Anthony Zettel

AFC North Notes: Eifert, Browns, DeCastro

Despite being one of the NFL’s biggest injury risks, Tyler Eifert returned to the Bengals this offseason. The team that used a first-round pick on the former Notre Dame tight end has a plan for trying to prevent another significant setback, though. The Bengals are going to try to limit Eifert’s snaps, Marvin Lewis said (via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer). Since Eifert’s Pro Bowl 2015 season, he’s played in only 11 games. With Eifert being most effective in the red zone (20 career touchdown receptions, 19 from inside the 20, per Dehner), that will surely be a place the Bengals try to deploy the sixth-year pass-catcher. But Lewis identifies Eifert as the team’s best blocking tight end, too. Eifert averaged 58 snaps per game during the 2015 season. Lewis doesn’t envision his starting tight end getting there again.

Well I hope he never gets 50,” Lewis said. “It’s a plan thing. There are certain things (OC Bill Lazor) is going to plan to do with him on the field, both runs and passes. I think that and then using him as a decoy at times to help open up other things for the other guys.”

This plan may limit Eifert financially. He has $3MM tied up in performance incentives, ones that will become difficult to reach if the Bengals place heavy restrictions on his usage. He played 23 snaps against the Colts.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North:

  • Emmanuel Ogbah‘s run into injury trouble again. Hue Jackson didn’t believe the third-year edge defender suffered a high ankle sprain but said (via ohio.com’s Nate Ulrich) it was “something like that” and that Ogbah will miss time. Chris Smith entered the fray as Myles Garrett‘s sidekick following Ogbah’s first-quarter injury and should be expected to start Sunday against the Saints. Recent waiver claim Anthony Zettel should have a role, too, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes. Ogbah saw a foot injury halt his momentum last year and end his season. His development was part of the reason the Browns selected Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb.
  • The Browns‘ left tackle position contributed to several NFL news cycles this offseason, due to Joe Thomas‘ retirement and the layered search for his replacement. But Jackson insists no change will commence between Week 1 and Week 2. Desmond Harrison will remain the Browns’ left tackle, per Jackson (via the Lorain Morning Journal’s Jeff Schudel, on Twitter). The rookie UDFA made the start, despite Greg Robinson and 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett residing on the roster. Pro Football Focus graded Harrison as the second-worst full-time tackle in his debut, and Rotoworld’s Evan Silva adds (on Twitter) Harrison allowed the most hurries of any lineman last week.
  • Kenneth Dixon suffered a knee injury in the Ravens‘ blowout win in Buffalo, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects (Twitter link) it to keep him out for several weeks. Dixon scored a touchdown against the Bills after missing the entire 2017 season. Buck Allen should move into the role of Alex Collins‘ backup for the time being.
  • David DeCastro fractured his hand on Sunday, and Mike Tomlin said this could limit him going forward. But the veteran Steelers blocker expects to play Sunday against the Chiefs, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

AFC West Notes: Chargers, Bosa, Raiders

The Chargers could be without star defensive end Joey Bosa on Sunday as he deals with an ongoing foot issue, head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters, including Jack Wang of the Orange County Register“It’s a possibility that he might not be with us,” Lynn said. “You know, we’re hopeful, but it’s possible…Foot injuries, they take on all the body weight.” Bosa hasn’t fully practiced in over a month, and Los Angeles likely doesn’t want to risk the health of its best defensive player, even though it’ll be facing a divisional opponent in the Chiefs. The Chargers, who will also be missing suspended defensive tackle Corey Liuget, would deploy second-year pro Isaac Rochell in Bosa’s stead, while Chris Landrum and second-round rookie Uchenna Nwosu could also see snaps.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Perhaps unsurprisingly given Bosa’s health issues, the Chargers were one of four teams that placed a waiver claim on former Lions defensive end Anthony Zettel, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. The Packers, Vikings, and Browns (the latter of which had the No. 1 waiver priority and thus landed the ex-Detroit pass-rusher) also put in claims for Zettel, per Yates. Zettel is only 26 years old and started all 16 games for the Lions a season ago, so his release was certainly unexpected. Pro Football Focus graded Zettel as a top-50 edge defender in 2018, and he posted 6.5 sacks. A sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft, Zettel is under contract through 2019.
  • Franchise icon Antonio Gates will earn $2.5MM on his new one-year deal with the Chargers, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Gates will receive a $1MM signing bonus, and Pelissero previously reported the contract contains a few “reachable” incentives. Los Angeles had previously indicated Gates would not be re-signed for a 16th season, but after fellow tight end Hunter Henry went down with a torn ACL, the Chargers decided to bring Gates back into the fold. Gates is now 38 years old and posted only 316 receiving yards in 2017, but he’s still arguably an upgrade to Los Angeles’ tight end depth chart.
  • More from Pelissero, who reports the Raiders gave wide receiver Brandon LaFell $1.75MM on his one-year deal, including $835K guaranteed. As was the case with Gates, LaFell’s base salary would have become fully guaranteed in Week 1 anyway given that he’s a vested veteran, so the specific amount of guarantees at signing aren’t all that critical. LaFell’s contract also contains incentives that are apparently “likely to be earned” (and thus count against Oakland’s salary cap), as his cap charge for the year is ~$2.313MM. He’ll compete to be the Raiders’ fourth receiver behind Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and Seth Roberts.

