Domata Peko

Ravens Sign Justin Ellis, Domata Peko

The Ravens have signed veteran defensive tackle Justin Ellis, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter). Ellis was a regular member of the Raiders’ D-line since Oakland selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, and he even landed a three-year, $15MM contract with the Silver-and-Black in March 2018. But his 2018 season was marred by injury, and he was released with an injury settlement in October.

And while Baltimore scored its fifth straight win on Sunday, its defensive front was noticeably shaky, perhaps because starting DT Michael Pierce played just three snaps. Pierce exited the game against the Bengals with an ankle injury, and head coach John Harbaugh said that an MRI didn’t reveal any long-term concerns. But as Jeff Zrebic of The Athletic writes, Harbaugh was non-committal as to whether Pierce would be available for this Sunday’s crucial matchup with the Texans, instead calling Pierce’s status “day-to-day.”

In addition to Ellis, the Ravens are adding another free agent DT, Domata Peko, as Zrebiec tweets. The Ravens, who are intimately familiar with the long-time Bengal’s work, attempted to sign him earlier this season, but the two sides were unable to agree on terms at the time. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports that Baltimore will pay Peko $1MM for the remainder of the season (Twitter link).

Neither Ellis nor Peko are likely to create much of a pass rush in the interior of the line — which Baltimore could really use — but like the Ravens’ earlier additions of linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, both are experienced veterans who understand their assignments and who should, if nothing else, solidify the run defense. That will be essential given Pierce’s uncertain health and the fact that the Ravens are putting rookie DT Daylon Mack on injured reserve, per Zrebiec.

Baltimore, at 7-2 and in first place in AFC North, is doing everything it can to keep the second-place Steelers at bay while pushing for a postseason bye. Zrebiec says the club is expected to add rookie CB Iman Marshall to the active roster this week, and given that the Ravens’ kickoff and punt coverage teams have been uncharacteristically unsteady, Marshall may be asked to bolster those units.

In a corresponding move, the Ravens have waived return man Cyrus Jones, per Zrebiec. Jones muffed a punt in the team’s win over the Patriots in Week 9, and Baltimore signed De’Anthony Thomas shortly thereafter. Thomas operated as the kickoff and punt returner on Sunday and will presumably remain in that role moving forward.

The team also waived DE Ufomba Kamalu, per Zrebiec.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Njoku, Bengals

The Ravens‘ pattern of letting edge rushers walk in free agency included the departures of both Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith this year. Baltimore’s defense has allowed 500-plus yards the past two weeks. While the Ravens attempted to patch up their edge-rushing need with post-draft additions of Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray (since cut), they were on the lookout for higher-profile players earlier in free agency. In addition to their Ziggy Ansah and Gerald McCoy meetings, the Ravens expressed interest in Justin Houston and Clay Matthews, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Houston landed in Indianapolis, and Matthews has five sacks with the Rams (after a 3.5-sack 2018). The Ravens also made an offer to former Bengals and Broncos nose tackle Domata Peko this week, Zrebiec tweets. But it likely was not up to Peko’s liking, with the 13-year veteran still unsigned.

Baltimore also recognized this need early in the draft, with Zrebiec adding the team pursued several of the acclaimed first-round defensive linemen. But the ones the Ravens sought were evidently gone by the time they selected Marquise Brown.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Prior to the season’s outset, the Ravens discussed an extension with starting inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, according to Zrebiec. C.J. Mosley‘s former wing man, a third-year starter, has not played particularly well in his contract year. Onwuasor rates as a bottom-10 off-ball ‘backer, in the view of Pro Football Focus.
  • David Njoku expects to return from IR this season. The Browns tight end was dealing with a broken wrist and a concussion, but the third-year tight end is out of concussion protocol, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets. The Browns will be without Njoku for at least six more weeks.
  • Cordy Glenn has missed every Bengals game this season and remains in concussion protocol. Obviously, this is a concerning situation for the veteran tackle. But Zac Taylor does expect the second-year Bengal to play this season, with Geoff Hobson adding (via Twitter) Glenn was attending a doctor’s appointment today. Andre Smith has struggled replacing Glenn, who was moved back to tackle (from his short-term left guard post) because of Jonah Williams‘ offseason injury.
  • Down A.J. Green and John Ross, the Bengals are scrambling at wide receiver. They worked out free agent DaMarkus Lodge, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). This marks the Bengals’ first receiver workout since Ross’ latest injury. He is expected to be out for a few games. Lodge is a rookie UDFA out of Ole Miss.

NFL Workout Updates: 10/1/19

Here’s a look at the latest workouts from around the NFL:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Read more

Broncos Plan To Move On From DT Domata Peko

The Broncos are unlikely to re-sign veteran defensive tackle Domata Peko, according to Mike Klis of 9News. Denver has told Peko and his camp that it won’t attempt to re-up the 34-year-old during the opening stages of the free agent period.

While Peko isn’t going to be priority for Denver, it does sound as though there’s a glimmer of hope that he could return to the Mile High City. If the Broncos aren’t able to find enough defensive linemen in free agency, they might be open to re-signing Peko at a later date, per Klis. That, of course, would depend on whether Peko himself was able to find a new team on the open market.

Peko is wrapping up a two-year, $7.5MM deal that he signed with the Broncos in 2017 after spending the first 11 years of his career with the Bengals. Over the past two seasons, Peko has only missed two games, racking up 44 tackles (eight for loss) during that time frame. In 2018, Pro Football Focus ranked Peko as the No. 39 interior defender among 112 qualifiers.

If Peko leaves, the Broncos’ remaining defensive lineman will include Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis, and DeMarcus Walker. Zach Kerr is an unrestricted free agent, while Shelby Harris is headed for restricted free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Rivers, Broncos, Rams

The Chargers have not made much of an effort to target Philip Rivers‘ heir apparent yet. Because the plan still appears to be a semi-long-term future with their current starter. Extension talks between the Bolts and their 37-year-old quarterback are set to commence. Rivers confirmed no such discussions have unfolded yet, but going through his 15th season did not change his mindset to avoid retirement for a while. The 2004 first-round pick gave the “year-by-year” answer during a radio interview with San Diego’s XTRA 1360 (via Pro Football Talk) before adding he believes he has a “handful” of seasons left. In the final year of his latest contract, Rivers is due an $11MM base salary and $5MM roster bonus in 2019. A $23MM cap charge is attached to this deal, and another re-up would bring that down. Los Angeles is projected to hold middle-of-the-pack cap space ($25MM-plus).

Here is the latest from the West divisions, moving to one of the Bolts’ top rivals:

  • Although Domata Peko‘s two seasons in Denver doubled as the Broncos‘ worst two-year stretch since the early 1970s, the veteran nose tackle rewarded the team’s modest investment. Again a free agent, Peko wants to continue his stay in Denver. “Of course I want to be back,” Peko said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. “I love it here, love these guys, you don’t know what they’re going to decide. But I feel good, like I can play.” The Broncos saw more improvement from Shelby Harris, an RFA who could be in line for a hefty raise. Harris could slide in and become Denver’s new starting nose, but Peko, at 34, may not cost too much to retain as a part-time player. Pro Football Focus slotted the longtime Bengals nose man as this year’s No. 42 interior defender.
  • Conversely, the Broncos’ half-decade run with Bradley Roby is expected to end, per Legwold. Neither Roby nor 2015 first-rounder Shane Ray are expected back in Denver next season. The Broncos have a solid glut of impending UFAs, with Matt Paradis and Shaquil Barrett joining Peko, Roby and Ray. While the Broncos have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb residing as one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing duos, their formerly formidable cornerback corps will be incredibly thin without Roby. All-Pro Chris Harris is still under contract, but for just one more season.
  • One of the workout circuit’s most popular players, free agent punter Brock Miller received a look from another team recently. The Rams employ All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker, but with the Patriots featuring left-footed punter Ryan Allen, Los Angeles brought in the left-footed-punting Miller for a look, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Miller has received several workouts like this but been more than a de facto scout-teamer, being part of the Giants’ practice squad last month.

Injury Notes: Falcons, Cowboys, Broncos

Devonta Freeman has cleared the league’s concussion protocol and will return to Falcons practice on Wednesday, head coach Dan Quinn told 92.9 The Game, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Freeman was injured on the second play of Atlanta’s game against the Cowboys in Week 10, and the veteran running back has since missed two additional games as he deals with this second concussion of the season. Fellow running back Tevin Coleman has dominated backfield touches with Freeman sidelined, but Freeman figures to take on the majority of carries from here on out.

Here’s more on injuries from around the NFL:

  • Like Freeman, Cowboys guard Zack Martin has also cleared the NFL concussion protocol and is on track to play when Dallas faces Washington on Thursday night, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Martin played only 20 offensive snaps in what was an eventual loss to the Chargers on Thanksgiving before leaving the contest with a brain injury, forcing the Cowboys to turn to backup Joe Looney to man right guard. One of the league’s best offensive lineman, Martin will attempt to help Dallas win out (essentially a requirement if the club hopes to earn a postseason berth).
  • The Colts will be without cornerback Rashaan Melvin after he suffered a “significant” hand injury, head coach Chuck Pagano told reporters, including Mike Chappell of FOX59 (Twitter link). While Indianapolis’ defense ranks 23rd in DVOA, Melvin has been one the team’s bright spots. A career reserve, the 28-year-old Melvin has started 10 games for the Colts this season while ranking as the NFL’s No. 14 corner, per Pro Football Focus. He’s scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency next spring. Tight end Erik Swoope, meanwhile, won’t return from IR this season although Indy originally believed he would do so, per Chappell (Twitter link).
  • Domata Peko‘s start streak is expected to end at 123 games, as the Broncos defensive tackle has a second degree MCL sprain that will cause him to miss time, tweets Mike Klis of 9News. Peko, 33, looked to be nearing the end of his career with the Bengals last season, but he’s rebounded in Denver. The mammoth interior defender has been outstanding against the run, helping the Broncos to a No. 1 overall ranking in run defense DVOA.
  • The Giants have designated defensive end Romeo Okwara to return from injured reserve, according to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link). The 22-year-old started four games as a rookie in 2016, and had played 78 defensive snaps this year before going down with a sprained MCL. Okwara will likely contribute on special teams when he returns to game action.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/16/17

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • Jason Verrett‘s impending injury absence will cause the Chargers to add cornerback depth. The Bolts signed cornerback Michael Davis from their practice squad and cut wideout Geremy Davis, Eric Williams of ESPN.com reports. The Chargers signed Geremy Davis on Monday as Dontrelle Inman insurance, but he didn’t play in Los Angeles’ Week 1 game. Michael Davis is a rookie UDFA out of BYU.
  • The 49ers promoted cornerback Asa Jackson from their practice squad and waived fellow corner Keith Reaser to clear a roster spot, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com tweets. A fifth-round 49ers pick in 2014, Reaser played in 29 games for the team — including last week’s loss to the Panthers — but didn’t start any. San Francisco signed Jackson, an ex-Ravens starter, in August and stashed him on the practice squad after the preseason.
  • Nose tackles Kyle Peko and Tyrique Jarrett will once again trade places with the Broncos. Denver will promote Peko from its practice squad and waive Jarrett, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post tweets. A rookie UDFA out of Pittsburgh, Jarrett saw Week 1 work on a depleted Broncos line. Peko, a cousin of Broncos starting nose Domata Peko, was waived last weekend.
  • The Colts promoted linebacker Darnell Sankey from their practice squad, cutting wide receiver Matt Hazel to make room, Mike Chappell of IndySportsCentral.com reports (via Twitter). Both Antonio Morrison and Anthony Walker are dealing with injuries, making this an insurance addition.
  • The Jets signed outside linebacker Freddie Bishop and defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas from their practice squad, Brian Costello of the New York Post tweets. The team also waived linebacker Edmond Robinson with an injury settlement.

FA Notes: Davis, Brown, Vikings, Eagles

Assorted notes pertaining to this year’s free agents…

  • Free agent tight end Kellen Davis visited the Browns today, reports ESPN.com’s Field Yates (via Twitter). The former fifth-rounder has played in 24 games (16 starts) for the Jets over the past two seasons. In parts of nine NFL seasons, the 31-year-old has compiled 53 receptions for 579 yards and 13 touchdowns.
  • The Dolphins hosted free agent linebacker Zach Brown yesterday, and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets that the team “wants” the former Bill. However, he also notes that the organization isn’t willing to pay big or engage in a bidding war. Meanwhile, Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com writes that Brown could also be an option for the Raiders. The 27-year-old fired his agent earlier today.
  • Nose tackle Domata Peko had previously said the Vikings were pursuing him in free agency. However, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (on Twitter), head coach Mike Zimmer said today that the organization never had interest in the long-time Bengals lineman. Peko ultimately signed with the Broncos earlier this month.
  • Yahoo’s Charles Robinson tweets that the Eagles had offered defensive tackle Bennie Logan a “sizable extension offer” during the season, which the player turned down. The veteran ultimately had to settle for a one-year deal from the Chiefs worth $8MM.

Broncos Notes: Romo, Webster, Peko, OL

Connected to a high-profile quarterback acquisition for the second straight offseason, Broncos GM John Elway didn’t identify the team’s Tony Romo circumstances as being all that different from the ones that had Denver close to adding Colin Kaepernick last year.

Yeah [it’s a similar situation], because we feel good where we are. There are so many things … everything gets ratcheted. I will just tell you this: There’s been a lot of things out there that are not true as far as what’s going with our quarterbacks. So that’s what happens. Everything gets frothed up,” Elway said, via Troy Renck of Denver7.

Renck adds that the latest coming out of Dallas is Romo is growing restless with the Cowboys’ tactics, with the franchise having backtracked on its intention to release him in order to pivot back to trying to trade the 15th-year quarterback. The Broncos remain unlikely to trade for Romo, per Renck, even after the Texans’ cap space-clearing trade of Brock Osweiler. It would be a “major upset” if the Cowboys found a taker for Romo’s contract in a trade, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.

The Broncos nearly traded for Kaepernick last year, but the sides couldn’t agree on a restructured deal. Denver then selected Paxton Lynch in the first round but turned the reins over to Trevor Siemian for most of 2016. That competition would continue for a second straight year if the franchise doesn’t acquire Romo. Vance Joseph said the franchise is in good shape with Siemian and Lynch for “the next four or five years,” per James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link). Lynch is under Broncos control for four more years, with Siemian’s rookie deal running through 2018.

Here’s more from the Mile High City.

  • Meanwhile, Elway said his understanding is Kayvon Webster wants to play more (Twitter link via Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post). Webster has been public about his desire to have a larger defensive role and he won’t get that opportunity in Denver, being blocked on the cornerback depth chart. Webster, who made our list of this year’s Top 50 Free Agents, has long been expected to leave. The fifth-year corner has served as one of the Broncos’ top special-teamers, but after a rookie season in which fewer obstacles resided in between Webster and a defensive role, the Broncos’ 2014 additions of Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby effectively buried him on the depth chart for the ensuing three seasons. Now employing his previous defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, the Rams are hosting Webster on a visit today.
  • Domata Peko also received interest from the Bengals, Vikings and Eagles prior to signing his two-year Broncos accord, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post tweets. Peko had obvious connections to the Bengals and the Mike Zimmer-coached Vikings but chose to join the Broncos.
  • Elway said the team’s starting left tackle might not be on the roster presently, per Renck, but noted recent right tackle signings Menelik Watson and Donald Stephenson are options there. Watson served as an emergency left tackle after injuries ravaged the Raiders’ tackle corps at a point last season, but Oakland primarily utilized him on the right edge. Stephenson began the 2015 season as the Chiefs’ starting left tackle, when he took Eric Fisher‘s spot, but Andy Reid reversed course and placed Fisher back there. Stephenson didn’t get a starting job back and signed with Denver, where he struggled as the team’s primary right tackle starter.
  • Denver still has interest in re-signing backup outside linebacker Dekoda Watson, according to 9News’ Mike Klis, who confirms the team’s interest in bringing back Vance Walker (Twitter link).
  • Newly signed Kasim Edebali will likely compete for work behind Von Miller and Shane Ray at outside linebacker, Wolfe writes. He played defensive end in the Saints’ 4-3 scheme and 58.7 percent of New Orleans’ special teams snaps in 2016. The Broncos also have Shaquil Barrett as their top backup at outside ‘backer.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Broncos To Sign Domata Peko, Zach Kerr

The Broncos have agreed to free agent deals with defensive linemen Domata Peko and Zach Kerr, tweets Mike Klis of 9NEWS. Peko will receive a two-year, $7.5MM contract that includes $3.8MM guaranteed, per Klis (Twitter link). Kerr will also garner a two-year pact, reports Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link).Domata Peko (Vertical)

Peko, 32, will now leave the Bengals after spending the past 11 seasons in Cincinnati. The former fourth-round pick appeared in 171 games with the Bengals during his time in the Queen City, starting 156 of those contests. Although he’s started every game for the past seven seasons, Peko’s playing time had started to dwindle, as he’d only managed roughly half of Cincinnati’s defensive snaps over the past two years. Peko registered 37 tackles in 2016 while grading as the league’s No. 106 interior defender, Pro Football Focus, which has given Peko disastrous marks for the past four years.

Addressing the defensive line was thought to be a primary focus for Denver this offseason, but Peko and Kerr are the the only defensive linemen the club has added thus far. That’s not for lack of trying, however, as the Broncos were reportedly among the final suitors for Calais Campbell before he signed with the Jaguars. Denver had to ward off other teams in order to land Peko, as the Vikings apparently had interest in the 6’3″, 307 pound defender, tweets Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Kerr, 26, was not tendered a restricted free agent contract by the Colts after appearing in 12 games (four starts) for the club last year. Appearing on nearly a third of Indy’s defensive snaps, Kerr posted 19 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery in his third NFL campaign. Kerr drew interest from the 49ers and Lions before signing with the Broncos, according to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.