Brandon Linder

Jaguars C Brandon Linder Out For Season

Brandon Linder‘s season is over. The Jaguars’ center will undergo surgery on his right knee, ruling him out for the remainder of the year, head coach Doug Marrone announced.

The Jaguars have dropped five straight and the loss of Linder will not help in their quest to get out of the hole. The 26-year-old ranks as one of the league’s better centers and his importance to the team was underscored by the six-year, $54MM extension he inked in 2017.

Even before the Linder injury, the Jags’ offensive line was weakened by the loss of left tackle Cam Robinson. The Jaguars were hoping to turn things around after getting Leonard Fournette back in the lineup, but he won’t get far if the club’s reserves cannot step up. Tyler Shatley figures to slide into the starting lineup in Linder’s place as the team hopes to get more than the 2.2 yards per carry Fournette averaged against the Colts.

Linder, a former third round pick, missed the majority of the 2015 season due to a shoulder injury and had to sit out for five games between 2016 and 2017. He’s been starting for Jacksonville since entering the league in 2014, but after five years he’ll have missed 26 out of a possible 80 regular season games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars C Brandon Linder To Miss Time

The Jaguars will be without center Brandon Linder against the Steelers on Sunday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The issue could sideline him for multiple games and subsequently deal a serious blow to the Jaguars’ running game. 

The Jaguars finally got star rusher Leonard Fournette back in the lineup on Sunday, but his effectiveness would be limited without the presence of Linder in the middle of the line. The 26-year-old is currently ranked as the league’s ninth-best center, according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics.

After losing Linder in the third quarter, the Jaguars’ offense failed to close the gap against the Colts and ultimately lost by a field goal. At 3-6, the Jaguars’ playoff hopes are rapidly dwindling, and a sixth-straight loss may take them out of the postseason mix.

For however long Linder is out, the Jaguars will likely use Tyler Shatley as their starting center.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: 49ers, Patriots, Jaguars, Lions

While Brian Hoyer has certainly struggled four games into the 2017 season, it’s “difficult to imagine” the 49ers making a change at quarterback in the near future, writes Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. Hoyer ranks 30th in the NFL in both quarterback rating and adjusted net yards per attempt, but he’s extremely familiar with head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s offense. Given that San Francisco is not expected to seriously compete this season, Shanahan would rather have a signal-caller who effectively runs the gameplan than turn to third-round rookie C.J. Beathard, reasons Maiocco.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Despite signing a two-year, $5MM contract prior earlier this year, linebacker David Harris is still establishing his role with the Patriots, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com details. Originally thought to be in consideration for a starting role, Harris has played all of seven snaps through four weeks. As Reiss opines, Harris is essentially being retained for his locker room leadership, as he doesn’t have a regular spot on defense or special teams. How long New England is willing to keep Harris on the active roster is an open question if his playing time doesn’t increase in the coming weeks.
  • The Jaguars will be without starting center Brandon Linder when they face the Steelers on Sunday, as the club officially downgraded to out as he deals with an illness. Linder has lost a “significant” amount of weight because of said illness, tweets Hays Carlyon of 1010 XL, which could bode negatively for his return in the coming weeks. Without Linder available, Jacksonville will turn to Tyler Shatley, who started four games a season ago, at the pivot.
  • Although Eric Ebron has only managed 11 receptions for 87 yards so far this season, the Lions aren’t likely to place him on the trade block in 2017, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. Detroit general manager Bob Quinn has shown a willingness to deal in past, but Ebron isn’t expected to be moved, and that’s partly due to his perceived upside. The Lions hold a $8.25MM option on Ebron in 2018, but the club could release instead of paying that tota.

Jaguars, Brandon Linder Agree To Extension

Brandon Linder got paid. The Jaguars and the center have agreed to a five-year extension worth $51.7MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal will make him the highest-paid center in NFL history on a per year basis, besting the average annual value of Cowboys standout Travis Frederick ($9.4MM per year).

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Linder started out as a right guard but was moved to center in 2016. He flourished at the new position and the Jaguars wanted to ensure that he was locked up for years to come.

Guard Trai Turner, who was drafted one spot behind Turner in the third round of the 2014 draft, inked a four-year, $45MM extension with the Panthers earlier this month. Despite playing at center, a position that is generally less valued than guard, Linder is set to earn nearly as much on a per year basis. His salary may indicate that the Jags plan on shifting him back to guard at some point down the road.

