Dwayne Gratz

Eagles Cut Dwayne Gratz

As the Eagles convene for training camp, the team made a few moves on Sunday. One of them was jettisoning fifth-year cornerback Dwayne Gratz.

Philadelphia announced the release of Gratz, whom the team signed late last season to a two-year deal. No guaranteed money was attached to Gratz’s $775K contract. The Eagles also placed Sidney Jones and Beau Allen on the Active/NFI list. Philly will meet for camp on Monday and begin practice Thursday.

The Eagles are the third team since October 2016 to part ways with Gratz. The Jaguars cut him in October, but Gratz didn’t make it to free agency when the Rams claimed him. However, Los Angeles cut Gratz as well after deploying him in three games. The Eagles signed him in advance of Week 15 last season. The 27-year-old corner did not play any games for Philly. Gratz functioned as a primary starter for the 2014 Jags but has otherwise been a backup.

Philly does not have a particularly deep cornerback contingent, but Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes (on Twitter) 2016 UDFA C.J. Smith and CFL import Aaron Grymes performed better than Gratz during offseason workouts.

Jones could still miss the season due to his Achilles injury, and Allen suffered a chest injury while working out this offseason. The defensive tackle who has served as a rotational player is not expected to be ready by Week 1.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Make Several Pre-Week 15 Moves

The Eagles’ running back corps continues to take hits and will be without one of its members for the rest of the season. Among a host of Monday moves, Philadelphia placed rookie Wendell Smallwood on IR.

Tackle Matt Tobin will also venture to the team’s IR list, where he’ll join long snapper Jon Dorenbos, whom the Eagles placed on the season-ending list after he was declared out for the season earlier today.

To begin filling this trio’s roster spots, the team signed former Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz and long snapper Rick Lovato. Gratz’s deal is for two years, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Both the Jaguars and Rams cut Gratz this season. The former third-round pick played in three games for both teams this season, recording five tackles. He started in 17 games for the Jags in 2014 and ’15 but did not show enough to stick around through what began as his contract year.

A knee injury will close Smallwood’s initial NFL campaign. The fifth-round pick rushed 77 times for 312 yards, receiving multiple carries in 11 of the Eagles’ 13 games. This news comes after it became known Darren Sproles is in the concussion protocol, leaving the Eagles with Ryan Mathews, who returned last week from his latest injury to rush for 60 yards, and Kenjon Barner as healthy backfield options.

Tobin, a fourth-year ex-UDFA, started one game this season after breaking with the first unit in 20 games in ’14 and ’15. He played 31 snaps against Washington on Sunday but will miss the season’s remainder with a knee injury.

Lovato has been something of a snapper-on-call during his two-year career, with the Old Dominion product catching on with the Packers to close last season and joining the Redskins for a two-game stint in November. He’ll likely snap for the Eagles in their final three games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Release CB Troy Hill

Days after being arrested for a DUI, the Rams announced that they have released cornerback Troy Hill. The team also announced that cornerback Dwayne Gratz has been waived and linebacker Josh Forrest has been placed on injured reserve. To take their spots, cornerback Michael Jordan and linebacker Nic Grigsby are being called up from the practice squad. Troy Hill (vertical)

Hill, 25, entered the league as a Bengals undrafted free agent in 2015 and didn’t play much during his rookie season. This year, he saw an increased role, appearing in every game for the Rams (until this weekend) and starting four contests. As Los Angeles’ fourth cornerback behind Trumaine Johnson, E.J. Gaines, and Lamarcus Joyner, Hill has played on 320 defensive snaps this year, but Pro Football Focus gave him poor marks for his play. His release should have opened a door for Gratz, but he also finds himself out of work.

Forrest, a sixth-round pick, suffered an ACL tear on Sunday. Forrest was Alec Ogletree‘s primary backup at middle linebacker, so they are now without an important reserve. As I suggested yesterday, Grigsby is getting a promotion to help fill the void.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Claim CB Dwayne Gratz

The Rams have claimed cornerback Dwayne Gratz off waivers, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Gratz was waived by the Jaguars earlier this week. Dwayne Gratz (vertical)

Jacksonville cut Gratz on Monday in order to make room for fellow cornerback Aaron Colvin who had been serving a four-game suspension for a PED violation. Gratz, a UConn product, was in his fourth year with the Jags. From 2013-2015, he appeared in 37 games with 25 starts. This year, he saw time in three contests before getting dropped.

