Darrius Heyward-Bey

North Notes: Bridgewater, Steelers, Ravens

Mike Zimmer shed some light on Teddy Bridgewater‘s progress recently, revealing (via Jay Glazer of Fox Sports; Twitter link) there is a “possibility” the fourth-year quarterback returns for the Vikings this season. Zimmer reiterates Bridgewater has not been able to practice yet, further pointing to an uncertain future for the former starting quarterback.

CBA language is murky regarding what could happen if Bridgewater begins the season the Reserve/PUP list, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noting this, as written, would cause the passer’s contract to toll and keep him on the Vikings in 2018 as part of his rookie deal. While this subject has been broached a few times this offseason, Florio adds that this contract rule as applied would suggest Bridgewater would need to miss the entire season for his deal to be carried over onto Minnesota’s 2018 books. So, the former Louisville star returning from the PUP list this season could be pivotal for his career, even if Sam Bradford has a firm grip on the starting job.

This could be a drawn-out process for Bridgewater and the Vikings without a near-future resolution, but it’s definitely a worthwhile subplot to their season. Here’s the latest in relevant North-divisions subplots.

  • Several backups complemented Antonio Brown for the Steelers in the AFC championship game last season as injuries and unavailability mounted, and they’re almost all on the roster bubble now. Sammie Coates and Darrius Heyward-Bey are not locks to make the Steelers’ 53-man roster, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Coates, Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Cobi Hamilton and Demarcus Ayers are fighting for the final two spots — behind Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster, per Fittipaldo. The Steelers started Ayers, Hamilton and Heyward-Bey at least once apiece in their three-game playoff sojourn last season, but now that they are deeper, won’t need some of these players to return. Coates not being given a third year would be notable for the 2015 third-round pick, who’s been inconsistent, but the remainder of these players mostly saw action due to higher-level performers’ unavailability in 2016.
  • The Ravens aren’t as deep as their rivals at wideout, and injuries have limited the competition behind locks Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun writes. Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore and Chris Matthews and rookie UDFA Quincy Adeboyejo lead the competition for the final spots, per Zreibec. This would stand to put Griff Whalen and Keenan Reynolds on the outside looking in. Zreibec calls the recently re-signed Campanaro close to a roster lock but assigns slipping stock to Moore. Adeboyejo may see a knee injury dash his hopes at making the team.
  • Bengals DC Paul Guenther discussed the prospect of acquiring defensive end Chris Smith with player personnel director Duke Tobin, expressing support for a move that eventually came April 11 via trade from the Jaguars, Paul Dehner Jr. of cincinnati.com reports. Smith participated in only 311 defensive plays in three Jacksonville seasons, and did not suit up in 10 games last season, but looks to have made a good case for more playing time in Cincinnati, Dehner Jr. writes.
  • Kyle Long not set to play in the Bears‘ third preseason game — and likely not Chicago’s fourth exhibition tilt — makes the guard’s Week 1 status uncertain, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The Bears are being cautious with their top guard after he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in November 2016.

Extra Points: Giants, Jackson, Kap, DHB

Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley has totaled just three starts in 39 games since going in the third round of the 2014 draft, but he’s pushing for a No. 1 role this year, writes Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. When asked who will start next to elite nose tackle Damon Harrison, Bromley told Schwartz: “If I’m being honest, man, I see me. I see me.’’ The position opened when the Giants lost Johnathan Hankins to the Colts in free agency, though Big Blue subsequently invested a second-round pick in ex-Alabama D-tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and signed former Bills lineman Corbin Bryant. The fact that those two are in the mix will make it difficult for Bromley to achieve his goal of starting, but as a contract-year player, a breakthrough season would be a boon to his bank account. Regarding his lack of long-term security, the 25-year-old offered: “It’s there and obviously something you have in the back of your mind. I have a family now, so I have to keep that in mind. I know I have the talent, I know I have what it takes, it’s about being consistent each and every day, proving to the coaches I’m their guy.’’

Here’s more from around the league:

  • In an effort to get back into the NFL, free agent running back Fred Jackson will participate in a Spring League showcase game next month. Unsurprisingly, then, the 36-year-old believes he’s still capable of contributing, telling SiriusXM NFL Radio: “All I need is an opportunity. I have no doubt if I got into a training camp I would prove I can still help a team win.” Jackson also acknowledged that general managers “get scared away” by his age, but he noted that he’s in “great shape” (Twitter links). A prominent part of Buffalo’s offense from 2007-14, Jackson played sparingly with Seattle in 2015 and was unable to find a job last season.
  • Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has hurt his cause by staying silent throughout the free agency process, opines Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The polarizing 29-year-old hasn’t publicly revealed his financial demands, whether he’d jump at any NFL offer or whether he’d continue his career in Canada if necessary, which Florio regards as a mistake. Florio also criticizes Kaepernick’s agent for not calling all 32 NFL teams earlier this offseason in an attempt to drum up interest in his client.
  • Although wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey hasn’t lived up to his draft stock since going seventh overall to the Raiders in 2009, he has emerged as a favorite of the Steelers’ coaches and players, according to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review. Now in his fourth year in Pittsburgh, Heyward-Bey has barely been a factor in the club’s receiving corps (30 catches in 42 regular-season games), yet he has been valuable both on special teams and as a mentor to the Steelers’ younger players, as Adamski details. However, despite his under-the-radar contributions, Heyward-Bey’s roster spot isn’t exactly guaranteed this year, per Adamski. “I’m just trying to keep my seat,” said the 30-year-old. “It’s comfortable, too.”

AFC Contract Details: Osweiler, Ivory, Iloka

Here are the latest updates on many recently agreed-upon or signed contracts from around the AFC:

AFC West:

  • Brandon Mebane, DT (Chargers): Three years, $13.5MM. $5.5MM guaranteed. $3MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Jaye Howard, DT (Chiefs): Two years, $10MM. $8.26MM guaranteed. $5MM bonus. $3.27MM guaranteed at signing for injury. Pro Bowl escalator worth up to $2MM $12,500 per-game active roster bonuses worth up to $200K in 2016. $15,625 per-game active roster bonuses worth up to $250K in 2017 (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Dwight Lowery, S (Chargers): Three years, $7.2MM. $1.5MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Frank Zombo, LB (Chiefs): Three years, $3.6MM. $500K signing bonus. Roster bonus of $100K in 2016 and $150K the next two seasons (Twitter link via Wilson).

AFC South:

  • Brock Osweiler, QB (Texans): Four years, $72MM. $37MM fully guaranteed in first two years – $21MM in 2016 ($12MM signing bonus, $5MM roster bonus, $4MM salary), $16MM in 2017. The remaining $35MM is non-guaranteed, including $18MM salary in 2018 and $13MM in 2019. Deal includes a $4MM roster bonus due March 2019 (all Twitter links courtesy of USA Today’s Tom Pelissero).
  • Chris Ivory, RB (Jaguars): Five years, $32MM. $10MM guaranteed. $5MM bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Jeff Allen, G (Texans): Four years, $28MM. $12MM guaranteed. $5MM signing bonus. $3MM roster bonus due this month. Annual per-game roster bonus worth $31,250 (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Brad Nortman, P (Jaguars): Four years, $8.8MM. $1.65MM guaranteed. $650K roster bonus in 2016 (Twitter link via Wilson).

AFC North:

AFC East:

  • Richie Incognito, G (Bills): Three years, $15.75MM. $3.45MM signing bonus. $2MM base salary in 2016 is fully guaranteed. $100K workout bonuses in each season (link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
  • Isa Abdul-Quddus, S (Dolphins): Three years, $12.75MM. $2.5MM signing bonus. $6MM in guarantees (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • James Develin, FB (Patriots): One year, $750K. $150K playing time incentives. $50K signing bonus. $25K workout bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).

Contract Details: Sendejo, Rubin, DHB, Cox

Here are the specifics on a few deals signed in recent days:

  • Andrew Sendejo‘s four-year contract with the Vikings contains a $3MM roster bonus, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link). The safety will make $4MM in 2016, and he has another $1MM that will become guaranteed next March.
  • Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin received a $4.5MM signing bonus as part of his $12MM deal with the Seahawks, tweets Pelissero. Rubin will take home $6MM during the upcoming season.
  • Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey got a $400K signing bonus per the terms of his three-year deal with the Steelers, according to Pelissero (Twitter link).
  • Long snapper Morgan Cox‘s new five-year contract with the Ravens is worth $5.6MM, tweets Jeff Zriebec of the Baltimore Sun. Cox will receive a $700K signing bonus and net $1.5MM in the first year of the deal.

Free Agent Rumors: Wisniewski, Browns, Pacman

The Browns have expressed interest in Jaguars free agent center Stefen Wisniewski, a league source tells Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer (on Twitter). The Browns are in danger of losing three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to free agency and they could turn to the 26-year-old as a replacement. Hue Jackson was the coach in Oakland when the Raiders used their 2011 second round draft choice on Wisniewski.

The latest free agent rumors from around the NFL:

  • The Browns have expressed interest in free agent cornerback Adam Jones, a league source tells Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer (on Twitter). Jones, a Bengals free agent, has been heavily linked to Miami in recent weeks thanks to his connection with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
  • The Vikings and Matt Asiata are far apart on a possible contract, Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter) hears from a source. Several other teams expressed an interest in the running back on Monday, he adds. Asiata has previously stated that he would like to return to Minnesota.
  • 49ers free agent Alex Boone and Cardinals free agent Bobby Massie are two offensive linemen who could get north of $8MM per season, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (on Twitter) hears.
  • The Vikings have reached out to the representative of Bengals free agent linebacker Vincent Rey, per Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter). The Vikings are in need of a linebacker and Mike Zimmer is familiar with Rey from their previous time together.
  • Backup quarterback Drew Stanton is unlikely to return to the Cardinals, an NFL source tells Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic (on Twitter).
  • The Eagles had significant interest in signing wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey before he re-upped with the Steelers, as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets.

Steelers To Re-Sign Darrius Heyward-Bey

12:45pm: It’s a three-year, $3.8MM deal, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

12:19pm: The Steelers and Darrius Heyward-Bey have agreed to a multi-year deal, Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports tweets. Heyward-Bey had multiple suitors, Getlin adds, but the receiver felt that it was important for him to stay in Pittsburgh. Darrius Heyward-Bey (vertical)

[RELATED: Top 2016 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense]

Heyward-Bey, 29, was active for all 16 games for the Steelers in 2014, but didn’t see much action, earning just five targets on the year. In 2015, he got more involved in the offense. In 16 games (four starts), the wide receiver hauled in 21 catches for 314 yards and two scores. Heyward-Bey was targeted only 39 times, however, which is a big step down from the looks he used to see with the Raiders for his first four seasons and with the Colts in 2012.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Dalton, Ravens, Pryor

As training camps are inching closer and closer, Mark Kaboly of TribLive.com takes a quick look at the key additions, key losses, and training camp goals of each AFC North team. The Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens all have top goals on the defensive side of the ball, while the Browns predictably are focused on finding a quarterback between Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel.

Here are some deeper looks into each of the AFC North teams:

  • Kaboly’s colleague Chris Adamski takes an extended look into the Steelers’ roster, trying to figure out what the final roster will be. He separates the players into locks, on the bubble, and on the outside, while giving some thoughts on what the team will do. The big names on the bubble include Darrius Heyward-Bey and Cam Thomas.
  • Four consecutive playoff berths and an 0-4 record in the playoffs has left Bengals’ fans with a polarizing opinion of Andy Dalton. When it comes to whether he has what it takes, Cincinnati.com writers are split, with Paul Dehner Jr. skeptical and Jim Owczarski remaining optimistic he can still develop into a top-10 quarterback.
  • The Ravens made the playoffs based on the strength of their running game and run defense, and John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com believes that strength in those areas will be the key to whether they can reach the playoffs again this year. Losing running-game guru Gary Kubiak from the coaching staff and perennial Pro-Bowler Haloti Ngata from the defense will make it difficult, but the team is committed to the running game on both sides of the ball.
  • The Browns have reclamation project at wide receiver, in converted quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Other than a few special packages early in his college career, it has been infrequent to see him line up on the outside of the formation. Pryor has been working with Antonio Brown, Randy Moss, and Josh Gordon while preparing for training camp, writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. She also pulls some of his training videos from Instagram and Twitter showing his offseason progress.

Steelers Re-Sign Darrius Heyward-Bey

Having been quiet for most of free agency, the Steelers made a move today, announcing in a press release that they’ve re-signed free agent wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. According to the club, it’s a one-year contract for Heyward-Bey.

Heyward-Bey, 28, was active for all 16 games for the Steelers last season, but didn’t see much action, earning just five targets on the year. He grabbed three balls for 33 yards, both career-worst marks. It was also Heyward-Bey’s first year without a receiving touchdown. Still, the veteran wideout was enthusiastic about returning to Pittsburgh.

“It’s great to be back,” Heyward-Bey said. “I just wanted to stay here and be a part of a great organization and play for a great coach. That is what Coach [Mike] Tomlin is. I wanted to be back. For most guys free agency is tough, but I knew what I wanted. I knew the timing would take a little bit. For some guys it’s tough dealing with the unknown, but I knew what I wanted. I wanted to come back here.”

Having spent a year getting comfortable with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense, perhaps the former seventh overall pick will see his role expanded a little for 2015, but he’ll still fall behind Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, and perhaps others on the team’s depth chart. In all likelihood, Heyward-Bey will contribute primarily on special teams, as he did in 2014.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but I’d expect a minimum salary benefit contract for Heyward-Bey.

AFC North Links: Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Steelers

When Anquan Boldin left the Ravens last offseason, it looked like former undrafted rookie Deonte Thompson could potentially step up and fill the void. However, the former Florida Gator struggled during his sophomore season. The wideout missed the first three games with a foot injury and was reportedly arrested in February (the case was dropped).

As a result, Thompson is trying to make up for lost time. With the odds stacked against him, the 25-year-old is hoping for a breakout season. Via Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com

It’s a big year,” Thompson said. “I’m motivated, man. I’m so motivated. You can’t take anything for granted out here. You have to give it your all.

“It’s going to be a great competition, man. No doubt. The cream always rises to the top, so the best will definitely stick out.”

Thompson also touched on his disappointing 2013 season…

Everything was going good and I felt like the sky was going to be the limit, then bam, I get hurt.

“When I got back, just catching back up and trying to get back in, the season’s already rolling and guys are plugged in. That really set me back.”

Thompson certainly has some competition for a roster spot. Besides shoo-ins Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones, he’ll also have to compete with Jeremy Butler, Michael Campanaro and LaQuan Williams.

Let’s check out some more news from the AFC North…

AFC Mailbags: Jags, Colts, Steelers, Ravens

It’s Saturday, and that means ESPN.com’s NFL writers open up their mailbags and answer questions from readers. Here are some interesting notes out of the AFC…