C.J. Mosley (LB)

North Notes: Browns, Bryant, Ravens

Could the Browns entertain the idea of signing Dez Bryant? In the wake of Josh Gordon‘s latest setback, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) wonders aloud if the Browns could call on Bryant to fill the void. The Browns certainly have the cap space to sign Bryant, but it’s not immediately clear whether there’s interest or whether Gordon’s situation will necessitate a signing. For now, all we know is that the Browns have placed Gordon on the NFI list and he is not under suspension from the NFL. Not yet, at least.

Here’s more from the AFC and NFC North:

  • The Ravens and linebacker C.J. Mosley have yet to make progress on an extension. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic isn’t exactly sure what the holdup is, but he posits a few theories. It’s possible that the Ravens are hesitant to sign a defensive standout to a long-term deal after injuries hampered players like Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb after their extensions. It’s also possible that the Ravens do not value inside linebackers as much as other clubs because of their history of finding UDFA gems at the position. Or, perhaps GM-to-be Eric DeCosta does not want to tie up the club’s future cap space. Still, with a number of players on expiring deals and others with minimal guarantees, the team should have enough flexibility to sign Mosley.
  • Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga had a workout with Lions last week, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Siliga had eight tackles for the Bucs in eight games last year.
  • Here’s the latest the Browns and Gordon.

Ravens, C.J. Mosley Not Progressing On Deal

Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley has been pushing for an extension this offseason, but it doesn’t sound like a new deal is imminent. Mosley told reporters on Thursday that there are no updates to give with regards to his contract extension (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic). 

[RELATED – Extension Candidate: C.J. Mosley]

Mosley is entering the final year of his contract and is a prime candidate for a multi-year extension. Mosley has been open about his desire to stay with the Ravens, but he’s scheduled to reach free agency after he earns $8.718MM in 2018.

Mosley has been a durable, locker room leader since being drafted by the Ravens in 2014. With three Pro Bowl nods and eight career interceptions, the 26-year-old has made a strong case for a pay raise on a new multi-year deal. Except for Luke Kuechly, no linebacker has amassed more interceptions than Mosley over the last four seasons.

A new deal for Mosley would almost certainly call for more than $10MM per season. Recently, Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney and Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks landed five-year, $50MM deals. Neither player has ever made a Pro Bowl, so it would be surprising to see Mosley settle for less than $11MM per season.

Last year, Mosley amassed 132 total tackles, one sack, eight pass defenses, and three forced fumbles from the inside linebacker position. His 1,077 snaps last year were the eighth most of any LB in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extension Candidate: C.J. Mosley

Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, unlike some of his fellow 2014 first-round draftees eyeing a new deal, has not held out of spring practices and has no intentions of holding out of training camp. He has previously indicated that he wants to be a Raven for life and to be remembered as the second-greatest linebacker in team history (behind Ray Lewis, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in August).

Although it is difficult to fault any player in today’s NFL for holding out in an effort to land a mega payday, Mosley’s decision to remain with the team regardless of his contract situation is emblematic of the type of leadership that makes him such a prized commodity in Baltimore. His play, of course, also speaks volumes. The Alabama product has been named to three Pro Bowls in his four-year career and has earned a reputation as something of a playmaker, as he has posted eight interceptions and eight sacks during that timeframe. Those eight interceptions rank second among linebackers over the past four years (behind Luke Kuechly‘s nine), and Mosley ranks fifth in tackles (489) and fifth in solo tackles (313) among all defensive players from 2014-17.

Perhaps just as importantly, he has been durable, having missed only two games to date. On the other hand, he can struggle in pass coverage, and while he is a very good all-around player, he is not a generational talent that makes a lucrative extension an easy call for the Ravens.

The Texans’ Benardrick McKinney recently landed a five-year, $50MM deal (with $21MM guaranteed), and the Vikings gave Eric Kendricks a similar deal in April. Mosley has a case to top both of those players, neither of whom have been selected to a Pro Bowl, and it would not be far-fetched to see him approaching or besting Kuechly’s five-year, $61MM ($27MM guaranteed) pact, which currently paces the market for inside linebackers.

But the Ravens do have a history of drafting quality ILBs, and given that Mosley is generally not the kind of game-changing player that Kuechly is, one would think Baltimore could move on and use that money elsewhere. But the Ravens typically take care of their homegrown talent, and considering Mosley’s abilities and leadership qualities, the guess here is that he and the team will come to terms on an extension that will give him around $25MM in guarantees and that averages around $11MM per year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Browns, Bears, Mosley, Cooter

Having already been connected to Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, the Browns are midway through an all-hands-on-deck offseason when it comes to their quarterback choice. However, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com reports the Browns may not be dismissing a Baker Mayfield pick. Multiple evaluators informed Robinson that the Browns are going to be down to Darnold or Mayfield.

