Brad Smith

North Notes: Heyward, Lions, Bennett

Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward is due for a big-time contract and will likely ink one before training camp opens, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes.

I try to stay out of the process and just focus on what I can control,” Heyward said. “I’d love to get a contract, but I have to just continue to keep my eyes on the prize. I would love for it to happen. I think they want it to happen.”

Last season, Heyward was the first defensive end to lead the Steelers in sacks in a decade as he and Jason Worilds tied with 7.5 a piece. Heyward says he plans on being even more of a force this season and topping that total. Here’s more out of the North divisions..

  • There are a number of Steelers entering their walk years, but Heyward might be the only one to sign a new deal, Bouchette writes. The Steelers may try to sign tackle Kelvin Beachum, but they may not pay him what he’s likely worth on the opening market. Last year, Pro Football Focus rated him as the fifth best left tackle in the game.
  • The Lions hosted a ton of notable veteran free agents on Wednesday but did not sign any of them immediately after the session, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. Wide receivers Brad Smith and Robert Meachem and running backs Ben Tate and Daniel Thomas were among the free agents in Detroit today but none of them have deals – at least not yet. The Lions appear set at running back after drafting Ameer Abdullah in the second round to pair with Joique Bell, but Bell is still recovering from offseason surgeries. Tate and Thomas, in theory, could be called upon if Bell’s recovery takes longer than expected.
  • Bears head coach John Fox is unsure if Martellus Bennett will attend the team’s mandatory minicamp, as Jeff Dickerson of writes. The tight end is pushing for a raise from the $4.9MM base he’s scheduled to earn in 2015. The 2014 Pro Bowler has two years left on a four-year, $20.4MM deal he signed in March of 2013.

North Notes: Lions, Flacco, A. Brown

Special teams standout Brad Smith, who has played all over the field in his NFL career, will pay a visit to the Lions on Tuesday, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. While Smith has seen time at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver during his NFL career, and was a very productive kick returner a few years ago, his primary contributions at this point in his career will come in kick and punt coverage.

Meanwhile, a Lions free agent, defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, is visiting an unknown team today, per Birkett. There were conflicting reports last week on whether Detroit has interest in re-signing Mosley, and Birkett notes that while the Lions have engaged with the defensive lineman about a possible return, no agreement is imminent.

Here’s more from out of the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco would like to play in the NFL until he’s at least 40 years old, as he tells Jamison Hensley of Of course, we should probably take Flacco’s comments with a grain of salt at this point, considering he just turned 30 earlier this year.
  • While the Steelers may not adjust Antonio Brown‘s contract this year, Jeremy Fowler of, with the help of former NFL salary cap analyst J.I. Halsell, attempts to identify a potential extension scenario that could work for both sides.
  • Judge David Doty will hear the NFLPA’s motion to hold Roger Goodell in contempt of court in the Adrian Peterson case on August 13, tweets Ben Goessling of Doty ruled in favor of the NFLPA back in February, granting the union’s motion to overturn the league’s decision on Peterson’s suspension, but the NFL didn’t reinstate the Vikings running back until mid-April.
  • Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun passes along word of a couple auditions taking place this week, reporting (via Twitter) that center/guard Ben Gottschalk is trying out for the Packers today and former Hawaii defensive end Beau Yap is working out for the Bengals tomorrow.

GM: Bills More Likely To Trade Down Than Up

Having sent their 2015 first-round pick to the Browns a year ago to move up to land Sammy Watkins, the Bills are one of two teams that aren’t expected to make a pick next Thursday on day one of the draft. While trading up into the first round from No. 50 is a possibility for Buffalo, general manager Doug Whaley suggested today that it’s not a likely outcome, as Mike Rodak of details.

“We’re going to set up our board where we’ll put a demarcation line where if we see guys fall — and we think we have a chance to go up and get, we would consider it,” Whaley said. “But I’ll tell you right now, with the lack of ammunition, I would highly, highly doubt that we [trade up]. We’d be more prone to listen to offers to move back from 50 and pick up more picks, but again, I will never say never.”

Having added Watkins a year ago, and landing pricey playmakers like LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay, and Percy Harvin this offseason, the Bills are likely to focus on adding depth at several positions rather than focusing on a big name at one position, as Whaley explains: “With what we did in free agency, we feel very comfortable with the pieces of the puzzle we have in place and we’re at that point now where we may start getting top heavy so we’re going to need the draft picks to start replenishing the roster.”

Speaking of free agents, the Bills aren’t necessarily done shopping, but they’re in no hurry to secure players like Dawan Landry and Brad Smith, despite eyeing the former Jets. Per Whaley, Buffalo plans to “slow play it,” and will pull the trigger on a deal with a free agent if it’s mutually beneficial for the two sides (Twitter link via Rodak). The team may be inclined to wait until after May 12, when free agents no longer count against the compensatory pick formula for 2016.

AFC Notes: Chargers, Bills, Dolphins, Jets

The Chargers appear to be contemplating the post-Philip Rivers era in San Diego, as they take a closer look at Oregon signal-caller Marcus Mariota today. After working out Mariota, the team’s brass will head to Los Angeles to put UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley through a workout of his own, tweets Ian Rapoport of

GM Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy have repeatedly stated they want Rivers to retire as a Charger, so there may be no need to identify his successor quite yet. But Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune believes this offseason is the prime time for San Diego to trade Rivers in a deal to snag Mariota, arguing that all the factors in play point to it being a win-win move for the franchise and for the veteran quarterback, who is entering the final year of his contract.

