Cedric Ogbuehi

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Bengals, Browns

The Steelers have a long history of developing wideouts, but heading into the 2018 campaign, they’re faced with a question mark in the slot, as Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune writes. While superstar Antonio Brown and 2017 second-round pick JuJu Smith-Schuster are locked in as Pittsburgh’s starters in two-receiver sets, but it’s unclear who will play in the middle of the field. The most obvious candidate might be rookie James Washington, but he’s viewed as more of an outside threat. Per Rutter, Washington and Smith-Schuster could be see time in the slot, but Marcus Tucker — who spent the 2017 season on the Steelers’ practice squad — may also see snaps. Eli Rogers, Pittsburgh’s main slot man in 2016, is still on the open market after suffering a torn ACL, but is expected to re-sign with the Steelers when he attains full health.

  • Former first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi has been a severe disappointment during the first three years of his career, but the Bengals offensive lineman is now feeling revived by a planned move from left to right tackle, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer“Coming in at right, at a new position, I felt comfortable,” said Ogbuehi. “Feeling comfortable is a big part of it. I played it. I know what to expect now. I know a lot; like what to do better than last time. I’m excited for the challenge. I’m excited for camp.” Cincinnati doesn’t much invested in Ogbuehi’s future, as the club has already rejected his 2019 fifth-year option. Additionally, the Bengals acquired Cordy Glenn from the Bills during the offseason, and will now install the veteran on Andy Dalton‘s blindside. Still, the 26-year-old Ogbuehi could have one last chance as a starter on the right side while working under new offensive line coach Frank Pollack, all before hitting free agency next March.
  • In a roundtable featuring ESPN.com’s AFC North writers, Browns head coach Hue Jackson and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco are viewed as the division’s participants most on the proverbial hot seat. Jackson, of course, is not only fighting for his job after posting one win in two seasons, but he’s also dealing with a new general manager — John Dorsey — who will likely jump at the chance to hire his own head coach if Cleveland disappoints once again in 2018. Flacco, meanwhile, could see first-round rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson push for Baltimore’s starting job as soon as this season, especially if Flacco repeats his 2017 woes.
  • In case you missed it, PFR’s Zach Links outlined Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap‘s case for a contract extension, noting Cincinnati’s heavy investment along the edge position in recent drafts.
  • The Browns auditioned former CFL cornerback Jordan Holland on Tuesday.

Tyler Kroft Seeking Contract Extension

Tyler Eifert is one of the most talented receiving tight ends in the league, but he just can’t seem to stay healthy. An unrestricted free agent this past offseason, he could have earned a massive payday if he had proven to be more durable. But he missed almost all of the 2017 campaign with a back injury, and he has missed over half of Cincinnati’s regular-season games during his tenure with the club. Ultimately, he signed a one-year deal worth up to $8.5MM to stay with the Bengals in 2018, which is still a nice chunk of change, but nowhere near what his talent itself would otherwise command.

But another Tyler and tight end, Rutgers product Tyler Kroft, emerged during Eifert’s absence last year, posting 42 catches for 404 yards and seven scores. The 2015 third-round selection picked a good time to establish himself as a receiving threat, as he is entering his contract year and, much like Trey Burton this offseason, could score a lucrative free agent pact even if he plays second fiddle to Eifert in 2018.

Kroft is fully aware of his contract status, and per Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, he would like to land a second contract from the team that drafted him. Kroft, however, does not want to dwell on the matter. He said, “[A new contract is] in the back of my head but I’m trying not to give it too much thought and try and control what I can control. That’s basically how I’ve been trying to think about it. Not get too excited or too down.”

He did, though, express confidence in his abilities and his role in the offense, which could be increased even more if Eifert — whose availability for training camp is already uncertain — once again struggles to stay on the field. If the Bengals are similarly confident in Kroft’s long-term prospects, they may want to lock him up now before his asking price continues to go up. After all, compared to his counterpart, Kroft has been a bastion of durability, having played in 46 of a possible 48 regular-season games over his first three years in the league.

In other Bengals news, Owczarski reports that Cedric Ogbuehi is (surprisingly) building momentum towards landing the team’s starting right tackle spot. Ogbuehi has been a major disappointment since the Bengals selected him in the first round of the 2015 draft, but he has looked good in spring practices and has adapted well to offensive line coach Frank Pollack‘s new scheme and techniques.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals To Decline Cedric Ogbuehi’s Option

The Bengals will not pick up offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi’s option for 2019, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). The former No. 21 overall pick in the 2015 draft is now on track to reach to free agency next year. 

The Bengals were not expected to tack on the additional year to Ogbuehi’s contract given his struggles thus far. The 26-year-old has started at tackle over the last two seasons (the right side in 2016 and the left side last year), but he seems unlikely to start this season. This year, coaches say that he’ll compete with Cordy Glenn and Jake Fisher for the starting tackle jobs, but that seems like a longshot, particularly when it comes to unseating Glenn on the left side.

The declining of his option could give Ogbuehi some extra incentive to perform, however. Even though his work so far has been underwhelming, there is a dire need for tackles all across the league and he could cash in with a strong year in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Rumors: Bengals, Lions, Packers

Some more clarity regarding Tyler Eifert‘s incentive-laden Bengals contract emerged. The tight end’s deal contains some interesting benchmarks for financial rewards, ones that would seemingly be within reach should Eifert stay healthy. The sixth-year tight end has $3MM in possible performance incentives included in his one-year agreement. Additionally, $62.5K will come Eifert’s way for every game he plays.

As for the performance thresholds, Eifert will collect $250K for catching 50 passes in 2018. The former first-round pick getting to 55 receptions would bring another $250K his way, with the 60- and 65-catch barriers representing $250K triggers as well. Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports these catch incentives max out at $1MM, adding the yardage bonuses do as well. The 500-yard mark represents the first $250K trigger, with the next $250K bonus benchmarks coming at 550, 600 and 650 yards, per Owczarski. As for touchdown receptions, Eifert snaring five would bring him $250K. Each additional touchdown would bring him $250K apiece as well, and this incentive category also maxes out at $1MM.

Eifert scored a tight ends-best 13 TDs in 2015 but only has five since. He only exceeded 500 yards once (in ’15, with 615 yards) and caught a career-high 52 passes that year. He didn’t come close to 50 catches in a season in any other year, so describing these as “likely to be earned” incentives is pushing it.

Here’s the latest from some North-division franchises, continuing with news from the Cincinnati offensive front:

  • Cedric Ogbuehi may be shuttled back to right tackle, a position at which he previously said he wasn’t comfortable. The former first-round pick will compete with both Cordy Glenn and Jake Fisher for the starting tackle jobs, per Marvin Lewis (via Owczarski), but the 16th-year coach said the team expects Glenn to start on the left side. Ogbuehi has started 25 games over the past two years but has dealt with injuries in both, and each season involved him being in a rotation rather than being a full-time player throughout each campaign. Owczarski notes it’s unlikely the Bengals pick up his fifth-year option, which is expected to be for nearly $10MM.
  • Speaking of northern line movement, the Lions plan to try Graham Glasgow at center instead of guard, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reportsWesley Johnson could be set for a backup job. Birkett writes free agent Kenny Wiggins and 2016 fifth-rounder Joe Dahl will compete for at the guard spot opposite T.J. Lang. Wiggins started 16 games for the Chargers at right guard last season. However, Glasgow — who rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 20 guard last season — may stay at guard if the Lions deem Johnson solid enough to start at center. Johnson is only making $880K this season, which would gibe with backup status.
  • Both Ziggy Ansah and wideout T.J. Jones underwent offseason surgeries, per Birkett, who describes Ansah’s as a “minor cleanup” on his knee. Jones had a shoulder operation. Birkett adds Kerry Hyder‘s return goal is training camp. The defensive lineman tore his Achilles’ tendon last season.
  • Ansah remains in Ghana for family reasons, but Justin Rogers of the Detroit News tweets the franchise-tagged defensive end has kept Matt Patricia and the organization in the loop and is expected to return to the team shortly. Birkett writes Ansah could sign his franchise tender as early as the spring rather than having this drag into July. The Lions are not expected to pursue a long-term extension with their top pass rusher at this point.
  • The Packers shook up their offensive coaching staff this offseason, and it sounds like their playbook will reflect that. While refusing to divulge specifics, Mike McCarthy said recently (via Pete Daugherty of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) the team will “go back to Page 1” of the playbook. Joe Philbin, Jim Hostler and Frank Cignetti are now key offensive assistants, so their input may well be reflected in these changes.

AFC Notes: Joseph, Bengals, Titans, Bolts

Johnathan Joseph played the past seven seasons of his career in Houston, and the soon-to-be 34-year-old cornerback would prefer to remain with the Texans. The UFA returning in 2018 would mark a 13th NFL season, but he’s not ready to retire. It doesn’t sound like Joseph certain he’ll be back in Houston, though. But Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes (on Twitter) he would like to be. “I’m just chilling. We’ll see how it goes,” Joseph said. “Obviously, I want to be here. That’s my first choice. We’ll see how it goes.” The Texans still have Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson under contract for 2018, the former on a $9MM cap number in the final year of his deal, and lost A.J. Bouye in free agency last year. Whether or not Joseph returns, the Texans will probably need to make another investment at this position in the near future.

Here’s the latest from the AFC as we enter Super Bowl week.

  • Mike Vrabel‘s Titans staff continues to fill out. Former Raiders wide receivers coach Rob Moore will trek east to coach Tennessee’s wideouts, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. Since the former All-Pro wideout’s career concluded, he’s coached at the high school, JUCO, Division I college and NFL levels — the previous five being with the Bills (2013-14) and Raiders (’15-’17). His main task will certainly involve Corey Davis‘ development. Moore helped bring Amari Cooper‘s career forward, but the top Raiders target struggled this season.
  • Organizational optimism centers around Jake Fisher as the Bengals‘ right tackle despite an inconsistent first year as a starter, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jim Owczarski of cincinnati.com report. However, Fisher’s counterpart, Cedric Ogbuehi, may not figure in as prominently. The Bengals reporters expect the team will decline Ogbuehi’s fifth-year option, and Marvin Lewis offered a sobering assessment of the 2015 No. 21 overall pick’s status. “Ced’s had two seasons, basically, and it’s just not been exactly where we need it to be,” Lewis said. “That’s held us back.”
  • Texas A&M is attempting to hire Chargers assistant defensive line coach Eric Henderson, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He spent his first season with the Chargers last season under Gus Bradley. The former NFL defensive lineman and New Orleans native, though, is viewed as a plus recruiter — particularly in the south — and spent three seasons with Oklahoma State and in 2016 coached Texas-San Antonio’s defensive linemen.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/30/16

The Bengals have placed offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi on injured reserve and promoted running back Tra Carson from the practice squad to take his roster spot, per Geoff Hobson of the team’s website. Ogbuehi has a partial tear of his right rotator cuff, but it’s unlikely to prevent him from participating in the Bengals’ offseason activities. Nevertheless, it ends an injury-marred year for the 2015 first-round pick, who has also dealt with a sports hernia and a toe ailment in 2016. Ogbuehi did start in 12 of 14 appearances after only serving as a reserve last year, but the Bengals demoted him from right tackle to the bench in Week 13 before moving him to left tackle last Saturday. He’ll end 2016 ranked just 65th in overall performance among Pro Football Focus’ 74 qualifying tackles.

  • The Eagles have promoted running back Terrell Watson from the practice squad, reports ESPN’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter). The former Azusa Pacific standout joined the organization in late December after having spent time with the Browns and Broncos. The 23-year-old is expected to see some work in short-yardage situations this weekend.
  • The Ravens have claimed wide receiver Vince Mayle off waivers from the Cowboys and placed linebacker Zach Orr on injured reserve, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com was among those to report. Mayle hasn’t been a factor as a wideout, having gone parts of two NFL seasons without a catch, but did get 94 special teams snaps in Dallas this season before it cut him Thursday. Orr, meanwhile, had already been declared out for the Ravens’ season finale against Cincinnati because of a neck issue. He piled up 132 tackles (47 more than any other Raven) and three interceptions this season.
  • The Cowboys have promoted offensive lineman Ryan Seymour from the practice squad, reports Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Twitter). The former seventh-round pick last made an NFL appearance in 2014, when he played 11 games (three starts) for the Browns.
  • The Chiefs have activated linebacker Justin March-Lillard off IR and waived defensive lineman David King, per Adam Teicher of ESPN.com. Kansas City designated March-Lillard to return Dec. 21, which came at running back Jamaal Charles‘ expense. Before March-Lillard broke his hand in October, he started in all five appearances and amassed 22 tackles. King picked up three appearances with the Chiefs (two this year, one last season), but he didn’t record a tackle.

Ben Levine contributed to this post.

Bengals Activate Cedric Ogbuehi; Dennard To IR

The Bengals have announced a change to their 53-man roster, tweeting today that they’ve activated rookie offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi from their non-football injury list. To make room for Ogbuehi, the team placed cornerback Darqueze Dennard on injured reserve.

Dennard, 24, was the Bengals’ first-round pick in 2014, though he was only serving as the team’s fourth cornerback this season. We heard earlier this week that Dennard will require shoulder surgery, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com explains today (via Twitter) that while the corner’s labrum is intact, the ligaments and capsule around his shoulder have structural damage that needs to be repaired. He’s expected to make a full recovery for 2016.

With Dennard on IR, the Bengals will continue to lean on Adam Jones, Leon Hall, and Dre Kirkpatrick. However, Jones is injured and Kirkpatrick has been shaky this season, so Chris Lewis-Harris and Josh Shaw may see increased roles in the coming weeks. It’s the first time the team’s depth will really be tested this season, as Dennard becomes the first Bengal from the 53-man roster to land on the injured reserve list in 2015.

As for Ogbuehi, he was one of two tackles the Bengals selected early in the 2015 draft, along with Jake Fisher. Coming off a torn ACL, Ogbuehi started the season on the NFI list, but should be available for the team down the stretch. Still, while Ogbuehi and Fisher are likely the tackles of the future in Cincinnati, veterans Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith remain the starters for now.

North Notes: Joe Thomas, Bengals, Peterson

We’re a full week removed from the trade deadline, but whispers about the blockbuster deal that didn’t get done on that day – Joe Thomas to the Broncos – continue to linger. For his part, Thomas today denied a weekend report suggesting he and/or his agent asked the Browns to explore the trade market for a possible deal.

“I’m not sure where that report came from, but I can say in no uncertain terms that I never asked the Browns for a trade, that I never talked to them about wanting to be traded, (nor) did any of my representatives talk to the Browns about wanting to be traded,” Thomas said today, per Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com. “From what I understand about how things went, the Browns were contacted by the Broncos and that’s where the trade came from.”

That weekend report also indicated that Thomas wanted the Broncos to guarantee his 2016 and 2017 salaries before agreeing to a deal, which the Browns star tackle also denied.

“The other thing I’m going to be very firm and make no qualms about is myself was never involved in any contract discussions with the Denver Broncos, my agent was never involved in any contract discussions, there was never any guaranteed money discussed,” Thomas said. “I was off the grid this weekend, so I was a little surprised to see (the report).”

Let’s round up a few more Tuesday notes from across the NFL’s North divisions….

  • The Browns will add running back Glenn Winston and cornerback Charles Gaines to their active roster at some point this week, according to head coach Mike Pettine (Twitter link via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal). Having cut linebacker Jayson DiManche and defensive back De’Ante Saunders yesterday, Cleveland shouldn’t need to make any other roster moves to accommodate the returning players.
  • A pair of Bengals players that opened the year on reserve lists returned to practice for the team today, according to Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. As Harvey notes, Cincinnati will now have a three-week window to decide whether or not to activate offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (non-football injury list) and linebacker Sean Porter (physically unable to perform list).
  • As Joel Corry of CBSSports.com observes (via Twitter), Adrian Peterson needs at least 1,350 rushing yards and a Vikings playoff berth to keep his 2016 roster bonus from dropping by $2MM. While those may have seemed like tall orders before the season, Peterson – the league’s leading rusher – is currently on pace to exceed 1,500 yards, and Minnesota is tied for first place in the NFC North.

PUP, NFI Players Soon Eligible To Practice

Week 6 of the NFL season will come to an end after Monday night’s game between the Giants and Eagles, and when teams begin preparing for Week 7, many clubs could be welcoming injured players back to practice. Six weeks into the NFL season, players who were placed on the physically unable to perform list or the non-football injury list prior to Week 1’s games will be eligible to return to the practice field.

Of course, just because those players are able to return to practice doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be healthy enough to do so. Players on the PUP list have a five-week window to begin practicing. Once they return to practice, they have three weeks to be added to their respective teams’ active rosters. In other words, a player currently on the PUP list could return to the field for his team’s Week 7 game, or could return as late as for his team’s Week 15 contest.

The rules for NFI players are similar to those for PUP players. If a player on either reserve list doesn’t return to practice or game action in time, his 2015 season will officially be over.

Here are the players currently on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list who can begin practicing as soon as this Tuesday:

And here are the players currently on their teams’ non-football injury or illness lists, who are also eligible to begin practicing this Tuesday:

  • Arizona Cardinals: WR Damond Powell
  • Buffalo Bills: CB Leodis McKelvin
  • Cincinnati Bengals: T Cedric Ogbuehi
  • Cleveland Browns: DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, TE Randall Telfer, RB Glenn Winston
  • Dallas Cowboys: LB Mark Nzeocha
  • Houston Texans: T David Quessenberry
  • Kansas City Chiefs: QB Tyler Bray
  • San Francisco 49ers: WR DeAndre Smelter
  • Seattle Seahawks: DT Jesse Williams

In addition to monitoring players on the PUP and NFI lists, it’s worth keeping an eye on players who have been placed on the injured reserve list with the designation to return. Teams can use this IR-DTR spot on one player per season, placing him on the injured reserve list without necessarily ruling him out for the season. As we explained in an earlier post, players given this designation can begin practicing after six weeks and can return after eight weeks.

That means that a player who was placed on IR-DTR prior to Week 1 can begin practicing on Tuesday, though he won’t be eligible to return to game action until Week 9. A player who was placed on IR-DTR after Week 1 will have to wait until next Tuesday – October 27 – to return to practice, while other IR-DTR players will have to wait until November to practice.

Here’s the list of players currently on IR-DTR who can begin practicing as soon as Tuesday:

North Notes: Bengals, Ravens, Bears

According to head coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals won’t make any roster moves next week involving linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is on the PUP list, or offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, who remains on the NFI list (Twitter link via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com). Both players are eligible to be activated after Week 6, but it makes sense that Cincinnati would hold off, even if they’re close to being ready, since the club has a bye in Week 7.

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

  • Running back Raheem Mostert, claimed off waivers by the Ravens earlier this week, said he was “shocked” when he found out he was heading to Baltimore, as Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun writes. When he got the call, Mostert was standing in the Dolphins‘ training facility, ready to re-sign to Miami’s practice squad after the team cut him. Now, the 23-year-old is ready to contribute and hoping to find a new home with the Ravens.
  • Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, with an assist from the team’s official website, shut down any speculation that he might be a candidate for USC’s coaching job. “I love the Ravens. It’s not a consideration,” Harbaugh said today, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com.
  • Asked by a reader if the Bears made a mistake by trading Jared Allen and Jon Bostic for late-round draft picks, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune suggests that neither player was a good fit in Vic Fangio‘s 3-4 defensive scheme, so he has a hard time imagining the moves hurting the club this season.
  • Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said there’s a “possibility” safety Anthony Harris could soon be called up to the 53-man roster, tweets Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.