A lot of what he is as a player fits with the mentality of John Dorsey,” one source told Robinson from the Senior Bowl. “Just his mental makeup as a player, John believes in building around those kinds of guys. … I think he’s a strong candidate [for the top pick] after this week.”

The 6-foot passer has been mentioned the least among the top quarterbacks as being a viable option at No. 1 at this point in the pre-draft process, but Dorsey said this week there could be “four or five” prospects the team could target atop the draft. While Mayfield’s character issues are still cropping up this week, it’s looking clear he will be picked in the top half of the first round. Robinson notes former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan serves as one of Dorsey’s top sounding boards, and McCloughan’s been pro-Mayfield for a while. Another source noted Dorsey’s past with the Packers during the Brett Favre era could apply here, given Mayfield’s gunslinger style and sometimes difficult off-field persona. Nevertheless, it would quite the leap for Mayfield to rise to the top of the draft over passers who have long been viewed as better prospects.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions:

  • C.J. Mosley has no designs on leaving Baltimore. One of numerous 2014 first-round picks to be stuck in fifth-year option limbo, Mosley is eyeing a career that ends with him being ranked as the second-best linebacker in Ravens history, he said (via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). The Pro Bowl inside ‘backer expects something to get done regarding an extension. Mosley is set to make $8.718MM next season.
  • The Lions are going to have an entirely new defensive staff under Matt Patricia and already parted ways with quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan, who became a coveted commodity this week. But the expectation remains Patricia will retain OC Jim Bob Cooter, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com notes. While the Lions have struggled on the ground under Cooter, finishing 32nd twice during his two-plus-year tenure running the offense, Matthew Stafford‘s had his best run of seasons during Cooter’s time in Detroit.
  • An internal debate’s being waged at Bears headquarters as to whether Cody Whitehair will function better as a center or guard, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes, adding this process will impact whether the team picks up Josh Sitton‘s 2018 option. Whitehair has played both spots, receiving most of his work at center, while Sitton is a pure guard. The soon-to-be 32-year-old blocker is due to count $8.57MM against the Bears’ 2018 cap if the team picks up his option.
  • Another possible factor working in Sitton’s favor for a third Bears year is the Kyle Long‘s suddenly injury-prone status. Biggs reports Long will undergo multiple surgeries this offseason. Long played in 10 games this past season after an extensive rehab process didn’t end until after the 2017 campaign began.

Ravens Exercise C.J. Mosley’s Fifth-Year Option

The Ravens have picked up linebacker C.J. Mosley‘s fifth-year option for 2018, reports Field Yates of ESPN (Twitter link). Head coach John Harbaugh indicated in March that the Ravens would do so, calling the decision a “formality.”

C.J. Mosley

Mosley is now in line to make in the neighborhood of $9MM in 2018, though the Ravens will likely attempt to work out an extension before then. Harbaugh wants Mosley “to be a Ravens for many years,” which isn’t surprising considering the success the ex-Alabama standout has had in Baltimore.

Since going 17th in the 2014 draft, Mosley has started in all 46 appearances, totaling 360 tackles and six interceptions. The 24-year-old pulled in a career-high four picks in 14 games last season, when he also notched 92 tackles and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 11th-best linebacker out of 87 qualifiers.

While Mosley’s near future is squared away, there are still several 2014 first-rounders whose fifth-year option fates aren’t yet known. Those decisions are due by May 3.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Notes: Boldin, Mosley, Jernigan

Although Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he’d “obviously” be open to signing veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, he admitted he’ll leave the club’s personnel decisions to general manager Ozzie Newsome, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Boldin, 36, has already indicated he’ll return for a 15th NFL season, but he may not sign with a club until later this summer. Baltimore may also look to find a receiver via trade, or perhaps pick up a veteran wideout that has recently been cut by another club, says Harbaugh.

