Chris Smith

AFC North Notes: Eifert, Browns, DeCastro

Despite being one of the NFL’s biggest injury risks, Tyler Eifert returned to the Bengals this offseason. The team that used a first-round pick on the former Notre Dame tight end has a plan for trying to prevent another significant setback, though. The Bengals are going to try to limit Eifert’s snaps, Marvin Lewis said (via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer). Since Eifert’s Pro Bowl 2015 season, he’s played in only 11 games. With Eifert being most effective in the red zone (20 career touchdown receptions, 19 from inside the 20, per Dehner), that will surely be a place the Bengals try to deploy the sixth-year pass-catcher. But Lewis identifies Eifert as the team’s best blocking tight end, too. Eifert averaged 58 snaps per game during the 2015 season. Lewis doesn’t envision his starting tight end getting there again.

Well I hope he never gets 50,” Lewis said. “It’s a plan thing. There are certain things (OC Bill Lazor) is going to plan to do with him on the field, both runs and passes. I think that and then using him as a decoy at times to help open up other things for the other guys.”

This plan may limit Eifert financially. He has $3MM tied up in performance incentives, ones that will become difficult to reach if the Bengals place heavy restrictions on his usage. He played 23 snaps against the Colts.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North:

  • Emmanuel Ogbah‘s run into injury trouble again. Hue Jackson didn’t believe the third-year edge defender suffered a high ankle sprain but said (via ohio.com’s Nate Ulrich) it was “something like that” and that Ogbah will miss time. Chris Smith entered the fray as Myles Garrett‘s sidekick following Ogbah’s first-quarter injury and should be expected to start Sunday against the Saints. Recent waiver claim Anthony Zettel should have a role, too, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes. Ogbah saw a foot injury halt his momentum last year and end his season. His development was part of the reason the Browns selected Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb.
  • The Browns‘ left tackle position contributed to several NFL news cycles this offseason, due to Joe Thomas‘ retirement and the layered search for his replacement. But Jackson insists no change will commence between Week 1 and Week 2. Desmond Harrison will remain the Browns’ left tackle, per Jackson (via the Lorain Morning Journal’s Jeff Schudel, on Twitter). The rookie UDFA made the start, despite Greg Robinson and 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett residing on the roster. Pro Football Focus graded Harrison as the second-worst full-time tackle in his debut, and Rotoworld’s Evan Silva adds (on Twitter) Harrison allowed the most hurries of any lineman last week.
  • Kenneth Dixon suffered a knee injury in the Ravens‘ blowout win in Buffalo, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects (Twitter link) it to keep him out for several weeks. Dixon scored a touchdown against the Bills after missing the entire 2017 season. Buck Allen should move into the role of Alex Collins‘ backup for the time being.
  • David DeCastro fractured his hand on Sunday, and Mike Tomlin said this could limit him going forward. But the veteran Steelers blocker expects to play Sunday against the Chiefs, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

AFC North Notes: Browns, Burns, Ravens

Both of the Browns‘ first-round picks have endured a fair amount of scrutiny, with Baker Mayfield making a borderline-unthinkable rise during the pre-draft process and Bradley Chubb remaining on the board after No. 4. The Browns’ issues in coverage last season prompted the Denzel Ward pick. So did a belief third-year edge defender Emmanuel Ogbah can be a quality Myles Garrett sidekick. DC Gregg Williams is seeing Ogbah, a 2016 second-rounder who suffered a broken foot last season, validate the Browns’ thought process thus far this offseason.

I’m so excited to see how well (Ogbah’s) doing out here this year,” Williams said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “He’s night and day more relaxed and doing things more instinctively, not overthinking and not as afraid to make a mistake as he was last year because we moved him into a new position. Knock on wood, staying healthy, he’s going to really stand out this year.”

Here’s the latest from Cleveland and other AFC North cities.

