Valentino Blake

Valentino Blake To Continue Playing

Last summer, cornerback Valentino Blake left the Giants due to personal reasons and later announced his retirement. This year, Blake intends to get back into football, as Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com tweets

Blake left the game for personal reasons and is now free to sign anywhere he chooses as a free agent. Blake may have to wait a while before his market materializes, particularly since this is a deep class for cornerbacks.

Blake, 28 in August, was a durable defender for the Jaguars, Steelers and Titans over the first five seasons of his career. In 2016, he logged his third consecutive 16-game campaign with the Titans. However, Pro Football Focus ranked his performance just 76th among 110 qualified corners in that season.

This year’s cornerback class is headlined by the likes of Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler, Bashaud Breeland, E.J. Gaines, and Morris Claiborne.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Valentino Blake To Retire

Veteran cornerback Valentino Blake has decided to retire, according to Dan Duggan of NJ.com (Twitter link).Valentino Blake (Vertical)

[RELATED: Giants Work Out Dan Williams]

New York designated Blake as “left squad” at the end of last month after the veteran defensive back left the team for a personal reason. It’s still unclear as to what exactly Blake — who was formerly known by the first name “Antwon” — was dealing with, but it’s possible he was simply contemplating the end of his career.

The Giants signed the 27-year-old Blake in March, after he proved to be a durable defender for the Jaguars, Steelers and Titans over the first five seasons of his career. Blake, who has appeared in 78 of 80 regular-season games since going undrafted in 2012, logged his third straight 16-game campaign last year with the Titans, though Pro Football Focus graded his performance an underwhelming 76th among 110 qualified corners.

With Blake out of the picture, the Giants picked up extra cornerback depth on Saturday, acquiring Ross Cockrell from the Steelers in exchange for a conditional 2018 draft pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Release CB Valentino Blake

The Giants have released cornerback Valentino Blake, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (Twitter link).Valentino Blake (vertical)

New York designated Blake as “left squad” at the end of last month after the veteran defensive back left the team for a personal reason. Because the Giants had a roster exemption for Blake, the club’s roster count isn’t affected by its decision to part ways, per Vacchiano. It’s unclear if Blake has interest in continuing his NFL career elsewhere.

The Giants signed the 27-year-old Blake in March, after he proved to be a durable defender for the Jaguars, Steelers and Titans over the first five seasons of his career. Blake, who has appeared in 78 of 80 regular-season games since going undrafted in 2012, logged his third straight 16-game campaign last year with the Titans, though Pro Football Focus graded his performance an underwhelming 76th among 110 qualified corners.

With Blake out of the picture, the Giants picked up extra cornerback depth on Saturday, acquiring Ross Cockrell from the Steelers in exchange for a conditional 2018 draft pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Cards, Rams, Giants

Extension chatter regarding contract-year Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks has died down after some early summer rumblings, but the 27-year-old made it clear Thursday that he’d like to remain in Chicago. Hicks said on multiple occasions that “I would love to be a Bear for a long time,” per JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago. Back in July, in advance of his second season with the Bears, Hicks hired super agent Drew Rosenhaus as his representative. Rosenhaus has reportedly been seeking $10MM per year for Hicks on a new deal. Hicks made a case for that type of money last season when he tallied 54 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles across 16 starts and 930 snaps. Barring a change, he’ll earn a $4MM base salary this season to conclude a two-year, $10MM pact.

Elsewhere around the NFC…

  • Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians referred to cornerback Justin Bethel as a “failure in progress” last season, and it now looks as if the defender took that to heart. Arians announced Thursday that Bethel will start opposite Patrick Peterson come Week 1 (video link via the Arizona Republic). “He’s earned that job,” said Arians, who added that Bethel “outplayed everybody” he was competing against for the role. Bethel, 27, took a pay cut in the offseason just to remain with the Cardinals, who deleted the last year of his contract (2018) in the process. He’ll be eligible for free agency next winter as a result.
  • Rams coach Sean McVay said Wednesday that running back Lance Dunbar is likely to open the season on the physically unable to perform list, according to the Associated Press. Dunbar, who has been battling knee issues, would miss the Rams’ first six games in that scenario. The Rams’ hope was that the offseason signing and former Cowboy would serve as their top complement to starter Todd Gurley for the entire year. With Dunbar unavailable for the foreseeable future, Los Angeles will choose between Malcolm Brown – a 2015 undrafted free agent who has 22 carries for 56 yards under his belt – and undrafted rookie Justin Davis to begin the year as the main backup to Gurley.
  • Cornerback Valentino Blake left the Giants on Wednesday because “he’s dealing with personal issues,” coach Ben McAdoo told reporters Thursday (via Dan Duggan of NJ.com) “We’re going to give him some time and space to deal with those.” It remains unclear whether Blake will resume his career, and it’s also unknown how long the Giants will keep him on the exempt list. They’re currently using Blake’s vacated spot on safety Tim Scott, a Thursday signing.

