Brandon LaFell

Raiders Sign WR Brandon LaFell

The Raiders are signing wide receiver Brandon LaFell, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Rapoport says it’s a one-year deal “with upside”, noting “there was a need after Martavis Bryant was released.” LaFell was released by the Bengals last month. At the time, LaFell’s agent said he had been asking for his release from the Bengals due to unhappiness with his role.

LaFell spent two seasons as the number two receiver in Cincinnati, with varying success. After compiling 64 catches for 862 yards and six touchdowns in 2016, LaFell had just 52 grabs for 548 yards and three scores last year. A week after his release, it was reported that the Browns might have some interest, but nothing ever came of it and his market has been quiet since.

As Rapsheet points out, the Raiders were in need of a veteran receiver after Bryant was cut due to an impending suspension. Oakland gave up a third round pick for Bryant, who ended up never playing a down for the team, and they’ll look to replace some of his expected production with LaFell. LaFell will turn 32 in November, and is another aging piece added to this veteran Raiders team. His best season came with the Patriots in 2014, when he caught 74 passes for 953 yards and seven touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Broncos, Bridgewater, Patriots, Dolphins

Here are some assorted notes from around the AFC as we wrap up the weekend…

  • The Broncos will have two major roster questions to answer prior to Saturday’s roster cut-down deadline, opines Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post. First, the team has to figure out what to do with injured safety Su’a Cravens. The defensive back hasn’t practice since early August due to knee soreness, and he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since late 2016. O’Halloran wonders if the team will have the roster space or patience to stash Cravens again. Meanwhile, the team will also have to decide on quarterback Paxton Lynch, who was recently demoted for Chad Kelly. The writer wonders whether the Broncos would rather keep the former first-rounder, replace him with a veteran backup, or roll with two quarterbacks for the start of the season.
  • Unless they receive an offer they can’t refuse, ESPN’s Rich Cimini believes the Jets should hold on to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The team should be focused on maintaining their depth, and the writer believes the signal-caller has more value to the team as a backup than a trade chip. If the Jets accept an offer that doesn’t include a third-rounder or better, Cimini believes it’d be a mistake. The writer also looks at several former Jets draft picks who are on the roster bubble, including linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin, wide receivers Charone Peake and Chad Hansen, and cornerback Juston Burris.
  • ESPN’s Mike Reiss can’t envision the Patriots adding wideout Dez Bryant. While the team could certainly use some reinforcement at the position (especially following Eric Decker‘s decision to retire), the writer question whether Bryant would be able to fit into the culture or system. If the team did want to add another wideout to their roster, Reiss believes that free agent (and former Patriot) Brandon LaFell would be a more logical target. Even in that case, the writer can’t see the team making a move unless there’s an injury at the position.
  • While the pairing of David Fales and Brock Osweiler may be relatively underwhelming, Dolphins coach Adam Gase isn’t expecting to add another backup quarterback behind Ryan Tannehill. While the coach would like to see some improvement from his co-second-stringers, he’s not concerned about their lackluster preseasons. “I think there’s room for improvement for sure,” Gase said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com), “but it’s hard to put it all on them when you get the ball and you’re not expecting it or we’re not blocking the guys. That’s why it’s hard to evaluate quarterbacks sometimes in preseason games and you have to use all your practice time and what you know about guys’ history, and that’s what makes it tough to evaluate them sometimes.”

Browns Interested In WR Brandon LaFell?

The Browns may have renewed interest in Brandon LaFell, Tony Grossi of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. The wide receiver was released by the Bengals last week, freeing him up to sign with any club. 

LaFell was the Bengals’ No. 2 WR for the last two years, but his production tailed off a bit last season. After compiling 64 catches for 862 yards and six touchdowns in 2016, LaFell had just 52 grabs for 548 yards and three scores in 2017. Then, this summer, he started “feeling the heat” from other wideouts in camp this summer, according to coach Marvin Lewis. With other options to consider, including speedy 2017 first-round pick John Ross, the Bengals no longer had any use for LaFell.