  • A new addition to the Browns’ defensive end room expected to be a member of Cleveland’s defensive end rotation behind Garrett and Ogbah, UFA signee Chris Smith will likely be used as an interior pass rusher. “He can play inside; he can play outside; he brings a lot of energy to the room,” Browns defensive line coach Clyde Simmons said, via Cabot. “He’s got a high motor and I think it’s going to be great competition.” Smith joins third-round pick Chad Thomas and previous Browns draftees Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard. Though, Smith is pretty much a roster lock since he signed a three-year, $14MM contract that would cost the Browns to shed this year. So, Nassib and Orchard could be vying for one spot.
  • Other than Ryan Shazier, the Steelers have not possessed an open-and-shut case for exercising a fifth-year option in a while. They passed on Jarvis Jones‘ and picked up Bud Dupree‘s, doing so despite the 2015 first-rounder’s inconsistency. However, with Artie Burns‘ decision coming up in May, Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review sees another difficult call coming. Burns has not established himself as a surefire member of the Steelers’ core but is expected to be a starter again opposite Joe Haden. This season figures to be pivotal for the Miami product’s future.
  • The Ravens are moving Vince Mayle from tight end to wide receiver, Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun notes. This comes as Baltimore’s wideout room looks more crowded with possible roster cogs than it did last season. With Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown borderline locks for the 53-man unit, the Ravens will have some choices to make at preseason’s end. A 2015 Browns pick, Mayle played in 16 games with the 2017 Ravens. Third-year backup Chris Moore may not see much receiver time, per Lee, who adds fourth- and fifth-round rookies Jaleel Scott (New Mexico State) and Jordan Lasley (UCLA) aren’t locks to make the roster. Though, the Ravens will surely give them every opportunity to do so and it’s a fairly safe bet the rookies will be on the Week 1 roster. The Ravens’ wideouts averaged a league-low 8.9 yards per catch last season.

Browns To Sign DE Chris Smith

Chris Smith will make his way across Ohio, moving from Cincinnati to Cleveland. And the Browns are committing to a three-year deal with the defensive end, Peter Schrager of NFL.com tweets.

Smith’s deal will be worth $14MM, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

The fifth-year end served as a depth piece with the Bengals last season, playing in all 16 games but starting none. Prior to that, the former fifth-round pick was an auxiliary piece of the Jaguars defensive lines from 2014-16.

With Gregg Williams also using a 4-3 scheme, Smith will continue his work as a 4-3 end. This will probably be for work in a rotational capacity. The Browns have Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib already part of the Myles Garrett complement contingent, and each enjoyed more productive seasons than Smith in 2017.

Smith has racked up 7.5 sacks in his career, including three last season. Pro Football Focus did not grade his run defense well at all, but in tabbing the former Arkansas lineman as its No. 81 defensive end last season, was slightly more bullish about his pass-rushing acumen.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Want To Re-Sign DE Chris Smith

Although the Bengals hope to re-sign him, free agent defensive end Chris Smith is expected to garner “a lot” of interest on the open market, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link).

Cincinnati picked up Smith from the Jaguars last April in exchange for a seventh-round pick, and the now-26-year-old flashed during the preseason by generating two sacks. Once the regular season hit, though, Smith only played on roughly a third of the Bengals’ defensive snaps, racking up three sacks and grading as the league’s No. 81 edge defender among 106 qualifiers during that time, per Pro Football Focus.

While the Bengals would apparently be open to a new deal with Smith, they also have a glut of defensive ends on their roster. Veterans Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson will return as starters, while 2017 rookies Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson — the latter of whom was outstanding as an edge rusher during his rookie campaign — will be in reserve.

If Smith does reach free agency, he’ll join a lackluster group of edge defenders that includes Julius Peppers, William Hayes, Trent Murphy, and Pernell McPhee. PFR didn’t rank Smith among the top-15 pass rushers on the open market, but he would fall into the 16-20 range if our list were extended.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Megatron, Bryant, Staley

We heard earlier today that the Seahawks are still trying to trade for a veteran left tackle, and they are willing to part with TE Jimmy Graham in order to facilitate such a deal. With the league’s trade deadline just two days away, let’s take a look at more trade rumors from around the league:

  • Two teams have called the Lions to discuss acquiring the rights to retired WR Calvin Johnson, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, and Detroit told those clubs to go ahead and reach out to the future Hall-of-Famer. However, Johnson has been noncommittal at best, so it does not seem as if he will change his decision to remain retired, which he reiterated just two months ago.
  • We learned yesterday that the Lions are shopping TE Eric Ebron, and according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Detroit is receiving inquiries from multiple teams about Ebron. Per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link), Ebron has admitted that he could be dealt.
  • The Steelers are ignoring Martavis Bryant‘s trade request and plan to continue ignoring it, according to Albert Breer of SI.com, which makes it sound as if Pittsburgh is going to try and make things work with its disgruntled but talented wideout. However, that has not stopped contending teams from inquiring on Bryant, according to Rapoport (video link), who suggests that the Steelers are willing to at least listen to offers. The Patriots are one potential landing spot, as they discussed trading for Bryant prior to the draft.
  • The Eagles are another club looking for offensive line help at the deadline, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who names the 49ers‘ Joe Staley as one possibility. Indeed, La Canfora writes in a separate pice that the 49ers are open to trading veterans like Staley, Carlos Hyde, and Eric Reid, but other teams say that the new regime in San Francisco values such players more highly than the market dictates, thereby making a deal unlikely.
  • Despite the fact that the Bills have jumped out to a surprisingly strong start, La Canfora says the team is still willing to move some of its veteran pieces. However, it has already been reported that Cordy Glenn and Anquan Boldin are available, and La Canfora does not add any other names to the list of Bills who could be on the move.
  • Per Schefter (via Twitter), the Colts are receiving inquiries on CB Vontae Davis, and they have been in talks with at least two clubs about the Illinois product.
  • John Reid of the Florida Times-Union says the Jaguars could look to trade RB T.J. Yeldon, but it is unclear whether there has been any movement on that front.
  • Because of the playing time that Chris Smith has received with the Bengals this season, the Jaguars will get a 2018 seventh-round pick from Cincinnati per the conditions of the trade the two clubs completed in April, as Mike Kaye of First Coast News tweets.

North Notes: Bridgewater, Steelers, Ravens

Mike Zimmer shed some light on Teddy Bridgewater‘s progress recently, revealing (via Jay Glazer of Fox Sports; Twitter link) there is a “possibility” the fourth-year quarterback returns for the Vikings this season. Zimmer reiterates Bridgewater has not been able to practice yet, further pointing to an uncertain future for the former starting quarterback.

CBA language is murky regarding what could happen if Bridgewater begins the season the Reserve/PUP list, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noting this, as written, would cause the passer’s contract to toll and keep him on the Vikings in 2018 as part of his rookie deal. While this subject has been broached a few times this offseason, Florio adds that this contract rule as applied would suggest Bridgewater would need to miss the entire season for his deal to be carried over onto Minnesota’s 2018 books. So, the former Louisville star returning from the PUP list this season could be pivotal for his career, even if Sam Bradford has a firm grip on the starting job.

This could be a drawn-out process for Bridgewater and the Vikings without a near-future resolution, but it’s definitely a worthwhile subplot to their season. Here’s the latest in relevant North-divisions subplots.

  • Several backups complemented Antonio Brown for the Steelers in the AFC championship game last season as injuries and unavailability mounted, and they’re almost all on the roster bubble now. Sammie Coates and Darrius Heyward-Bey are not locks to make the Steelers’ 53-man roster, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Coates, Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers are fighting for the final two spots — behind Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster, per Fittipaldo. The Steelers started Ayers, Hamilton and Heyward-Bey at least once apiece in their three-game playoff sojourn last season, but now that they are deeper, won’t need some of these players to return. Coates not being given a third year would be notable for the 2015 third-round pick, who’s been inconsistent, but the remainder of these players mostly saw action due to higher-level performers’ unavailability in 2016.
  • The Ravens aren’t as deep as their rivals at wideout, and injuries have limited the competition behind locks Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun writes. Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore and Chris Matthews and rookie UDFA Quincy Adeboyejo lead the competition for the final spots, per Zreibec. This would stand to put Griff Whalen and Keenan Reynolds on the outside looking in. Zreibec calls the recently re-signed Campanaro close to a roster lock but assigns slipping stock to Moore. Adeboyejo may see a knee injury dash his hopes at making the team.
  • Bengals DC Paul Guenther discussed the prospect of acquiring defensive end Chris Smith with player personnel director Duke Tobin, expressing support for a move that eventually came April 11 via trade from the Jaguars, Paul Dehner Jr. of cincinnati.com reports. Smith participated in only 311 defensive plays in three Jacksonville seasons, and did not suit up in 10 games last season, but looks to have made a good case for more playing time in Cincinnati, Dehner Jr. writes.
  • Kyle Long not set to play in the Bears‘ third preseason game — and likely not Chicago’s fourth exhibition tilt — makes the guard’s Week 1 status uncertain, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The Bears are being cautious with their top guard after he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in November 2016.