Last year, Linder graded out as the No. 5 center in the NFL, per the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. The former third round pick missed the majority of the 2015 season due to a shoulder injury, but he missed only two games last year and was on the field for over 900 snaps.

Linder is the first draft pick of GM Dave Caldwell to sign a second deal with the team. Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee and linebacker Telvin Smith are also products of that 2014 draft class and are eligible to sign extensions with the team this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Bengals, Osweiler, Hali

Tyler Eifert and Vontaze Burfict are both entering their contract seasons, and while the Bengals have not allowed a Pro Bowl player to leave via free agency who is under the age of 32 since 2011, both players present unique considerations. Both are justified in aiming to be paid at the top of the pay scale for their respective positions, but Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer says Burfict, because of his injury history and run-ins with the league’s player safety rules, is more likely to receive a contract like Dont’a Hightower‘s (four years, $35.5MM with $17MM in guarantees) than Luke Kuechly‘s (five years, $61.8MM with $34MM in guarantees). Also, given Hightower’s difficult time in free agency this season, it is unclear whether Burfict will want to try his luck on the open market.

Eifert’s own injury history could hinder his financial prospects, though league sources indicate he is in line for a five-year pact with an AAV of roughly $9MM. Unlike Burfict, however, the franchise tag is an option for Eifert if the two sides cannot hammer out a long-term deal this year, although both parties are motivated to get something done.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Brock Osweiler apparently still has a chance to start for the Browns in Week 1. Although Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer are considered the most likely candidates to open the season under center, a lot will depend on Kizer’s development. As Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes, if Kizer does not develop as anticipated during training camp — he has progressed well to this point, but things can always change when the pads are on — then Osweiler could reenter the mix as a challenger to Kessler.
  • Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich is entering his contract year, but at this point, he does not foresee himself playing for anyone other than New England, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. Ninkovich was drafted by the Saints in the fifth round of the 2006 draft and spent several years with the Dolphins, but his career did not blossom until he signed with the Pats in 2009. Since 2010, he has posted at least four sacks per season as a versatile defensive end/linebacker, including three consecutive eight-sack seasons from 2012-14. He is so grateful for his time in New England that, when asked if he could envision himself playing for another club, he said, “I wouldn’t do that.”
  • Tamba Halis Twitter rant last night drew quite a bit of attention, but the Chiefs linebacker says he is not considering holding out and he has not been told he is not in the team’s 2017 plans. He said he simply wants to play more (Twitter link). Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star says (via Twitter) that Hali did address the matter internally back in January, and he was told by head coach Andy Reid to just “keep getting better.” That obviously did not sit well with Hali, who apparently stewed about it for some time before unleashing a bit last night.
  • Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union wonders what, if anything, Trai Turner‘s recent four-year, $45MM extension could mean for Jaguars center Brandon Linder, who was drafted one spot behind Turner in the 2014 draft. Linder started his career at right guard but was moved to center last season after missing 13 games due to a shoulder injury in 2015. He has missed 15 total games in his career, and it sounds as if Jacksonville will simply allow him to play out his contract because of that injury history. If contract talks do commence this year, it will be interesting to see if Linder gets paid like a center or if he receives a deal that suggests he could return to right guard in the future.

2017 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.Donte Moncrief (Vertical)

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 $1.8MM in 2017. 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 2017 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Aaron Lynch, LB; Marcus Martin, OL

Bears: Charles Leno, T; Will Sutton, DT

Bengals: Russell Bodine, C

Bills: Preston Brown, LB; Seantrel Henderson, T

Broncos: Michael Schofield, OL

Browns: Christian Kirksey, LB

Buccaneers: Kevin Pamphile, G

Cardinals: John Brown, WR

Chiefs: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G; Zach Fulton, G; Phillip Gaines, CB

Colts: Donte Moncrief, WR

Cowboys: Anthony Hitchens, LB

Falcons: Devonta Freeman, RB

Giants: Devon Kennard, LB

Jaguars: Aaron Colvin, CB; Brandon Linder, G; Telvin Smith, LB

Lions: Nevin Lawson, CB; Travis Swanson, C

Packers: Corey Linsley, C; Richard Rodgers, TE

Panthers: Tre Boston, S; Trai Turner, G

Raiders: T.J. Carrie, CB; Justin Ellis, DT; Gabe Jackson, G

Rams: Maurice Alexander, S; E.J. Gaines, CB

Redskins: Bashaud Breeland, CB; Spencer Long, G; Morgan Moses, T

Texans: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE; Andre Hal, S

Titans: DaQuan Jones, DL; Avery Williamson, LB

Vikings: Shamar Stephen, DT

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Browns, Romo, Jaguars, Bills