After starting cornerback Trumaine Johnson was forced to leave Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, Gratz may be counted on to provide the team with depth.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/10/16

Today’s minor moves:

  • The Jaguars activated cornerback Aaron Colvin to the 53-man roster and released fourth-year veteran cornerback Dwayne Gratz, as John Oehser of Jaguars.com tweets. Colvin had been serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy.
  • The Chargers have activated defensive lineman Damion Square, who like Colvin had been serving a four-game ban, the club announced. To create a roster spot, San Diego placed linebacker Nick Dzubnar on injured reserve.
  • The Saints waived offensive lineman Tyrus Thompson from injured reserve, reports Nick Underhill of The Advocate (Twitter link). Thompson has bounced from roster to roster since being chosen in the sixth round of the 2015 draft, but has never appeared in a regular season game.
  • The Browns waived offensive lineman Anthony Fabiano and officially placed center Austin Reiter on injured reserve, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).
  • After promoting him on Saturday, the Bears have once again waived cornerback Demontre Hurst, tweets Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. The club announced that they’ve promoted De’Vante Bausby from the practice squad to the active roster.

AFC Notes: Miller, Jaguars, Titans, Shelton

Let’s take a look at some notes out of the AFC on this Saturday evening…

  • It might be in Von Miller‘s best interest to sit out the majority of next season, writes Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. The reigning Super Bowl MVP would earn $5.81MM if he sits out until Week 10, and the Broncos would presumably pass on slapping Miller with the franchise tag next offseason. If they did, Miller could sit out again, earning $6.98MM for another seven-game season. In this scenario, Miller would be in line for a 44-percent raise or the quarterback franchise tender for 2018. When all is said and done, the 27-year-old could end up making at least $36MM for 30 games over three seasons.
  • Dwayne Gratz started 13 games for the Jaguars during the 2014 season, but the cornerback may have issues even making next year’s roster. As Ryan O’Halloran of Jacksonville.com writes, with Aaron Colvin, Davon House, Prince Amukamara and Jalen Ramsey presumably ahead of him on the depth chart, the 26-year-old recognizes that he’s simply competing for a roster spot. “It’s going to be big,” Gratz said. “I have to understand it’s not a given and that if I don’t do my job, I won’t end up on this team, which I would like to be a part of because a lot of special things are going to happen. I understand the situation I’m in.”
  • The Titans made a variety of moves this past offseason, and general manager Jon Robinson addressed those moves while speaking at the Nashville Sports Council Reception last Tuesday. “We did what we thought was the best for the football team,” he said (via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com). “As I’ve said before, this is a city and a state and a team that I am very passionate about. It’s a special place for me, and I want it to be good. And we want it to be good. We just try to make moves and position ourselves to put a product and 53 guys out there that this city and this state can be proud of.”
  • Browns defensive tackle Danny Shelton lost 30 pounds this offseason, and his improved physique should allow him to stay on the field for more snaps. “He can do so many more things at the weight he’s at right now and the condition he’s in,’‘ defensive line coach Robert Nunn told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “So he’s got to keep that and time will tell. He’s the one that controls that. I can help him only so much and the strength coaches can only help him so much and Coach Jackson can only help him so much. I think he sees the difference of where he was and where he can be.”

AFC Notes: T-Rich, Manziel, Dolphins

Trent Richardson may be down to his last chance to continue his NFL career, and he may be firmly on the Ravens‘ roster bubble, but one still has to give him credit for dreaming big. In an interview with Comcast SportsNet, Richardson said he would end his NFL story by “Putting on a yellow jacket. People wrote him off, he came back and did some amazing things. He always had the pedigree. He just had to get back to the guy that we know” (link via Clifton Brown of CSNMidAtlantic.com). T-Rich, the former No. 3 overall pick of the 2012 draft, has a career average of just 3.3 yards per carry, and he has struggled with injuries and weight throughout the course of his once-promising career. Just 25, Richardson realizes there will probably not be another opportunity for him if he fails to make Baltimore’s roster, but as he fights to carve out a place for himself on the Ravens–who are well-stocked at the running back position–a little self-confidence can’t hurt.

Now for a few more links from the AFC:

  • Johnny Manziel‘s attorney, Jim Darnell, says his client is preparing as though he will play in the NFL in 2016, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes. Per Fowler, Darnell concedes that a return to the league in 2017 is more realistic, but it would take a confluence of positive outcomes for even that to happen. Manziel’s pending assault charge, for which he has a status hearing on June 24, would have to be resolved in his favor, he would have to weather whatever punishments the league levies upon him, and he would have to find a team willing to gamble on him and his fledgling football abilities.
  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that the NFL has not yet contacted Dolphins rookie left tackle Laremy Tunsil about the now-infamous bong video that precipitated Tunsil’s fall in April’s draft. As Florio notes, however, the league could come calling any day.
  • The top of the Dolphins‘ wide receiver depth chart is largely settled, but there is some intrigue among a few of the less-heralded players on the roster, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes. Barring injury, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Leonte Carroo will be the club’s top four wideouts, but rookie Jakeem Grant, despite being a raw route-runner, has flashed in OTAs, and players like Griff Whalen and Matt Hazel also have their supporters among the Dolphins’ coaching staff.
  • New Jets left tackle Ryan Clady still has a chip on his shoulder as a result of the unceremonious end to his tenure with the Broncos several months ago, and he is determined to prove he is still the same player he was during his peak years in Denver, as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes.
  • Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida-Times Union takes a look at six returning Jaguars who could be on the roster bubble, a list headlined by Tyson Alualu and Dwayne Gratz.

