David DeCastro

North Notes: Mayfield, Steelers, Moore

Browns fans enjoyed the chance to see a matchup between the quarterback most assumed they’d select vs. the one they actually did on Thursday, and Baker Mayfield won the first round between he and Sam Darnold. The USC-developed passer loomed as the frontrunner to go No. 1 overall for months, until Mayfield buzz increased during draft week. However, it wasn’t that tough of a decision for John Dorsey, with Terry Pluto of cleveland.com noting the new Browns GM had a “far higher” grade on Mayfield than Darnold. Both Pluto and cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot write that a return to Tyrod Taylor as the starter doesn’t make sense, with Cabot adding the months-long stance to start Taylor over Mayfield was made by both Dorsey and Hue Jackson. After the Browns’ 21-17 win over the Jets, Dorsey, per Cabot, was overheard saying to owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, “I think I picked the right one,” appearing to reference the controversial Mayfield-over-Darnold selection.

Here’s the latest out of the North divisions:

  • Sterling Moore has a workout scheduled with the Bears for next week, Jane Slater of NFL.com tweets. A former Saints, Cowboys and Buccaneers starter, Moore failed to make the Lions’ 53-man roster out of training camp. The 28-year-old cornerback played six games with the Saints last season, his second stint in New Orleans.
  • The Steelers‘ corner situation will see a boost in a bigger-than-expected spot Monday night. Joe Haden appears set to return for Pittsburgh after missing Week 2, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio tweets. Haden practiced fully on Saturday. Morgan Burnett, however, doesn’t look likely to suit up Monday. The Steelers listed their recently signed safety as doubtful to face the Buccaneers.
  • Pittsburgh’s reeling on its offensive line. David DeCastro will miss his second straight game because of the fractured right hand he suffered in Week 1. Marcus Gilbert is doubtful for Week 3 because of a hamstring malady. The Steelers declared DeCastro out, and the Associated Press notes B.J. Finney will start in his place. Matt Feiler is in line to start at right tackle for Gilbert, per the AP. The Steelers struggled to produce much on the ground in Week 2 without some key pieces, with James Conner being held to 17 rushing yards after a 135-yard debut in Cleveland. Of course, the Chiefs’ 21-0 start forced the Steelers to pass much more often than they would have otherwise done.
  • The Ravens did not make a move to adjust their cornerback situation on Saturday, meaning they’ll be down to four healthy players at this spot against the Broncos on Sunday. Rookie Anthony Averett will miss Week 3, Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun notes. This may force rookie UDFA Darious Williams into action. Although, Baltimore’s still in relatively good shape despite Averett and Jimmy Smith‘s absences. Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young are available.

Injury Notes: Elflein, DeCastro, Mosley

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said today that starting center Pat Elflein will be returning to the field “pretty soon.” However, the coach wasn’t able to give a definite return date, which probably indicates that the offensive lineman won’t be ready for this weekend’s matchup against the Packers.

“It’s way too early,” Zimmer said (via Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com). “I’m not going to make any determinations like that yet.”

The offensive lineman missed the preseason and the first week of the season as he recovered from shoulder and ankle ailments, but he’s still found ways to contribute to the team. As Tomasson writes, the second-year pro has been tutoring replacement Brett Jones, who was acquired from the Giants in late August.

“Pat’s been a lot of help so far, and it’s been good,” Jones said. “We’re trying to get on the same page with me being new, and he’s made the transition easier. He’s played lots of these defenses, just being in the (NFC North), so he can help me out with what to expect.”

Let’s take a look at some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Steelers All-Pro guard David DeCastro fractured his hand during last weekend’s game, and he acknowledged that the injury was worse than he initially thought. The offensive lineman has sat out the past few days of practice, and he’s set to be fitted for a brace. While he may have to wait another few days for swelling to go down, DeCastro indicated that it wouldn’t be missed practice time that forces him to miss a game. “I’m old enough now,” he told Joe Rutter of TribLive.com. “We’ll see how the swelling goes.” The 28-year-old has only missed a single regular season game over the past three seasons, and he’s earned three Pro Bowl nods during that span.
  • C.J. Mosley was carted off the field during the Ravens‘ game against the Bengals tonight, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the linebacker is being evaluated for a knee injury (Mosley has since been diagnosed with a bone bruise). His absence was felt right away; after forcing a three-and-out on Cincy’s first drive, the Ravens defense allowed touchdowns on the next three series. Much of this could be attributed to Baltimore’s lack of depth and experience at middle linebacker, as the team is only rostering Patrick Onwuasor, Chris Board, and Bam Bradley (currently on the PUP) behind Mosley.
  • Leonard Fournette is feeling better, but the Jaguars running back said it will be a “game time decision” on whether he’ll play this weekend against the Patriots.

AFC North Notes: Eifert, Browns, DeCastro

Despite being one of the NFL’s biggest injury risks, Tyler Eifert returned to the Bengals this offseason. The team that used a first-round pick on the former Notre Dame tight end has a plan for trying to prevent another significant setback, though. The Bengals are going to try to limit Eifert’s snaps, Marvin Lewis said (via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer). Since Eifert’s Pro Bowl 2015 season, he’s played in only 11 games. With Eifert being most effective in the red zone (20 career touchdown receptions, 19 from inside the 20, per Dehner), that will surely be a place the Bengals try to deploy the sixth-year pass-catcher. But Lewis identifies Eifert as the team’s best blocking tight end, too. Eifert averaged 58 snaps per game during the 2015 season. Lewis doesn’t envision his starting tight end getting there again.

Well I hope he never gets 50,” Lewis said. “It’s a plan thing. There are certain things (OC Bill Lazor) is going to plan to do with him on the field, both runs and passes. I think that and then using him as a decoy at times to help open up other things for the other guys.”

This plan may limit Eifert financially. He has $3MM tied up in performance incentives, ones that will become difficult to reach if the Bengals place heavy restrictions on his usage. He played 23 snaps against the Colts.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North:

  • Emmanuel Ogbah‘s run into injury trouble again. Hue Jackson didn’t believe the third-year edge defender suffered a high ankle sprain but said (via ohio.com’s Nate Ulrich) it was “something like that” and that Ogbah will miss time. Chris Smith entered the fray as Myles Garrett‘s sidekick following Ogbah’s first-quarter injury and should be expected to start Sunday against the Saints. Recent waiver claim Anthony Zettel should have a role, too, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes. Ogbah saw a foot injury halt his momentum last year and end his season. His development was part of the reason the Browns selected Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb.
  • The Browns‘ left tackle position contributed to several NFL news cycles this offseason, due to Joe Thomas‘ retirement and the layered search for his replacement. But Jackson insists no change will commence between Week 1 and Week 2. Desmond Harrison will remain the Browns’ left tackle, per Jackson (via the Lorain Morning Journal’s Jeff Schudel, on Twitter). The rookie UDFA made the start, despite Greg Robinson and 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett residing on the roster. Pro Football Focus graded Harrison as the second-worst full-time tackle in his debut, and Rotoworld’s Evan Silva adds (on Twitter) Harrison allowed the most hurries of any lineman last week.
  • Kenneth Dixon suffered a knee injury in the Ravens‘ blowout win in Buffalo, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects (Twitter link) it to keep him out for several weeks. Dixon scored a touchdown against the Bills after missing the entire 2017 season. Buck Allen should move into the role of Alex Collins‘ backup for the time being.
  • David DeCastro fractured his hand on Sunday, and Mike Tomlin said this could limit him going forward. But the veteran Steelers blocker expects to play Sunday against the Chiefs, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Steelers Create Nearly $15MM In Cap Space

Mired in another negotiation with Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers will have a friendlier cap situation to work with after two starters agreed to adjust their contracts.

The team will take the restructure route to create space. Both David DeCastro and Stephon Tuitt agreed to convert their 2018 base salaries into roster and signing bonuses, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports, and this will free up $13.26MM in 2018 cap space.

Neither player will lose any money, with these being merely adjustments to help out in the short term. Tuitt, who signed an extension just before last season, now has a $10.21MM signing bonus included in his contract. DeCastro, extended just before the 2016 season, has a $6.79MM signing bonus coming his way.

DeCastro will count for $5.69MM against Pittsburgh’s 2018 cap as a result of this conversion, and Tuitt will represent $5.43MM of the Steelers’ ’18 payroll. Both will earn $790K in base salary this season. However, these adjustments will inflate the linemen’s 2019 figures. Tuitt comes in at $13.64MM for 2019, and DeCastro’s cap hit is set to be $11.97MM next year.

Bell stands as the only high-profile UFA for a team that’s usually not too big on free agency, but with the running back franchise tag cost rising to $14.5MM and a decision due by March 6, the team appears to be preparing for a tag scenario — if only as a means of retaining negotiating rights through mid-July.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Allen, DeCastro, Osweiler, RG3

The Chargers are not yet ready to confirm a torn-ACL diagnosis for Keenan Allen, but Mike McCoy acknowledged there is speculation about that likely season-ending injury, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets.

The fourth-year wideout who signed a four-year, $45MM extension this summer will have an MRI done on Monday. But the widespread notion remains the Bolts’ No. 1 target will join Stevie Johnson on IR.

San Diego, which has two wideouts on its practice squad, could opt to bring back James Jones, whom the team cut after signing him following the Johnson injury. Or, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out, the Chargers could look at other available wideouts like Roddy White, Brian Hartline or Aaron Dobson. Florio also posits the Chargers could attempt to trade for Josh Gordon, given that they’ve lost two of their top four targets over the past several weeks.

Here’s the latest from around the AFC as Week 1 moves into its Sunday-night game.

  • Signed to a five-year, $50MM deal earlier this week, Steelers All-Pro guard David DeCastro called the commitment “a weight off his shoulders,” according to Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The fifth-year guard who was previously entering a contract year also said he would have considered other options had the Steelers and his camp not come together on the extension. “I tried not to think about it early on, but I was really hoping I could stay here,” he said. “Obviously, when we were getting close, it was harder to push back. Now we can move forward and worry about what’s important.”
  • Robert Griffin III said he sprained his shoulder during the Browns‘ 29-10 loss to the Eagles today. “I can move my left arm. I’m in pain, but it will be OK, just have to monitor it,” Griffin said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We’ll see more tomorrow and see how my shoulder is feeling and just move on from there.” Griffin, who made his first start since 2014 on Sunday, finished the game and expects to play in Week 2.
  • Texans owner Bob McNair gave new starter Brock Osweiler a glowing endorsement today after the Texans’ Week 1 win over the Bears. “I think he’s everything we thought he would be,” McNair said via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “He performed under pressure. Several times he escaped. He completed some passes after getting pressure. He has good composure and he’s poised.” The fifth-year passer and recipient of a four-year, $72MM deal completed 22-of-35 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his Houston debut.
  • The Patriots‘ clearing out $2.8MM in cap space thanks to Devin McCourty‘s restructure will help them retain their key defenders playing on expiring contracts, Doug Kyed of NESN.com writes. An in-season extension for impending UFA Dont’a Hightower, thus lowering his $7.75MM 2016 cap hit, would be a way to help the Patriots sign both 2017 UFA Jamie Collins and RFA Malcolm Butler, Kyed offers. New England possesses more than $11MM in cap space for 2016 and stands to possess more than $60MM come 2017. Jabaal Sheard, Logan Ryan and Sebastian Vollmer join Hightower and Collins as key UFAs for the seven-time defending AFC East champions.

Steelers, David DeCastro Agree To Extension

5:09pm: DeCastro’s deal includes a $16MM signing bonus, tweets CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.

4:33pm: The Steelers and guard David DeCastro have agreed to a contract extension, reports Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). It’s a five-year, $50MM deal, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN, meaning DeCastro will be under Steelers control through the 2021 campaign. DeCastro now joins the Raiders’ Kelechi Osemele and the Bears’ Kyle Long as the only guards in the league with pacts that average $10MM or more per season.

David DeCastro (vertical)

Before receiving his massive contract, DeCastro established himself as one of the core pieces of the Steelers’ offensive line during his first four NFL seasons. DeCastro, a first-round pick in 2012, has ranked among Pro Football Focus’ 20 best guards in each of the previous three years, during which he started all but one game. He’s also coming off a year in which he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections for the first time.

The ex-Stanford Cardinal is slated to be on the Steelers’ books this year for $8.07MM. That’s the cost of the fifth-year option that was included in the 24th overall pick’s rookie deal. His new accord will kick in next season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers To Sign David DeCastro To Extension

The Steelers and guard David DeCastro are close to a contract extension, a source tells ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano (Twitter link). David DeCastro (vertical)

DeCastro, 26, has established himself as one of the core pieces of the Steelers’ offensive line since the team used a first-round pick on him in 2012. Starting in all but one game over the the last three seasons, he’s coming off a year in which he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections for the first time. DeCastro was slated to be on the Steelers’ books this season for $8.07MM before being out of contract but the team wanted to make sure he was locked in for longer.

Pro Football Focus has graded DeCastro as one of the league’s 20 best guards in each of the last three years. PFF graded DeCastro as the league’s 14th-best guard in 2013, 18th in 2014, and 15th at his position last year with roughly equal grades for his pass blocking and run blocking.

Graziano notes that DeCastro’s agent, Tom Condon, also represents Drew Brees, who just signed an extension with the Saints. Last year, Condon clients Eli Manning, Luke Kuechly, and Anthony Castonzo all signed extensions just before the start of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Steelers’ Contract Negotiations

While Steelers cornerstones Le’Veon Bell, Lawrence Timmons and Markus Wheaton are all in contract years, the only free agent-to-be the team is negotiating an extension with is guard David DeCastro, reports Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Steelers and DeCastro were reportedly making progress in talks as of Wednesday, but Bouchette writes that a deal isn’t close. The deadline for an agreement is the start of the season, which leaves the two sides just over a month to find common ground.

The 26-year-old DeCastro has established himself as one of the core pieces of the Steelers’ offensive line since the team used a first-round pick on him in 2012. DeCastro has started all but one game over the the last three seasons, and he’s coming off a year in which he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections for the first time. DeCastro, whom Pro Football Focus has graded as one of the league’s 20 best guards three years running, is on the Steelers’ books this season for $8.07MM. That’s the cost of the fifth-year option that was included in the 24th overall pick’s rookie deal.

Le'Veon Bell (vertical)

Considering the turbulent year Bell has endured, it’s not surprising that the Steelers aren’t negotiating with him. The star running back is currently preparing to appeal the four-game suspension the NFL handed him in July for a violation of its substance abuse policy. If Bell loses the appeal hearing, which is scheduled for Aug. 18, it’ll mark his second suspension since last season. Bell sat out two games then thanks to an arrest for marijuana possession and DUI, and he missed the final eight contests of the year after tearing his MCL and PCL on Nov. 1. It perhaps didn’t help Bell’s cause that the Steelers’ offense showed well without him, finishing with the eighth-best yards-per-carry average in the league.

Timmons, meanwhile, is about to conclude the $48MM contract he signed with Pittsburgh in 2011. The Steelers have restructured that deal three times, leaving the 30-year-old with an unpalatable $15.1MM cap hit this season. A 2007 first-rounder, Timmons has spent his entire nine-year career in Pittsburgh – where he has racked up 33 sacks (five last season) – but 2016 could be his swan song with the Steelers.

Wheaton, 25, put up a whopping 17.0 yards per catch on 44 receptions and added five touchdowns in 2015. Previously, he amassed a career-high 53 grabs in 2014, though both his YPC (12.2) and TD total (two) were much less impressive. Wheaton is due to collect just over $1.67MM this year, but if he continues to post strong production, a significant raise will come – whether from Pittsburgh or someone else. The fact that Martavis Bryant will miss the entire season because of a suspension could lead to more opportunities and better numbers for Wheaton, who garnered a combined 166 targets over the previous two years.

Antonio Brown (vertical)

Unlike the aforementioned players, wideout Antonio Brown isn’t in a contract year, though the elite-caliber weapon would like a deal more in line with his production. After tying for the league lead in receptions (136), finishing second in yards (1,834) and scoring 10 times last season, Brown is slated to earn $6.25MM this year and $8.71MM in 2017. He’s just 18th among receivers in average annual value, but Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert isn’t about to rip his contract up in favor of a richer one.

As was the case last year, the Steelers could advance Brown $2MM of his salary for 2017, notes Bouchette. They would then have the option of awarding him a new contract after the season. Doing that would enable the Steelers to maintain their long-held policy of not negotiating new accords with players who have more than one year remaining on their deals. Quarterbacks are the only exception to that rule, and Ben Roethlisberger is already locked up through 2019.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers, David DeCastro Resume Contract Talks

The Steelers and guard David DeCastro have made some progress on contract talks after a slow period, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The two sides were said to be talking in mid-June, but things were quiet for about six weeks between the two sides. David DeCastro (vertical)

With one year left to go on his contract, DeCastro figures to be a priority for Pittsburgh to address, along with star running back Le’Veon Bell. DeCastro, 26, has established himself as one of the core pieces on the Steelers’ offensive line, starting all but one game over the course of the last three seasons. This past season, the 2012 first-round pick earned his first Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro selections.

Pro Football Focus graded DeCastro as the league’s 14th-best guard in 2013 – out of 81 qualified players – and ranked him 18th of 78 in 2014. Last year, DeCastro was ranked as the 15th best guard in the NFL by PFF with roughly equal grades for his pass blocking and run blocking.

After picking up their fifth-year option on DeCastro, the Steelers have him on their books for a salary of $8.07MM in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Steelers, Weddle

Safety Eric Weddle spurned other teams’ offers to sign a four-year, $26MM with the Ravens during the winter. One of the clubs that had interest in Weddle was the hated AFC North rival Steelers, and the three-time Pro Bowl defender revealed today that he and Ben Roethlisberger talked throughout the free agent process (via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). “Hopefully I get a lot of wins and interceptions against him,” said Weddle. “And maybe sprinkle in a few touchdowns.”

More on the two standouts’ teams:

  • Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell shot down a Twitter rumor that he failed a drug test, telling reporters, including Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “I haven’t missed any drug tests, failed any drug tests. I am fine.” Bell, of course, sat out three regular-season games in 2015 for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He also missed seven more contests because of a torn MCL. Bell passed along a positive update on his knee today, per Kaboly (Twitter links). Now entering a contract year, Bell – arguably the league’s premier RB – will try to bounce back from a tumultuous 2015.
  • Steelers guard David DeCastro says his reps have talked a “little bit” with the team about contract negotiations, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes. With one year left to go on his contract, DeCastro figures to be a priority for Pittsburgh to address, along with Bell.
  • Once looked at as a potential starter for the Ravens, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro finds himself in the same boat as Terrance West and Trent Richardson, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun writes. Justin Forsett, Buck Allen and fourth-round rookie Kenneth Dixon have their roster spots locked down, but Taliaferro, West, and Hall of Fame hopeful Richardson may be competing for just one spot. Taliaferro, 24, suffered a foot injury in October that wound up ending his season prematurely. In 2015, Taliaferro logged only 13 carries for 47 yards and one score. He also caught all five of his targets for a total of 29 yards.
  • Earlier this evening, we learned the Ravens are shopping left tackle Eugene Monroe. Further, they worked out fellow veteran O-lineman Todd Herremans.

Zach Links contributed to this post.