Bruce Carter

NFC Notes: Manning, Taylor, Falcons

Paul Schwartz of the New York Post examines some of the difficult decisions facing the Giants as the 2019 draft approaches. The Scouting Combine gets underway this week, and when New York GM Dave Gettleman speaks on Wednesday — which will mark the first time he speaks publicly since the end of the 2018 season — Schwartz expects he will formally commit to Eli Manning as the team’s starter for 2019.

After that, though, the picture gets a little fuzzy. Gettleman would of course love to find Manning’s successor in the draft, but he eschewed high-end collegiate QB talent last year, and the quarterbacks in this year’s class are not as heralded. Gettleman has long maintained that he will not grade quarterbacks on a curve just because there is pressure on him to pick one, and the Giants have plenty of other needs to fill, so they will be one of the more interesting teams to follow in the next couple of months.

Let’s take a look at a few more NFC items:

  • In a separate piece, Schwartz looks at three players the Giants will be monitoring closely at the Combine, all of which fill one of their above-referenced needs: QB Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), LB Devin White (LSU), and OT Jonah Williams (Alabama). Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com says the team’s top priority this offseason should be adding defensive playmakers, and he takes a deeper dive into some of the collegiate prospects that Big Blue should thoroughly examine.
  • The 49ers will certainly add a receiver or two to the top of their depth chart this offseason (like Antonio Brown, for instance), but there should still be plenty of opportunities for third-year player Trent Taylor. Taylor underwent back surgery in June, and while he ended up playing 14 games last year — compiling 26 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown — he says he never felt fully healthy. But as Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area writes, Taylor believes he is finally back to normal, and he thinks a regular offseason of work will prime him for a breakout campaign. He is also looking forward to working with his new position coach, Wes Welker, who certainly knows a thing or two about making hay as an undersized wideout.
  • The Falcons recently re-signed linebacker Bruce Carter and defensive end Steven Means to one-year pacts, and D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution passes along the contract details. Carter will earn $930K (making his contract a veteran minimum deal), while Means will earn $895K. The minimum salary for a player with Means’ service time is $805K, but Atlanta gave him a $90K signing bonus. He will carry a $735K cap hit, while Carter’s cap number is $645K.
  • It appears that Cardinals pass rusher Markus Golden will be allowed to hit the open market next month.

Falcons Re-Sign LB Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter caught on with the Falcons early last season after spending the offseason unattached. He earned a longer look in Atlanta as a result of his 2018 work.

The Falcons announced they have re-signed the linebacker to a one-year deal on Monday.

This is Carter’s fourth team, with the Falcons following the Cowboys, Buccaneers and Jets. He has not been a regular starter since his Dallas days in the early 2010s, but the 30-year-old off-ball ‘backer played in 11 Falcon games last season.

A former Dallas second-round pick, Carter played one season with the Bucs (2015) before being a Jet for two years. He has carved out a nice role for himself as an experienced backup. Carter made 21 tackles last season, helping a Falcons team that lost Deion Jones for an extended time period on opening night.

Carter’s most notable NFL contributions came in 2014, when he intercepted five passes for the 12-4 Cowboys. He has 327 career tackles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Sign Bruce Carter, Sharrod Neasman

The Falcons have signed linebacker Bruce Carter and safety Sharrod Neasman, according to a team announcement. In related moves, the Falcons formally placed Ricardo Allen on injured reserve and waived linebacker Richard Jarvis

The Falcons said they would not make a splashy signing at safety to replace Allen, and the signing of Neasman shows that they are sticking to that plan. Neasman has previous experience with the Falcons, but does not represent a starting option. Without the services of Allen or Keanu Neal, the Falcons seem content with a group that includes Damontae Kazee, Jordan Richards, Keith Tandy, linebacker/safety Kemal Ishmael, and Neasman. The Seahawks may be open to trading Earl Thomas and Eric Reid continues to look for work, but the Falcons believe they have enough to get by.

Carter, who has past experience with the Cowboys, Bucs, and Jets, spent much of the last two years playing special teams in New York.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Workout Updates: 9/10/18

Today’s workout updates, with all links going to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter account unless otherwise noted:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans 

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

Jaguars Audition LBs Keenan Robinson, Bruce Carter

The Jaguars worked out free agent linebackers Keenan Robinson and Bruce Carter on Wednesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Robinson, 28, would fill a Jacksonville void at linebacker that was created when Paul Posluszny retired earlier this year. The Jaguars never added a potential replacement for Posluszny, meaning 2017 fifth-rounder Blair Brown is currently projected to start in base packages.

A 13-game starter in 2013, Robinson has seen his playing time reduced since that campaign, and a quad injury limited him to only six contests last season. But he’s an experienced veteran with special teams capabilities, and would allow the Jaguars to keep Brown in a limited role, or — at the very least — allow him to grow into a starter. Robinson also drew interest from the division-rival Titans in March before Tennessee signed fellow linebacker William Compton.

