Cyrus Jones

Broncos Claim CB Cyrus Jones, Waive CB Coty Sensabaugh

The Broncos have claimed cornerback Cyrus Jones off waivers from the Ravens and are waiving fellow defensive back Coty Sensabaugh, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com.

Selected by the Patriots in the second round of the 2016 draft, Jones has now completed two separate stints with both New England and Baltimore. Nominally a corner, Jones has only played nine total defensive snaps this year. Instead, he spends most of his time on special times — he was the Ravens’ primary punt returner this season, averaging 9.4 yards per return on 12 attempts. Jones could take over for Diontae Spencer as Denver’s return man, and may also add depth in the secondary.

Sensabaugh, 30, appeared in four games for Denver after signing off the street in October. While he’s probably not a household name, Sensabaugh was a fairly regular starter for the Steelers over the past two seasons, starting four games at the tail of end the 2017 campaign and 10 more last year. Football Outsiders was a fan of Sensabaugh’s work in 2018, charting him as ninth among qualified corners in yards allowed per pass and 26th with a 56% success rate (meaning he was effective at stopping opposing wide receivers short of the sticks).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Sign Justin Ellis, Domata Peko

The Ravens have signed veteran defensive tackle Justin Ellis, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter). Ellis was a regular member of the Raiders’ D-line since Oakland selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, and he even landed a three-year, $15MM contract with the Silver-and-Black in March 2018. But his 2018 season was marred by injury, and he was released with an injury settlement in October.

And while Baltimore scored its fifth straight win on Sunday, its defensive front was noticeably shaky, perhaps because starting DT Michael Pierce played just three snaps. Pierce exited the game against the Bengals with an ankle injury, and head coach John Harbaugh said that an MRI didn’t reveal any long-term concerns. But as Jeff Zrebic of The Athletic writes, Harbaugh was non-committal as to whether Pierce would be available for this Sunday’s crucial matchup with the Texans, instead calling Pierce’s status “day-to-day.”

In addition to Ellis, the Ravens are adding another free agent DT, Domata Peko, as Zrebiec tweets. The Ravens, who are intimately familiar with the long-time Bengal’s work, attempted to sign him earlier this season, but the two sides were unable to agree on terms at the time. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports that Baltimore will pay Peko $1MM for the remainder of the season (Twitter link).

Neither Ellis nor Peko are likely to create much of a pass rush in the interior of the line — which Baltimore could really use — but like the Ravens’ earlier additions of linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, both are experienced veterans who understand their assignments and who should, if nothing else, solidify the run defense. That will be essential given Pierce’s uncertain health and the fact that the Ravens are putting rookie DT Daylon Mack on injured reserve, per Zrebiec.

Baltimore, at 7-2 and in first place in AFC North, is doing everything it can to keep the second-place Steelers at bay while pushing for a postseason bye. Zrebiec says the club is expected to add rookie CB Iman Marshall to the active roster this week, and given that the Ravens’ kickoff and punt coverage teams have been uncharacteristically unsteady, Marshall may be asked to bolster those units.

In a corresponding move, the Ravens have waived return man Cyrus Jones, per Zrebiec. Jones muffed a punt in the team’s win over the Patriots in Week 9, and Baltimore signed De’Anthony Thomas shortly thereafter. Thomas operated as the kickoff and punt returner on Sunday and will presumably remain in that role moving forward.

The team also waived DE Ufomba Kamalu, per Zrebiec.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Harris, Sanders, Ravens, Titans

The Broncos employ three of the top slot cornerbacks in the league, with recent signings Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan joining longtime slot kingpin Chris Harris. Vic Fangio, however, confirmed the Broncos will also use Jackson as a safety, where he lined up in base packages all offseason. The Broncos have not settled on how they’re going to mix and match three corners who do their best work as inside cover men.

We still have some things that we have to figure out as to exactly how we are lining up our secondary, figure out the starters up front of all the positions, and then playing the different packages — the five-DB packages, the six-DB, etc.,” Fangio said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (subscription required). “I think we have some versatility. We’ve got three good players that have played nickel at a high level in this league, and that is highly unusual.”

Despite his status as one of the NFL’s premier corners, Harris does not have a surefire role yet, Mark Kizsla of the Denver Post notes. The ninth-year player has previously worked as a boundary corner in Broncos base sets before shifting inside in sub-packages, which has keyed the former UDFA’s rise to prominence. Pro Football Focus graded the four-time Pro Bowler as its No. 3 corner last season. Harris has requested to play more outside corner in the past but doesn’t appear to prefer ceding too much time at his top job.

I think I have a different role every week,” Harris said, via Jhabvala. “We’ve got so many guys that are interchangeable, but we’ve got a chance of me playing all outside and then one day of me playing the inside. To me, I think it just looks different with me inside. I’m just a totally different man inside compared to everybody else.”