AFC North Notes: Bengals, Steelers, Ravens

The Bengals were interested in defensive end Chris Smith for more than a year before acquiring him from the Jaguars this week, tweets Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Jacksonville’s new front office structure, which now includes Tom Coughlin, helped the trade come to fruition, per Owczarski. The Bengals forked over a conditional 2018 seventh-round pick for Smith, who has appeared in 19 games over the past three seasons. Smith, 25, will slide into a Cincinnati edge rushing group that also includes Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Will Clarke, and Wallace Gilberry. The Bengals are likely to add a pass rusher early in the draft this month, so Smith isn’t a lock to make the roster, especially given that he hasn’t been active on special teams.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Washington wide receiver John Ross will meet with the Bengals over the weekend, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Ross was thought to have completed his predraft visits, but Cincinnati scheduled a visit “at the last minute,” according to Rapoport. The Bengals re-signed veteran pass-catcher Brandon LaFell last month, and have 2016 draft picks Tyler Boyd and Cody Core on the roster, but are still looking for another weapon to play opposite A.J. Green. Ross could conceivably be in play for Cincinnati at No. 9 (especially after posting a 4.22 40-yard dash at the combine), but would more likely be in consideration if the Bengals trade down in the first round.
  • Safety Lardarius Webb‘s new three-year deal with the Ravens has a base value of $5.1MM, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). The pact comes with a $1.2MM signing bonus, while another $1.4MM is available annually via incentives. Those incentives are based on playing time, interceptions, fumble recoveries, punt return yards, and other statistical measurements, per Zrebiec. Webb, 32, played 95% of Baltimore’s defensive snaps in 2016, but his role could be reduced now that the Ravens have signed free agent safety Tony Jefferson.
  • The Steelers plan to host Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster next week, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Foster has some off-field concerns and injury issues, but he’s still the best off-ball linebacker in this year’s class, so he probably won’t be around when Pittsburgh comes on the clock at No. 30 barring a draft-day all. The Steelers already boast one of the league’s best inside linebackers in Ryan Shazier, while Vince Williams is projected to replace Lawrence Timmons, who signed with Miami.

Bengals Acquire Chris Smith From Jaguars

The Bengals have acquired defensive end Chris Smith from the Jaguars, per a team announcement. Jacksonville will receive a 2018 seventh round pick which could go up, depending on certain conditions.Chris Smith (vertical)

Smith has appeared in 19 games for the Jaguars since being drafted in the fifth round in 2014. Over the last three seasons, he has a combined 4.5 sacks and 19 tackles. Most of those sacks came during Smith’s rookie campaign.

At 6’1″, Smith doesn’t fit the typical mold of an NFL defensive end, but that doesn’t necessarily bother the Bengals.

If that guy is 5’11” and he can get there, I don’t care,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said of smaller bookends earlier this offseason (via Paul Dehner Jr. of The Enquirer).

The Bengals now have five defensive ends under contract in Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Will Clarke, Wallace Gilberry, and Smith. There already has been some D-Line shakeup this offseason with Margus Hunt and Domata Peko leaving via free agency and the draft could bring further changes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Washington, Cutler, Cowboys, Fins, Bolts, Jags

Washington will head to Chicago on Sunday to face the Jay Cutler-led Bears as it looks to stay atop the NFC East heap. Besides the matchup’s playoff implications, adding further intrigue is that Cutler – whom the Bears acquired in a trade with Denver in 2009 – was minutes from being Washington’s quarterback, as ESPN’s John Keim writes.

“You know how much time I put into that? A lot. Months. Dan [Snyder] put in a lot, too,” said Vinny Cerrato, who was Washington’s executive vice president at the time. “It was disappointing because at times we thought we had a deal then they called and said, no. Then they called back and said, ‘Hold on. If the deal falls through, we’ll trade him to you.’ Then it was like, ‘No, it didn’t work.'”

Cutler hasn’t exactly been a franchise quarterback for the Bears, but he has fared better than the slew of passers Washington has used since failing to acquire him. Washington has started Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy and current No. 1 Kirk Cousins throughout Cutler’s time in Chicago, Keim notes. Among that group, the club invested a fair amount in an ineffective McNabb and a boatload in RGIII, who hasn’t taken a snap this year and is all but guaranteed to be with another franchise next season.