Carter, meanwhile, spent the past two seasons with the Jets, but rarely played on defense — in fact, he saw only 10 defensive snaps a year ago. As such, he’d likely be added as a depth option and special-teamer in Jacksonville. Carter appeared on 61.4% of of New York’s special teams snaps in 2017, so he’d add experience to a Jaguars unit that ranked just 24th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/4/17

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • The Browns claimed offensive lineman Zach Banner off waivers from the Colts, who cut him despite drafting him in the fourth round this year. Cleveland made room for Banner by placing offensive lineman Rod Johnson on IR. Additionally, the Browns continued their busy offseason regarding secondary turnover by releasing former safety starter Ed Reynolds from IR.
  • The Steelers re-signed linebacker Steven Johnson and waived safety Jordan Dangerfield with an injury designation. Johnson initially saw his name appear on Pittsburgh’s cut list Saturday, but the backup will return. Pittsburgh also placed cornerback Cameron Sutton, a rookie third-rounder, on IR.
  • Jacquies Smith will move from the PUP list back to the Buccaneers‘ 53-man roster. The team reinstated the defensive end on Monday. A fourth-year player, Smith is expected to be a rotational player in Tampa Bay this season.
  • The Dolphins re-signed tackle Sam Young. Miami cut the offensive lineman on Saturday but will keep him around for now. Miami guaranteed Young’s salary, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets, signing Young this week instead of next because an unspecified team wanted him. This will mark Young’s eighth NFL season. The Dolphins signed him to an extension in December.
  • Quarterback Jeff Driskel will land on the Bengals‘ IR list. The former 49ers sixth-rounder has yet to play in a game.
  • A starter in three games last season, linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin landed on the Jets‘ IR Monday. To replace the third-year player, Gang Green re-signed linebacker Bruce Carter. Now a seventh-year veteran, Carter played a depth role with the Jets last season.
  • Wide receiver Chris Matthews re-signed with the Ravens, who made room on their 53-man roster by placing cornerback Maurice Canady on IR.
  • The Falcons released defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, who resides on the Commissioner’s Exempt list as a result of misdemeanor charges from 2016. While Hageman is on that list, the Falcons will not have to pay Hageman.
  • The Chargers claimed linebacker Hayes Pullard off waivers from the Jaguars. A former Browns seventh-rounder in 2015, Pullard started two games for the 2015 Jags and played in all 16 Jacksonville contests last season.
  • Jelani Jenkins was expected to start for the Raiders, but the former Dolphins linebacker found himself on the team’s cut list Saturday. The Raiders, though, reached an injury settlement with the fifth-year linebacker, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports (on Twitter). Jenkins suffered a groin injury during the preseason. Oakland also reached an injury settlement with Jaydon Mickens, per Gehlken, who adds Mickens suffered an ankle injury.
  • The Seahawks waived cornerback Demetrius McCray with an injury settlement, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets.
  • The Redskins reached an injury settlement with center Ronald Patrick, waiving the interior blocker from IR as a result.

Sunday NFL Transactions: AFC East

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC East teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the BillsDolphinsPatriots, and Jets are noted below.

Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC East transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Jets Re-Sign LB Bruce Carter

The Jets have re-signed linebacker Bruce Carter, according to a team announcement. The news comes on the heels of safety Marcus Gilchrist and two other Jets players getting released. Bruce Carter (vertical)

Carter was a starting linebacker with the Cowboys but he has not seen that kind of playing time in the last two years with the Buccaneers and Jets. After amassing just eleven tackles in 2016, the Jets put him on the backburner this offseason and it’s not clear if other teams had sincere interest in signing him. Terms of the deal are not yet known, but this is likely a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum.

The Jets added West Georgia linebacker Dylan Donahue in the fifth round of this year’s draft but they did not make any major additions to the LB group this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jets’ Offseason Blueprint

The Jets are without a surefire quarterback option and are up against the cap going into the 2017 league year. But Gang Green looks to be attempting to keep some key role players.

Career swing tackle Ben Ijalana stepped into the Jets’ starting lineup last season after Ryan Clady went down, and the team is looking to retain the veteran, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reports. The Jets are also interested in re-signing UFA outside linebackers Josh Martin and Mike Catapano, per Cimini.

Martin may be a more pressing target than Catapano, with Cimini reporting the team is trying to reach an agreement with the special-teamer. The reporter adds that the former UDFA might want to test the market, though, in hopes of being able to compete for a linebacker job elsewhere.

New York could be without both starting tackles from the 2016 season. The team already passed on Ryan Clady‘s option and is expected to cut Breno Giacomini, who joined Clady on IR by season’s end. Ijalana cost just $840K on a one-year deal last year, but after making 13 starts should be more expensive due to demand, Cimini notes.

The Jets jettisoning Giacomini would save them $4.5MM but deprive them of their only tackle with significant starting experience. The 13 starts the 27-year-old Ijalana made double as the only ones in his six-year career, but the team is devoid of options heading into free agency. Clady could loom as a fallback option after the draft if the Jets are unable to land a suitable replacement, but it would be on a much cheaper deal. And it’s possible the 30-year-old Clady could be a mid-level target for another team, the now-injury-prone left tackle being a two-time first-team All-Pro.

