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $1.5MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $4.5MM ($2.5MM guaranteed for injury at signing, fully guaranteed if on roster 5th day of 2021 league year); 2022: $5MM; $400k annual per-game roster bonus, $750K incentives available in 2021-22; $1MM escalator in base salary for 2021-22, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Robert Quinn, (Bears): Five years, $70MM, $30MM guaranteed, $3MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $3MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $11.5MM (fully guaranteed), 2022: $12.8MM, 2023: $13.9MM, 2024: $12.9MM; $12.5MM fully guaranteed roster bonus in 2020, $100k annual workout bonuses from 2021-2024, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
Andrew Whitworth, (Rams): Three years, $30MM, $12.5MM guaranteed, $5MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $5MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $7MM ($2.5MM guaranteed), 2022: $7.5MM; $2.5MM 2021 roster bonus guaranteed next week, $3MM 2022 roster bonus due six days before 2022 league year, $1.5MM annual incentives, $1.5MM base escalators in 2021-22, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitterlinks).
Steelers tight end VanceMcDonald has restructured his contract, reports SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter). The veteran will see his $5.5MM base salary converted into a signing bonus.
The 29-year-old joined the Steelers back in 2017, and he’s turned into a solid receiving threat in Pittsburgh. After finishing with a 50/610/4 receiving line in 2018, he followed that up with 38 receptions for 273 yards and three scores this past year.
McDonald joins a number of Steelers veterans who have reworked their deals to provide the organization with more cap space. That grouping includes quarterback BenRoethlisberger, who restructured his deal earlier today. With all of the Steelers moves (including cut players), they’ve opened up an estimated $35MM in cap space.
Let’s check out some more notes from the league’s northern divisions:
Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic looks at the who the Ravens could turn to as they look to replace retired lineman MarshalYanda. While the team is rostering several internal options, the writer dives into the potential options in the draft and free agency. Zrebiec notes that the organization has had some luck finding starting linemen on Day 2 of the draft, and he passes along that general manager Eric DeCosta “all but guaranteed” that the organization will draft at least a pair of linemen.
The fourth-rounder that the Ravens sent the Falcons in the HaydenHurst deal is their compensatory pick, tweets Jason La Canfora. Baltimore ended up receiving a second- and fifth-round pick in the deal. The Ravens drafted Hurst in the first-round in 2018, but he immediately took a backseat behind Mark Andrews, who Baltimore took in the third round of that same draft. With AustinHooper leaving Atlanta, the Falcons had a major need at the position.
The Jets have agreed to terms on a new three-year, $18.6MM deal with Alex Lewis, according to Manish Mehta of the Daily News (on Twitter). This, of course, comes after the Jets failed to sign their preferred OL targets this week.
In fairness to Gang Green, the Jets had designs on keeping Lewis before the legal tampering period got underway. New Jets GM Joe Douglas acquired him in August of last year (a few months into his tenure) and wanted to hang on to him after he gave the team 15 appearances and 12 starts.
The former fourth-round Ravens pick graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 57 overall guard last season. Given the massive rise in the interior line market and Lewis’ relative youth – he won’t turn 28 until just before the draft – it’s hard to totally pan the deal.