Here is more from Denver and the latest from other AFC cities:

  • Emmanuel Sanders‘ chances of playing Week 1 seem to be improving. The 10th-year wide receiver will not begin training camp on the Broncos’ active/PUP list, with NFL.com’s James Palmer noting (via Twitter) the team did not place anyone on that list. John Elway said Wednesday that Sanders will begin practicing with the team Thursday, though the 32-year-old wideout cautioned he would not be full-go for a bit. Sanders is attempting to recover from a December Achilles tear.
  • Ravens cornerback/return man Cyrus Jones has been dealing with a non-disclosed health issue, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes. Jones missed Baltimore’s offseason program, but it sounds like he will be back in time for the Ravens’ preseason slate. If so, Zreibec expects the former Patriots second-rounder to keep his job as Ravens punt returner. Jones averaged a career-best 14.4 yards per return with Baltimore last season, including a 70-yard touchdown sprint.
  • Kenneth Dixon does not appear to have as strong a chance to keep a roster spot. The fourth-year Ravens running back is behind Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and rookie Justice Hill, and Zreibec is not certain the Ravens will carry four running backs this season. Even if Baltimore does keep four backs, the injury- and suspension-limited Dixon does not appear to be a lock to beat out former Texan Tyler Ervin or second-year UDFA De’Lance Turner.
  • Staying on the running back subject, David Fluellen will likely be the Titans‘ third running back — behind Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. The expectation entering camp is the team will not carry a fourth, per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com, making a preseason battle between Jeremy McNichols, Dalyn Dawkins and rookie UDFA Alex Barnes more likely to be for a practice squad slot.

Ravens Claim CB Cyrus Jones

The Ravens claimed cornerback Cyrus Jones off waivers from the Patriots, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets

Jones, 25 in November, was a second-round pick of the Pats in 2016. He saw time on special teams as a kick and punt returner as a rookie, but a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus cost him the 2017 season. This summer, he missed the Patriots’ final cut, wound up on the Ravens’ practice squad, then was signed by the Patriots on Sept. 19. Two weeks later, he’s back with the Ravens, and this time around he’s on the 53-man roster.

The Ravens have Jimmy Smith back on the roster to join top cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey, but Anthony Averett has missed three straight games with a hamstring issue. Jones figures to take his place on the depth chart and is probably in line for similar usage on defense. In his two games this year, Averett saw just 18 total snaps, and that was before Smith’s return.

The Patriots brought Jones back primarily for special teams reasons, but Julian Edelman handled two punts in his first game back from suspension on Thursday. With Edelman taking over on punt returns, the Patriots saw little reason to keep Clamp Clampington on the team.

To take Jones’ place on the roster, the Patriots have re-signed running back Kenjon Barner. Barner returned 27 punts in 2017 and averaged 8.9 yards per attempt, so he could find a role on special teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Waive CB Cyrus Jones

Cyrus Jones‘ latest stint with the Patriots is over. The team waived the former second-round pick on Saturday, NESN.com’s Doug Kyed tweets.

New England brought Jones back midway through last month and used him as its punt returner in two games. Jones, however, did not play against the Colts, with the Pats designating him as a healthy scratch.

Julian Edelman was back deep for the Patriots on Thursday, returning two punts in his first game back from the performance-enhancing drug suspension. Jones did not see any time on defense during his second stay with the Patriots.

The Patriots cut Jones initially after this preseason’s conclusion. The former Alabama cog missed all of the 2017 season because of an ACL tear. He played in 10 games during New England’s 2016 Super Bowl season, starting one. Since Jones is in his third NFL season, he does not have enough service time to avoid waivers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Rumors: Patriots, McMillan, Bills

A calf injury forced Marcus Cannon to miss the Patriots‘ preseason slate and resurfaced in New England’s Week 1 win over Houston. But the Pats’ right tackle starter looks on track to return on Sunday night. Cannon made progress this week, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (subscription required), and the Patriots announced he did make the trip to Detroit on Saturday. LaAdrian Waddle started for Cannon against the Jaguars. Cannon was signed to an extension to be the Patriots’ long-term right tackle, but he played in only seven games last season. It looks like he’ll have a chance to establish some consistency beginning in Week 3.

