Charles Clay (TE)

NFC Notes: Elliott, Cards, Redskins, Giants

Adding some additional spice to the Ezekiel ElliottCowboys situation, the running back may be making plans to be unavailable when his team convenes for training camp. While it is still uncertain if Elliott will indeed hold out, a source informed Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk the two-time rushing champion plans to leave the country in the coming days. Extension-eligible since January, Elliott is considering staying away from Cowboys camp due to his contract. The coming days were expected to be key for the Cowboys and Elliott, but the running back’s travel plans may affect these proceedings.

The Cowboys have prioritized extensions for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, both entering contract years, and have been rumored to be considering a future without an Elliott extension. The 24-year-old star has until August 6 to report to camp in order to accrue a fourth year toward free agency, so any holdout past that date would be quite bold. But withholding services from a team whose offense revolves around him could be a game plan for Elliott, regardless of the free agency-related date.

Here is the latest out of the NFC:

  • The Cardinals will begin camp without some notable veterans. Robert Nkemdiche, Charles Clay, Brooks Reed, Max Garcia and Brandon Williams on their active/PUP list, the team announced. Clay and Nkemdiche have been battling knee injuries, the latter’s stemming from a December torn ACL. A four-year Broncos guard, Garcia tore his ACL last season as well. Hip and back problems currently limit Reed and Williams, respectively. All players placed on the active/PUP list can return at any point in camp.
  • The Redskins tabbed Reuben Foster to be a three-down linebacker for them, but following his ACL tear, the team does not have a surefire full-time linebacker. While J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington notes Mason Foster will reprise his role as a starter, it is not certain if he will play consistently in nickel sets. Pro Football Focus did not grade Foster as a solid coverage ‘backer last season. However, the Redskins may have a nickel answer in third-year man Josh Harvey-Clemons. The team plans to use the former Louisville safety as a passing-downs linebacker, Finlay adds. A former seventh-round pick, Harvey-Clemons played just 196 snaps last season.
  • Despite the minicamp Darius Slayton buzz, Corey Coleman may still have the inside track on the Giants‘ No. 3 wide receiver job. Coleman’s first-round pedigree and his progress as a Giant gives him the edge over the likes of Slayton, Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes. During games, Coleman has not shown much since early in his rookie year. He caught five passes for 71 yards with the 2018 Giants.

This Date In Transactions History: Charles Clay Joins The Bills

Four years ago today, Charles Clay officially went to the Bills on a five-year, $38MM deal. Has the deal been worth it?

The 2011 sixth-round pick out of Tulsa spent the first four seasons of his career in Miami. Between 2013 and 2014, Clay averaged 63.5 receptions for 682 yards and 4.5 touchdowns. The tight end then hit free agency as a transition player, and he garnered a relatively lucrative offer from Buffalo.

Then, on this date in 2015, the Dolphins decided to not match the offer, clearing the way for Clay to officially join the Bills. At the time, the pairing made sense. Then-offensive coordinator Greg Roman planned to capitalize on the tight end’s versatility, as Clay had the ability to line up in multiple formations.

The result? Well, Clay’s numbers through his first three seasons in Buffalo were about on-par with his Miami numbers. The tight end was actually remarkably consistent between 2015 and 2017, compiling at least 49 receptions and 520 receiving yards.

However, the veteran took a major step back in 2018. In 13 games, he hauled in 21 receptions for 184 yards and no touchdowns. With a year remaining on his contract, the Bills moved on from Clay back in February. The move saved Buffalo $4.5MM. Clay ended up catching on with the Cardinals on a one-year, $3.25MM deal.

Was the move ultimately worth it? The ~$7.5MM average annual value was a bit high, although when you also consider Clay’s blocking prowess, you could justify that type of money through the first three years of the deal. Getting little to zero production through the final two seasons isn’t a good look, but the Bills were partly paying for potential, anyway. The contract didn’t work out as planned, but it wasn’t a debilitating deal for the franchise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals Sign TE Charles Clay

The Cardinals signed former Bills tight end Charles Clay to a one-year deal worth up to $3.25MM, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. His deal includes a $350K signing bonus. 

Clay was heading into the final year of a five-year, $38MM deal with the Bills before his release earlier this month. The Cardinals did not want to wait around and risk other teams scooping up Clay, so they’ve signed him here in February. Recently, the Cards also signed cornerback Robert Alford and defensive end Brooks Reed after they were released by the Falcons, so a pattern is emerging.

Clay had just 21 catches for 184 yards last season, a massive drop-off from his 56/600 average over the previous five years. He’ll join youngster Ricky Seals-Jones and veteran Jermaine Gresham on the TE depth chart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Release TE Charles Clay

The Bills released tight end Charles Clay. The move was widely expected after Clay’s disappointing 2018 campaign. 

Clay, 30, was set to enter the final year of the five-year contract he signed with the Bills back in 2015. Instead, the Bills released him in order to save $4.5MM against the 2019 cap.

Clay proved to be worth the expenditure in his first couple of seasons with Buffalo. From 2015-2017, Clay averaged 52 catches for 546 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, however, he was held without a touchdown catch for the first time in his career and finished out with a weak 21/184 line.

Without Clay, the Bills have just one tight end on the roster in Jason Croom. Tight end Logan Thomas is scheduled for restricted free agency and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be kept.

There will be a market for the 30-year-old Arkansas native, but he won’t find anything close to the five-year, $38MM pact he inked with Buffalo in 2015.

With Clay out of the picture, the Bills are presently projected to have about $79MM in cap space this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Wentz, Eagles, Clay, Bills, Burkhead, Patriots

The Eagles have struggled mightily in 2018, and while a lot of their troubles can be explained by the rash of injuries they’ve suffered on defense, the offense has also been much worse than last year. Carson Wentz hasn’t looked like himself, and now we have some clarity on why. Wentz returned because Nick Foles was awful the first couple of weeks, and rushed himself back in the process. Wentz is still not 100 percent, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link), who reports Wentz still isn’t able to plant “hard on his left foot.”

Wentz came back from a torn ACL and LCL, which Rapoport says is supposed to take at least a full year to recover from. It helps explain why Wentz hasn’t played at the level we’re all used to, and could mean the Eagles’ offense will only trend upward as the season progresses and he gains more and more confidence in his leg.

Here’s more from the league’s Eastern Divisions:

  • This is tight end Charles Clay‘s fourth year with the Bills, and it’s looking like it will also be his last. The Bills will likely move on from Clay after this season, according to Joe Buscaglia of WKBW (Twitter link), who writes this is “the first chance the Bills have to get out of the contract.” Buffalo can save $4.5MM in cap space by cutting him this spring, which makes sense to Buscaglia given Clay’s “complete void in production this year.” Once one of the best tight ends in the game, Clay’s production has completely dropped off a cliff this season as he’s dealt with injuries, catching only 19 passes for 169 yards.
  • Patriots running back Rex Burkhead is eligible to return from injured reserve next week, and New England will have to make some room on the roster to bring him back. The Patriots are likely to cut one of their excess offensive linemen, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, who lists both tackle Matt Tobin and guard James Ferentz as being in danger of losing their jobs.
  • In case you missed it, there’s a growing sense that the Cowboys might not want to commit huge money to Ezekiel Elliott.

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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.