Even after moving on from Clady, the Jets are projected to have less than $2MM in cap space. And they will likely add a veteran quarterback, being linked to Mike Glennon and Jay Cutler, so the team will have to create some additional cap space. But the free agents the team plans to retain won’t cost much.

Neither Martin nor Catapano will require a significant financial commitment, with both being career backups. Both finished up their four-year rookie contracts last season. The Jets still have Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Mauldin under contract. Fellow linebacker Bruce Carter also looms as a UFA, but Cimini notes there’s no urgency to get a deal done since Carter is likely looking at a veteran-minimum deal. The former Cowboys starter is entering his age-29 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

How The Cowboys Could Replace Rolando McClain

For the second consecutive season, Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain will serve a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. In 2015, Dallas only had to survive without McClain for a quarter of the season, but given that McClain is facing a 10-game ban for 2016, the Cowboys will need to more seriously consider how they’re going to make up for the loss of their middle linebacker.

We’ve examined how Dallas might go about finding a replacement for McClain, looking at players already on the Cowboys’ roster, free agents sitting on the open market, and veterans who could be on the roster bubble with their respective clubs. Let’s dive in…

Internal options:

The primary name being floated to replace McClain in the middle is third-year linebacker Anthony Hitchens, whom the Cowboys selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. Thing is, Hitchens was already a starter — he played on the inside in Anthony Hitchens (Vertical)McClain’s absence last year, and then moved to the outside, ultimately seeing action on about half of Dallas’ defensive snaps. So if Hitchens is being counted on to man the middle full-time, including in sub packages, the Cowboys would need to find a replacement at strong-side linebacker, meaning Kyle Wilber and/or Andrew Gachkar could see meaningful snaps after spending most of their respective careers as special teams players.

[RELATED: Updated Dallas Cowboys depth chart]

Gachkar, meanwhile, is another option to fill in at middle linebacker, and he has experience at the position. If chosen, Gachkar would likely be a two-down player, as Pro Football Focus’ grades have shown him to be effective against the run but a liability in pass coverage. The 27-year-old has never been a major defensive contributor — he was forced to step into the starting lineup when the Chargers suffered a variety of injuries at the linebacker position in 2014, but even then, he only played on 36.5% of San Diego’s defensive snaps.

The “wild card” in this race is second-year player Mark Nzeocha, according to Bryan Broaddus of the Cowboys’ website. A seventh-round pick in last year’s draft, Nzeocha only appeared in two games during his rookie season, managing 14 snaps, all of which came on special teams. Extremely athletic, Nzeocha was all over the field at Wyoming, playing safety and all three linebacker positions. His learning curve might be steep, but he clearly has all the physical tools to play the position.

A source tells PFR that the Cowboys are, for the most part, satisfied with the current state of their linebacker room, and are looking forward to have their young players compete for playing time while McClain is suspended. Dallas, says the source, hasn’t shown a lot of interest in scouring the free agent market for substitutes, so one of Hitchens, Gachkar, or Nzeocha might be the favorite to earn significant snaps this fall.

Free agents:

Donald Butler — After selecting Denzel Perryman in 2015 and Joshua Perry in this year’s draft, the Chargers parted ways with Butler, who had spent the past five seasons with the club. At age-27, Butler is the youngest free agent option on this list, but he’s coming off the worst season of his career, having posted just 40 tackles during the 2016 campaign. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune accused Butler of “losing interest” after receiving a massive extension prior to the 2014 season, so perhaps some other clubs have made that same assessment.Justin Durant (vertical)

Justin Durant — Durant started 12 games for the Falcons last year, but prior to his time in Atlanta he spent two seasons with the Cowboys, so at the very least he’d offer some familiarity with Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli‘s playbook. Versatility is another point in Durant’s favor, as he played mostly inside linebacker with Atlanta and Detroit, roamed the middle during his Jacksonville tenure, and moved between both positions with the Cowboys.

A.J. Hawk — The Bengals signed Hawk to a two-year deal before the 2015 campaign, but despite injuries limiting fellow linebacker Vontaze Burfict to just 10 games, Hawk rarely saw the field, playing on roughly a quarter of Cincinnati’s defensive snaps. Hawk recently told Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer that although he’s aware a club might not express interest until late in camp (or perhaps after the season begins), he’s staying in shape in the hopes of receiving a phone call.

David Hawthorne — Like Durant, Hawthorne offers positional versatility, having seen action at both inside and outside linebacker. In 2015, Hawthorne was shifted to the weak side in favor of rookie Stephone Anthony, but was then benched, declared inactive, and ultimately released after an unproductive season. Still, he’s got 83 career starts under his belt, and would presumably feel comfortable in the middle of the Dallas defense.

Keep reading for more external options that could be on the Cowboys’ radar…

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