LaFell had a tremendous 2014 season with the Patriots as he set career highs with 74 receptions, 953 yards, and seven touchdowns. He added another two TDs in the postseason, including one in the Super Bowl.

Few are expecting LaFell to reprise that kind of production in 2018, but he could be an option for the Browns as they sort out Josh Gordon‘s situation. The Browns could also use some additional depth following the trade of former first-round pick Corey Coleman.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Manziel, LaFell

Johnny Manziel is back. Sort of. On Friday night, the former Browns quarterback will make his first CFL start with his new club, the Montreal Alouettes.

I feel fortunate enough this week to be going against a team, a defense that I’ve seen more than any other defense since I’ve been in the CFL,” Manziel told reporters as he prepares to face his former team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (via TSN). “I feel like I really know this personnel very well, I feel like I know this team in and out because I was a part of it.”

Manziel, of course, is hoping to impress on the elongated CFL field and return to the NFL. It remains to be seen whether he’ll get another chance south of the border, but NFL evaluators will certainly be keeping a watchful eye on his performance.

Here’s a look at the AFC North:

  • Brandon LaFell‘s agent says that his client asked to be released from the Bengals, but a team source says that the decision was not made based on LaFell’s desire to play elsewhere, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com tweets. It sounds like the source had not heard of any such request by LaFell, but even if the wide receiver asked to be let go, it’s doubtful such a request would have been granted anyway. The source told Terrell that the move was made to give the club’s young receivers more reps.
  • The Browns are trying All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio at left tackle, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Recently, Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie said playing Bitonio at left tackle was the club’s “Plan Z.” Apparently, it only took a matter of days for the team to work its way through the alphabet. If the Browns opt to use Bitonio on the outside in September, it will probably result in Shon Coleman going to the bench with No. 33 overall pick Austin Corbett starting at left guard. Alternatively, one has to wonder if the Browns will explore external tackle options in order to keep Bitonio at his natural position.
  • No one will confuse Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson for a Mr. Universe contestant, but the Louisville product says that he is not planning on gaining a significant amount of weight.
  • The Steelers recently learned that guard Ramon Foster will not require surgery to fix his knee.

Bengals Release WR Brandon LaFell

The Bengals released wide receiver Brandon LaFell, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). LaFell’s agent tells Garafolo that the receiver has been pushing for his release “for some time now” and is grateful to have been freed from his contract. 

The transaction will allow LaFell, a vested veteran, to sign with any team. As the Patriots get set to move on from Jordan Matthews, one can’t help but wonder if a reunion could be in the cards for LaFell. Then again, Thursday’s signing of Eric Decker could take LaFell out of consideration.

LaFell has been the Bengals’ No. 2 WR for the last two years, but his production tailed off a bit last season. After compiling 64 catches for 862 yards and six touchdowns in 2016, LaFell had just 52 grabs for 548 yards and three scores last year.

Meanwhile, he started “feeling the heat” from other wideouts in camp this summer, according to coach Marvin Lewis. That includes 2017 first-round pick John Ross, which is good news for the Bengals but probably meant a reduced role for LaFell.

The Bengals appear set to head into 2018 with A.J. Green and Ross as their top receivers. After that, they have a young group pushing for playing time including Tyler Boyd, Josh Malone, Cody Core, rookie Auden Tate, and Alex Erickson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Bengals, Raiders, Broncos

You’re not likely to see the Bengals drop Brandon LaFell from the roster, Katherine Terrelle of ESPN.com tweets. While there is lots of young talent at wide receiver, cutting LaFell would require a $3MM+ dead money hit just after re-signing him this year. He also has a strong mentor/mentee relationship with A.J. Green that coaches do not want to bust up. The Bengals have Green, speedy rookie John Ross, Tyler Boyd, LaFell, and fourth-round pick Josh Malone as their top five receivers. Youngsters Cody Core, Alex Erickson, Jake Kumerow, and Chris Brown are left to fight for a spot that may or may not be available.

