Danny Shelton

Danny Shelton Met With Bengals

Former first-round pick Danny Shelton met with the Bengals recently, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter).

Shelton is a first-time free agent, hitting the market after the Patriots in 2018 declined to pick up his fifth-year option. He played well in a part-time capacity this past season, grading as Pro Football Focus’ No. 27 overall interior defender. But Shelton was also a healthy scratch for multiple Pats games, clouding his appeal on the market.

A better run defender than pass rusher, the 6’2″, 345-pound Shelton played on roughly a third of New England’s defensive snaps a year ago, the lowest playing time percentage of his career. In 13 games, Shelton 21 tackles (one for loss) and one quarterback hit. The Patriots originally acquired Shelton and a fifth-round pick from the Browns in exchange for a third-round selection in March 2018.

Cincinnati’s entire defense was a mess last season, and the Bengals couldn’t stop anyone on the ground, ranking 30th in Football Outsiders‘ adjusted line yards. Shelton could potentially help in that capacity, although his playing time would likely come at the expense of promising fourth-year nose tackle Andrew Billings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Notes: Kraft, Flowers, Tate

Patriots owner Robert Kraft will likely not face many legal repercussions from his prostitution charges, according to a Florida criminal defense attorney (via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe). Kraft will probably be required to pay a several hundred dollar fine and attend counseling of some sort, at which point the charges may be dropped.

But the consequences from an NFL standpoint are likely to be much more severe. Volin believes commissioner Roger Goodell should “come down hard on Kraft” and impose at least a six-game suspension and a hefty fine (the maximum fine is $500K). Kraft is obviously one of the most prominent and powerful owners in the league, but he may be relieved of some of his duties (he is a part of five major ownership committees). He was supposed to guide the league through a potential 2021 lockout and lead negotiations with television networks when those contracts expire in 2022, but that is all in question now.

Volin still believes Kraft will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his induction will now be delayed, and the 77-year-old may not be around to enjoy his enshrinement when it does happen (Volin says Kraft was likely to get the HOF nod in a year or two). And, while Kraft will almost certainly not be forced to sell the club or hand it off to his son, Jonathan, this incident will be a permanent blot on his reputation.

Now let’s take a quick look at a few on-field notes from Foxborough:

  • Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers will be a hot commodity if he hits the open market, but Jim McBride of the Boston Globe says locking him up to a long-term deal is high on New England’s list of priorities. The Pats are unlikely to use the franchise tag on Flowers, and they are unlikely to keep him if it takes an Olivier Vernon-esque deal to do so (five years, $85MM). However, McBride believes Flowers will ultimately return to New England on a multi-year contract, even if he tests the free agent market first.
  • In the same piece linked above, McBride looks at the other Patriots eligible for free agency and their chances of returning to the club. For instance, he believes specialists Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen will certainly be back, while Eric Rowe and Danny Shelton are more likely to find homes elsewhere.
  • Assuming the Patriots don’t trade out of the first round, Doug Kyed of NESN.com sees tight ends Noah Fant (Iowa) and Irv Smith Jr. (Alabama) and DB Taylor Rapp (Washington) as potential fits.
  • Golden Tate would be a good fit in the Patriots’ offense, but Kyed does not believe the Pats will be willing to meet Tate’s asking price.
  • Brothers Devin McCourty and Jason McCourty have announced that they will continue their careers in 2019 after some retirement speculation prior to the Super Bowl. Devin is still under contract with the Patriots, but Jason is eligible for free agency.

Patriots Decline Danny Shelton’s Option

The Patriots aren’t planning to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Danny Shelton, a source tells Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Many expected the Pats to tack the additional year on to Shelton’s rookie deal, so this comes as a bit of a surprise. 

Shelton is now on course to hit the open market after the 2018 season. As shown on PFR’s Fifth-Year Option Tracker, Shelton would have cost the Patriots $7.154MM in 2019 had they exercised the option and kept him on the roster through next year.

The Patriots acquired Shelton from the Browns (along with a 2018 fifth-round pick) in exchange for a 2019 third-round choice. In his three seasons with the Browns, Shelton started in 45 of his 46 appearances and turned in some solid performances as a part of a not-so-solid Browns front seven. Even in a down 2017, he still graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 35 ranked interior defender out of 122 qualified players.

