Darius Leonard

AFC Notes: Colts, Texans, Pryor, Bolts

Anthony Castonzo will make his Colts debut on Thursday night. He’s active against the Patriots. The eighth-year left tackle has been sidelined for most of the past few months because of a hamstring injury, one he’s twice aggravated. Frank Reich said he did not intend to use an IR spot on Castonzo, and the first-year Colts coach’s confidence in the edge blocker being ready to return soon turned out to be appropriate. Castonzo participated in three limited practices this week.

Here’s the latest from the AFC, going into tonight’s intra-AFC matchup.

  • Indianapolis won’t, however, have the services of its top tackler. Darius Leonard, the NFL’s runaway tackles leader four games into his rookie season, will be out. The Colts tweeted the linebacker is not expected to dress against the Patriots. Both are technically active but are not going to play. An ankle injury is restricting Leonard, who has 54 tackles (seven for loss) and four sacks. He joins T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack and Kenny Moore among Colts who aren’t playing in Foxborough.
  • Seantrel Henderson‘s Texans stay did not produce much work. The one-year, $4MM free agent addition suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 1 against the Pats. The tackle who recently underwent surgery will be a UFA again in March but wants to return to the Texans. “Of course, I would like to be back,” Henderson said, via the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson. “I love it here.” Julie’n Davenport replaced Henderson at right tackle but was benched. Kendall Lamm‘s now playing there.
  • The AFC’s Los Angeles team has seen its wide receivers receive as much publicity as the Rams’ have, but the Chargers contingent’s quite deep in its own right. Although, it will be thinner for a bit going forward. Travis Benjamin is expected to be out for at least two weeks, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Benjamin’s been battling a foot injury this season. The Bolts hope he can return either for their Week 7 Titans game or after their Week 8 bye. L.A. still has Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams, however.
  • Terrelle Pryor only played two snaps against the Jaguars. He’s not happy with his current Jets role. “It’s kind of nerve-racking. I don’t like it,” Pryor said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, about his usage dissatisfaction. “It is what it is, though. You get frustrated, you know? You don’t go out there and make plays. I’ve shown when the ball comes to me, I make plays. I’m a big play waiting to happen.” Noting Jermaine Kearse surpassed Pryor in Gang Green’s wideout pecking order, Mehta adds Pryor suffered a groin injury during practice last week. Pryor’s experienced persistent injury trouble during his Jets and Redskins tenures. He did not live up to expectations in Washington and saw ankle problems recur in New York this offseason. Pryor, however, is averaging 19.8 yards per catch (eight grabs for 158 yards) but has only received one target the past two weeks.

Colts Sign Second-Round LB Darius Leonard

The Colts and second-round linebacker Darius Leonard have agreed on a rookie contract, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Leonard, the final Indianapolis rookie to come under contract, will receive a four-year deal worth roughly $7.248MM, per Over the Cap. The 36th overall selection, Leonard should collect a signing bonus of ~$3.351MM and carry a 2018 cap charge near $1.318MM.

It’s unclear exactly what held up negotiations between Leonard and the Colts, but Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star recently reported that Leonard would likely have a contract in place by today when rookies were scheduled to report. Back-end first-round picks were reportedly haggling over fourth-year guarantees, and that could have conceivably been a point of contention for Leonard, as well. With Leonard and Giants running back Saquon Barkley now signed, only nine 2018 draft selections are without deals.

Viewed as an extremely athletic linebacker coming out of South Carolina State, Leonard dealt with a quad injury during the spring but is expected to be fully healthy for training camp. Expected to be the Colts’ weakside ‘backer of the future, Leonard is a good bet to see playing time as a rookie alongside Antonio Morrison and John Simon, with former Eagle Najee Goode and fellow second-rounder Kemoko Turay acting as competition.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Falcons, Jones, Titans, Casey

Everyone is waiting to see whether Julio Jones will show up for Falcons training camp, but fans received an encouraging sign this week when Jones arrived at Matt Ryan‘s offseason passing camp (Twitter link via team). Jones has stayed away from the team this offseason in hopes of reworking his contract and it’s not clear if he’ll join his teammates on July 26 in Georgia.

Jones is underpaid for what he does, but he has three years to go on his deal and the Falcons aren’t under any real pressure to revise his deal. His yearly average of $14.25MM once seemed like a lot, but it’s now good for eighth among wide receivers. Jones could, in theory, improve his leverage by continuing to skip team activities, but he’ll have to pay substantial fines.

Here’s more from the South divisions:

  • Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey says he’ll stay on the field and protest during the national anthem, while accepting any fines levied against him under the terms of the new anthem policy. “I’m going to take a fine this year, why not?” said Casey (via CNN). “I’m going to protest during the flag. That’s what I’m going to say now.” Casey, 28, inked a four-year, $60.4MM extension with the Titans in 2017, so he can probably afford to pay some fines. It remains to be seen whether other players will follow suit.
  • Linebacker Darius Leonard is the only unsigned rookie left in the Colts‘ draft class yet to sign his contract, but that might not be the case for long. The Colts still expect to have a deal done by the time rookies report on Sunday, a source tells Stephen Holder of the Indy Star (on Twitter).