Antonio Morrison

Extra Points: Kraft, Texans, Panthers

Lawyers for Patriots owner Robert Kraft are making a last-ditch effort to save their client. Kraft is refusing to plead guilty and admit he did anything wrong legally, and the government seems to be using the threat of releasing video footage to try and get him to cooperate. Kraft’s legal team has filed a motion to suppress the video evidence prosecutors have and get it thrown out, according to Travis Andersen and John R. Ellement of The Boston Globe. Kraft’s lawyers are apparently claiming that law enforcement officials used a “fake bomb threat” in order to get inside the spa and install hidden cameras.

It’ll be very interesting to see how the situation plays out legally, as it will likely effect what type of punishment Kraft faces from the league. Kraft released a statement apologizing to fans last month, but isn’t willing to admit guilt legally. It’s likely that he’s maneuvering to try and avoid being suspended by the NFL or facing other harsh punishment, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to pull it off. Obviously, the public release of any video evidence would be highly embarrassing to Kraft and the Patriots, so it’s not shocking he’s fighting it vigorously.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of the Patriots, a former coach of theirs has found a new home. Jack Easterby, the former Team Development Director/Character Coach of the Patriots, has been hired by the Texans, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Easterby will get the title of Executive Vice President of Team Development in Houston. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is a former Patriots assistant coach and there’s a lot of crossover between the two organizations, so this move isn’t too surprising. Easterby had been with the Patriots for the past six seasons.
  • A lot of AAF players have been signing NFL contracts since the league folded. One player who could get some interest is running back Jhurell Pressley. But Pressley was hit with a setback as he seeks to get back to the NFL, as the league just suspended him two games for a “pending issue,” according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapsheet doesn’t specify what Pressley did, but says that the issue is why he hadn’t signed yet. Despite the suspension, Rapoport notes that Pressley has two workouts lined up for next week and could be signed soon now that his off-field matters have been resolved.
  • Earlier today, the Jets claimed receiver/returner Quadree Henderson off waivers from the Giants. New York apparently had competition for Henderson’s services, as the Panthers also put in a claim for the return specialist, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Carolina didn’t have a consistent returner last year and instead rotated a string of players, so their interest makes a lot of sense. Henderson was one of the best returners in the nation during his college days at Pittsburgh, and has a good shot to earn the job in New York as the Jets just lost All-Pro returner Andre Roberts in free agency.
  • The Packers cut inside linebacker Antonio Morrison last month, and now we have more clarity on why. A week before his release, Morrison was cited for interfering with a flight, according to Michael Cohen of The Athletic. Morrison, who was traded from the Colts to the Packers before last season, was removed from the flight for “exhibiting hostile behavior” toward a member of the crew, and fined by police. Morrison played in all 16 games for the Packers and started eight of them last season, so his sudden release was somewhat surprising. It’s unclear if the incident actually led to his release, but it’s notable. It was minor enough that he probably won’t face discipline from the league. We haven’t heard of any interest on the open market since his release. He received average marks from Pro Football Focus last year, grading out as their 74th-best linebacker.

Packers Waive LB Antonio Morrison

The Packers are waiving linebacker Antonio Morrison, a source told Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Morrison was traded from the Colts to the Packers last August, and ended up lasting just one season in Green Bay. Morrison appeared in all 16 games for the Packers last year and started eight of them, so it’s a pretty significant move as they look to overhaul their defense. Morrison had 48 tackles, five tackles for loss, and one sack for the Packers last year.

He was going to count $2.025MM against the cap in 2019, which the Packers deemed too expensive. However, he “could be brought back at a cheaper price,” writes Tom Silverstein of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). A Florida product, Morrison was taken by the Colts in the fourth round of the 2016 draft.

He quickly became a starter in Indianapolis, but they decided to swap him for cornerback Lenzy Pipkins after just two seasons. He started 15 games for the Colts in 2017. Morrison received average marks from Pro Football Focus for his work last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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. 

Colts Trade Antonio Morrison To Packers

The Colts have traded linebacker Antonio Morrison to the Packers, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Demovsky hears that Green Bay will send cornerback Lenzy Pipkins to Indianapolis in return, which has since been confirmed by multiple reporters.

Morrison, whom the Colts selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, started 15 games for the club last year. While he showed some promise, racking up 108 tackles in the middle of the Colts’ defense, he lacks the speed and athleticism that new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has been stressing. He was firmly on the roster bubble, so GM Chris Ballard decided to get something for him rather than potentially letting him go for nothing.

Indianapolis does need help at corner, and the team hopes that Pipkins will provide some depth in that regard. He started one game for Green Bay last year and appeared in 12, picking up 14 tackles and a pass defensed.

The Packers, meanwhile, needed help at linebacker, as rookie Oren Burks is expected to miss time with an injury (per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, via Twitter). Green Bay has already lost Jake Ryan for the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Pick Signings: Eagles, Packers, Bears, Colts

Checking in on the latest rookie signings from around the NFL…

  • Two offensive linemen – third-rounder Isaac Seumalo and fifth-rounder Halapoulivaati Vaitai – have agreed to deals with the Eagles, the team tweeted. Seumalo went 79th in the draft after playing various positions, mostly center, along Oregon State’s O-line. Vaitai, the 164th pick, made 30 starts at tackle (primarily on the right side) during his TCU tenure.
  • The Colts have signed fourth-round linebacker Antonio Morrison, the 125th overall choice, according to a team press release. Morrison was a four-year starter at Florida.
  • Packers general manager Ted Thompson announced the signings of four draftees — fourth-rounders Blake Martinez (linebacker, Stanford) and Dean Lowry (defensive end, Northwestern), fifth-rounder Trevor Davis (receiver, California) and sixth-rounder Kyle Murphy (offensive tackle, Stanford). Those four were Green Bay’s final picks of this year’s draft. The team still has to lock up its top three selections, including first-round defensive lineman Kenny Clark.
  • The Bears inked fourth-round defensive back Deiondre’ Hall to a four-year deal worth $2.85MM, including a $510,982 signing bonus, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Hall, the 127th pick, piled up 13 interceptions during his four years at Northern Iowa.
  • The Vikings have signed fourth-round offensive lineman Willie Beavers and fifth-round linebacker Kentrell Brothers, per a team press release. Beavers was a stalwart at left tackle for Western Michigan before the Vikings grabbed him with the 121st choice, while Brothers – the 160th selection – was a prolific defensive playmaker at Missouri.
  • The Steelers announced the signing of sixth-round linebacker Travis Feeney, a former University of Washington standout and the 220th overall pick.

AFC Draft Updates: Bosa, Browns, McCaffrey

Defensive end Joey Bosa is headed to the Browns for a pre-draft visit today, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Tennessee, who owns the No. 1 pick, looked at Bosa and his teammates on Wednesday.

Here’s the latest draft news out of the AFC:

  • Duke wide receiver Max McCaffreyChristian McCaffrey‘s brother and Ed McCaffrey’s son – has a pre-draft workout set up next month with the Broncos, his dad’s old team, tweets Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
  • Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg went to dinner with the Cowboys on Tuesday and worked out for them on Wednesday, Albert Breer of NFL.com tweets. The signal caller also spent time with the Bills after the pro day, Breer adds.
  • Hackenberg is scheduled to visit the Jets on April 10th, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (on Twitter). GM Mike Maccagnan also attended Hackenberg’s pro day.
  • Southern Mississippi wide receiver Mike Thomas met with the Browns on Thursday, per Luke Easterling of Bleacher Report (on Twitter).
  • MTSU defensive back Kevin Byard is meeting with the Browns on Thursday night, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Byard ran a 4.46 40-yard-dash at his pro day and jumped 38 inches on his vertical.
  • The Bills will host Florida inside linebacker Antonio Morrison on a pre-draft visit, according to Joe Buscaglia of WKBW (on Twitter).
  • Georgia pass rusher Leonard Floyd will take a pre-draft visit to the Ravens, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun tweets.

South Notes: Jaguars, Reed, Panthers, Falcons

While Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell appears confident that the team has improved its pass rush this offseason, it sounds like head coach Gus Bradley wouldn’t mind adding another pass rusher or two, as Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union details. Caldwell pointed to Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler Jr., and Sen’Derrick Marks as three players capable of getting after the quarterback that essentially weren’t a part of last year’s team (in some cases due to injuries). Bradley, meanwhile, suggests that Jacksonville will keep an eye on pass rushers during and after the draft.

Here’s more from around the NFL’s South divisions:

  • In another O’Halloran piece, the Times-Union scribe notes that the Jaguars appear to have offered punter Bryan Anger a multiyear contract before signing Brad Nortman. Anger ultimately signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.
  • The Panthers met with and worked out Alabama defensive tackle Jarran Reed this week, and will have him in for a visit next month, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter links). In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay has Reed coming off the board at No. 19 to Buffalo, 11 spots before the Panthers’ first pick.
  • Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee is working out for the Falcons today, telling Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com that it’s the first workout on his schedule. “From what they told me at the combine, they need a lot of speed on the defensive side of the ball,” Lee said. Interestingly, McShay’s mock draft from today has Atlanta nabbing Lee with the 17th overall pick.
  • The Titans are taking a close look at a couple University of Florida prospects, according to Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, who writes that the team has worked out and met with inside linebacker Antonio Morrison and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard. Per McCormick, Tennessee has also put Northern Iowa cornerback Deiondre’ Hall through a workout.
  • Before his pro day, Campbell defensive tackle Greg Milhouse had a dinner meeting with the Saints, a source tells Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Head coach Sean Payton said this week that adding to the defensive line is a top priority for New Orleans heading into the draft.