Landing Cutler would’ve cost Washington plenty – a first-round pick, a fourth-rounder and QB Jason Campbell – but Cerrato believes Mike Shanahan’s presence would’ve helped make it worthwhile. Shanahan coached Cutler with the Broncos from 2006-08 and went on to hold the same position in Washington from 2010-13. Cutler threw 54 touchdowns against 37 interceptions in 37 games under Shanahan and amassed a career-best 4,526 passing yards in 2008.

“Mike knew him and what made him tick,” Cerrato said. “It would have given the organization a shot in the arm. Some like him and some don’t, but he’d have played his best football because of the way he is with Mike … It was like a punch in the gut.”

We’ll never know how another helping of Cutler-Shanahan would’ve gone, but one thing’s obvious: Had it happened, it would’ve changed both franchises dramatically – not necessarily for the better in either case, of course.

More from around the NFL as we draw closer to Washington-Chicago and the rest of Sunday’s Week 14 action:

  • Cowboys owner Jerry Jones criticized the team’s coaching staff earlier this week. On Friday, he laid some of the blame for Dallas’ 4-8 record on himself – specifically for his handling of the backup quarterback position last offseason. “On the other hand, if you want to look at any aspect of this team you can say well, if we would have been in better shape had you had Matt Cassel in the spring, rather than (Brandon) Weeden, and I’m not trying to knock Weeden, but if we would have had a guy like Cassel in here than we might have made a difference there, so put that one ultimately on my shoulders for sure,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan, per Josh Clark of CBS DFW.
  • Dolphins rookie receiver DeVante Parker – whom the team chose 14th overall in this year’s draft – started quietly but has come on strong over the last two weeks, combining for seven catches, 143 yards and two touchdowns. With Parker seemingly emerging as a playmaker and Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills also part of the Dolphins’ long-term receiving corps, the end of Rishard Matthews‘ tenure in Miami could come this offseason, according to the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero. Matthews, a fourth-year man who’s in the top two among Dolphins in receptions (43), targets (60), yards (662), yards per catch (15.4) and touchdowns (four) this year, is scheduled to hit free agency in a few months.
  • Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was impressive on 12 carries against Denver last Sunday, rushing for 55 yards, but head coach Mike McCoy benched the first-round rookie because of fumbling issues. Gordon coughed the ball up twice in a 17-3 loss, giving him five fumbles on the season. McCoy’s decision to sit Gordon was wrong, Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune offers. In Canepa’s opinion, with the season effectively over for the 3-9 Bolts, McCoy and his staff should be coaching Gordon through his struggles and letting him play – not relegating him to the sideline.
  • The final quarter of the season will provide some important answers for the Jaguars, writes Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Among them: the future statuses of receiver Marqise Lee, center Stefen Wisniewski, defenders Ryan Davis and Chris Smith, and kicker Jason Myers.

Minor Moves: Monday

We’ll round up Monday’s minor transactions right here, with the latest moves added to the top of the page throughout the day:

  • Two days after promoting him to their 53-man roster, the Lions have waived safety Nate Ness, says Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Ness was placed back on the practice squad this evening, according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com (on Twitter).
  • The Bears announced that they have signed sixth-round rookie quarterback David Fales to their practice squad and re-signed fullback Tony Fiammetta to the active roster, according to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter).
  • The 49ers are set to sign Xavier Grimble to their practice squad, a source tells Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post (on Twitter).
  • The Buccaneers have finalized a little roster shuffling, promoting linebacker Brandon Magee to their 53-man roster and signing linebacker Ka’Lial Glaud to take his place on the practice squad. To create an opening for Magee, the club has waived-injured cornerback Rashaan Melvin (Twitter link via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com).
  • Defensive tackle Matt Conrath has been cut by the Rams, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (via Twitter). No corresponding move has been reported yet, but the team could be opening up a roster spot for wideout Stedman Bailey, who appears poised to be reinstated.
  • Bengals cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, who is returning from a suspension this week, has joined the team’s roster, tweets Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. Cincinnati gets a two-day exemption for Lewis-Harris, though by our count the club had an opening on its 53-man roster anyway.
  • Linebacker Darius Fleming (Patriots) and defensive end Chris Smith (Jaguars) have passed through waivers and re-signed with their respective clubs’ practice squads, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald and Caplan, respectively (Twitter links).
  • The Giants have removed defensive end Jordan Stanton from their practice squad, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter).
  • The Ravens have signed cornerback Lou Young to fill the 10th and final spot on their practice squad, according to a team release.

Zach Links contributed to this post.