We still have a little more than two weeks until the draft gets underway, so it will be interesting to see if the Rivers trade rumors pick up steam or die down as April 30 approaches. In the meantime, here are a few more notes from across the AFC:

  • Free agent wide receiver Brad Smith is paying a visit to Buffalo to meet with the Bills, as Mike Rodak of details. Smith played for Rex Ryan on the Jets, but it’s not clear if there’s a spot for him on Ryan’s new club, with players like Percy Harvin, Marcus Easley, and Marcus Thigpen already in the mix as potentially versatile offensive weapons, returners, or special-teamers.
  • Given where we’ve seen running backs drafted in the last couple years, it would be surprise to see one go as high as No. 14 overall this year. Nonetheless, the Dolphins, who hold that pick, are hosting Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon for a visit next week, per Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Twitter).
  • Outside pass rushers Bud Dupree and Shane Ray will be visiting the Jets, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter links). Although there has been plenty of chatter linking Mariota to New York, the team is in a good spot at No. 6 to add a top pass rushing prospect.
  • The Steelers hosted Washington State defensive tackle Xavier Cooper, Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman, and UAB tight end Kennard Backman on pre-draft visits today, tweets’s Scott Brown. Cooper met with the Saints in New Orleans yesterday, but we haven’t heard much to date about the tight ends.
  • Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby is visiting the Colts today, according to Rapoport (via Twitter).
  • On the heels of the Raiders‘ agreement with free agent wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Bill Williamson of shares a few initial thoughts on the deal, outlining why the former Niner is worth the risk on a one-year investment.

Extra Points: Dreessen, Cutler, Ferguson

  • Speaking with Vic Carucci & Dan Leberfeld on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen weighed in on the Jimmy Graham ruling, saying the decision struck a nerve and that he agreed with Tony Gonzalez’s take on the situation: “It’s kind of frustrating that guys who get asked to do probably the second most after the quarterback is kinda down there on the pay scale.”
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune listed 12 NFL training camp storylines to watch, including Jay Cutler‘s new deal. “The Bears signed quarterback Jay Cutler to a $126 million contract extension that is essentially a $54 million deal for the next three seasons before it goes year-to-year,” says Biggs. “It’s a huge payday that general manager Phil Emery based on future performance, as Cutler’s resume includes only one postseason victory.”
  • Last year was an “uncharacteristically bad year” for Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, says the New York Post’s Brian Costello, who believes 2013 will prove to be “an aberration and not a sign of decline.” However, Costello does caution: “Ferguson has the highest salary cap figure on the team at $11.7 million. After a few restructurings to help the team gain salary cap space in 2012 and ’13, the bill is now coming due for the Jets. Ferguson’s cap numbers are huge for the next four years. If Ferguson’s play slips, the Jets might have to consider releasing him before the 2016 season, when they could save $9 million in cap space by cutting him.”
  • Branden Albert of the Dolphins and Jairus Byrd of the Saints topped ESPN’s list of free agents who will transform teams. The last three seasons, Albert has allowed just 4.6 pressures per 100 pass blocks, good enough for third in the league over that span. As for Byrd, he allowed a paltry 0.23 yards per coverage snap last season, third-best in the league.
  • Answering questions about the Eagles’ projected roster,’s Tim McManus said he doesn’t expect many “curveballs,” i.e. surprises, when the team’s 53-man is finalized. McManus expects LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles and Chris Polk to serve as the running back trio, and he expects Brad Smith to stick as the fifth receiver. The one mild surprise could be Travis Long forcing veteran Brandon Graham out, though that would mean employing two backups at defensive end (Long and first-rounder Marcus Smith) with no NFL experience.
  • Entering training camp, 49 Patriots players are “sure-fire locks” or “near locks,” in the estimation of ESPN New England’s Mike Reiss, who breaks down the projected roster.

NFC East Notes: Manning, Freeman, Allen, Smith, Melton

After having arthroscopic knee surgery on April 10, Giants quarterback Eli Manning is participating in OTAs with no limitations. That’s two months ahead of schedule, notes Senior Writer/Editor Michael Eisen, who quoted head coach Tom Couglin: “He’s so far ahead. When we started out I didn’t think I would have him for anything. We’re about two or three days into the phase two (when the offense and defense worked separately) and he’s running around. I’m trying to slow him down but he feels good. I’m not surprised at all.”

In other NFC East notes…

Contract Notes: Staley, Wilfork, Brad Smith

A source tells Rand Gatlin of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link) that the 49ers are mulling the possibility of reworking Joe Staley‘s current contract, which he has outplayed. Staley, who will earn a total of $3.4MM in 2014, has a deal that runs through 2017, so he doesn’t have a whole lot of leverage at this point, but Gatlin’s source suggest the Niners recognize they’d be wise to address the situation to avoid having the offensive lineman become disenchanted (Twitter link).

Here’s more on a few other contracts around the league:

  • Ben Volin and Christopher Gasper of the Boston Globe pass along the details of the first year of Vince Wilfork‘s new contract with the Patriots in a pair of Twitter links. According to the Globe duo, the contract includes $2.5MM in signing bonus and base salary money, a $300K weight bonus, a $200K workout bonus, a $500K bonus for spending one game on the 53-man roster, up to $1.4MM in per-game roster bonuses, and additional incentives of about $3MM. In total, by my calculations, the team should create at least $3MM in 2014 cap savings with the move.
  • The Eagles recently restructured the contract for wide receiver Brad Smith, tweets Adam Caplan of According to Caplan, the agreement reduced Smith’s cap number by $350K, but assured him $450K in guaranteed money.
  • E.J. Biggers‘ new one-year contract with the Redskins is a minimum salary benefit deal, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). The pact includes a base salary of $730K, a signing bonus of $65K, and a cap hit of $635K.