Browns Claim Anthony Zettel Off Waivers

Anthony Zettel did not make it far on the waiver wire. The team with the top priority submitted a successful claim and will bring him aboard.

The Browns claimed Zettel off waivers after the Lions cut him, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). One of Cleveland’s Sunday waiver claims, offensive lineman Aaron Neary, will be cut because of the Zettel add.

This will continue shuffling for a Browns defensive end corps. Cleveland cut former second-round pick Nate Orchard, as seen on Hard Knocks, and then dropped 2016 third-rounder Carl Nassib following a successful Sunday waiver claim. The Browns will now have two waiver claims — Ifeadi Odenigbo and Zettel — stationed as backup defensive ends heading into Week 1.

Zettel started 16 games for the Lions last season, registering 6.5 sacks. Only Myles Garrett, with seven, recorded more than that for the 2017 Browns. Cleveland now has six defensive ends on its roster, with fellow newcomers Chris Smith (a UFA addition) and Chad Thomas (a third-round pick) stationed behind Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah.

Lions Waive Zettel, Claim Okwara

Anthony Zettel started 16 games for the Lions last season but is headed to the waiver wire. The Lions jettisoned the third-year defensive lineman to make a successful waiver claim for Romeo Okwara, whom the Giants recently cut, per Field Yates of ESPN (on Twitter).

Zettel was listed as a backup defensive end on Detroit’s Week 1 depth chart, and given his experience, he might be intriguing as a waiver add for another team by Thursday.

A defensive end out of Notre Dame, Okwara started four Giants games as a rookie. At 23, he’s three years younger than Zettel despite both being third-year players. Okwara was a 2016 UDFA, while Zettel went off the board in the sixth round.

Pro Football Focus graded Zettel as a top-50 edge defender last season and viewed the Penn State product as one of the position’s better run defenders. He registered 6.5 sacks in his second year.

Okwara played in six games for the 2017 Giants. He has one career sack, recorded as a rookie, and 24 total stops.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Signings: Bucs, Seahawks, Lions

A rundown of the latest draft signings:

  • The Buccaneers have agreed to terms with fourth-round pick Ryan Smith and fifth-round pick Caleb Benenoch, as freelance reporter Jenna Laine tweets. Smith, a defensive back out of North Carolina Central, left college as the program’s all-time leader in solo tackles (168) and kickoff return average (28.1). Even though he played cornerback during his final year at UNCC, the Bucs plan to use him as a safety. Benenoch, an offensive linemen from UCLA, has experience both at tackle and on the interior line and that versatility helped his stock heading into the draft.
  • The Seahawks signed fifth-round running back Alex Collins, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets. As his slot mandates, it’s a four-year, $2.566MM deal with a $184K signing bonus.
  • The Lions signed sixth-round defensive lineman Anthony Zettel, as Wilson tweets.
  • The Dolphins have signed seventh-round quarterback Brandon Doughty, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (on Twitter). The former Western Kentucky signal caller drew interest from scouts in large part because of his pinpoint accuracy.
  • The Lions signed fifth-round offensive lineman Joe Dahl, per Rand Getlin of NFL.com (on Twitter).
  • The Jets announced the signings of cornerback Juston Burris (fourth round) and tackle Brandon Shell (fifth), as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes. Shell, a 6-foot-6, 328-pound tackle, started for four seasons for the South Carolina Gamecocks and is the great nephew of Raiders Hall of Fame tackle and ensuing coach Art Shell.