The Browns have several options to choose from as they select their starting quarterback — they did not promise a starting job to Robert Griffin III, third-round rookie Cody Kessler is expected to be given an opportunity to compete, and even Josh McCown is still a threat to earn the starting role. And though head coach Hue Jackson says Cleveland will choose a starter “way before” the season begins, the club doesn’t feel the need to rush when naming its No. 1 signal-caller.

“It’s too soon,” Jackson told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “We haven’t gotten into OTAs yet. We just have had offseason and voluntary veteran minicamp and now we’ve got the rookies in and I think that’s way too soon. I would never do that. Again, every position is earned. There’s always competition and there’s a reason behind it.

“At some point in time, I’m sure with [GM] Sashi [Brown] and myself, we’ll make a decision on which direction to go, and it will be the right time. Timing is everything and we’ll get there when we need to.”

Here’s the latest look around the NFL…

  • After undergoing a procedure on his clavicle in early March, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is having a productive camp, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes“There’s absolutely nothing negative that can be said about where he is,” said owner Jerry Jones. “Everything they hoped to accomplish technically from appraisal of surgery has gone well. Everything he’s done regarding his strength, everything regarding what he’s wanted to do, he’s been able to do.” Dallas does not expect Romo to be on a “pitch count” through the summer, per Archer.
  • The Jaguars would have considered Ryan Kelly in the second round of last month’s draft, as offensive coordinator Greg Olson tells Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union that Kelly would have been the club’s starting center from “day one.” Instead, Jacksonville will move Brandon Linder to center, opening a spot for former Cowboy Mackenzy Bernadeau at guard. The 30-year-old Bernadeau, signed to a two-year deal in March, has 49 NFL starts under his belt.
  • The Bills don’t have a ton of depth at wide receiver behind Sammy Watkins, meaning they’ll be counting on Dri Archer, Marquise Goodwin, and rookie Kolby Listenbee to post some sort of production. As Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News notes, if the Bills are able to coax something out of that trifecta, offensive coordinator Greg Roman could have a good shot at landing a head coaching job during the next hiring cycle.

Extra Points: Eagles, Pace, Cromartie, Jags

According to Connor Barwin, Sam Bradford was caught off guard when the Eagles swapped picks with the Browns to trigger their seminal Carson Wentz selection at No. 2 overall.

Not that it’s a surprise Bradford wasn’t expecting this given his recent actions, but the fourth-year Eagles pass-rusher expects things to cool down for the former No. 1 overall pick and that the presumptive Week 1 starter will return to the team, per Zig Fracassi of Sirius XM Radio (Twitter link).

Signed to a two-year, $35MM deal, Bradford probably represents the Eagles’ best chance of competing right away. He was 7-7 as a starter for last season’s dysfunctional team and completed 65% of his passes, by far a career-high mark. But like 2015 Philadelphia teammate Mark Sanchez, it is a matter of time until the first-round pick takes the reins.

Some speculated the 28-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner will retire a la Carson Palmer and wait for a potential solution to develop, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk doesn’t see this drama paying off for Bradford. The former Ram’s prolonged absence will make his learning curve in Doug Pederson‘s offense steeper.

Here’s the latest from around the league as rookie minicamp weekend continues.

  • Antonio Cromartie and Calvin Pace remain free agents, and Todd Bowles said the “door is not closed” on potentially bringing them back to the Jets, Kimberley Martin of Newsday reports. Pace’s two-year, $5MM deal expired after the 2015 season. The pass-rusher had been a staple on the Rex Ryan-era defenses, having started 16 games from 2008-14. Last season, the now-35-year-old Pace started in 13 games. The Jets cut the 32-year-old Cromartie after just one season. Gang Green, though, remains deadlocked with Ryan Fitzpatrick on a deal that looks to pay the quarterback at least $8MM AAV and as of Saturday possesses $3.2MM in cap space.
  • The Jaguars moved Brandon Linder to center, Gus Bradley told media (including Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union). An 18-game starter at right guard the past two years, Linder missed 13 games due to a shoulder injury last season. After Stefen Wisniewski opted to sign with the Eagles, Linder will be the Jaguars’ fourth center in four years.
  • Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s line looks to have two former Cowboys backups, with Mackenzy Bernadeau set to move into the Jags’ starting left guard position, O’Halloran writes. Like Jermey Parnell in 2015, Bernardeau left Dallas and its loaded offensive front and will have a better opportunity to be a first-string presence for a less-accomplished line. The 30-year-old Bernadeau did not sign a high-end deal for his position like Parnell did a year ago, but he brings a similar profile, having played as a key backup with the Cowboys the past two years. Prior to that, the former seventh-round Panthers pick in 2008 started 27 games at guard for the Cowboys in 2012-13. Bernadeau started 19 contests for the pre-Cam Newton Panther teams in 2009-10.