More from the AFC:

  • Raiders starting defensive lineman Jihad Ward recently underwent left foot surgery, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The procedure was minor and should keep Ward out until mid-August, adds Rapoport. The second-year man suffered the injury during practice on June 6, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. As a rookie last season, Ward tallied 13 starts in 16 appearances, though Pro Football Focus gave his performance the worst grade among the NFL’s 127 qualified interior defensive linemen.
  • Receiver looks to be the most competitive position on the Broncos’ depth chart, observes Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. Given that the Broncos are nine deep at wideout, head coach Vance Joseph has described the position as “crowded.” That could spell doom for Cody Latimer, who has totaled just 16 receptions since Denver chose him in the second round of the 2014 draft. While Latimer has emerged as a reliable special teamer for the Broncos, his roster spot is in jeopardy suggests Legwold.
  • Earlier Thursday, we rounded up the latest from the AFC East.

Bengals To Re-Sign Brandon LaFell

The Bengals and veteran wide receiver Brandon LaFell agreed on a deal one day before the official start of free agency, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It’s a two-year accord, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com tweets. He’ll get $9MM worth of base pay over the life of the deal, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (via Twitter).

The 30-year-old wideout rebounded in 2016, hauling in 64 passes for 862 yards and six touchdowns. This helps keep A.J. Green‘s complementary crew together, along with Tyler Boyd and Tyler Eifert, after the Bengals lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency last March.

LaFell indicated recently he wanted to return to Cincinnati, and he’ll get his wish. The Bills had interest in acquiring the eighth-year pass-catcher, but LaFell will sign his second Bengals contract and continue to work in the Andy Dalton-led offense. Last year, he signed for one year and $2.5MM. After rebuilding his value to some degree after an injury-plagued 2015 season, it will be interesting to see what LaFell earns on his most recent contract.

The bounce-back 2016 campaign doubled as the former Panthers draft choice’s second-most receiving yards in a season. The 2014 slate in which he functioned as one of Tom Brady‘s auxiliary targets represents LaFell’s best at 953 yards. But in Cincy last season — on a team that did not have Green and Eifert together for long — LaFell increased his yards-per-catch figure to 13.5 from his best NFL season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Interested In Brandon LaFell

With Tyrod Taylor seemingly returning to the Bills, the team is now looking to provide the quarterback with some weapons. According to Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com (via Twitter), the Bills have shown interest in free agent wideout Brandon LaFell. The writer notes that the veteran is a priority of the Bengals, and he adds that the Bears have also expressed interest.

Brandon LaFell (vertical)The 30-year-old had one of the most productive seasons of his career in 2016. The wideout hauled in 64 catches for 862 yards and six touchdowns. LaFell hasn’t collected less than 500 yards since his rookie campaign. The veteran joined the Bengals last offseason following two years with the Patriots.

The Bills depth chart at wideout is currently looking a bit depleted behind Sammy Watkins. The team’s current depth consists of Dezmin Lewis, Walt Powell, Kolby Listenbee, and Marcus Easley.

LaFell was mentioned as an honorable mention in our rankings of the best free agent wideouts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: LaFell, Levy, Garoppolo

Brandon LaFell turned in a strong 2016 for the Bengals after signing a modest one-year, $2.5MM deal with the club last offseason. As a result, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer says that LaFell is one of Cincinnati’s top free agent priorities, as the Bengals believe his strong route-running skills and his red zone presence would be even more effective if they can get fully healthy seasons from A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. LaFell indicated that he would like to return, though he should attract plenty of attention on the open market if he does not re-up with Cincinnati before free agency opens.

Now for more from the league’s North divisions:

  • The Lions may approach linebacker DeAndre Levy about a restructure that allows him to make the same amount of money that he would earn under his current deal if he stays healthy, but Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press says that, from Levy’s perspective, it may be best to rebuff any such efforts. After all, if Levy were to be released, plenty of teams would be happy to pay him and gamble on his health (Twitter links).
  • The Lions need to address their pass defense in a big way, having yielded the highest completion percentage in modern NFL history (72.7%) in 2016. Nate Atkins of MLive.com says that Detroit is more likely to focus on pass rushers and cornerbacks, but he adds that the team should not ignore the safety position either, especially since Glover Quin is in his 30s and Tavon Wilson is entering the final year of his contract. To that end, Atkins names a few safeties the team could select in this year’s draft.
  • Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believes that if the bidding for Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo gets high enough, the Browns should be willing to send their No. 1 overall pick to New England to acquire him. After all, if they’re willing to spend that pick on UNC signal-caller Mitch Trubisky, whose collegiate experience is limited, they should be willing to use that selection on a QB who has a little professional experience and who has a lot of upside in his own right.
  • Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that the biggest objective for the Steelers this offseason is to find an outside linebacker that can generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Bud Dupree showed some promise down the stretch in 2016, but Jarvis Jones is unlikely to return, and if the club re-signs the ageless James Harrison, Dulac believes it would not make much sense to acquire another veteran free agent OLB. As such, he writes that Pittsburgh could once again address the position in the first round of the draft.
  • We learned earlier today that former Ravens first-rounder Matt Elam was arrested on serious drug charges in Miami.

Extra Points: Hardy, Siemian, LaFell, Patriots

Defensive end Greg Hardy‘s NFL career could be over because of his myriad off-field issues, the latest being a September drug possession charge. Hardy is now eyeing a career in mixed martial arts as a result, and UFC president Dana White hasn’t ruled out eventually signing the 28-year-old if he proves he’s worthy of a contract (a big “if,” of course).

In a Wednesday appearance on FOX Sports 1’s “Speak For Yourself,” White said of Hardy (via MMAFighting.com), “I’m one of those guys too who believes that we’re all human beings and we all make mistakes. And when you make a mistake, you pay your penance, whatever it might be, and you should be allowed to make a living and move on in your life. Is he good enough to come into the UFC and fight? I highly doubt it.”

More on the NFL, including news on another free agent:

  • A year before the Broncos drafted him in 2015, quarterback Trevor Siemian was disappointed that the Patriots selected Eastern Illinois signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo, writes Kalyn Kahler of TheMMQB. Siemian, who had just finished his penultimate season at Northwestern, hoped to end up behind Tom Brady in New England the next year, his former college roommate and teammate told Khyler. “He was like, ‘Ahh I think I could have done well in that offense,’” ex-Northwestern center Hayden Baker said. As a seventh-round pick, Siemian went much lower than Garoppolo did the previous year (Round 2), though it’s the former who’s now an NFL starter. Siemian took over the role after sitting behind Peyton Manning on a Super Bowl-winning team as a rookie and has performed well this year for the 4-2 club. Garoppolo was even better during his first three starts this season, but injuries and the return of Brady from a four-game suspension have combined to send him back to the bench.
  • With the Bengals and Patriots set to square off Sunday, Cincinnati receiver Brandon LaFell spoke Friday about the end of his two-year New England tenure (via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com). “I played great my first year. My second year, I was an average guy and that’s why they had to let me go,” said LaFell, who played in all of the Super Bowl-winning Pats’ games in 2014 and finished the regular season with 74 receptions, 953 yards and seven touchdowns. In 11 games last year, LaFell’s catch total fell by half (37), he failed to find the end zone, and he dropped six passes. Those struggles led New England to release LaFell in March, and the 29-year-old revealed Friday that a left foot injury contributed to his woes in 2015 and helped bring about the end of his stint with the Pats. “I could never get back into my rhythm and get back to playing like the way I know how to play,” he said. “I felt like I was hurting the team going out there playing half-injured, but we had so many other guys at the receiver position that were hurt, so I had to play.” Healthy again, LaFell has amassed 21 catches, 276 yards and two scores in his first five games as a Bengal.
  • After pleading guilty Oct. 6 to vehicular-assault and hit-and-run charges, free agent fullback Derrick Coleman avoided jail time Friday. A potential 12- to 14-month sentence was on the table for the former Seahawk, who was instead sentenced to 240 hours of community service and 12 months of community supervision, according to the Seattle Times. Earlier Friday, the NFL hit Coleman with a four-week suspension.