Darqueze Dennard

AFC North Notes: Jackson, Steelers, Bengals

The RavensLamar Jackson interest began before his junior year at Louisville. It escalated a few weeks before the 2018 draft. During a disagreement among Ravens staffers regarding quarterback preferences going into a draft that would have five QBs taken in the first round, John Harbaugh pronounced his willingness to build a new offense around the dual-threat passer.

If we draft Lamar, I’m good with that,” Harbaugh said during an hours-long discussion about Jackson (via The Athletic’s Dan Pompei, subscription required). “We can build an offense around him. We’ll play great special teams, great defense and be a ball-control offense. We’ll build a big, physical offensive line. We’ll get physical running backs. We’ll block on the perimeter. We’ll run all the elements of the college offense. We’ll do something different.”

After choosing Jackson, the Ravens rode some of Greg Roman‘s Colin Kaepernick-based concepts to a division title. Harbaugh, Roman and then-OC Marty Mornhinweg considered going back to Joe Flacco when the Ravens’ offense stalled for much of their wild-card loss to the Chargers, but each of Harbaugh’s assistants agreed Jackson gave the team the best chance to win. As for the Ravens’ 2019 offense, it will feature similar run designs to what was used last season. But Pompei adds the passing attack was considerably revamped in the offseason.

I expect this to change the way offensive football is played in the National Football League,” Harbaugh said. “Not that everybody is going to take on this style. But I expect us to create something that hasn’t been seen before. … I think we’re going to be in more elements than any team has ever been.”

Here is the latest from the AFC North, shifting first to Pittsburgh:

  • This weekend, Artie Burns is due an $800K bonus. If the Steelers are to move on from the former first-round pick who has not lived up to that billing, they would stand to limit their losses by doing so soon. Burns’ camp, however, is confident the fourth-year corner will still be a Steeler by week’s end, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Pittsburgh still has Joe Haden and Mike Hilton and added UFA addition Steven Nelson and third-round pick Justin Layne.
  • A hamstring injury will move T.J. Watt to the Steelers’ active/PUP list, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic tweets. The Pro Bowl outside linebacker should be expected to return fairly soon.
  • The Bengals placed Darqueze Dennard and running back Rodney Anderson on their active/PUP list. Dennard underwent offseason knee surgery, while Anderson’s college career ended after an ACL tear. The former Oklahoma running back is a candidate for the reserve/PUP list to start the season, per Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Should Anderson stay on the PUP list to start the season, he must remain there for six regular-season weeks.

AFC North Notes: Johnson, Tomlin, Bengals

The Browns refuse to grant Duke Johnson‘s request for a trade, but the running back is expected to show for OTAs, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But the veteran Browns reporter notes Johnson was not on the field for the first session of Cleveland’s Tuesday workouts. Johnson, understandably, is concerned about his role behind rising star Nick Chubb and new pickup Kareem Hunt, although Hunt will be suspended for the first half of the season. The veteran passing-down back has drawn interest from other teams this offseason, but John Dorsey has insisted that Johnson is in the Browns’ 2019 plans. Despite Dorsey having parted ways with most of the players from previous regimes, he has kept Johnson around. The Dorsey regime extended Johnson in June of 2018. Three years remain on his deal.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • It does not appear the Steelers are having second thoughts about Mike Tomlin, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac calling a Tomlin extension a “when, not if” situation. Two years remain on Tomlin’s deal, and the Steelers have made a habit of extending their coach when two years were left on previous contracts. Tomlin’s recent Steelers teams have either underachieved or were racked with turmoil, and Dulac adds it would not be unreasonable for Art Rooney II to table an extension for a year. However, Tomlin will likely receive a notable raise because of recent deals handed out to John Harbaugh ($9MM per year), Jon Gruden ($10MM AAV) and Pete Carroll (nearly $11MM annually), Dulac notes. Entering his 13th year with the Steelers, Tomlin is believed to earn just more than $7MM per year.
  • Darqueze Dennard will not participate in near-future Bengals workouts due to having undergone knee surgery earlier this offseason. The operation occurred between the time Dennard re-signed with the Bengals and their offseason program, and Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com notes the team was aware the cornerback needed this arthroscopic procedure done upon re-signing him. The current hope is the slot corner returns for Cincinnati’s minicamp next month.
  • Conversely, Tyler Eifert has been participating in the Bengals’ offseason activities thus far. The injury-prone (perhaps putting it mildly) tight end said he’s “doing pretty much everything” during Bengals workouts, Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Eifert’s latest injury interruption came when he suffered an ugly broken ankle early last season. He underwent surgery in October. Despite the spree of setbacks, the former first-round pick stands to be (if healthy) the Bengals’ top receiving tight end.
  • Third-year Bengals defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow expects to be cleared to return by training camp, Dehner adds. The 2017 fourth-round pick tore his ACL in Week 3 of last season. Pro Football Focus offered a strong endorsement of Glasgow’s brief 2018 work sample, though it was cut short after just 92 snaps.
  • The Steelers waived offensive lineman R.J. Prince on Monday. He cleared waivers but has a Ravens workout scheduled for Wednesday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. A 2018 UDFA, Prince spent time on Pittsburgh’s practice squad last season.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Contract Details: Dennard, 49ers, Fins, Jets

Here are the latest contract details from around the league:

Bengals Re-Sign Darqueze Dennard

The Bengals are re-signing cornerback Darqueze Dennard, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Chiefs and a mystery club were also in the mix for him, but the former first-round pick ultimately re-upped with Cincinnati. He’ll return on a one-year deal, according to an announcement from the team.

Dennard’s market was slow to develop despite other slot corners receiving lucrative deals around the NFL. His visit to Kansas City late last week marked his first known outside interest of the offseason . Cincinnati was initially willing to re-sign Dennard at around $8.5MM annually, so it will be interesting to see whether the price went up or down.

The Bengals are often reticent to field young players during the early portions of their respective careers, and that was never more evident than in Dennard’s case, as the former Michigan State Spartan played fewer than 600 defensive snaps in his first three pro seasons.

Dennard became Cincinnati’s full-time slot corner in 2017, and saw action on roughly three-quarters of the Bengals’ snaps in each of the past two years. Football Outsiders ranked Dennard 29th among 85 qualifiers in yards allowed per pass attempt in 2018 but just 49th in success rate, while Pro Football Focus graded Dennard as the league’s No. 52 CB.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Dennard, Browns, Steelers

Still unsigned, Darqueze Dennard remains an option for the Bengals. But the franchise looks to have given the cornerback a price point. The Bengals have not closed the door on a reunion with the sixth-year cornerback, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer, but they have since signed B.W. Webb and retained some of their own free agents. The most recent negotiations between Dennard and the Bengals revealed a disconnect, with the team viewing him as strictly a slot cornerback — and one they may not consider paying at the top-market slot price Justin Coleman just reset with the Lions. Dennard’s camp came in with an offer north of what Coleman just signed, proposing a deal north of $10MM per year with the Bengals, Dehner reports, adding the corner’s representation never came back to the table with the Bengals. The team was willing to keep Dennard at around $8.5MM AAV, but that was before reaching a deal with Webb. The new Bengal corner played for first-year DC Lou Anarumo with the Giants.

Dennard was scheduled to visit the Chiefs this weekend. Shifting first to a higher-profile AFC North situation, here is the latest out of this division:

  • John Dorsey called Dave Gettleman on Monday to ask if Odell Beckham Jr. was indeed available. The Giants’ GM had twice said in 2019 he did not extend the wideout to trade him, but Gettleman told Dorsey he was, in fact, willing to move Beckham, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. Dorsey had several Beckham trades planned, but Cabot adds the talks never included Emmanuel Ogbah or Duke Johnson. Both of those pre-Dorsey Browns investments are now on the trade block.
  • As for the player the Giants did obtain for Beckham, Jabrill Peppers profiled as one the Browns did not want to let go. Despite being a Sashi Brown-era draft choice, Dorsey wanted to keep the improving safety, per Cabot. But Cleveland’s second-year GM was not going to let Peppers stand in the way of acquiring Beckham. Gettleman was “adamant” about Peppers’ inclusion in this trade because of the Giants’ recent decision to let Landon Collins walk in free agency, Cabot adds. The Giants are planning a versatile role for the third-year safety. Peppers can be under Giants control through 2021 via the fifth-year option.
  • The Steelers‘ acquisition of Mark Barron will likely not preclude them from using another early-round pick on a linebacker, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac (on Twitter). Pittsburgh did not elect to devote significant resources to replacing Ryan Shazier last year but has used four first-round picks on linebackers since 2013 — Jarvis Jones, Shazier, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt. Shazier’s unfortunate circumstances may again prompt the Steelers to use a first-round choice on an off-ball ‘backer.
  • Eli Rogers‘ latest Steelers contract is for two years, not one, the team announced. The auxiliary receiver may have a bigger role in Pittsburgh’s 2019 offense, considering Antonio Brown is out of the picture and Rogers is entering an offseason healthy. He tore an ACL in the Steelers’ 2017 divisional-round game and only played in three games last season.

Chiefs To Host CB Darqueze Dennard

The Chiefs are planning to meet with free agent cornerback Darqueze Dennard this weekend, reports Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Dennard, a first-round pick of the Bengals in 2014, has experienced an extremely quiet market despite other slot corners receiving deals around the NFL. In fact, his trek to Kansas City will mark the first known interest Dennard has drawn this offseason. Cincinnati, for its part, had been willing to re-sign Dennard at around $8.5MM annually, but the club’s stance may have changed after it signed fellow slot defender B.W. Webb on Thursday.

The Bengals are often reticent to field young players during the early portions of their respective careers, and that was never more evident that in Dennard’s case, as the former Michigan State Spartan played fewer than 600 defensive snaps in his first three pro seasons.

Dennard became Cincinnati’s full-time slot corner in 2017, and saw action on roughly three-quarters of the Bengals’ snaps in each of the past two years. Football Outsiders ranked Dennard 29th among 85 qualifiers in yards allowed per pass attempt in 2018 but just 49th in success rate, while Pro Football Focus graded Dennard as the league’s No. 52 CB.

Kansas City is searching for defensive back help after losing starter Steven Nelson to the Steelers earlier this week. The Chiefs met with Ronald Darby during the opening hours of the free agent period, but he’s since returned to Philadelphia on a one-year deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DB Notes: Berry, Dennard, Poole, Jets

Let’s take a look at the latest on the free agent defensive back market:

  • After being released by the Chiefs, safety Eric Berry has no plans to retire, tweets Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports. Although he’s just 30 years old, Berry has only appeared in three games over the past two seasons while dealing with an Achilles injury, so it’s fair to wonder about his future. In five of his nine pro campaigns, Berry has failed to play in more than five games. Still, he’s been a highly effective player when on the field, so he should find a market, even if it means accepting a one-year deal.
  • The Bengals are willing to retain slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard, but it must be at their teams, as Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Cincinnati is comfortable offering Dennard a multi-year deal at around $8.5MM, the same rate at which he was paid in 2018 under the terms of his fifth-year option. That’s largely in line with the going rate for slot corners this offseason. Justin Coleman received $9MM annually from the Lions, while the top slot CB — former Bear Bryce Callahan — has yet to sign.
  • Free agent cornerback Brian Poole has a meeting lined up with the Jets, reports Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Poole has plenty of experience, as he played on at least 60% of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in each of the past three season. Despite that, Atlanta chose not to tender him as a restricted free agent, largely because he ranked near the bottom of the league in nearly every advanced corner metric. New York is searching for a slot replacement after Buster Skrine signed with the Bears.

Latest On Darqueze Dennard

Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard will play out the 2018 season under the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, so he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next offseason. After an underwhelming and injury-plagued first three years in the league, the Michigan State product turned in a strong 2017, mostly as a slot corner, and he has set himself up for a nice payday if he replicates that performance in 2018 (which would also make for a difficult business decision for Cincinnati).

As Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes, the Bengals have proven that they are willing to pay when it comes to cover corners. And Dennard believes he can not only be a good slot corner, but that he can handle opposing receivers outside the numbers as well, which he showed flashes of last season. The team has previously indicated that it would be open to extending Dennard, despite the investments it has already made in fellow corners Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III, but Dennard himself is not sure if he’s ready for that conversation just yet.

He said, “That’s something that I think me and my agent and my family will have to sit down and talk about. But I mean, when that time come, the time come. I’m not pressed on it. I’ve got some goals that I have personally that I gotta work on, on the football field.”

He then suggested that he may be interested in testing the open market, as he smiled and added, “You know how defensive backs is anyway – we like to gamble. So I’m not too much sure how I feel any way about it.”

In any event, Dennard is slated to earn $8.526MM in 2018, which actually makes him the 21st-highest paid CB in the game. He will look to build on a 2017 campaign that saw him post career highs in forced fumbles (one), interceptions (two), sacks (two), passes defensed (six), solo (61) and total tackles (85).

In other Bengals news, Owczarski reports that the team has shown interest in supplemental draft prospects Sam Beal and Adonis Alexander, both of whom are cornerbacks who could theoretically replace Dennard in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Rumors: Bengals, Lamar, Lions, Bears

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson met with the Bengals on Monday, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. While the Bengals haven’t attempted to upgrade on incumbent signal-caller Andy Dalton in recent years, Jackson could potentially be available when the club picks at No. 21 in the first round. But as Dehner notes, Cincinnati might also be planning for other outcomes, such as a Jackson draft-day fall or a trade with another team. It’s conceivably the Bengals simply want to appear interested in quarterback prospects in an effort to goad a club into moving up. Currently, Cincinnati has free agent Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel behind Dalton on its depth chart.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • The Lions have hosted Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Detroit has added several interior defensive lineman so far this offseason, but the team has yet to address its pass-rushing need. Landry could help in that regard, but there’s no guarantee he’ll still be on the board at pick No. 20. For what it’s worth, Landry played under now-Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni at BC. Landry, who posted 48 sacks during his collegiate career, would not only give Detroit immediate help on the edge, but allow the Lions to hedge against a potential 2019 loss of franchise-tagged defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.
  • Darqueze Dennard finally lived up to his first-round billing in 2017, and the Bengals are now open to extending his contract, as Dehner writes in a separate piece. Under contract for one more season thanks to his fifth-year option, Dennard will earn $8.526MM in 2018 before hitting free agency next spring. The No. 24 overall selection in the 2014 draft, Dennard played 899 defensive snaps a season ago (nearly triple his previous career-high) and graded as the NFL’s 30th-best corner, per Pro Football Focus. Cincinnati is already heavily extended at cornerback, as it re-signed Dre Kirkpatrick and draft William Jackson III in 2016, but the club has always been willing to pay for secondary help.
  • The Bears will work out veteran defensive back Tharold Simon at their minicamp this week, tweets Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Simon, 27, didn’t see the field last season after inking a futures deal with the Redskins, as he was cut in May. A subsequent tryout with the Saints didn’t result in a contract, and Simon never generated any other known interest. However, Simon was a key contributor for the Seahawks in 2014, and as Bigg notes, has the type of size 6’2″, 200 pounds) that Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio covets. Wide receiver Marlon Brown and linebacker Ryan Delaire, each of whom boasts NFL experience, are also auditioning for the Bears, per Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link).

Bengals Pick Up Darqueze Dennard’s Fifth-Year Option

The Bengals are exercising cornerback Darqueze Dennard‘s fifth-year option for 2018, reports Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter).

Darqueze Dennard (Vertical)

As the 24th pick in the 2014 draft, Dennard is now in position to earn upward of $8.5MM in 2018, which seems rich considering his output to this point. The 25-year-old hasn’t been a starter in Cincinnati, having come off the bench in 35 of 39 regular-season appearances, and has only intercepted one pass during his career. Moreover, Dennard participated in just 30.7 percent of the Bengals’ defensive snaps last season and ranked a below-average 87th in overall performance among Pro Football Focus’ 111 qualified corners.

While Dennard’s option for 2018 is guaranteed for injury only, he joins Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson and Adam Jones as prominent Cincinnati CBs who are controllable for at least the next two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.