Here’s more on the Ravens:

  • Linebacker C.J. Mosley‘s fifth-year option is a mere “formality,” per Harbaugh, as Baltimore wants the former first-round pick “to be a Ravens for many years” (Twitter link via Zrebiec). The non-top-10 pick fifth-year option salary for linebackers in 2017 will be $8.369MM, so the figure could tick towards $9MM in 2019. Mosley, 24, missed two games last year but still racked up 92 tackles and four interceptions, grading as the league’s No. 7 linebacker, per Pro Football Focus.
  • Harbaugh didn’t deny rumors that defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan could be traded, reports Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “Everybody is up for trade,” Harbaugh said. “It’s part of the conversation in the NFL.” Mike Lombardi of The Ringer recently indicated he’s heard Jernigan’s name pop up in trade discussions. Jernigan, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, played in all 16 games last season and managed five sacks.
  • While veteran tight end Ben Watson hasn’t yet been cleared to practice, he is ahead of schedule as he recovers from a torn Achilles, per Hensley. Watson, 36, signed a two-year, $7MM contract with Baltimore last spring, but never made it on the field after going down in August. There’s no guarantee Watson makes the Ravens’ final roster, as the club also boasts Dennis Pitta (who recently accepted a paycut), Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore, Nick Boyle, and Darren Waller at tight end.
  • Right guard Marshal Yanda underwent offseason shoulder surgery to repair a nagging injury that caused him to miss three games in 2016, according to Hensley. Despite his health issues, the 32-year-old Yanda was spectacular once again last season, as PFF graded him as the NFL’s best guard. He’s signed through the 2019 campaign.

North Notes: Cutler, Bell, Lions, Ravens

The Bears spent the offseason making notable upgrades to their defense – adding edge rusher Leonard Floyd in the first round of the draft and, before that, free agents Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and Akiem Hicks – but it’s quarterback Jay Cutler who will determine how far the club goes this season, opines Eric Prisbell of USA Today.

With Adam Gase having left Chicago over the winter to become Miami’s head coach, Cutler will now work with his sixth different offensive coordinator since 2009. There’s familiarity in place, though, as successor Dowell Loggains was the Bears’ quarterbacks coach last season. Under Gase and Loggains, Cutler posted a career-best passer rating (92.2) in 2015 and threw seven fewer interceptions (11) than he did in 2014. He’s in position to succeed again with the healthy receiver duo of Alshon Jeffery and last year’s first-round pick, seventh overall selection Kevin White. Jeffrey sat out seven games with various ailments in 2015, and White lost the entire season because of a stress fracture in his left ankle. On the other hand, it remains to be seen how well second-year running back Jeremy Langford will replace dual-threat Matt Forte, who will no longer serve as Cutler’s security blanket after signing with the Jets in free agency.

Notes on three other clubs from the North divisions:

  • Interestingly, contract-year Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell revealed in his new rap song, “Focus,” that he wants $15MM per annum on his next deal, relays FOX Sports’ Rob Perez. The 24-year-old superstar is highly unlikely to receive that much, however, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The Steelers will have a chance to quash Bell’s $15MM dream next offseason by giving him the franchise tag, which is worth $11.789MM for running backs this year. Bell could otherwise sign a contract that averages $15MM annually – but only artificially, notes Florio, who points out that the front end of the pact wouldn’t reach that total. For now, Bell is on track to play out 2016 on a sub-$1MM salary.
  • Given that second-year man Ameer Abdullah isn’t a traditional workhorse running back, the Lions will need someone to separate himself from the pack this summer and ultimately serve as a complement to Abdullah in 2016, writes Justin Rogers of MLive.com. Free agent pickup Stevan Ridley – a 1,200-yard rusher in 2012 – and NFL sophomore Zach Zenner are strong candidates, but Michigan native George Winn also has a chance to win the role, Rogers contends. The 210-pounder has spent time with six organizations since going undrafted out of Cincinnati in 2013, logging 19 appearances and 23 carries – all with the Lions. Detroit also has Theo Riddick as a backfield option, of course, but he’s a far bigger threat as a pass catcher than as a rusher.
  • Newly acquired Ravens safety Eric Weddle wore the headset in his helmet as a Charger and relayed each defensive play call to his teammates, but that won’t be the case in Baltimore, according to Garrett Downing of the club’s website. For the third straight year, the Ravens will stick with middle linebacker C.J. Mosley in that role. Weddle, for his part, is content deferring to Mosley. “It’s best to have it as the [middle linebacker], because they are in the front seven most of the time,” he told Downing.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Wilson, Mosley, Browns

For years, the Steelers have had no problem finding value in pass-rushing outside linebackers. It wasn’t long ago that they were one of the few teams running a 3-4 defense, and were able to find defensive ends that were considered undersized and transition them to a new position, writes Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Those times are gone however, as many other teams have transitioned to either a 3-4 or a multiple defense and have learned to value the athletic pass rushers who have questions about putting their hand in the dirt and playing like a traditional pass rusher. It is much harder to find those classic Steelers’ linebackers late in the draft, and that used to be a huge advantage for the team’s defense on draft day.

