Chris Smith

Panthers To Sign Chris Smith

The Panthers have agreed to sign defensive lineman Chris Smith, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). It’s a one-year deal that will allow Smith to stay local as he returns to football.

Smith was away from the game in 2019 after the tragic death of his girlfriend. Recently, Smith’s camp reached out to teams to let them know that he was ready to make his NFL return. The Arkansas product met with the Panthers on Tuesday and the Bengals on Wednesday, but ultimately circled back to Charlotte to sign his deal. The 28-year-old hails from North Carolina.

The former fifth-rounder spent the first three seasons of his career with the Jaguars before moving on to the Bengals in 2017. In Cincy, he appeared in a career-high 16 games and compiled 26 tackles and three sacks, earning him a three-year contract with the Browns. He appeared in 16 games for the Browns during the 2018 season, but he was limited to only nine games this past year.

It’s already been a busy day for the Panthers. Earlier, the team made a trade with the Chargers that would send tackle Russell Okung to Carolina and guard Trai Turner to Los Angeles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chris Smith To Visit Bengals

Chris Smith is starting to generate a good amount of interest. The free agent defensive lineman is visiting the Bengals today after meeting with the Panthers yesterday, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). We heard last week that Smith was feeling better and was ready to resume his career after the tragic death of his girlfriend and mother of his child in a car accident, and things are starting to heat up for him.

As Schefter points out there is plenty of familiarity here, as the Arkansas product spent the 2017 season in Cincinnati. He was solid in a rotational role, racking up 26 tackles and three sacks. The strong play earned him a three-year deal with the Browns the following offseason. He returned to play for Cleveland briefly after his girlfriend’s death, but was waived shortly after and it’s unclear if he asked to be.

Since he didn’t finish the season on an NFL roster, Smith doesn’t have to wait for free agency to open and is eligible to sign right away. Originally drafted in the fifth-round by the Jaguars back in 2014, Smith just turned 28 last month. It sure seems like he will be scooped up by someone sooner rather than later.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Meet With DL Chris Smith

The Panthers will huddle up with former Browns defensive lineman Chris Smith on Tuesday, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Smith has been away from the game since his girlfriend’s tragic death last year, but he’s ready to make his return in 2020.

Smith entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick of the Jaguars in 2014. After that, he spent time with the Bengals and went on to ink a three-year deal with the Browns in 2018. In his first season, he notched 21 stops, two passes defensed, one sack, and a forced fumble. In 2019, he made nine appearances before being released in December. For his career, Smith has 67 total tackles and 8.5 sacks in 60 games.

The Panthers’ defensive line figures to look rather different in 2020. The team is expected to decline the 2020 option on nose tackle Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin, and Vernon Butler are unlikely to return. Mario Addison, who has tallied 55 sacks for the Panthers, may be the only pending free agent DL to return. Even then, it’d have to be on the Panthers’ preferred terms.

Extra Points: CBA, RB Market, Walton, Smith

We got a new update on many of the details surrounding the new collective bargaining agreement, and now we have an update on the timeline. Attorneys from the league office will meet with NFLPA attorneys early next week in DC, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Those sides expect to have a final draft ready by late next week, and it will be sent out from there. Graziano reports that the NFLPA is still working out how the voting will take place from the full membership, and that the union is estimating 2-2.5 weeks until the voting process is complete. As such, it sounds like it’s going to be a little while before we know an answer one way or the other, and hopes that it would get done by next week were unrealistic. We’ll continue to keep you posted.

Here’s more from around the league as the combine continues:

  • Several teams have signed running backs to massive contracts in recent years, and then nearly immediately regretted it. Most notably, David Johnson and Todd Gurley received huge extensions from the Cardinals and Rams respectively before regressing sharply. Other teams appear to be taking note of that trend, and it looks like they’ll be acting accordingly. “The running backs slated to be free agents in a few weeks will not be getting paid huge contracts,” sources told Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com. Accordingly, Pauline writes that many around the league now expect it to be easier for the Titans to re-sign impending free agent Derrick Henry, since there won’t be as much competition for his services as some might have thought. Le’Veon Bell is another runner who recently signed a big deal before failing to live up to expectations, and it will be very interesting to see what the market looks like when free agency opens in a few weeks.
  • Mark Walton seemingly can’t stay out of trouble. The embattled running back was arrested following a verbal incident with the mother of his child, according to 7 News Miami. There was no physical contact this time, but Walton violated the terms of a restraining order against him. He was released by the Dolphins in November after a domestic violence arrest. The former Miami star had started to break out with the Dolphins, becoming their starting running back before the ugly arrest. He was originally drafted by the Bengals but was cut by Cincy after three offseason arrests for more minor offenses. He’s likely facing a suspension, and it’s hard to see him playing in the league any time soon.
  • Former Browns defensive lineman Chris Smith is looking to make a comeback. Smith’s girlfriend was tragically killed in a car accident last year, leaving Smith as a single father of their child. Not long after the incident the Browns released him, and he spent the rest of the year out of football. Smith is now “feeling better and ready to resume his career” and will look to sign with a team, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Smith entered the league in 2014 and has spent time with the Jaguars and Bengals as well. He appeared in all 16 games for the Browns in 2018, starting two.

 

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/3/19

We’ll keep track of today’s minor NFL moves here:

Arizona Cardinals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

  • Claimed: C Patrick Morris (from Steelers)

Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

  • Promote TE Kendall Blanton
  • Placed on IR: WR JoJo Natson

Miami Dolphins

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

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.