Valentino Blake Designated As “Left Squad”

Giants cornerback Valentino Blake‘s NFL future could be in question. Blake did not participate in practice Wednesday for undisclosed reasons and was then designated as “left squad,” and the Giants were given a roster exemption as a result, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com.

Valentino Blake (featured)

Blake dealt with a back injury earlier this summer, but he has seemingly moved past that, having played a team-high 45 snaps in the Giants’ preseason game against the Browns on Monday.

The Giants signed the 27-year-old Blake in March, after he proved to be a durable defender for the Jaguars, Steelers and Titans over the first five seasons of his career. Blake, who has appeared in 78 of 80 regular-season games since going undrafted in 2012, logged his third straight 16-game campaign last year with the Titans, though Pro Football Focus graded his performance an underwhelming 76th among 110 qualified corners.

New York will continue to boast a top corner trio of Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple without Blake, but he’s its most proven option behind those three. The Giants’ other corners – Michael Hunter, DaShaun Amos, Nigel Tribune and Donte Deayon – have combined to play in just two NFL games. All of that experience belongs to Hunter, who has a mere 17 defensive snaps under his belt and is now battling a concussion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Sign CB Valentino Blake

The Giants have signed cornerback Valentino Blake, the team announced. Blake will provide the Giants with cornerback depth after Coty Sensabaugh signed with the Steelers on Monday. Antwon Valentino Blake (vertical)

Since entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Texas-El Paso in 2012, Blake has appeared in all but two possible regular season games. After spending his first year with the Jaguars, he found his way to the Steelers and ascended to a starting role in 2015. Last year, he hooked on with the Titans and reverted to a reserve job.

In 16 games with Tennessee, he totaled 38 tackles and five passes defensed. Blake was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the No. 80 cornerback in the NFL last season out of 112 qualified players. His 62.5 score wasn’t great, but it was far ahead of Sensabaugh’s 48.4 posting. Blake is now projected to serve as the Giants’ No. 4 cornerback behind Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Eli Apple.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Contract Details: Okung, Penn, Pacman

Here are several of the latest contract details on deals which were agreed upon or signed within the last week. All links are courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle unless otherwise indicated.

AFC West:

  • Russell Okung, T (Broncos): Five years, $53MM. No guaranteed money. Option after year one. $2MM base salary, $1MM workout bonus, and $2MM Week 1 roster bonus for 2016. Up to $3MM in incentives available in 2016 ($1.5MM for 80% of snaps, $3MM for 90% of snaps). Option must be exercised between fifth day after Super Bowl and first day of 2017 league year. If option is exercised, $2MM salary for 2017 and $9.5MM salary for 2018 become fully guaranteed, and an $8MM roster bonus is paid out (links via Pro Football Talk, ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Tom Pelissero of USA Today, and Wilson)
  • Donald Penn, T (Raiders): Two years, $11.9MM, $5.5MM guaranteed. $2MM roster bonus due 20th day of 2016 league year. $300K in annual weigh bonuses (six weigh-ins worth $50K each). Up to $750K in annual playing-time, Pro Bowl, and playoff incentives (Twitter links).
  • Andre Holmes, WR (Raiders): One year, $2MM. $750K guaranteed. $500K signing bonus. $250K of $1.25MM base salary guaranteed. $250K workout bonus. Up to $1MM in catch, yardage incentives (Twitter links).

AFC North:

  • Adam Jones, CB (Bengals): Three years, $22MM. $6MM guaranteed. $2MM signing bonus. $4MM roster bonus due March 18. $500K in annual per-game active roster bonuses. $500K playing-time escalator for 2017. $750K playing-time escalator for 2018. $200K punt return average incentive for 2018. 2018 option to be exercised by last day of 2017 league year. (Twitter links).
  • Demario Davis, LB (Browns): Two years, $8MM. $4.1MM guaranteed. $2MM signing bonus. Annual $100K workout bonus (Twitter link).
  • Ryan Harris, T (Steelers): Two years, $3.9MM. $675K signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Pat Sims, DT (Bengals): Two years, $2.3MM. $250K guaranteed roster bonus due March 18. $200K in annual playing-time incentives. $200K playing-time escalator for 2017 (Twitter links via Wilson and Pelissero).