Here are a few more notes from around the AFC North:

  • The Ravens have shown interest in 6’2″, 205-pound cornerback Julian Wilson out of Oklahoma, writes Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “I met with them and it was really good,” said the versatile cornerback. “We went over board work, going over coverages my team was doing and some Ravens stuff. They wanted to see if I had a good understanding of the game.
  • With the NFL Draft less than a week away, the Ravens are looking at the success of last year’s first-round pick for what they expect to add to the team. C.J. Mosley is following an excellent rookie season by doing all the right things, writes Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun. “Learning the little things about the defense, definitely,” Mosley said. “Definitely getting back stronger after I get this cast off [he had left wrist surgery this offseason] and still learning from my vets, because there are still a lot of things to learn as far as [being a] defensive player, being a young player. Getting in touch with Daryl Smith more and seeing the things that helped him progress each year in his long career, that can help me out.
  • The Browns have been quiet about their plans for the NFL Draft despite having two top-20 picks, but that hasn’t stopped other teams from dreaming about them. Tucker Bagley of PhillyMag.com has rounded up a few Eagles’ stories, two of which has Philadelphia using Cleveland as a jumping board in a three-team trade to get Marcus Mariota. Cleveland would likely settle for some combination of Sam Bradford and draft picks in those situations.

Lions Reinstate Mosley, Activate Van Noy

Heading into the week with two open roster spots, the Lions have moved quickly to fill those openings. According to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com (via Twitter), the team has reinstated defensive tackle C.J. Mosley from suspension, and activated linebacker Kyle Van Noy from off the injured reserve list.

Mosley, whose suspension came from the team rather than the league, was banned for two weeks, reportedly for an incident related to marijuana. Since the Lions had their bye in Week 9, the penalty only cost the defensive tackle one game — the club’s victory over the Falcons in London.

Meanwhile, Van Noy, the 40th overall pick in this year’s draft, has yet to make his regular-season debut for the Lions, having been placed on IR with the designation to return prior to Week 1. While an abdomen injury cost Van Noy a portion of his rookie season, and the club may ease him back in slowly, the BYU alum had initially been penciled in as a three-down starter for the Lions, so we could see him take on an increased role down the stretch. I identified Van Noy last week as one of the returning players for contending teams who could have an impact in the second half of the season.

Following the pair of transactions, the Lions now have a full 53-man roster.

AFC North Links: McCarron, Ravens, Archer

With one preseason game down, Bengals website editor Geoff Hobson provides a position-by-position roster rundown. Of note, rookie quarterback’s A.J. McCarron’s 2014 prognosis is unknown because of his shoulder issue, and Hobson says “it looks like he’s not coming off PUP anytime soon and that the Bengals think he needs a long rehab.”

Keep reading for more NFC North links…

  • The Ravens’ selection of Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley 17th overall was universally praised, and the rookie is justifying the pick and the praise, writes Aaron Wilson in the Baltimore Sun.
  • Ravens 2013 fifth-rounder Rick Wagner, expected to take over the right tackle job, played well in the team’s first preseason game, according to Wilson, who quoted head coach John Harbaugh: “I think someone wrote it earlier, you don’t notice him much. That’s a good thing for a right tackle, and he seemed like he played that way. And at the end of the day, he was solid and on his targets, and footwork was good. He’s a good, solid football player.”
  • Asa Jackson has taken an early lead over Chykie Brown for the Ravens’ third cornerback job, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. Jackson, 24, is a 5-10, 182-pound third-year pro out of Cal Poly who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. Jackson has a skill set, including ball skills, to cover slot receivers, but he’s yet to play a defensive snap thanks, in large part, two a pair of Adderall-related suspensions totaling 12 games.
  • Steelers veterans are anxious to see rookie Dri Archer put his rare speed on display, writes TribLive.com’s Mark Kaboly. Says Ike Taylor: “He is going to be a matchup problem for a lot of teams. He just has it. Dri just has it. Anytime he touches the ball or anytime you know he’s getting the ball, you kind of stand up and pay attention.”
  • Everyone will be tuning into the Browns-Lions preseason contest to watch Johnny Football, but Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot provides four other things to watch, including the competition for carries between Ben Tate and rookie Terrance West.