AFC Notes: Bills, Ridley, Texans, Chiefs, Jags

Despite EJ Manuel, who entered the season as the Bills‘ third-string quarterback, set to start a second straight game due to Tyrod Taylor‘s knee injury, Buffalo GM Doug Whaley does not regret trading Matt Cassel, per Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News.

When you look at it, coming out of camp, arguably you could say (Manuel) was the No. 2. So we had an opportunity to come back with Cassel at a reduced rate and have three quarterbacks,” Whaley told Dunne. “If you look at the league, a little over half the league had three quarterbacks so it’s a luxury.

Dunne, though, offers that Bills coaches may not have been in agreement with trading Cassel, who will make his first start for the Cowboys on Sunday, and a 2017 seventh-round pick for a 2017 fifth-rounder. The Bills reporter noted Buffalo offensive coordinator Greg Roman demurred when asked what prevented Manuel from leapfrogging Cassel on the depth chart when all three QBs were on the roster, and quarterbacks coach David Lee once referred to Cassel as “the glue of the room.”

Whaley said Manuel’s progress has been inconsistent but that the team was on board with promoting the former No. 16 overall pick to the backup spot after some internal debate.

Here are some more notes from the AFC East and the rest of the league.

  • Stevan Ridley won’t make his Jets debut Sunday against the Patriots, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It will be at least another week for the ex-Patriots running back, who is still recovering from ACL surgery. The Jets did not activate the fifth-year back off their PUP list, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link), and Gang Green will go with Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy as their top two ball-carriers.
  • The Texans are lobbying to play a game in Mexico City either next season or in 2017, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports (on Twitter). The NFL is eyeing a game at 95,000-plus-seat Azteca Stadium as soon as next year. If the league’s unable to move the logistics along in time, four London games are likely on tap for 2016, with the NFL serious about expanding beyond the USA’s borders, reports Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
  • Jaguars guard Brandon Linder underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum October 7 and has returned to the team’s facility for rehab, The Florida Times-Union’s Hays Carlyon reports. A Jags starting guard in each of the 18 games he’s played (three this season before injuring his shoulder) since being drafted by Jacksonville in the third round last year, Linder expects to be ready to return to action by May.
  • The Chiefs worked out defensive linemen Lawrence Okoye and Derrick Lott, along with running back Gus Johnson, Pro Football Talk tweets.

Jaguars Place Brandon Linder On IR

4:01pm: The Jaguars officially confirmed (via Twitter) that Linder has been placed on injured reserve. The team has signed linebacker James-Michael Johnson to fill the open spot on the roster.

1:06pm: The Jaguars’ offensive line has taken a major hit, as starting right guard Brandon Linder is expected to be undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum, writes John Oehser of Jaguars.com. Linder figures to land on injured reserve, prematurely ending his 2015 season.

Linder, selected in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Jaguars, started 15 games for the club last year, and was locked into the right guard position once again this season, before tearing his labrum. In his absence, rookie guard A.J. Cann, a third-round pick earlier this year, figures to take over at right guard.

According to Oehser, Linder will become the first starting player to land on season-ending injured reserve for the Jaguars this season, though the club has seen several key contributors battling injuries during the season’s first month. Once the move becomes official, it’ll open up a spot on the 53-man roster.

Meanwhile, Jags head coach Gus Bradley said today that the club will be sticking with rookie kicker Jason Myers, despite his struggles on Sunday, tweets Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. Myers missed potential game-winning kicks from 53 and 48 yards out, his second and third field goal misses of the season. The youngster also failed to convert an extra point in Week 1, but Jacksonville doesn’t appear interested in replacing him.