Darron Lee

NFL Suspends LB Darron Lee

Darron Lee‘s return to NFL action will have to wait until at least October. The former first-round pick has encountered another suspension.

The league handed the free agent linebacker a four-game suspension, ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets. The Chiefs did not re-sign Lee this offseason.

This marks Lee’s second NFL ban. The league sidelined him four games for a violation of its substance-abuse policy in December 2018. Lee had started all 12 of the 2018 Jets’ games leading up to that penalty. However, the Jets cut their losses via trade in the following offseason.

After failing to justify the Jets’ first-round investment, Lee made some contributions to the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV run. Kansas City acquired Lee for a sixth-round pick and featured him in all 16 regular-season games. The Ohio State alum made 31 tackles last season. Lee, however, did not play during the Chiefs’ postseason slate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Workout Updates: 8/24/20

Here are Monday’s notable workouts:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Las Vegas Raiders

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

AFC Notes: Dareus, Broncos, Green, Chiefs, Darnold

Marcell Dareus will undergo surgery today to repair a core muscle injury, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The defensive lineman is expected to miss 4-6 weeks for Jaguars.

Here’s more around the AFC:

  • Broncos coach Vic Fangio said it was “possible” that CB Bryce Callahan will miss the rest of the season, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. Callaham underwent stem cell treatment on his foot last month and the original projection was 4-to-6 weeks.
  • A.J. Green did not practice today for the Bengals and isn’t expected to play against the Rams in London, Ben Baby of ESPN.com tweets. LT Cordy Glenn will also not play in the contest.
  • DE Frank Clark (neck), DT Chris Jones (groin), LB Darron Lee (illness) and CB Kendall Fuller (thumb) all missed practice for the Chiefs today, Herbie Teope of Kansas City.com tweets. Patrick Mahomes is practicing again for the second-straight day.
  • Sam Darnold was limited in practice today, Brian Costello of the New York Post relays (Twitter link). Darnold was a non-participant for the Jets on Wednesday because of a toe ailment.

Jets Trade LB Darron Lee To Chiefs

Interim general manager/head coach Adam Gase has made his first trade. The Jets are trading linebacker Darron Lee to the Chiefs in exchange for a 2020 sixth-round pick, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

The Jets and Chiefs had been discussing a deal involving Lee for weeks, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. Former New York general manager Jets GM Mike Maccagnan — who was fired at noon EST today — was reportedly holding out to acquired a fifth-round choice in exchange for Lee, but Gase, who’s taken over personnel authority on an acting basis, executed the swap for a sixth-rounder.

New York replaced Lee in a decisive fashion earlier this offseason, signing free agent linebacker C.J. Mosley to a record-breaking contract which made the ex-Raven the highest-paid off-ball LB in NFL history by a wide margin. Mosley will pair with holdover Avery Williamson as Gang Green’s primary linebackers, leaving Lee — who played on 90% of the Jets’ defensive snaps in the 12 games he played last season — without a starting role.

The Jets further distanced themselves from the 24-year-old Lee by declining his fifth-year option for the 2020 season in advance of the league deadline earlier this month. That option would have paid Lee $9.501MM for his fifth pro NFL campaign, but New York deemed that salary too expensive despite that fact that it would have been guaranteed for injury only.

Despite the low price cost of acquiring him, Lee should have a place in today’s NFL. Pro Football Focus not only graded Lee as the 24th-best linebacker in the league, but assigned him the fourth-highest mark in pass coverage. Additionally, the Jets ranked seventh in the NFL in defensive DVOA against running back receptions, meaning they were extremely effective on a per-play basis against backs in the passing game. That level of play in coverage is beyond valuable, even from the off-ball linebacker position.

While he’s moving on from the Jets and their crowded linebacker depth chart, Lee may have to compete for a clear-cut starting linebacker job on the Chiefs’ roster. Anthony Hitchens played like one of the worst ‘backers in the NFL after inking a five-year, $45MM contract with the Chiefs last offseason, but Kansas City can’t move on from him until 2020 at the earliest. If Hitchens stays in the starting lineup, Lee will be up battle Reggie Ragland (who played roughly 50% of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps a season ago) and Dorian O’Daniel (~25%) for work as KC’s second linebacker.

New York will take on roughly $1.326MM in dead money by trading Lee, while the Chiefs are only the hook for Lee’s base salary of ~$1..844MM. For that financial cost and a sixth-round choice, Kansas City will add another defender to a club that’s already seen the addition of Tyrann Mathieu and Alex Okafor in free agency, Frank Clark and Emmanuel Ogbah bytrade, and Juan Thornhill and Khalen Saunders via the draft. Of course, the Chiefs also parted ways with a number of high-profile defensive players, including Dee Ford and Justin Houston, Eric Berry, and Steven Nelson.

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Jets Decline Darron Lee’s Option

No surprise here, but the Jets will decline the 2020 fifth-year option on linebacker Darron Lee, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Lee, who has been a rumored trade candidate for a long time, is on course for unrestricted free agency following the 2019 season. 

Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has been working hard to push the idea that Lee is still in the team’s plans, but it’s hard to believe him at this point. Earlier this offseason, the Jets added free agent linebacker C.J. Mosley on five-year, $85MM contract, making the underperforming Lee expendable. Now, Lee’s 2020 option – which would have been guaranteed for injury only – has been declined. Lee very much remains a trade candidate and he’s a name to keep an eye on between now and September.

Lee tallied 94 tackles and three sacks in 2017, but he took a step back in 2018, finishing with 74 tackles and no sacks in 12 games. To his credit, Lee did compile a career-high three interceptions last year, but he also missed four games due to a substance abuse ban.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Rosen, Patriots, Darron Lee, Bills

The Dolphins weren’t the only team interested in trading for Josh Rosen, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson writes. Jackson sites an NFL official who was in contact with the Cardinals after the trade was announced, and mention the Patriots as another team that was attempting to acquire the 2018 first-rounder.

Rosen, of course, ended up in Miami, and New England took its own quarterback when it tabbed Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round. In the weeks leading up to the draft, New England was mentioned, along with several other teams, as a potential landing spot for the quarterback.

With other teams being interested, it helps explain why the Dolphins were willing to part with a 2019 second-rounder, and a fifth-round pick in 2020.

Here’s more from around the AFC East:

  • Teddy Bruschi thinks the Patriots might have been led to draft N’Keal Harry in the first round because of the physical presence Josh Gordon brought to the team last year, ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes. “They get him last year, put a 6-3, 225-pound target out there and see what a great piece it was for them, how great it was for Tom Brady,” Bruschi theorized. “Maybe that changed the perception of what they might need.” Of course, the Patriots haven’t picked a receiver in the first round in the Bill Belichick era, so the theory could be accurate.
  • Sticking in New England, the video that led to the arrest of team owner Robert Kraft will eventually be released to the public, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes. The judge ruled the tape can be released in a way that won’t taint the jury pool.
  • The Jets have been shopping linebacker Darron Lee throughout the offseason, and that isn’t expected to stop now that the 2019 draft has concluded, Pro Football Talk’s Darin Gantt writes. Lee became expendable once the team brought in C.J. Mosley.
  • Also in New York, team general manager Mike Maccagnan has reportedly been on the hot seat. If the team does make a change, one exec to keep an eye on is Joe Douglas with the Eagles, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora tweets. La Canfora mentions the Eagles exec has ties to Jets first-year head coach Adam Gase.
  • The Bills made a splash in the undrafted free agent pool, signing local product Tyree Jackson. Buffalo reportedly couldn’t believe the Buffalo quarterback wasn’t drafted, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes“He was on our draft board to be drafted. I’m surprised. You saw his name still sitting there late in the seventh, and you start going, ‘Man, if this kid doesn’t get drafted, we’re going to have to go after him.’ And we did,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said. Jackson is expected to compete for the team’s backup spot to Josh Allen.
  • The Dolphins already boast 12 picks in the 2020 draft. General manager Chris Grier says that is to be the rule going forward, the Miami Herald’s Adam Beasley tweets. Beasley predicts the team is expected to use its cap space next offseason to buy even more draft picks rather than signing top free agents.


Darron Lee Reports To Jets

Linebacker Darron Lee, according to multiple reports, has been made available via trade. Still, Lee reported to the Jets for the club’s voluntary offseason conditioning program on Monday morning, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. 

For now, Lee’s status remains unchanged. The young linebacker is still on the roster and GM Mike Maccagnan claims that he is still in the club’s plans.

However, it’s hard to believe Maccagnan given the recent addition of C.J. Mosley. The linebacker inked a five-year, $85MM contract, making the underperforming Lee expendable. Meanwhile, clubs could have interest in the former first-round pick given that he’s still on his affordable rookie contract for one more season with a possible add-on for 2020, if triggered before the May deadline.

Lee did tally 94 tackles and three sacks in 2017, but he took a step back in 2018, finishing with 74 tackles and no sacks in 12 games. To his credit, Lee did compile a career-high three interceptions last year, but he also missed four games due to a substance abuse ban.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Rumors: Lee, Draft, Smith

Jets GM Mike Maccagnan gave a series of non-answers when asked about the future of linebacker Darron Lee. But, as Brian Costello of the New York Post writes, his positive comments may have actually been a not-so-subtle way to advertise Lee’s availability.

I think that will work itself out over time,” Maccagnan said when asked about the fate of the former first-round pick. “Right now, we feel very good about our inside-linebacker position between Darron, Avery [Williamson], C.J. [Mosley], we also signed Neville Hewitt. Quite frankly, Darron’s contract is not a big contract. I think it’s only about $1.7 or [1.8] million. It just gives us a lot of pieces there right now and we’ll figure it out as we go forward.”

Maccagnan drafted Lee in the first round of the 2016 draft, but the club is unlikely to exercise his fifth-year option before the May deadline. The GM dismissed the trade speculation, but the club is reportedly set to shop him during the draft.

Here’s more on Gang Green:

  • The Jets’ No. 3 overall pick is for sale, but they’re unlikely to move up to No. 2 or No. 1 (via Costello). “We’re very open to potentially moving back from three,” Maccagnan said. “I wouldn’t envision us moving up in the draft. I think you can rule that one out. If we end up staying at three and taking a player, we think there are some very good players at three. But we’d definitely be interested if another team came with an offer that we felt was worthy of moving out of the spot. We would definitely consider that. Not to say we’re committed to doing it, but we’d definitely be very intrigued by that.”
  • The draft is still one month away, but Maccagnan indicated that the Jets have already had preliminary trade talks with other clubs about moving down from No. 3 (via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY). “We’ve definitely had conversations,” he said. “People have reached out, put out feelers. Nobody is actively trying to do anything at this point in time. But you have conversations and put out feelers, just like how they’re putting out feelers to us.
  • Maccagnan says the Jets pursued pass rusher Za’Darius Smith in free agency (via Manish Mehta of the Daily News). Ultimately, however, Smith chose the Packers when he flew from the Ravens earlier this month.
  • Also from Costello, Maccagnan indicated that he would be comfortable with Jonotthan Harrison starting at center and Darryl Roberts playing first-string at cornerback. Both positions have been presumed areas of need for the Jets. Outside linebacker may also still be a need, even after re-signing Brandon Copeland.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Lee, Allen, Fins

Rich Cimini of ESPN.com believes the Jets, who set a league spending record by doling out $137MM in total guarantees in free agency thus far, are very interested in trading down from their No. 3 overall pick to accumulate more draft capital. Despite its high-spending ways, New York still has a number of holes to fill, and with his QB of the future already in tow, GM Mike Maccagnan — who is under a ton of pressure this year — may look to add picks so that he can address those holes in the draft. After all, the Jets have only six picks in the draft at present, the third-fewest in the league.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • In the same piece linked above, Cimini writes that the Jets will look to shop linebacker Darron Lee during the draft. Lee is expendable now that C.J. Mosley is in the fold, and even if New York does not find any takers, Cimini does not think the club will cut Lee immediately. He suggests that the Jets could hold on to Lee in the hopes that another team suddenly finds itself in need of a young LB with a first-round pedigree, and he points out that New York was able to deal another disappointing first-round pick, Calvin Pyror, in a June trade several years ago.
  • The Patriots recently re-signed punter Ryan Allen to a one-year deal, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the club actually had a multiyear offer on the table. Allen, though, preferred the shorter option because he did not like the money he was being offered on the open market, and he wanted a chance to increase his worth on a prove-it deal. Reiss says, however, that New England could be more inclined to bring in competition for Allen, just as it did last season.
  • Reiss observes that cornerback Jason McCourty, who recently signed a two-year, $10MM pact to remain with the Patriots, did receive interest from several other clubs. McCourty had made it clear that he wanted to return to New England, so while he appreciated the opportunity to hit the open market at the start of free agency for the first time in his career, he is happy with how things turned out.
  • New Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has, predictably, refuted the talk that his team is tanking in 2019, and he would not concede that the club is embarking on a multiyear rebuild, either. As Grant Gordon of NFL.com writes, Flores told the NFL Network’s Judy Battista, “I think every team’s rebuilding. That’s this league. Every team rebuilds every year because no team is the same every year. I can tell you, we’re going to go try, gonna go out there and try to win every game. I think the foundation is there, and we’ll just, you know, like every other team we’re building.”

Jets Looking To Move On From LB Darron Lee

With the Jets expected to sign Anthony Barr, the team is apparently looking to move on from one of their current linebackers. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily Post reports that the team sought a linebacker upgrade “with the hope of ultimately moving on” from former first-rounder Darron Lee.

To be clear, it doesn’t necessarily sound like Barr will replace Lee in the literal sense. The free agent addition is expected to be an “off-ball” linebacker, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini (on Twitter), a role that Barr’s familiar with from his days at UCLA. As Mehta explains, new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was seeking a linebacker who would play a role that was similar to Jamie Collins‘ in Cleveland last season.

Still, the Jets are expected to team up Barr with Avery Williamson and then “explore their remaining options for Lee,” according to Mehta. The 24-year-old hasn’t emerged as a bona fide playmaker during his three seasons in the NFL. Lee did tally 94 tackles and three sacks in 2017, but he took a step back in 2018, finishing with 74 tackles and no sacks in 12 games (he did compile a career-high three interceptions).

The linebacker was suspended for the final four games of the 2018 season after violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. Mehta writes that the suspension “triggered a forfeiture of his guaranteed money,” meaning the Jets could move on from Lee without taking a significant financial hit. The defender is set to make $1.8MM in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.