2016 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure is projected to be $1.696MM in 2016. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2016 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:Keenan Allen (Vertical)

49ers: Gerald Hodges, LB

Bears: Marquess Wilson, WR

Buccaneers: William Gholston, DE; Mike Glennon, QB; Akeem Spence, DT

Cardinals: Andre Ellington, RB; Tyrann Mathieu, CB/S; Alex Okafor, LB

Chargers: Keenan Allen, WR

Colts: Sio Moore, LB; Hugh Thornton, G

Cowboys: J.J. Wilcox, S; Terrance Williams, WR

Dolphins: Jelani Jenkins, LB; Dallas Thomas, T; Dion Sims, TE; Kenny Stills, WR

Eagles: Bennie Logan, DT

Falcons: Kemal Ishmael, S; Levine Toilolo, TE

Jaguars: Josh Evans, S; Dwayne Gratz, CB

Jets: Brian Winters, G

Lions: Larry Warford, G

Packers: David Bakhtiari, T; Micah Hyde, S

Patriots: Duron Harmon, S; Chris Jones, DT; Logan Ryan, CB

Raiders: Mychal Rivera, TE

Rams: T.J. McDonald, S

Ravens: Ricky Wagner, T; Brandon Williams, DT

Saints: Terron Armstead, T; John Jenkins, DT

Seahawks: Luke Willson, TE

Steelers: Markus Wheaton, WR

Titans: Brian Schwenke, C

Washington: Jordan Reed, TE

Extra Points: Gratz, Boswell, Massie

Let’s round up some assorted links from around the league:

  • Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union looks at five players who finished the 2013 season with the Jaguars but who might be on the bubble of Jacksonville’s improved roster this season.
  • In a separate piece, O’Halloran describes the strong performance that Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz had at the end of OTAs, and he notes that the Jags need Gratz to win a the starting corner spot opposite Alan Ball.
  • Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer provides a detailed piece on the new additions to the Panthers‘ secondary and writes that the Panthers hope the patchwork unit they assembled this season will have as much success as the makeshift group of 2013.
  • In a video piece on HoustonTexans.com, Texans undrafted rookie kicker Chris Boswell describes the kicking competition this offseason with incumbent Randy Bullock.
  • Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News describes the players that performed well and those that struggled in the Lions‘ offseason program and how those performances might carry over to training camp in July.
  • Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com writes that Bobby Massie is currently the clubhouse leader for the Cardinals‘ starting right tackle spot, but the fact that the team tried to sign Tyson Clabo demonstrates how the team feels about Massie and Bradley Sowell. Weinfuss adds that depending on how Massie and Sowell look early in training camp, the Cardinals may yet choose to look outside the organization. Eric Winston remains an option.
  • Adam Teicher of ESPN.com believes the Chiefs need to make a move at cornerback now after the release of Brandon Flowers, and he adds that Donnie Avery appears locked in at the team’s No. 2 receiver.
  • Charley Walters of TwinCities.com writes that Vikings are not likely to release quarterback Christian Ponder but hope to trade him. Although Ponder would only fetch, at best, a late-round draft pick, the team would save $1.8MM by dealing him.

AFC South Notes: Jones, Luck, Clowney

For Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones, who signed a five-year, $33MM deal with the team after four years in Baltimore, versatility is the name of the game.

“It really doesn’t matter where I line up,” Jones said, according to Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star. “I’m here to help win games, help win championships. I come in as a humble servant. I mean that.”

Jones started 20 of his 46 games played with the Ravens, totaling 8 1/2 sacks in his most recent two seasons. He’ll be asked to stuff the run on early downs and rush the passer on favorable down-and-distance situations. An unselfish man on and off the field, Indianapolis is hoping Jones’ steady play and demeanor rubs off on his defensive counterparts.

More news and notes from the AFC North below…

  • The signing of safety Mike Adams creates real intrigue in the Colts‘ defensive backfield, writes Stephen Holder of The Indy Star.
  • Losing 43-22 to New England in the AFC divisional playoffs is motivating Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, ESPN.com’s Mike Wells reports.
  • Sooner is better than later in the case of surgery for Texans‘ defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, ESPN.com’s Tania Ganguli writes. Clowney should be back in time for training camp, where the reps are far more significant than those in padless mandatory minicamps.
  • The lack of mental mistakes made by Titans defenders in minicamp practices was referred to as amazing by new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky reports.
  • Jaguars‘ cornerback Dwayne Gratz has been quiet at OTAs this offseason, writes Bruce Lipsky of Jacksonville.com. Lipsky notes that this is a good thing, because in the past Gratz has been noticeable at team’s practices for his inability to cover receivers. Gratz has been better this offseason, and recently made some positive noise during 11-on-11 drills on Thursday.
  • Entering the second season with general manager Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley at the helm, the Jaguars are still searching for their face of the franchise, according to ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco.