Charles Clay (TE)

Bills’ Charles Clay Undergoes Knee Surgery

Bills tight end Charles Clay underwent surgery earlier today to correct a torn meniscus and a sprained MCL, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. While Buffalo didn’t provide a specific return timeline for Clay, head coach Sean McDermott said Clay will be sidelined for multiple weeks, tweets Joe Buscaglia of WKBW.Charles Clay (vertical)

Clay, 28, has been a major contributor to a limited Bills offense thus far in 2017, as he’s managed 20 receptions for 258 yards and two touchdowns through five games. He leads Buffalo in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and is second to LeSean McCoy in targets and receptions. The Bills are a run-heavy offense, so Clay’s 20 receptions represent 24% of quarterback Tyrod Taylor‘s completions.

Nick O’Leary, a sixth-round pick in 2015, is second to Clay in Buffalo tight end snaps, and he figures to soak up much of Clay’s playing time in the coming weeks. Former quarterback Logan Thomas should also be in the mix, while Khari Lee, who’s been inactive in all five contests this season, could also see usage. If the Bills want to make an outside addition, they could conceivably consider free agent Gary Barnidge, whom they hosted on a visit earlier this year.

Buffalo has a bye in Week 6, and will then face the Buccaneers, Raiders, Jets, and Saints over the next four weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: McKinney, Raiders, Bills

Texans 2015 second-round pick Benardrick McKinney came into his own during his second NFL season. After starting 11 of his 14 games as a rookie, McKinney started all 16 games last season, compiling 129 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble. While the 24-year-old is naturally overshadowed by teammates J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, one AFC college scouting director suggested he’d build his entire defense around McKinney.

“I’d be very comfortable starting my defense with McKinney as my first pick,” the scout told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s an absolute stud. He’s so big and strong, but, at the same time, he runs so well. If you could redo the draft, he’d be a first-rounder, easily. The Texans really hit on this guy. He’s special.”

McKinney inked a four-year, $5.35MM contract (with $3.26MM guaranteed) after getting drafted, and he’ll surely see a raise when he reaches free agency in 2019.

Let’s check out some other notes from around the league…

  • There were reports earlier this week that the Raiders don’t have the cap room to extend defensive end Khalil Mack until next offseason. However, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com questions those claims. The writer cites the NFLPA’s website, which lists the organization’s current cap room at $32.8MM. Even if that number reflected the team’s financial situation before the Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson extensions, Florio is still convinced that the team could have easily fit all three extensions. In the event that it wasn’t financially feasible, the writer notes that the Raiders could simply restructure the contracts for Kelechi Osemele and Bruce Irvin, which would have presumably opened enough space. As a result, Florio doesn’t believe it’s an issue of whether the Raiders can sign Mack right now; rather, Florio believes the issue revolves around whether the organization wants to extend Mack at all.
  • It’s been more than a decade since the Bills have had a “difference-making tight end,” writes Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. The organization did little to improve the unit during the draft or free agency, meaning the team will have to rely on former restricted free agent Charles Clay. The team inked the 28-year-old to a contract prior to the 2015 season, and he’s averaged 54 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns during his two years in Buffalo. Clay counts for $9MM against the cap, which presumably dissuaded the front office from pursuing reinforcement at the position. As a result, Carucci says the team will have to “get by with what they have.”
  • According to Alex Marvez of The Sporting News, the NFLPA has warned players “about the possibility of a financial scam.” The Player’s Association issued an alert on Friday regarding a trio of “tax advisory firms” that were operated by a Chicago-based resident. One NFL player was reportedly charged $500K for the man’s services, and the NFLPA also found a list of fraud claims against the individual that date back to the 1980s.

Extra Points: Bills, Clay, Floyd, Vikings

Charles Clay has a chronic knee problem and Bills coach Sean McDermott is worried.

We are concerned with Charles’ knee situation,” McDermott said (via Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News). “It’s something we have to manage moving forward in order to have him on the field for us, which is important moving forward. He’s a weapon for us.”

Clay came to Buffalo as a highly-paid restricted free agent in 2015 and they’re hoping that his knee will sort itself out in the long run. The deal calls for him to carry a $9MM cap number in each of the next three seasons and there’s not much of an escape hatch if his performance declines. The Bills cannot save money by releasing him until they get to 2019 and even then, they’d only recoup $4.5MM in cap room.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • There is no guaranteed money in Michael Floyd‘s one-year, $1.41MM deal with the Vikings, Ben Goessling of ESPN.com tweets. In theory, Minnesota could cut Floyd before the season without financial penalty. On the flipside, Floyd’s deal could reportedly pay as much as $6MM if he reaches all of his incentives.
  • Ravens coach John Harbaugh isn’t committed to having a fullback, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun tweets. Today in practice, Lorenzo Taliaferro was taking some reps at the position today along with undrafted free agent Ricky Ortiz. The decision of whether to utilize a fullback may impact the final makeup of Baltimore’s roster. The Ravens have five high-profile running backs on the roster in Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Javorious Allen, Taliaferro, and Kenneth Dixon. Dixon is facing a four-game suspension to start the year.
  • The Bills have named Terrance Gray college scouting director, per a club announcement. Gray spent the past eleven years in Minnesota’s scouting department.
  • Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva hasn’t signed exclusive rights free agent tender, per NFLPA records, which means he signed a waiver in order to be on field for OTAs (Twitter link via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com). Back in February, it was reported that the Steelers are working to extend the lineman. For now, the ERFA is slated to play out the 2017 season for just $540K. Last year, he was the 24th best offensive tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.

Bills Restructure Charles Clay’s Contract

Less than 12 months after signing Charles Clay to a five-year, $38MM contract, the Bills have restructured the tight end’s deal, according to Tyler Dunne of The Buffalo News (Twitter link). They’ve converted Clay’s $10MM roster bonus into a signing bonus as a way to create cap space, Adam Caplan ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). By going that route, the team has opened up $7.5MM of breathing room, Dunne tweets. The downside, as Joe Buscaglia of WKBW writes, is that Clay’s cap hit from 2017-19 Charles Clay (vertical) will now rise from $6.5MM to $9MM.

Prior to the restructuring of his deal, Clay was scheduled to count $13.5MM against the Bills’ cap next season. That’s an unpalatable total for a non-elite player, especially one who’s on a team with a less-than-ideal cap situation. The Bills entered Thursday with the least amount of spending space of any team in the NFL ($209,715), per Over the Cap, though the league has since awarded them upward of $4MM in carryover money from 2015.

In his first season with the Bills, knee and back injuries limited Clay to 13 games. The 27-year-old was fairly productive, though, catching 51 passes for 528 yards and three touchdowns. Most of Clay’s receptions came courtesy of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, whom the Bills could look to extend, we learned earlier this evening.

Bills Place Charles Clay On IR

The Bills have placed a pair of players on the injured reserve list, announcing today that they’re sending tight end Charles Clay and cornerback Ron Brooks to IR (Twitter link via Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News).

After inking a massive five-year contract with the Bills in the offseason, Clay was limited to 13 games this year, as he battled knee and back issues. In his first season in Buffalo, Clay caught 51 balls for 528 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers look similar to the ones he posted in 2014 in Miami – 58 receptions, 605 yards, three TDs – but the Bills were likely expecting more production from the veteran tight end after inking him to a $38MM offer sheet.

With a $10MM roster bonus owed to him in 2016, Clay will likely have his contract restructured in the offseason, but he’s not going anywhere for now, since that money is fully guaranteed.

As for Brooks, the defensive back who contributes primarily on special teams will be eligible for free agency at season’s end, so he may have played his last game with the Bills. His 2015 season came to an early end due to a neck injury.

Extra Points: Ravens, Patriots, Clay, Bush

With Terrell Suggs lost for the season, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh believes his team has the internal options to fill the void. However, he acknowledges that the club is also looking at external options and could add somebody soon (Twitter links via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun). Clifton Brown of CSNMidAtlantic.com scans the free agent market and identifies a few possible targets for Baltimore.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Patriots employees John Jastremski and Jim McNally won’t face further discipline from the NFL for their possible involvement in DeflateGate, and will meet with the league soon to discuss new roles with the team, writes Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Neither Jastremski nor McNally will be involved in the preparation, handling, or supervision of game balls going forward.
  • According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, new Bills tight end Charles Clay had his knee drained at least a half-dozen times last season while he was a Dolphin. Clay’s knees were a source of concern for suitors in free agency, and specifically for the Dolphins, who declined to match Buffalo’s huge offer sheet to Clay back in March. As Schefter explains, there are some who wonder how much longer Clay will be able to play.
  • The Saints received some bad news on the injury front, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who tweets that safety Rafael Bush tore his pectoral muscle during Sunday’s loss in Arizona.
  • Elsewhere in the NFC South, the Panthers will be without offensive tackle Daryl Williams for two to four weeks after he sprained his right MCL, as David Newton of ESPN.com details.