As shown on Roster Resource, the Patriots also have Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown in the middle, but Shelton should have an opportunity to compete for a first-string job in camp. Shelton has demonstrated the ability to play in multiple schemes and his versatility should make him a solid replacement for Alan Branch in the rotation.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Foles, Giants, Breeland

The Eagles and reigning Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles just agreed to a reworked contract that gives Foles a $2MM raise for 2018, plus a whole host of incentives. The deal also includes a mutual option for 2019, though if Foles were to decline the option, he would have to give back the $2MM he just received.

Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com examines why Philadelphia, which is tight against the cap this year and will be again in 2019, made the move. The reworked deal probably had little to nothing to do with the Eagles’ wanting to reward Foles for his postseason heroics, so Shorr-Parks speculates that Foles and his camp could have put some pressure on the team, and he also suggests the new contract may come with a lower cap hit.

The chances that the Eagles exercise the 2019 option are very slim, as Foles would be owed a $20MM salary under that scenario. But, if the two sides want to continue their relationship beyond 2018, this gesture will certainly buy the Eagles some goodwill when it comes time to negotiate again. It also guarantees that Philadelphia, which already had the best QB insurance policy in the game, will keep that policy perfectly content this season, and even if Carson Wentz cannot stay healthy, the team has given itself a chance to deploy a capable signal-caller for at least the next two years.

Now let’s take a quick swing around a few other east division clubs:

  • Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com says the Giants could look to trade offensive tackle Ereck Flowers during the draft, though that will probably be a difficult trick to pull off. Raanan also says Big Blue has done a lot of pre-draft work on punters this year, and he believes the team could bring in a UDFA punter to compete with Riley Dixon. Dixon was recently acquired from Denver for a conditional seventh-round pick, so if he does not make the club, the Giants will likely not need to surrender the pick.
  • Former Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland was set to sign a three-year, $24MM pact with the Panthers last month, but Carolina scuttled the deal due to a “non-football incident” in which Breeland cut his foot. The foot became infected, and at the time, it was reported that Breeland was a few months away from being able to pass a physical. He will surely garner some interest this summer once he is healed, but JP Finlay of NBCSports.com says Washington is not expected to bring Breeland back into the fold. Indeed, Breeland himself indicated on Instagram that the Redskins never had interest in retaining his services.
  • The Patriots are in the unique position of having three fifth-year options to either exercise or decline before May 3, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the team will almost certainly exercise those options on defensive tackles Danny Shelton and Malcom Brown (at a little over $7MM apiece). However, the team is unsurprisingly not expected to exercise the $9.387MM option for receiver Phillip Dorsett.
  • The Cowboys are expected to exercise Byron Jones‘ fifth-year option.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Pats, Shelton

The Jets, armed with $90MM of salary cap space, are of course prepared to make a major push for this year’s Holy Grail of free agents, Kirk Cousins. But Gang Green has plenty of needs to fill outside of quarterback, and GM Mike Maccagnan is making no bones about his team’s anticipated activity level when free agency opens this week. Maccagnan said at the scouting combine, “Obviously we’ll be very active on the first day [of free agency] in terms of the higher profile guys. Everybody is well aware we have quite a bit of cap space to work with. There are quite a few players we’re interested in” (via Brian Costello of the New York Post).

Per Costello, the Jets are poised to re-sign Josh McCown if they fall short in their pursuit of Cousins. The team also needs upgrades at running back, center, and cornerback. Wide receiver and inside linebacker could also be positions that New York targets.

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the AFC East:

  • Dion Lewis‘ abilities as a runner and receiver allowed the Patriots to run all sorts of formations in 2017, but it is widely believed that he will not be back in New England in 2018. Fellow free agent Jerick McKinnon, who has thrived in a similar role in Minnesota, could be a logical replacement, per Phil Perry of NBCSports.com. However, even though McKinnon will not break the bank, Perry thinks it is more likely that the Pats re-sign Rex Burkhead and address their RB needs in the draft.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets that the newly-acquired Danny Shelton will count for $2.03MM against the Patriots‘ cap in 2018 (which matches his base salary). As we learned yesterday, New England will have to decide whether to exercise Shelton’s fifth-year option, which has a projected value of roughly $7MM, by early May. The Browns, meanwhile, will be saddled with about $1.7MM in dead money as a result of the trade, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the 2018 fifth-round pick the Patriots received in the Shelton swap is expected to be Cleveland’s lower pick in the round, No. 159 overall. Reiss adds that New England, which shipped a 2019 third-rounder to the Browns, could recoup a third-round pick in next year’s draft through the compensatory system.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss says the Patriots will not stray from their usual financial discipline in their efforts to re-sign Danny Amendola, but given Amendola’s impressive 2017 campaign, he says other teams may view him as a pure No. 3 wideout instead of the No. 3/4 option with a limited workload that he has been with the Pats (and those teams could offer to pay him accordingly). As such, Amendola — who has taken pay cuts to remain with New England in the past — could have a harder-than-expected decision to make this month.
  • Reiss also sees Titans LB Avery Williamson as a “sleeper” target for the Patriots when free agency opens in a couple of days. Williamson is in his prime and gives New England the type of off-the-line LB it is looking for.
  • We learned earlier today that the Dolphins continue to contemplate moving on from Ndamukong Suh, though it makes more sense for the team to either retain him — perhaps with a restructured contract — or trade him than it does to simply cut him.

Browns Trade DT Danny Shelton To Patriots

Another day, another Browns trade. ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter) that Cleveland has traded defensive tackle Danny Shelton to the Patriots for a conditional draft pick. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that the Browns will receive a 2019 third-round pick from the Patriots, while New England added a 2018 fifth-round pick from Cleveland. The two teams had been discussing the trade for several days, reports TheMMQB’s Albert Breer (via Twitter).

The 2015 first-round pick has spent the past three seasons in Cleveland, starting 45 of his 46 appearances. Following a productive campaign in 2016, Shelton’s numbers took a step back in 2017, as he finished the season with 33 tackles and zero sacks in 14 games. After ranking Shelton favorably during his sophomore season, Pro Football Focus listed him 35th among 122 interior defender candidates following his 2017 performance.

Still, 6-foot-2, 335-pound Shelton will provide the Patriots with a big-body replacement for Alan Branch. The 24-year-old, who is set to earn a base salary of $2.03MM in 2018, will presumably slide into the Patriots starting lineup, displacing either Lawrence Guy or former first-rounder Malcom Brown. New England is also rostering Vincent Valentine and Adam Butler. As ESPN’s Mike Reiss tweets, Shelton has shown the ability to perform in various schemes, and Bill Belichick will surely appreciate the lineman’s versatility. The Patriots will also have to decide whether they want to pick up Shelton’s fifth-year option by early May. As NESN’s Doug Kyed tweets, the project cost for a defensive tackle will be around $7MM.

This is the Browns fourth trade in less than 24 hours. Yesterday, the Browns completed deals for Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, and Damarious Randall, and they sent out 2017 second-rounder DeShone Kizer in the process. With Shelton now out of the picture, the Browns are rostering four defensive tackles: Larry Ogunjobi, Trevon ColeyCaleb Brantley, and Jeremy Faulk.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Burfict, Bears, Packers, Decker

Vontaze Burfict‘s Bengals contract calls for a $2MM roster bonus if he’s on the team by March 31 of next year, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The Bengals protected themselves heavily with the Burfict extension, one that could pay out $33.234MM through 2020, since the deal comes with just $3.3MM guaranteed. Speaking publicly about the extension for the first time, Burfict didn’t elaborate much about his decision to bypass free agency for a largely non-guaranteed deal. Although, he did say he appreciates the Bengals’ support in agreeing to take him on long-term given his suspension history. “I hope so,” Burfict said (via Owczarski) of the feeling of support. “I give my blood, sweat and tears out on the field. It’s vice versa. I appreciate everything they do for me and my family and like I said, let’s go get a win on Sunday. Now we’re in for four more years, so we’re past it now. So now obviously just win some games.”

The Bengals reinstated Burfict on Thursday.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions on a night when their most storied rivalry takes center stage.

  • The BearsTarik Cohen pursuit began when Ryan Pace‘s top southeastern scout declared the then-North Carolina A&T running back was his favorite player to watch, over all of the SEC prospects he observed, and the Chicago GM soon became enamored as well, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). The Bears selected several small-school talents this year, with second-round tight end Adam Shaheen being the first, but Cohen — a fourth-rounder — has played an impact role from the start.
  • While Cohen will receive his first chance to display the elusiveness that enticed the Bears to a national audience, the Packers will be down several key players. Both starting tackles — David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga — are out, and Mike Daniels will miss the Week 4 tilt as well. The Packers are already down would-be backup options in Don Barclay, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy — each on IR — so Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets a four-guard lineup could be on tap. Justin McCray, who started at tackle for Bakhtiari in Week 2, and fellow rookie Adam Pankey join second-year player Lucas Patrick in the mix to protect Aaron Rodgers on Thursday. Each of those players entered the league as a UDFA. The Packers played without both starting tackles against the Falcons, with Murphy and McCray receiving the replacement starts.
  • The Bears aren’t judging Mike Glennon in their impending quarterback swap but rather are monitoring Mitch Trubisky to determine when the rookie will be ready to take over, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. Glennon has struggled during his first three starts, and Biggs categorizes the season’s plan — once based around Trubisky redshirting as a rookie — as a week-to-week arrangement.
  • Ka’Deem Carey‘s Bears injury settlement was worth $273,529, Biggs reports. The Bears placed the backup running back on IR just before the season, and the settlement came shortly after.
  • Not known for particularly expansive pressers, Jim Caldwell succinctly assessed Taylor Decker‘s status. The fourth-year Lions coach said Decker is “progressing towards” a midseason return, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. The left tackle was given a four- to six-month timetable upon a labrum tear in June. Midseason would fall in that range. Greg Robinson currently mans the left edge for the Lions.
  • Tests done on Danny Shelton‘s injured calf don’t look to reveal a serious malady, Rapoport tweets. The Browns defensive tackle injured the calf in practice Wednesday. He has not missed a game in his three-year career.

AFC Notes: Browns, Santos, Bills, Ravens

Barely a month after Danny Shelton sustained a knee injury, the Browns defensive tackle suffered a calf malady during practice Wednesday. The team acknowledged it could be serious, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter), but also maintains hope the setback could also be minor. Hue Jackson referred to the occurrence as “unfortunate.” This came on a non-contact play, and Cabot notes (via Twitter) Shelton already underwent an MRI. Shelton encountered knee trouble during training camp but returned in time for the regular season. The 2015 first-round pick became a breakout player for the Browns last season. The former Washington defensive tackle has not missed a game during his NFL career. Rookie third-rounder Larry Ogunjobi would be in line to see more time if Shelton ended up missing action.

Here’s the latest from the AFC, continuing with some better news out of northeast Ohio.

  • Myles Garrett returned to Browns practice Thursday, working out with the team for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain just before the season’s outset. Jackson said on Wednesday the No. 1 overall pick might not see a full starter’s workload even if he is ready to play Sunday. The Browns are exercising caution with their top offseason investment, a player who’s struggled with ankle trouble since his junior year at Texas A&M. “He’s a huge piece of our organization, our future, so we want to be cautious but smart as we go through it,” the second-year coach said, via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com.
  • The Chiefs will consider making Cairo Santos one of their IR-boomerang players, Andy Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). Santos ventured to IR earlier this week after injuring his right groin during warmups Sunday in Los Angeles. Kansas City signed rookie Harrison Butker off the Panthers’ practice squad. A Santos re-emergence could get tricky, however. The Chiefs are likely planning to bring slot corner Steven Nelson off IR by Week 9, and teams can only pull two players off the injury list in a season. So it’s not certain Santos will get to continue kicking until next season.
  • Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson also ran into trouble during practice this week, suffering a groin injury Thursday, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports. A starter after missing most of his rookie season due to injury, Lawson has two sacks thus far. The recently signed Ryan Davis may be Buffalo’s top option if Lawson can’t play in Week 4.
  • Brent Urban‘s season-ending Lisfranc injury could conclude his time with the Ravens, with Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun writing the team will want to see if recent third-round picks Chris Wormley and Bronson Kaufusi are going to be worthy contributors. (Neither has played an NFL down.) However, Zreibec also notes Urban’s injury history — by the end of this season the former fourth-round pick will have played just 25 of 64 possible regular-season games with the Ravens — could make him a candidate to stay and rebuild his free agent stock. Urban started all three Ravens games this season, the first three starts of his career.

Extra Points: Bortles, Kap, Rosen, Browns

Blake Bortles has struggled so much this summer that the Jaguars may have to consider benching the quarterback in order to avoid a catastrophic injury that would guarantee his fifth-year option for 2018, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk opines (Twitter link). Such an injury for Bortles this season would leave the Jags on the hook for upward of $19MM a year from now, which even a healthy version of the 2014 third overall pick hasn’t been worth during his three seasons in the NFL. Keeping Bortles away from the field to prevent any chance of the option triggering wouldn’t be a first in the league – the Redskins did it with Robert Griffin III in 2015.

Meanwhile, in light of Bortles’ second straight lackluster performance of the preseason on Thursday, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets that the Jaguars should bring free agent signal-caller Colin Kaepernick in to take the starting job. While Kaepernick’s social activism makes him a tough sell for many teams’ decision makers and fans, he at least possesses a superior on-field resume to both Bortles and backup Chad Henne.

More from around the game:

  • The NFL may soon have another Kaepernick on its hands in UCLA passer Josh Rosen, a scout told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report. Rosen, a junior, could end up as a first-round pick in next year’s draft, though his outspoken views might cause him to slide down the board, Miller notes. To cite one example, Rosen has openly derided President Donald Trump, who happened to appoint Jets owner Woody Johnson as an ambassador to the United Kingdom. The QB-deficient Jets figure to end up with a high pick in next year’s draft, which could make for an intriguing situation if Rosen draws their interest. UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. discussed his unique prospect as a guest Thursday on PFT Live, saying: “I’m never going to stifle his opinions. I just want to make sure he’s aware when he does say things publicly there are going to be ramifications.”
  • There’s a chance the Browns will have to open the season without one of their top players, Danny Shelton. The nose tackle suffered a knee injury that will sideline him for three to six weeks, Field Yates of ESPN reports (on Twitter). Shelton, the 12th pick in 2015, was a full-time starter for Cleveland in each of his first two seasons and posted a breakout 2016, ranking 15th in performance among Pro Football Focus’ 125 qualified interior D-linemen. He also piled up 59 tackles, 23 more than he amassed in 2015, and the first 1.5 sacks of his career.
  • Justin Britt‘s three-year, $27MM extension with the Seahawks includes $15MM in injury guarantees and $5MM fully guaranteed at signing, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: Miller, Jaguars, Titans, Shelton

Let’s take a look at some notes out of the AFC on this Saturday evening…

  • It might be in Von Miller‘s best interest to sit out the majority of next season, writes Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. The reigning Super Bowl MVP would earn $5.81MM if he sits out until Week 10, and the Broncos would presumably pass on slapping Miller with the franchise tag next offseason. If they did, Miller could sit out again, earning $6.98MM for another seven-game season. In this scenario, Miller would be in line for a 44-percent raise or the quarterback franchise tender for 2018. When all is said and done, the 27-year-old could end up making at least $36MM for 30 games over three seasons.
  • Dwayne Gratz started 13 games for the Jaguars during the 2014 season, but the cornerback may have issues even making next year’s roster. As Ryan O’Halloran of Jacksonville.com writes, with Aaron Colvin, Davon House, Prince Amukamara and Jalen Ramsey presumably ahead of him on the depth chart, the 26-year-old recognizes that he’s simply competing for a roster spot. “It’s going to be big,” Gratz said. “I have to understand it’s not a given and that if I don’t do my job, I won’t end up on this team, which I would like to be a part of because a lot of special things are going to happen. I understand the situation I’m in.”
  • The Titans made a variety of moves this past offseason, and general manager Jon Robinson addressed those moves while speaking at the Nashville Sports Council Reception last Tuesday. “We did what we thought was the best for the football team,” he said (via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com). “As I’ve said before, this is a city and a state and a team that I am very passionate about. It’s a special place for me, and I want it to be good. And we want it to be good. We just try to make moves and position ourselves to put a product and 53 guys out there that this city and this state can be proud of.”
  • Browns defensive tackle Danny Shelton lost 30 pounds this offseason, and his improved physique should allow him to stay on the field for more snaps. “He can do so many more things at the weight he’s at right now and the condition he’s in,’‘ defensive line coach Robert Nunn told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “So he’s got to keep that and time will tell. He’s the one that controls that. I can help him only so much and the strength coaches can only help him so much and Coach Jackson can only help him so much. I think he sees the difference of where he was and where he can be.”