Desmond Harrison

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).

Extra Points: Practice Squad Salaries, Anthem, Vikings, Browns

The standard practice squad salary is $7,600 a week, but players in high demand around the league often get much more than that, sometimes approaching what their salary would’ve been if they had made the 53-man roster.

Seahawks seventh round quarterback Alex McGough didn’t make the team after Seattle traded for Brett Hundley, but he’ll be making $28K a week according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). Although the Broncos wanted De’Angelo Henderson back on their practice squad after cutting him, the Jets offered him $30K a week to steal him away according to Mike Klis of 9News. Lastly, the Vikings paid offered $20K per week to poach tight end Cole Hikutini from the 49ers according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • “Moderate NFL owners are interested in a potential agreement” to waive discipline for players who protest the anthem if the players union will officially endorse standing for the anthem according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post. It’s unclear how close any such agreement might be, but it’s an interesting development.
  • Speaking of the Vikings, the team worked out a slew of players today, with wide receivers Breshad Perriman, Aldrick Robinson and Teo Redding, and offensive linemen Hroniss Grasu, Wesley Johnson, and Bryan Witzmann all coming in for workouts according to Courtney Cronin of ESPN (Twitter link). Minnesota has dealt with a ton of offensive line injuries, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add one of these guys.
  • The Browns finally ended the mystery of who would replace Joe Thomas at left tackle today when they announced it would be undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison protecting Tyrod Taylor’s blindside per Nate Ulrich of the Akron-Beacon Journal (Twitter link). Harrison was always a talented player, but went undrafted because of off-the-field concerns.

AFC Notes: Browns, Landry, Peterman

On the eve of roster cutdown day, here’s the latest out of the AFC:

  • The Browns have turned to multiple players this offseason in search of Joe Thomas‘ replacement, but after moving well-regarded left guard Joel Bitonio to left tackle, it doesn’t appear the team is ready to slot him there in Week 1. Hue Jackson said Bitonio might be moving back to guard and has declined to say who will be his left tackle starter against the Steelers, per Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland (on Twitter). Austin Corbett‘s left guard job is also not certain, per Jackson (via Jeff Schudel of the Lorain Morning Journal, on Twitter). Rookie UDFA Desmond Harrison may be the latest name to get a crack at left tackle, which would be an interesting move for a team with Shon Coleman and Greg Robinson still on the roster.
  • It appears the Titans may be without two of their top edge rushers when they suit up for Week 1. With Derrick Morgan already expected to be out because of meniscus surgery, Harold Landry suffered a sprained ankle — a second opinion revealing that this could be a high ankle sprain, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter) — is uncertain for Tennessee’s opener. No joint damage occurred, but the Titans may opt to play it safe with their second-rounder.
  • Working as both a camp kicker and punter with the Ravens, rookie UDFA Kaare Vedvik has drawn attention around the league this month. Teams are monitoring this situation, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link), since Vedvik will not be beating out Justin Tucker or Sam Koch.
  • Nathan Peterman has a real shot to be the Bills‘ Week 1 starter, despite having made one of the worst starts in modern NFL history last season. Signs are pointing to Peterman to begin the year as the Bills’ starter, Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic writes. The 2017 fifth-round pick completed 80 percent of his preseason passes and watched the Bills deploy A.J. McCarron instead of him in Thursday night’s preseason finale, a game usually reserved for backups or players set to be cut. McCarron signed for two years and $8MM this offseason. Josh Allen is obviously the long-term option, but while he learns, Peterman may be the Bills’ guy.

Draft Notes: Panthers, Penny, Impact Rooks

With their first-round pick, the Panthers ended up selecting Maryland wideout D.J. Moore. However, General Manager Marty Hurney told SiriusXM’s Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn that his team was considering several players with the pick, including Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley.

“Basically what we did, coming into the draft, we had a group of about five guys that we would be very happy with at 24 and we got our pick and three of those guys were there and it was a hard decision between Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore,” Hurney said. “I think that the difference to us is, and we think they’re both excellent wide receivers, is just D.J. Moore gives us a little different skill set than we had.”

Let’s check out some more draft notes from around the league…

  • Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller touched on a number of topics during his post-draft review. Notably, the reporter noted that the most surprising first-round selection was San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, who was taken by the Seahawks with the 27th pick. Miller notes that opposing teams didn’t value Penny as highly, and the reporter said the highest team grade (outside of Seattle) rated the running back as a second-rounder.
  • Miller reports that several players failed drug tests, causing them to fall in the draft or go undrafted. This grouping included cornerback Holton Hill, offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, and wideout Antonio Callaway.
  • ESPN’s Mel Kiper looked at several late-round rookies who could immediately make an impact with their new squad. Offensively, Kiper pointed to Patriots wideout Braxton Berrios, Colts running backs Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, and Steelers “Swiss Army knife” Jaylen Samuels. Defensively, Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Eagles pass rusher Josh Sweat, Rams linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo led Kiper’s list.

Browns Add 13 UDFAs

As the Browns begin their rookie minicamp, they signed 13 undrafted free agents. Here’s the full rundown:

  • Evan Berry, WR (Tennessee)
  • Elijah Campbell, DB (Northern Iowa)
  • Michael Carrizosa, P (San Jose State)
  • Christian Dilauro, OL (Illinois)
  • Daniel Ekuale, DL (Washington State)
  • Micah Hannemann, DB (BYU)
  • Desmond Harrison, OL (West Georgia)
  • Dontrell Hilliard, RB (Tulane)
  • Fred Lauina, OL (Oregon State)
  • Montrel Meander, DB (Grambling State)
  • Da’Mari Scott, WR (Fresno State)
  • Trenton Thompson, DL (Georgia)
  • Derrick Willies, WR (Texas Tech)

Berry is the younger brother of All-Pro Chiefs safety Eric Berry, the No. 5 overall pick in 2010 out of Tennessee. Evan Berry holds the Volunteers’ record for most kickoff-return touchdowns in school history with four. The Browns used just one of their eight draft choices on offensive linemen, so it probably shouldn’t be surprising three of them are on board as UDFAs.

Carrizosa finished in the top five in Division I-FBS punting twice with the Spartans (2015, 2017). Cleveland has punter Britton Colquitt signed through the 2020 season, but it would only cost the team $1.3MM in dead money to release him. Colquitt had a deal in place with the Broncos in 2016 before the franchise cut him for then-rookie seventh-rounder Riley Dixon.