AFC Notes: Clay, Browns, Worilds, Wilfork

One of the offseason’s biggest winners, Charles Clay reportedly twice received offers worth more in 2015 than he was asking for from the Dolphins, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports.

Initially, Clay only sought $6.8MM per year from the Dolphins when the sides were negotiating, but Clay’s would-be salary for this season rose to $7MM when the Dolphins placed the transition tag on their developing tight end. Clay’s initial asking price represented the logic behind Miami opting to place the lesser-used transition tag on Clay as opposed to the franchise tag ($8.2MM for tight ends this year), per Salguero. This would’ve forced the Bills to part with two first-round draft picks if they matched the offer and ultimately kept Clay in Miami.

The Bills will now pay Clay, who signed a five-year contract worth $38MM, more than any tight end over the next two seasons ($11.5MM per season in ’15 and ’16) due to the frontloaded deal.

  • The Browns are the frontrunners to be the subject of this season’s Hard Knocks, reports Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports on Twitter. This would mark the first such time the Browns, who finished 7-9 last season, would appear on the HBO training camp show.
  • Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said prior to Jason Worilds‘ retirement he was not in the Steelers’ plans, as the team thought the improving linebacker would receive an offer they weren’t prepared to match, reports Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via Twitter.
  • Signing DeAngelo Williams required the Steelers’ brass to take a “little leap of faith” after what happened regarding LeGarrette Blount‘s abrupt midseason exit, Colbert said (via ESPN’s Scott Brown on Twitter). Coming off a career-worst season and entering his age-32 campaign, Williams received a key endorsement from quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner, who recruited and coached the running back when he was on staff at Memphis in the early 2000s (Twitter link).
  • Colbert told Brown the Steelers will pursue cornerbacks in the draft and that three of Pittsburgh’s four starting linebacker positions, excluding the inside backer spot manned by Lawrence Timmons, are open competitions.
  • Texans owner Bob McNair wanted to sign Vince Wilfork when he became a free agent in 2010, reports Tom Curran of CSN New England. Instead, Wilfork re-signed with the Patriots on a five-year, $40MM contract — then a league-high pact for defensive tackles. McNair received a slightly lesser version of the run-stuffing tackle this year, with the now-33-year-old signing for $9MM across two years.
  • Elite edge-rushing prospect Randy Gregory will visit the Ravens, whom he already met with at the NFL Scouting Combine, according to the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson.
  • Former Titans and Ravens linebacker Brandon Copeland participated in Sunday’s inaugural Veteran Combine and caught the eye of several teams, per Wilson on Twitter. Copeland, who will be 24 in July, told Wilson he spoke with the Chiefs, Titans, Colts, Bengals, Giants and Eagles after a workout that he said included a 4.52-second 40-yard dash. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound linebacker went undrafted out of Pennsylvania and appeared on the Ravens and Titans rosters in 2013 but did not accrue any statistics.

Bills Sign Charles Clay

4:13pm: After the Dolphins formally declared their intention not to match Buffalo’s offer sheet, the Bills have officially announced the signing of Clay.

3:08pm: According to James Walker of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the paperwork has officially been filed by the Dolphins to the NFL, confirming their decision and making Clay a Bill.

10:24am: The Dolphins have decided not to match the Bills’ offer sheet for tight end Charles Clay, according to Pro Football Talk (via Twitter). While the team has a few more days to change its mind, Miami is moving on, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), paving the way for Clay to become a member of the Bills.

Clay, who turned 26 last month, saw his numbers dip a little in 2014 after he set career highs with 69 receptions, 759 yards, and three touchdowns in his breakout 2013 season. Still, the Dolphins liked him enough to make him their transition player, assigning him a one-year tender worth $7.071MM.

The transition tag essentially makes a free agent restricted, allowing his current team to match any offer sheet from a rival suitor. However, Miami won’t receive any compensation for losing him now that the team has decided not to match Buffalo’s offer.

That Bills’ offer was a massive one — Buffalo will lock up Clay for five years at a price tag of $38MM, and the deal includes more than $20MM in guaranteed money, according to reports. The former sixth-round pick is the latest offensive weapon to join Rex Ryan in Western New York, following recent additions LeSean McCoy and Percy Harvin to the Bills.

As for the Dolphins, while they lose Clay, they also free up some cap space by removing his $7MM+ transition offer from their books. The team has also lined up a replacement already, signing Jordan Cameron last week to join Dion Sims at the tight end position.

Charles Clay Signs Bills Offer Sheet

WEDNESDAY, 11:11am: The Bills formally announced that Clay has inked his offer sheet, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). The Dolphins have until Sunday night to match.

TUESDAY, 6:33pm: The Bills’ offer is for five years and $38MM, according to Carucci (on Twitter). The deal includes more than $20MM guaranteed. Meanwhile, Michael Silver of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears that the Dolphins’ final offer to Clay was $27MM over four years with less than $15MM guaranteed.

The Bills’ offer is structured to attack Miami’s cap in 2016, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

6:24pm: The Bills have given Charles Clay an offer sheet and the tight end has inked it, according to Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News (via Twitter). The Dolphins now have five days to match the offer.

On Monday, Carucci reported that the Bills were steadfast in their hopes of signing Clay to an unmatchable offer sheet. The Bills, for their part, have been confident and bordering on cocky in their pursuit of Clay. A source told Carucci that it was a 90% certainty that Buffalo would land the tight end. New head coach Rex Ryan has been pushing hard for the team to sign Clay and he knows just how hard he can be to defend from his time coaching against him in intra-divisional action.

Buffalo has been going over both their cap numbers and the Dolphins’ cap numbers in an attempt to structure a contract that Miami can’t match. Over the weekend, it was reported that the Dolphins were losing interest in retaining Clay and that’s not all that hard to believe, given the potential contract that Clay could command coupled with the presence of the newly-signed Jordan Cameron.

FA Notes: Newman, Johnson, Clay, Lowery

As Peter King of The MMQB.com observes in his latest column, spending big in free agency often doesn’t translate to wins in the next season or two. As such, this year’s spenders – such as the Jets, Eagles, Dolphins, and Jaguars – should be wary about how much of an on-field impact their signings will have in 2015. A team like the Ravens, on the other hand, has enjoyed great success by consistently letting big free agents leave for other teams, then collecting compensatory picks for those players and replenishing the roster with young talent.

Here are a few more free agent updates:

  • Veteran cornerback Terence Newman will turn 37 in September, but he intends to continue his playing career. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), Newman visited the Vikings yesterday, and is headed to New England today to meet with the Patriots.
  • When Michael Johnson‘s new four-year contract with the Bengals was initially reported, figures of $20MM and $24MM were cited as the overall value of the deal. Rapoport offers some clarity on that front, tweeting that the $20MM base value increases to $24MM if Johnson records 10 or more sacks during the 2015 season.
  • Rex Ryan has been the “driving force” behind the Bills‘ pursuit of tight end Charles Clay, a source tells Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News. Having become familiar with the Dolphins tight end over the last few years of AFC East divisional games, Ryan badly wants Clay in Buffalo, and the Bills continue to prepare an offer sheet for Miami’s transition player.
  • Safety Dwight Lowery admits that the Falcons haven’t shown much interest in re-signing him, and says he hasn’t spoken to new head coach Dan Quinn, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. Atlanta is still without a starting free safety, so it’s possible the team will circle back to Lowery at some point.
  • Referring to an article in Australia’s Courier-Mail, former Seahawks defensive lineman Jesse Williams suggested in a tweet that he didn’t actually speak to the outlet. The Courier-Mail piece indicated that Williams himself said he expected to re-sign with Seattle, so it’s not clear whether or not a new deal with the club is actually in the works.
  • Earlier today, I listed a few of the top free agents still on the board at each position.