Here’s more out of New England and other AFC East locales:

  • Although Brandon Beane serves as the Bills‘ GM, it’s Sean McDermott who establishes the franchise’s tone “from top to bottom,” Tim Graham of The Athletic writes in an expansive piece about how the Bills’ rebuild is going thus far. The offseason mistakes Beane made in adding Vontae Davis, Jeremy Kerley, Corey Coleman and Russell Bodine may increase McDermott’s voice within the organization, Graham adds.
  • It will be a stretch for Trey Flowers to play this week. Howe notes Bill Belichick hasn’t deployed a player who’s missed an entire week of practice in at least 10 years. The Patriots’ top pass rusher was sidelined all week because of a concussion. Patrick Chung is in the same boat. Of course, the concussion protocol being in place means it’s not up to Belichick whether or not Chung and Flowers can suit up Sunday. Both are listed as doubtful to face the Lions. A Flowers absence could free up a spot for 2017 third-rounder Derek Rivers, who has yet to play in a regular-season game.
  • The Dolphins‘ intentions for Raekwon McMillan — set to be their starting middle linebacker in 2017 prior to a season-nullifying injury — was not to play him in their nickel package, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes. However, McMillan is now being used as a three-down player this year. Pro Football Focus has graded McMillan as one of its worst coverage ‘backers through two games, and Salguero adds Jerome Baker was brought in this year via third-round pick to help in coverage. While McMillan remains a part of Miami’s nickel set, Baker is pushing for a role there, per Salguero, as passing-down backs like James White, Giovani Bernard and Tarik Cohen loom on the Fins’ first-half schedule.
  • On the subject of nickel work, the Patriots‘ bringing back Cyrus Jones for a possible nickel role, Howe adds. Although the former Pats second-round pick was re-signed to serve as the punt returner, he worked as a safety and was given a chance to play in the slot during practice this week. Third-year Patriot Jonathan Jones currently serves as New England’s slot man. He’s graded well through two games, per PFF, which slots him as the NFL’s No. 21 corner thus far. Jonathan Jones, though, was in coverage during Dede Westbrook‘s back-breaking touchdown last week.

Patriots Notes: Gordon, Jones, Mitchell

No surprise here, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t offer much insight on the newly-acquired Josh Gordon when speaking with reporters on Friday. When asked about the wide receiver and newly re-signed defensive back Cyrus Jones, Belichick said the two have “done as much as they can do in the few days they’ve been here, we’ll see how it goes,” (via Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston).

Belichick went on to say that Gordon is a “smart kid” who has “picked up a lot,” so that could bode well as the former Browns standout tries to learn the Patriots’ playbook in short order.

Here’s more on the Pats:

  • Speaking of Jones, his new two-year deal gives him the same base salaries he was set to make on his previous Patriots contract before they cut him, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets. That means the defensive back will earn $814K this year ($718K prorated) and $996K next year. The Patriots probably did that in order to convince Jones to forego restricted free agency next year. If the 2016 second-round pick plays up to his potential, it will be a worthwhile investment for New England.
  • Former Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell filed an injury grievance against the team seeking his entire 2018 salary of $630K, Volin writes. Mitchell had six catches for 70 yards in the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory over the Falcons, but missed the entire 2017 season with a knee injury. He was cut in August without an injury designation, meaning that he was unable to recoup any of his salary. Mitchell will be examined by a neutral doctor selected jointly by the NFL and NFLPA and a neutral arbitrator will decide the case, as per the rules laid out in the collective bargaining agreement.
  • The 49ers had interest in Gordon before he was traded to the Patriots, but they backed out towards the end.

Patriots Sign CB Cyrus Jones

The Patriots signed cornerback Cyrus Jones off the Ravens practice squad, a source tells Jeff Howe of The Athletic (on Twitter). To make room for their 2016 second-round pick, the Pats released running back Kenjon Barner. It’s a two-year deal for Jones, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter), so the youngster can be controlled through the 2019 season.

Jones was released earlier this month during the Pats’ final roster cuts, but it wasn’t an easy call for New England. Now that he’s back in the fold, he figures to handle return punt returns while also seeing some reps at cornerback.

As a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2016, Jones saw time on special teams as a kick and punt returner. Last year, however, a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus cost him the season.

Barner, 28, was expected to handle some return work for the Pats when he was signed last week. The former Eagles running back will now look to hook on elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Make Roster Cuts

The Patriots are the latest team to move to 53 players by making the following transactions:

Placed on injured reserve:

Cut:

New England kept only three true wide receivers on its initial roster, meaning the club will almost surely be searching for more options on the waiver wire.

Patriots Cut CB Cyrus Jones

The Patriots have moved on from a former second-rounder. Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that New England has released cornerback Cyrus Jones.

The 2016 draft pick struggled to earn playing time during his two years in New England. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie, compiling seven tackles. However, he suffered a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus during the 2017 preseason, forcing him to miss the entire season.

Following a successful career at Alabama, Jones has since proven to be one of Bill Belichick‘s biggest draft misses. While the 24-year-old hasn’t looked solid on defense, he could have a role on special teams. Jones has eight career kick returns for 180 yards and 11 career punt returns for 46 yards.