The Dolphins have a few young offensive linemen in place to start, but they have multiple veterans vying for jobs as well. Miami recently considered adding at least one other veteran blocker.
Prior to the draft, the Dolphins spoke with longtime Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva about a potential right tackle role, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes. The team also held discussions with veteran right tackle Ricky Wagner, whom the Packers released ahead of free agency, and 2020 Titans right tackle starter Dennis Kelly.
These discussions centered on moving Robert Hunt to guard, where the Dolphins believe the 2020 second-round pick can be a Pro Bowler, Fowler adds. However, the draft may have changed the organization’s plans here. Miami drafted Liam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame in Round 2. Eichenberg played left tackle primarily for the Fighting Irish, starting three seasons there, but is viewed as a better fight on the right side. With Tua Tagovailoa being a lefty, Eichenberg would retain a blindside role as a pro.
Hunt started 11 games as a rookie, primarily playing right tackle. He started at guard as an underclassman at Louisiana but played right tackle as a junior and senior. Pro Football Focus viewed Hunt as a below-average tackle last season, grading him just outside the top 50 at the position. Miami rosters multiple veterans with versatile NFL pasts as well, in Jesse Davis and D.J. Fluker.
Villanueva opted to sign with the Ravens shortly after the draft; the six-year Pittsburgh left tackle starter is set to take over Baltimore’s right tackle job. Kelly participated in the Broncos’ brigade of right tackle workouts this week, but Denver chose Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming from those. The Titans released Kelly during the legal tampering period; he spent the past five seasons in Tennessee.
Wagner, the Packers’ starting right tackle last season, is expected to retire, Fowler adds. While the former Ravens and Lions right tackle has not announced any retirement plans, this was believed to be a consideration when the Packers cut him three months ago. Wagner, 31, has made 96 pro starts.
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The Broncos scheduled to meet with free agent tackle Dennis Kelly next week, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). If signed, Kelly could give Denver help at right tackle to replace Ja’Wuan James.
Kelly started 16 games for the Titans last year but wound up as a cap casualty in March. After serving in mostly a swing role through his first four seasons in Tennessee, the 31-year-old had an opportunity to play on the first string in 2020. To his credit, he committed just three penalties while appearing in 98% of the Titans’ offensive snaps. The Ravens recently took a look at Kelly, though their RT needs have likely been filled by Alejandro Villanueva.
The Broncos will consider multiple tackles, Fowler hears, but they’ll be hard-pressed to find one on James’ level at this stage of the offseason. James joined Denver on a four-year, $51MM in 2019, but missed the bulk of the year due to injury. Then, last year, he opted out due to the pandemic. James’ deal came with $30MM+ guaranteed, but the Broncos have only seen James suit up for three games.
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The Titans released Kelly last month after he had spent five years with the organization. After serving in mostly a swing role through his first four seasons in Tennessee, the 31-year-old had an opportunity to start in 2020. He ultimately started all 16 games, committing only three penalties while appearing in 98-percent of his team’s offensive snaps.
Kelly isn’t the first veteran offensive lineman that the Ravens have gotten a look at, as the Ravens met with with Alejandro Villanueva recently. Later reports indicated that the team wouldn’t be adding any veteran until after the draft, as they’ll have a better understanding of their status at each position. The team could also avoid the compensatory pick formula by waiting until early May.
The Ravens need an offensive tackle after moving Brown to the Chiefs this week. Even if the team addresses the position in the draft, it’d make sense for them to add a veteran; Ronnie Stanley.will return to left tackle after missing most of the 2020 season, and the five-year veteran has yet to appear in all 16 games in a single season.
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After this year, players attached to fifth-year options will be protected from free-of-charge releases. But the Titans will take advantage of that opportunity in its final year. They are set to release former first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson.
The Titans are cutting both Jackson and starting right tackle Dennis Kelly, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Jackson’s option season was set to cost the Titans $10.2MM. They will turn that entire amount into cap space, a luxury that will not be available to teams beginning next year.
This is certainly not a surprise, however. Jackson played in only three games last season; a knee injury cost the 2017 first-round pick most of his season. The Titans shelved Jackson on IR ahead of Week 1, and although they activated him off the injured list in early November, Jackson continued to miss time. He will be entering free agency at a bad time, coming off his worst season and doing so after the salary cap dropped by $16MM. Some interest figures to come Jackson’s way, however. He graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 8 overall corner in 2019 and landed in the advanced metrics site’s top 40 corners in ’17 and ’18.
Tennessee will unveil a new group of corners next year. The Titans have now cut Jackson and Malcolm Butler. They will also have a new right tackle.
After the Titans passed on Jack Conklin‘s fifth-year option, they drafted Isaiah Wilson in the 2020 first round. After a disastrous rookie year, Wilson is now with the Dolphins. The Titans used Kelly at right tackle throughout last season, elevating him from the swing role he previously held. Kelly’s most recent extension ran through the 2022 season.
Overall, the Titans will create more than $17MM in cap space by making these moves. That will bump the team’s total to nearly $30MM, per OverTheCap. They also will have to replace two key cogs.
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Deals are coming in quickly, so we’ve compiled some important contract details below:
Dennis Kelly (Titans), Three years, $17.25MM, $8.75MM guaranteed, $4.75MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $1.5MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $4.5MM ($2.5MM guaranteed for injury at signing, fully guaranteed if on roster 5th day of 2021 league year); 2022: $5MM; $400k annual per-game roster bonus, $750K incentives available in 2021-22; $1MM escalator in base salary for 2021-22, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Alex Lewis (Jets), Three years, $18.6MM, $5.6MM guaranteed, $2.5MM signing bonus, salaries 2020: $1.1MM (guaranteed), 2021: $5.8M, 2022: $6M; $2MM 2020 roster bonus guaranteed on 5th day of league year, $400k in annual per-game roster bonuses, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Marcedes Lewis (Packers) One year, $2.25MM; $1.05MM signing bonus, salary 2020: $1.1MM, $9,375 per game active roster bonus, $750K playtime and playoffs incentives available, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Robert Quinn, (Bears): Five years, $70MM, $30MM guaranteed, $3MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $3MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $11.5MM (fully guaranteed), 2022: $12.8MM, 2023: $13.9MM, 2024: $12.9MM; $12.5MM fully guaranteed roster bonus in 2020, $100k annual workout bonuses from 2021-2024, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
The Titans lost Jack Conklin when he agreed to sign a big contract with the Browns, and they weren’t about to let a second offensive tackle walk out the door. Tennessee is re-signing Dennis Kelly with a three-year deal, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
The pact is worth $21MM with Kelly getting $8.75M guaranteed, Yates reports. Conklin had been the team’s starting right tackle, and it seems like Kelly will likely slide into that role. Kelly would provide a steady if unspectacular transition, as he has been with the team for a while. He has served as their swing tackle behind Conklin and Taylor Lewan recently, starting at least four games in three of the past four years.
Titans beat-writer Paul Kuharsky cautioned in a tweet that it’s not guaranteed Kelly starts however, and he could remain their third tackle depending on what else they do. It’s possible Tennessee will add competition for him in the draft. A Purdue product, Kelly was originally drafted in the fifth-round by the Eagles back in 2012.
He started ten games as a rookie but missed his entire sophomore season. Just before the start of the 2016 campaign he was traded to the Titans in exchange for Dorial Green-Beckham.
Friday’s top news thus far affected Dez Bryant. The veteran wide receiver and Saints employee for barely a day is feared to have torn one of his Achilles’ tendons. This would put him out for the season and impact his free agency. This reality appears to be in motion. The Saints are “pretty sure he tore it,” Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. While Michael Crabtree did buck the trend of Achilles injuries taking up to a year and more to recover from when he came back in six months to join the 2013 49ers late that season, Bryant is now 30 and was already dealing with damaged stock based on his recent work. Bryant doesn’t appear to be considering retirement and sounds ready to go through a rehab process (Twitter link). It’s possible Bryant could have to accept another one-year deal in the event he recovers from this injury, and that contract may not arrive until he recovers. He may well be back in a similar situation he was this year, when the Cowboys irked him by releasing him well after potential free agency suitors had spent on wideouts.
Here’s the latest from the South divisions:
- Jack Conklin won’t be available for the Titans on Sunday. The third-year right tackle has not cleared concussion protocol and has been downgraded to out for Tennessee’s game against the Patriots. Swing tackle Dennis Kelly will start on the right side, Turron Davenport of ESPN.com notes.
- The Buccaneers won’t have Vinny Curry in uniform against the Redskins. The first-year Bucs defensive end is out because of an ankle injury that prevented him from practicing all week. Carl Nassib started opposite Jason Pierre-Paul when Curry was previously out, in Weeks 7-8, and figures to do so again. Nassib’s three sacks are second on the Bucs, though well behind JPP’s eight.
- Speaking of the Bucs, they could create an immense amount of cap space this offseason while not incurring much dead money to do so. Tampa Bay could create more than $100MM in cap space and incur barely $12MM in dead-money charges, according to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap, by cutting several veterans. Mentioning Jameis Winston (guaranteed-for-injury fifth-year option of $20.9MM), Curry ($8MM savings, no dead money), DeSean Jackson ($10MM savings, no dead money) and Gerald McCoy ($13MM, no dead money), Fitzgerald sees a path for Tampa Bay to move into better spending position. Of course, some of these players — almost certainly McCoy — will still be around to help the Bucs, the organization’s lack of signing bonuses increases its flexibility. As of now, the Bucs are projected to hold just $10MM in cap room next year.
Prior to Vontae Davis‘ now-infamous halftime retirement, the 10-year NFL veteran cornerback told Bills defensive backs coach John Butler, “I’m done” while he was in uniform late in the first half. This one-sided conversation, per Davis (via The Undefeated’s Domonique Foxworth), occurred in the final minute of the half. Lafayette Pitts replaced Davis in the game and ended up having to play a larger role after halftime once Davis did not return for the second half.
“I didn’t expect them to understand,” Davis said, via Foxworth, of his teammates’ reaction to his abrupt NFL exit. “That moment was shocking to me as well. … My intention was not to hurt my teammates. In that moment, my intuition was telling me I don’t belong on that field anymore.”
The Bills received a roster exemption after the 30-year-old defender’s retirement, and they placed Davis on the reserve/left squad list, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. While Davis sounds about as far away from a player who’d attempt a comeback, his placement on this list would not allow it — with the Bills or another team — this season.
Shifting back to some active NFLers, here’s what’s new going into Week 3:
- Jack Conklin‘s 2018 debut is unlikely to take place Sunday, Titans insider Paul Kuharsky tweets. In the final part of his recovery process from a torn ACL sustained in January, Conklin appears likelier to suit up in Week 4 against the Eagles than Sunday against the Jaguars. The Titans didn’t have Conklin nor Taylor Lewan in Week 2, but Tennessee’s left tackle has been cleared to return from a concussion he sustained in the season opener. Swing tackle Dennis Kelly, however, remains out. An illness forced Kelly to be hospitalized before last weekend’s game.
- Another AFC South tackle won’t play Sunday, but Anthony Castonzo‘s second hamstring setback in as many months has not caused the Colts to consider placing him on IR. Indianapolis’ left tackle remains week-to-week in his recovery, Frank Reich said (via the Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer, on Twitter). Were Castonzo to land on IR, he would not be able to return for eight weeks.
- Three Patriots deemed unlikely to play will, in fact, sit out New England’s Week 3 game in Detroit. The Patriots announced Trey Flowers, Patrick Chung and Eric Rowe are out against the Lions. The team did not declare Marcus Cannon or Josh Gordon out. Cannon returned to practice this week and made progress, pointing to the right tackle’s return.
- Vita Vea‘s calf strain will delay his debut for another week. The Buccaneers‘ first-round pick is out for Monday night’s Steelers game, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Vea did practice on Saturday, doing so for the first time in a month, so the defensive tackle’s NFL debut appears imminent.
- The Chargers continue to bring Forrest Lamp along slowly. The 2017 second-round pick has not yet debuted, and Anthony Lynn said (via Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times) Lamp isn’t ready for action yet. “It’s just that Forrest was an athletic guard,” Lynn said. “He moved a lot and we pulled him in space. He doesn’t feel that speed yet. He feels like he’s a step behind.” Lamp tore an ACL a few days into his rookie training camp and underwent an arthroscopic procedure in May. The Bolts are already down Joe Barksdale for another week. They’ve been playing guard-tackle Michael Schofield in Lamp’s spot, and Sam Tevi started in Barksdale’s right tackle position last week in Buffalo.
This week, two defensive linemen signed landmark extensions with their franchises. Here’s how their contracts are structured.
- Everson Griffen‘s four-year, $58MM Vikings extension included $18.8MM fully guaranteed at signing, and that will pay out over the next two years, Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Griffen’s 2017 cap number rises to $8.6MM, and in 2018, that figure comes in at $11.6MM. The 29-year-old defensive end’s cap figures from 2019-22 are as follows: $11.9MM in ’19, $13.9MM (’20), $14.4MM (’21) and $15.5MM (’22). Griffen received a $2MM signing bonus. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports Griffen’s $3.9MM base salary for 2018 is guaranteed for injury at signing and becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the next league year. His $10.9MM base in ’19 becomes fully guaranteed on Day 3 of the 2019 league year. After ’19, though, the guarantees are partial. $4.3MM of Griffen’s 2020 base ($12.9MM) is guaranteed for injury only at signing. Griffen has no guarantees attached to the 2021 or ’22 seasons, leading Florio to tab this a two-year deal with extra injury protection in the following two seasons.
- Jurrell Casey‘s four-year, $60.4MM Titans re-up contains $22MM fully guaranteed at signing, Florio reports. Over the next two years, the interior defender will make $25.2MM — $11.27MM of which will be new money, per Florio. Most of Casey’s 2017 wages come through bonuses; he will earn $1.4MM in base salary. In 2018 and ’19, Casey will earn $10.6MM base salaries. The 2018 base is over $4MM more than he was set to earn under the terms of the initial Titans extension he signed in 2014. That rises to $11.25MM in 2020 and climbs to $11.68MM in ’21. By 2022, which would be Casey’s age-31 season, the two-time Pro Bowler is set to earn $13.25MM.
- The Titans agreed to extend offensive lineman Dennis Kelly as well. It’s a two-year deal worth $3.05MM, with $400K guaranteed, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The swing backup will earn base salaries of $775K (2017), $1.1MM (’18) and $1.35MM (’19), per Terry McCormick of TitansInsider (via Twitter).