Andy Levitre

Falcons Place LG Andy Levitre On IR

The Falcons will head into the playoffs without the services of a starting offensive lineman. Left guard Andy Levitre has been placed on injured reserve, according to a team announcement. Andy Levitre (Vertical)

Levitre missed the bulk of December with a partially torn triceps. He attempted to return to action on Sunday against the Panthers, but he lasted only five plays. Ben Garland took over for Levitre in the winning effort against Atlanta and he’ll be the starter for the Falcons on Saturday when they face the Rams.

Levitre, 31, has been one of the NFL’s better guards since entering the league in 2009. This year, he graded out as one of the 20 best guards in the league, per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics.

To take Levitre’s spot on the 53-man roster, the team has promoted running back Terrence Magee from the practice squad.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Andy Levitre Won’t Play In Week 14

Falcons guard Andy Levitre left the Falcons game vs. the Vikings on Sunday and wasn’t able to return due to a partially torn triceps. Now with a quick turnaround for the team’s Thursday night affair against the Saints, Levitre will not be able to suit up in Atlanta’s Week 14 contest, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

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However, Rapoport does clarify that a source tells him the injury is not a season ender. The team is hopeful that the lineman could return after just “2-3 weeks”.

Levitre, 31, has been one of the better guards in the league since he entered the NFL as a second round pick by the Bills in 2009. Even as he gets older, Levitre still ranks as a top 20 guard in football this year, according to Pro Football Focus. He grades out similarly in terms of run and pass blocking, so there’s not one area he shows great weakness or strength in so far in 2017.

Backup lineman Ben Garland came into replace Levitre in yesterday’s game, so you can expect him to get the first crack as the starting left guard on Thursday. The team also has Ty Sambrailo, Austin Pasztor and Sean Harlow on the bench for depth purposes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Mariota, Texans, Bucs, Titans

After taking a low hit to his knee on Sunday, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota continued to play, so the Tennessee coaching staff is “cautiously optimistic” about the status of that knee, says Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. According to Florio, Mariota is undergoing an MRI today to determine the extent of the injury, and the club is hoping that it’s just an MCL issue, which can heal with rest.

Here’s more from out of the NFL’s South divisions:

  • Texans safety Lonnie Ballentine will undergo surgery after dislocating his left knee and suffering significant ligament damage, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Ballentine’s 2015 season will be over, and he figures to land on injured reserve within the next few days.
  • Two free agent fullbacks are auditioning for the Buccaneers today, according to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, who tweets that ex-Giant Henry Hynoski and Emil Igwenagu are in town for the tryout.
  • After being traded by the Titans prior to the season, Falcons guard Andy Levitre is hoping to show his old team that it “made a bad decision” in getting rid of him, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. A source tells McClure that Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt was never really a fan of Levitre in Tennessee, but Falcons head coach says the veteran guard has been a “great addition” for Atlanta.
  • Don’t expect the Titans to make a change at head coach or general manager during the season, says Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com.
  • After head coach Gus Bradley said that his Jaguars need to “learn how to finish” games when they have a lead, one player tells Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union that “a lot of people will be looking for a job” if the club can’t figure that out. Jacksonville lost its fourth straight game on Sunday, falling to 1-5 on the season.

Contracts Restructured For Levitre, Unger

A pair of NFC South offensive linemen have restructured their contracts with their new teams, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com, who reports that Falcons guard Andy Levitre and Saints center Max Unger have both reworked their deals.

Levitre, acquired last week by the Falcons, had originally been due $27.3MM over the next four seasons, but Atlanta reduced that figure to $23.25MM and sliced his 2015 salary from $6.5MM to $1.5MM (Twitter links via Yates). In return, the former Titans guard received a $5.5MM signing bonus, which will drop his cap hit for this season from $6.5MM to $2.875MM. As Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com details (via Twitter), Levitre’s base salaries for 2016 and 2017 have been reduced as well.

Meanwhile, the division-rival Saints completed a simple restructure on their new center’s contract, converting $3MM of Unger’s base salary into a signing bonus (Twitter link via Yates). Since the ex-Seahawk has just two years left on his deal, that bonus will prorate equally in 2015 and 2016, giving New Orleans an extra $1.5MM in cap room this year.

Neither restructure is expected to open the door for the Saints or Falcons to add a notable player — they’re simply designed to create some additional flexibility if and when the teams need to put players on injured reserve and bring in injury replacements throughout the season.

Titans Cut Nine Players

The Titans are down to 65 players, following the team’s latest round of roster cuts. That means that the club will have to make 12 more roster moves in advance of tomorrow afternoon’s deadline in order to get down to 53 players.

Here are the players who were cut by Tennessee today, via a press release:

  • DL Isaako Aaitui
  • CB Ri’Shard Anderson
  • FB Zach Boren
  • LB Kaelin Burnett
  • C Gabe Ikard
  • WR Josh Stewart
  • LB Andy Studebaker
  • DB Jemea Thomas
  • DB Khalid Wooten

In addition to cutting those nine players, the Titans also removed a 10th player from their roster by trading veteran guard Andy Levitre to the Falcons earlier in the day. In a piece for TitansOnline.com, Jim Wyatt explained why the team moved on from Levitre.

Falcons Acquire Andy Levitre From Titans

12:03pm: The Titans have officially confirmed the trade, per Jim Wyatt of Titans Online, who tweets that Tennessee will get a 2016 sixth-round pick and a conditional pick in a future year from the Falcons.

11:31am: The Falcons are acquiring a veteran guard in a trade with the Titans, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who reports (via Twitter) that Andy Levitre is heading to Atlanta. Levitre himself first hinted at the move, tweeting out the message “#RiseUp” from his official account.

Levitre, 29, has started all 16 games for the Titans at left guard in each of the past two seasons, and has never missed a game in his six-year NFL career. However, while his consistency and ability to stay on the field is an asset, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked the veteran lineman as just the 45th-best guard out of 78 qualified players last season, giving him a -5.8 grade.

There had been plenty of speculation that Levitre would be released by the Titans before the season, since his cap charge for 2015, and for each of the following two seasons, is an exorbitant $8.6MM. By trading Levitre, the Titans will still be on the hook for $2.1MM in dead money this year and $4.2MM next year, but it would reduce his cap hit significantly.

As for the Falcons, they’d take on Levitre’s $6.5MM salary, which seems like an awfully steep price to pay for a guard who’s not among the league’s best. Atlanta released another veteran guard, Justin Blalock, earlier this offseason, and Blalock didn’t carry as large a cap number as Levitre does.

Still, we don’t have the full details on the move yet, so it’s possible there are other factors in play here — Levitre may have accepted a pay cut as part of the deal, or the Titans may be paying a portion of his 2015 salary, for instance.

AFC Notes: Pats, Iosefa, Levitre, Chargers

Until the NFL’s slate of Week 4 preseason games gets underway tonight, there’s only one story dominating the headlines, and that’s Judge Richard Berman’s decision to vacate Tom Brady‘s four-game suspension today. We’ll have a few more reactions and notes on that decision coming up later this afternoon, in the wake of the NFL’s announcement that it will appeal the ruling.

In the meantime, let’s check in on a few more items from around the AFC, including an additional tidbit on Brady’s Patriots….

  • The Patriots are bringing in fullback Joey Iosefa for a visit and a workout today, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). Iosefa is the rare draftee who didn’t survive his team’s first round of cuts this week — he was selected in the seventh round by the Buccaneers in May.
  • While there’s been some speculation that veteran Titans guard Andy Levitre is on the verge of losing his roster spot in Tennessee, it sounds like the team will keep him as a backup, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Levitre will earn a base salary of $6.5MM this season and will have a cap hit of $8.6MM. Those figures remain the same in 2016 and 2017, so he’ll be a release candidate going forward.
  • Rooke kicker Josh Lambo has shown he deserves to be on every general manager’s emergency short list, but Nick Novak is the clear choice for the Chargers‘ job as the team makes its cuts to 53 players, writes Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

AFC Notes: Levitre, Brown, Raiders, Dolphins

Big money guard Andy Levitre isn’t starting for the Titans in the preseason for the second straight week, which doesn’t bode well for his chances of making the team, writes Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (via Twitter). Cole expects the team to release him, and picks the Dolphins and Eagles as possible landing spots.

Here are some other notes from around the AFC:

  • The Texans released Stevie Brown earlier today, and Tania Ganguli of ESPN writes that the timing is interesting because it was clear he wouldn’t make the team but the early release will help him find work elsewhere (via Twitter). Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle adds that there could be better opportunities for playing time elsewhere in the league (via Twitter).
  • Speaking of Brown, the Raiders could be in play for his services, according to Bill Williamson of ESPN (via Twitter). The Raiders were in play for him in free agency, and still have a need at the position.
  • The Dolphins went all in this offseason for Ndamukong Suh, and could sacrifice buying potential in future offseasons due to the amount of money they committed to the All-Pro defensive tackle. However, the future could still be bright if they can develop their young talent, as James Walker of ESPN notes that the team is rich with under-25 talent on the roster, ranking second in the NFL by Football Outsiders (subscription required). The Cowboys are the only team with better young talent.

Extra Points: McCourty, Levitre, Broncos

The Rams announced today that they have hired Bud Sasser as their External Football Affairs Coordinator. The wide receiver, as you might recall, was the team’s sixth-round pick in this year’s draft. However, the Rams learned that he would be unable to take the field due to a previously unknown pre-existing heart condition. Despite that, the team signed him to a contract that paid him a signing bonus of more than $113K before releasing him with the non-football related illness designation in June. Now, he’ll work for the organization in a different capacity.

Here’s tonight’s look around the NFL..

  • After undergoing groin surgery, Titans cornerback Jason McCourty could be out for the first three games of the season and return after the team’s bye week, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • Andy Levitre, who signed a blockbuster six-year, $46.8MM free-agent contract in 2013 with the Titans, is openly wondering if there is a spot for him on the team’s roster, David Climer of The Tennessean writes. “If it doesn’t work out here, there’s other places,” Levitre said. Levitre has started all 32 games since joining the Titans but has not lived up to expectations.
  • The Broncos‘ signing of Evan Mathis could hurt Ben Garland‘s chances of making the roster, Troy Renck of the Denver Post tweets.

AFC Links: McCourty, Chargers, Titans

Ravens wideout Steve Smith will be facing off against the Patriots this weekend, and the veteran acknowledged that he was pursued by New England during the offseason.

“Yeah, I talked to [Bill Belichick] and it was a great opportunity as well,” Smith told Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. “Anytime you have an opportunity to go to some teams, it’s always good. When your phone stops ringing, you need to start thinking about if I’m in the right profession.”

Let’s see what else is going on around the AFC…