Derwin James

Extra Points: Bell, Gregory, Raiders, Carr

With just less than four weeks remaining until the trade deadline, Le’Veon Bell-to-the-Eagles has surfaced on the rumor circuit. The Eagles are reportedly giving serious consideration to making a run at the likely rental running back. But SI.com’s Albert Breer isn’t so sure that’s going to happen. The Eagles don’t see running back as a spot to sink major resources into, per Breer. Bell’s approximately $10MM salary would qualify as a major investment, although that’s dropping by the week because of this unusual holdout. Philadelphia has just less than $5MM in cap room, and Breer notes the improving health of its running backs should help them steer clear of these interesting Bell sweepstakes. Corey Clement and Darren Sproles have yet to return to practice, and Jay Ajayi is playing with a back fracture. The Eagles traded a fourth-rounder for Ajayi before the 2017 trade deadline. Bell as of now plans to report to the Steelers during their Week 7 bye.

Here’s the latest from around the league as Week 5’s first game continues:

  • Randy Gregory‘s reinstatement conditions caused him to miss the Cowboys‘ Thursday practice. The defensive end was in Chicago meeting with medical director of the NFL’s substance-abuse program, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports (on Twitter). He most recently attended this type of summit during the preseason. The NFL reinstated Gregory this summer after his extensive substance-abuse-induced hiatus. His status for Week 5 doesn’t appear to be in question. Gregory’s played 64 snaps this season.
  • Jimmy Smith‘s return to action this week doesn’t appear to mean Brandon Carr will be bumped from first-string duties. The 11th-year cornerback has started 164 straight games (and every game he’s played as an NFLer), and Ravens DC Wink Martindale doesn’t plan on stopping that run, Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com notes. Smith is eligible to return after a four-game suspension. Carr, Marlon Humphrey and slot man Tavon Young have worked as Baltimore’s top three corners this season. Smith was thriving prior to his season-ending injury last year, so it should be expected he’ll play a big role soon, even if he doesn’t start immediately. Carr’s 164-game start streak resides as the longest among defensive players by 28 games.
  • While Jon Gruden wanted to take Derwin James in the first round, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes (subscription required) the Raiders weren’t doing anything except taking a tackle in Round 1. However, if Kolton Miller was gone at No. 15 — where the Raiders dropped to after dealing the No. 10 selection to the Cardinals — Tafur notes they were going to take James or trade down further.
  • The Dolphins were projected to be among the teams examining the crop of potential first-round quarterbacks, but their 3-1 start could change that. Early in the mock process, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has the Dolphins taking Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen, a player whom multiple area scouts have rising into the first round after a strong start to the season. As for where Miller projects the QBs to fall in Round 1, he has the Giants taking Oregon’s Justin Herbert and No. 5, the Patriots grabbing Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham at No. 17 (though, that draft slot seems certain to drop) and the Bengals selecting Missouri’s Drew Lock at 28.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Fins, Bengals, Chargers

If Jon Gruden had his way, safety Derwin James would be patrolling the Raiders‘ defensive backfield instead of the Chargers’. Gruden today told reporters that he preferred to select James in the first round of this year’s draft, but Oakland had already used high picks on safeties — Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu — in recent years, per Eric Williams of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Raiders ultimately used the 15th overall selection on UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller, who is now manning Derek Carr‘s blindside. James has emerged as an early Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate with his play in Los Angeles, but Gruden’s remarks can be interpreted as a subtle dig at Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, who reportedly hasn’t meshed with Gruden.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Dolphins safety Reshad Jones will be available for Week 5 after missing the previous two weeks with a shoulder injury, writes Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com. Jones was sidelined for Miami’s games against Oakland (win) and New England (loss), forcing rookie defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick to take over at safety opposite T.J. McDonald. With Jones’ return, Fitzpatrick will move back into his natural slot corner role. Jones, who entered the league as a Dolphins fifth-round pick in 2010, has been a full-time starter since his second season in the NFL. Last spring, he inked a long-term extension that should keep him in South Beach through 2021
  • Rookie Bengals center Billy Price hasn’t suffered any setbacks since suffering a foot injury in Week 2, but he’s still expected to be in a walking boot for at least two more weeks, tweets Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. That means Price will miss games against the Dolphins and Steelers, and possibly more if his recovery timeline is extended. Cincinnati’s bye comes in Week 9, so the Bengals could potentially hold Price out through then if they want to be cautious. With Price out, the Bengals have turned to former starting guard Trey Hopkins to fill in at the pivot.
  • Chargers linebacker Kyzir White underwent a minor knee operation on Monday and will miss Week 5, head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters, including Williams (Twitter link). White isn’t expected to miss much time, however, and should be back “sooner rather than later,” per Lynn. A fourth-round rookie out of West Virginia, White has started three games for Los Angeles this season, racking up 12 tackles in the process. Jatavis Brown should see more snaps in White’s absence.

Chargers Sign Derwin James

The Chargers have wrapped up their entire draft class. On Friday, the Chargers inked first-round safetyDerwin James (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). 

Per the terms of his slot as the 17th overall pick, James will earn $12.39MM over the course of his four-year deal. The pact includes a $7.1MM signing bonus as well a fifth-year team option, since James was a first-round choice.

James made a name for himself immediately at Florida State when he tallied 91 total tackles and 4.5 sacks as a true freshman. A knee injury cost him the bulk of his sophomore year, but he returned last year and put up 84 tackles, two interceptions, eleven passes defended, and a sack. Early on in the draft process, some anticipated that James would go in the top ten. At No. 17, the Chargers may have gotten a steal.

James projects to start at free safety for the Chargers, joining Jahleel Addae in the middle of the secondary. They’ll be flanked by cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Casey Heyward.

Using PFR’s draft pick signing tracker, here’s the full rundown of the Chargers’ 2018 draft class:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Ryan, Vea, Panthers

The $100MM guaranteed in Matt Ryan‘s landscape-changing Falcons extension appears to be fully guaranteed. Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (video link) Ryan will see every dollar of this nine-figure allotment, one that will take the quarterback guarantee market to another level. Kirk Cousins‘ previous record of $84MM — more than $20MM more than Matthew Stafford‘s then-record amount from last summer — lasted less than two months. While it would be a good bet Ryan would see all $100MM even if it weren’t fully guaranteed, given the 11th-year quarterback’s reliability and importance to the Falcons, this sets a high floor for the impending Aaron Rodgers extension. This Ryan deal may have been completed as early as March, per Pelissero, but Ryan’s wife having twins in March prompted the parties to delay the talks.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions:

  • Despite being able to land Vita Vea with the No. 12 overall pick, the Buccaneers placed a top-five grade on the defensive tackle. Jason Licht said during an appearance on Good Morning Football (video link) Vea was slotted at fourth on the Bucs’ board. This made it risky for Tampa Bay to trade the No. 7 pick to Buffalo, with three non-quarterbacks going from Nos. 7-11, but the south Florida franchise landed Vea anyway. Licht said the Bucs ran several pre-draft scenarios centered around the possibility of trading back and still seeing Vea available, but the GM indicated there were a couple of players the team would have been comfortable with at No. 12 if another team chose Vea. One of these could have been Derwin James, a player whom Licht said the Bucs liked “a lot.”
  • A somewhat strange shakeup will occur on the Panthers‘ coaching staff. Curtis Fuller will resign from his post as defensive backs coach, Joe Person and Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer report. The reasoning for this exit is as of now unknown, with GM Marty Hurney telling the Observer “it’s a complicated situation.” Fuller’s been on Carolina’s staff since 2013, serving in various capacities — mostly helping defensive backs. The 39-year-old assistant rose to his most recent role last year after Steve Wilks was promoted to defensive coordinator.
  • Part of an NFL initiative for overseas players being placed on NFC South practice squads, defensive end Alex Jenkins remains with the Saints going into what could be his second year after signing a reserve/futures contract. And the team will again receive a roster exemption, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com reports (on Twitter). The England native won’t count against the Saints’ 90-man offseason roster and would be an 11th man on the practice squad if he can’t make the team’s 53-man roster out of camp.

Cowboys Still Interested In Earl Thomas

It appears the Cowboys’ refusal to send a second-round pick to the Seahawks for Earl Thomas did not squash their interest in acquiring the three-time All-Pro safety. The Cowboys remain in the Thomas market, per David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, but it’s unclear how badly the franchise wants to execute a deal.

Moore reports the Cowboys are still interested in trading for Thomas. However, despite a rather interesting safety setup that features Jeff Heath and 2017 sixth-rounder Xavier Woods as the penciled-in starters, they aren’t desperate for his services. Moore notes they will be willing to wait out the Seahawks’ situation with Thomas.

John Schneider does not expect his superstar safety to hold out, despite repeated threats at doing so, and the Seattle GM reiterated that’s the sense he’s getting.

My sense is that he wants to be here,” Schenider said Thursday, via ESPN Seattle’s Jessamyn McIntyre (Twitter link). “I haven’t got that sense from his agents at all.”

The Cowboys are searching for safety help, and while it’s a good year to do that — with Eric Reid, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro still oddly unattached nearly two months into the 2018 league year — Thomas brings a much higher pedigree. The soon-to-be 29-year-old defender remains one of the top players at his position, and the Texas native surely wouldn’t be upset if the Cowboys acquired him.

Despite Dallas’ need at safety, the team didn’t inquire about trading up for Derwin James once he fell in Round 1, Moore reports, and selected an offensive lineman in Round 2 and a wideout in Round 3. Executive VP Stephen Jones said the team considered drafting a safety, and Jerry Jones said the team is interested in finding veteran help. Jerry Jones added post-draft that the Cowboys have cornerbacks who can play safety, perhaps indicating Byron Jones‘ shift to cornerback may not be permanent.

Moore writes that Thomas can help facilitate this by holding out and/or refusing to sign a Seahawks extension. One year remains on his deal. But for now, Seattle brass continues to publicly state they expect Thomas to remain their secondary’s centerpiece this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Rumors: Ravens, Seahawks, 49ers, Pats

Let’s dive into some last-minute draft rumors as we anticipate the start of the first round…

  • Should the Ravens go on the clock and Mike McGlinchey is off the board, it looks like they will strongly consider UCLA’s Kolton Miller. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets the Ravens are focused on Miller as a McGlinchey contingency plan at No. 16. These two are viewed by many as the top tackles in this year’s draft. Although Baltimore needs a right tackle after cutting Austin Howard, this serves as one of the possible Lamar Jackson destinations. Assuming the top four QB prospects are gone by this point in the draft, it could open up the trade market for the picks in the latter teens with the 2016 Heisman winner still available.
  • Albert Breer of SI.com writes that there are several teams interested in moving down, including the 49ers (No. 9), Seahawks (No. 18), Lions (No. 20), Titans (No. 25), and Eagles (No. 32). Seattle would have particular interest in trading their pick if safety Derwin James or any of the top pass-rushers are off the board. Meanwhile, Breer notes that San Francisco could benefit if a quarterback-needy team wants to trade up.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets that he keeps hearing Miami defensive lineman Chad Thomas being connected to the Patriots. Thomas didn’t earn a spot on NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 list, and he’s ultimately projected to be a third- or fourth-round pick. The senior was plenty productive in 2017, compiling 41 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.

NFL Draft Rumors: Bucs, Packers, James

Florida State safety Derwin James spent Wednesday meeting with the Buccaneers and will sit down with the Packers on Thursday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). James, the No. 9 ranked safety in the draft per NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, offers versatility with experience at both safety spots, nickel cornerback, and even outside linebacker. He arguably performs better when playing closer to the line, so the team that drafts him will likely look to continue using him in multiple roles.

Here’s more NFL Draft news:

  • NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb met with the Buccaneers on Wednesday and is visiting the Giants on Thursday, Rapoport tweets. Chubb has another top 5 team visit next week, Rapoport notes, but he did not specify the club.
  • Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy was with the Vikings on Wednesday, Rapoport tweets. Cichy suffered an ACL tear in the summer that prevented him from seeing the field in 2017. Before the injury, he was considered a first-round prospect and he could still come off the board in Day 2 if he demonstrates that he is healthy.
  • Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward is visiting the 49ers on Thursday, according to Rapoport (on Twitter). The Niners pick No. 9 overall and he could be a possibility for San Francisco there. SF will also meet with Georgia linebacker Lorenzo Carter.
  • The Bears met with a pair of top defensive backs in Ward and Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), Rapoport tweets. Fitzpatrick previously visited the Buccaneers. The Bears own the No. 8 pick in the draft, so they could be in range for both players.
  • The Vikings met with University of Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams and Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey, Rapoport tweets. Jeremiah has Williams ranked as the No. 21 prospect in this year’s draft while McGlinchey is at No. 35.
  • Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans visited the Dolphins (No. 11) this week, Rapoport tweets. Evans, who played all over in Bama’s front seven, offers strong coverage against both tight ends and running backs.
  • Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne is meeting with the Falcons, according to Rapoport.
  • The Buccaneers, who own the No. 7 pick in the first round, had former Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson in for a visit on Wednesday, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets.

FSU’s Derwin James To Enter NFL Draft

No surprise here, but Florida State safety Derwin James has announced that he will go pro in 2018 rather than play out his final season. James will also skip the Independence Bowl at the end of the month. Derwin James (vertical)

[RELATED: Jimbo Fisher Leaves For Texas A&M, Taking Himself Out Of NFL Consideration]

After a lot of prayer and plenty of conversations with my coaches and especially my teammates, I’m ready to begin preparing for my next chapter: becoming the next great Florida State DB in the NFL,” James wrote in a piece for The Players’ Tribune. “I feel extremely grateful that every person I spoke to supported my decision to begin my training immediately.”

James has been on the NFL radar for some time now. Back in September, one scout told NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread that James has the body type to play “about seven positions.” He’s widely viewed as a first round prospect and he may work himself into top ten consideration.

On the flipside, evaluators will be taking a close look at his knee following an injury in 2016. Some draft experts, including Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, have opined that James has looked timid in his return.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Derwin James, NFLPA, Peterson

Lawyer Cyrus Mehri wants to dethrone DeMaurice Smith as the head of the NFL Players’ Association. If elected, he says revamping the league’s discipline policy will be one of the first items on his agenda to be tackled.

If I’m elected, in the first hundred days, I’m going to sit down with the commissioner and top brass and reform this discipline system, so we’ll have checks and balances for when the 2018 season starts up,” Mehri said at a town hall style meeting this week (via Charean Williams of PFT). “My guiding light is this: What’s best for the game? . . . I’ve taken the word ‘concessions’ out of the dialogue, and all we’re going to be talking about is what’s best for the game. What’s best for the game is to reform that system. What’s also best for the game is to dramatically improve the resources particularly at the club level to deal with and minimize and prevent from happening some of these off-the-field issues. Issues of DUIs. Issues of drug abuse. Issues of domestic violence that have kept players from playing, and they’re also human tragedies. So if we really redouble or triple the effort on that, to me, that’s something labor and management should be on the same page on, which is prevention of problems. That’s the difference between me and the incumbent, because the incumbent’s relationship is so poisonous and so contentious [with the NFL] that they can’t be problem-solving, but problem-solving is focusing on prevention of these issues.”

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Scouts see a future NFL superstar in Florida State safety Derwin James, NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread writes. James is only a sophomore, but talent evaluators are drooling over his freakish athleticism. One scout told Goodbread that James has the body type to play “about seven positions.” “I think if you take all the attributes of all the best ones, combine it into one, you’re getting close to Derwin,” FSU strength and conditioning coach Vic Viloria said. “He’s got strength like [Nigel] Bradham. He’s got the desire to chase the deep ball like [Lamarcus] Joyner, competitiveness like Jameis [Winston]. His ability to hit and be strong for a skill player is like Jalen [Ramsey]. … His acceleration is freakish; it’s that of a Devonta Freeman. … You can keep going down the list.”
  • NFL players are anxious for the day that their contracts will be fully guaranteed, as Dave Campbell of The Associated Press writes. “When you think about what we do for our organizations, the injuries and the pounding that we take, you would think that there would be more appreciation for your players,” Saints running back Adrian Peterson said. “It’s just so unfortunate when you think about the physicality and the toll that football takes on your body.” Naturally, this will be another major focal point for the NFLPA in its next round of CBA talks with the league. It’s hard to imagine players getting fully guaranteed deals, but it’s possible that they could have some improved injury protection.