AFC East:

  • Andre Branch, DE (Dolphins): One year, $2.75MM. $2.5MM guaranteed base salary. $250K in per-game active roster bonuses. Up to $250K in incentives (Twitter link).
  • Nate Ebner, S (Patriots): Two years, $2.4MM. $500K guaranteed. $125K in annual per-game roster bonuses. $250K first-day camp reporting bonus. Up to $500K in playing-time, Pro Bowl incentives (Twitter links via Wilson and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com).
  • Frank Kearse, DT (Patriots): One year, minimum salary benefit. $30K signing bonus. $30K first-day camp reporting bonus. $20K in per-game active roster bonuses (Twitter link).
  • Robert Blanton, S (Bills): One year, minimum salary benefit. $80K signing bonus (Twitter link via Pelissero).

AFC South:

  • Antwon Blake, CB (Titans): One year, $1.5MM. $200K signing bonus. Up to $750K in playing-time incentives (Twitter link).

FA Rumors: N. Robinson, Blanton, Bills, 49ers

Veteran NBA guard Nate Robinson raised some eyebrows last week when he suggested that he intended to try his hand at earning a spot on an NFL roster. It seemed that Robinson’s NFL dream may have fallen by the wayside several days later, when he signed to play basketball in Israel, but apparently the 31-year-old hasn’t given up quite yet on the idea of making a move to football.

“After I get back from playing [in Israel], I’m going to go get ready to train, and get ready to go to the NFL,” Robinson told basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link).

Despite the fact that Robinson originally attended the University of Washington on a football scholarship, his age and his lack of football experience over the past decade makes him a long shot to realize his NFL dream, but it could be a fun story to follow if he commits to making it happen.

Here’s more from around the NFL as free agency continues:

  • Free agent safety Robert Blanton is paying a visit to the Bills on Friday, marking the first time this month that Buffalo has hosted a defensive free agent, the team announced in a press release. Although Blanton made 13 starts for the Vikings in 2014, he has primarily been a special-teamer and a part-time defensive player during his four NFL seasons.
  • Before he agreed to re-sign with the Packers, running back James Starks drew interest from the Dolphins, tweets Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. According to Jackson, the team and Starks’ agent had “multiple conversations” in recent days. Having also missed out on Lamar Miller, C.J. Anderson, and Chris Johnson, the Dolphins continue to search for running back help.
  • Free agent cornerback Antwon Blake ultimately agreed to sign with the Titans, but he had no shortage of potential suitors when he was on the market. Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com tweets that Blake garnered interest from the Steelers, Patriots, Jets, Lions, and Giants.
  • Head coach Chip Kelly is perfectly fine with the 49ers not venturing much into free agency this offseason, suggesting that the team doesn’t want to pay solid players like superstars. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle has the details and the quotes from Kelly.

Titans To Sign Antwon Blake

The Titans have agreed to sign cornerback Antwon Blake, according to Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com.

Blake started 16 games for the Steelers in 2015 and recorded a career-high 76 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and a defensive touchdown. Blake also snagged an interception in Pittsburgh’s postseason win over the Bengals. The 25-year-old also drew interest from the Patriots and his agent recently stated that he was in talks with four other teams besides the Titans and Pats.

In other Titans news, the team also re-signed offensive lineman Byron Bell on Thursday.

Free Agent Rumors: Raji, Packers, Pats

The latest free agent rumors:

  • Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel (on Twitter) heard that Packers lineman B.J. Raji had “five legit offers,” though as Silverstein notes, “legit” is in the eye of the beholder. Raji, he hears, had to weigh those offers versus wanting to spend time with his family plus his own health concerns.
  • Free agent receiver Nate Washington met with the Patriots on Monday, according to FOX 26’s Mark Berman (via Twitter). Washington was ranked as Pro Football Rumors’ No. 13 free agent wide receiver in early March.
  • Browns free agent linebacker Craig Robertson is on his way to visit the Saints, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Robertson just got done visiting with Seattle. As Schefter notes, the Browns have already lost five unrestricted free agents this month and they could be on their way to losing free agent No. 6 if Robertson signs elsewhere.
  • Cornerback Antwon Blake will visit the Patriots on Tuesday, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets. Blake visited the Titans today and also has a visit scheduled with the Lions on Wednesday.
  • The Giants are looking for cornerbacks, particularly corners that can play in the slot, Jordan Raanan of the Star-Ledger tweets. He adds that Patrick Robinson and Jerraud Powers are two players to keep an eye on. The Eagles, Dolphins, and Bears have also been connected to Robinson.
  • Free agent defensive end Chris Clemons completed his visit with the Dolphins, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets.