Eric Smith

Patriots Notes: Gronk, McDaniels, Guerrero

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) passes along a couple of interesting items this morning regarding several key faces in the Patriots’ locker room. While we knew that New England had indeed attempted to trade star tight end Rob Gronkowski this offseason, Rapoport says that those trade talks were “intense” and that the Pats were actually close to dealing Gronk at one point. However, Rapoport reports that Gronkowski then stepped in and adamantly informed the front office that he would either retire or remain with the Patriots, but that he would not go anywhere else. At that point, Rapoport says, trade talks were scrapped and, as we know, the team sweetened Gronk’s contract late last month.

Let’s take a look at a few more notes out of Foxborough as the Pats get set to kick off the 2018 campaign:

  • In response to Rapoport’s discussion about Gronkowski this morning, Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston revisited a report of his own (video link) in which he indicated that the Patriots did talk with several clubs about a Gronkowski trade. However, Curran says interest in Gronk was more tepid than one might think — in contrast to Rapoport’s report that the Pats almost had a deal in place — and that Tom Brady informed the team that he would not play if his top tight end was dealt.
  • In the same report linked above, Rapoport says that one reason OC Josh McDaniels left the Colts at the altar this offseason is because the Patriots gave him a five-year contract — which is largely unheard of for a coordinator — and that the contract pays McDaniels like a first-time head coach. In fact, Rapoport says that McDaniels is by far the highest-paid coordinator in the league, and his contract will eventually pay him over $4MM per year.
  • The role of Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, has been one of the sources of conflict between Brady and head coach Bill Belichick, as we explained earlier this year. However, Rapoport reports that a compromise on Guerrero’s role has been reached. Under the terms of the compromise, Brady and Gronkowski may use Guerrero’s services when they so choose, and Guerrero has “solid” access to Gillette Stadium. Guerrero may also travel with the team, though Rapoport says he is unlikely to travel as much as he did in the past. The most important thing for all sides is that they do not publicly discuss the Guerrero issue in the future, and Rapoport no longer expects the trainer’s role to be a major storyline.
  • The Bills claimed punter Corey Bojorquez  off waivers from the Patriots last week even though Bojorquez never punted in a preseason game. Bojorquez’s lack of game usage was somewhat surprising given that he was seen as a legitimate threat to unseat incumbent punter Ryan Allen, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says the team may have been trying to “hide” Bojorquez so that he could clear waivers and return to the Pats’ practice squad, which Bojorquez himself appeared to confirm.
  • Reiss also passes along a couple of notes on the Patriots’ two newest practice squad players, WR Jace Billingsley and T Eric Smith. Reiss says that the team had interest in signing Billingsley to the practice squad last year — he ultimately chose to remain in Detroit on the Lions’ taxi squad — and that the Pats are paying Smith $20K per week (instead of the standard $7,600) because they coveted tackle depth and needed to give him a compelling reason to come to Foxborough.

 

AFC East Rumors: Gronk, Dolphins, Jets

Rob Gronkowski‘s contract has come up in several news cycles in recent years, the all-world tight end still being attached to a deal he signed back in 2012. But the future Hall of Fame Patriots pass-catcher said he wasn’t agonizing over the team adjusting his deal, which it did for the second straight year via incentive package. Gronk did sit out the voluntary portion of New England’s offseason program and considered retirement, but he says the drama’s in the past as he prepares for his ninth NFL season.

It didn’t weigh on me at all,” Gronkowski said of his near-offseason-long negotiations with the Pats (via NESN.com). “Everything’s always in the works. Nothing’s just going to happen in a day, something like that. It’s in the past now. It happened last week, so it’s go time now.”

Gronkowski also said had he not been satisfied with his situation, he would have followed Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack‘s footsteps.

I’m super satisfied with my situation,” Gronkowski said. “If I wasn’t, I would try to pull a move like they did. It works out. You get rewarded for holding out. But I’m not frustrated at all or anything. I’m super satisfied and just ready to go.”

The Patriots will need Gronkowski plenty while Julian Edelman sits and a thin receiving corps attempts to become a reliable source for Tom Brady targets. Here’s the latest from the Pats’ rivals:

  • The Dolphins submitted an unsuccessful waiver claim for a Bills cut, linebacker Tanner Vallejo, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Vallejo ended up in Cleveland because of the Browns’ top waiver priority position, one they’ve used frequently over the past week. Miami also wanted to keep two of their own cuts — running back Buddy Howell and tackle Eric Smith — but saw the former land with the Texans via waiver claim and the latter end up choosing to sign with the Patriots’ practice squad instead of the Dolphins’.
  • Dolphins skepticism is rampant around the NFL-following world going into this season, with Miami sitting as one of Las Vegas’ longest-odds Super Bowl propositions, but one reason the team believes it will improve from a disappointing 2017 is its offensive line. The Dolphins believe Laremy Tunsil is set for a “monster” season and that Daniel Kilgore has filled in nicely for Mike Pouncey — as both a leader and a player, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes. Kilgore and Josh Sitton are now in place on a Miami front that’s endured questions about its interior line — be it Pouncey’s health or guards’ underwhelming performance — for years.
  • Shifting back to practice squad gets, the Jets paid a premium for two of their 10 taxi-squadders. Defensive end Bronson Kaufusi and running back De’Angelo Henderson will make four times as much as league-minimum practice squad players will, with NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reporting (via Twitter) Kaufusi will earn $32K per week and Henderson will receive $30K per week. The practice squad minimum for 2018 is just less than $8K weekly. The Broncos liked what they saw from Henderson in the 2017 preseason, but the 2017 sixth-round pick did not see much game action behind C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker. Additions of Royce Freeman and UDFA Phillip Lindsay routed Henderson out of Denver this year.
  • The Jets have one of the league’s least established tight end situations, but the team is high on rookie Chris Herndon, Albert Breer of SI.com writes. A fourth-round pick, Herndon’s caught the Jets’ eye as both a receiver and blocker and is a player the team believes will be a long-term cog. Jordan Leggett, a 2017 fifth-rounder, resides as the Jets’ other primary tight end candidate after Austin Seferian-Jenkins‘ defection to the Jaguars.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/4/18

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Los Angeles Rams

New England Patriots

New York Giants

Washington Redskins

Workout Notes: Giants, Jets, Raiders, Colts

As Week 1 practices are underway, here’s the latest from the workout circuit:

  • The Giants appear to envy the Raiders’ roster depth. After adding Mario Edwards and cornerback Antonio Hamilton, Big Blue will work out Raiders 2017 fourth-round tackle David Sharpe, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets. Sharpe’s shed 30 pounds this offseason, per Gehlken. He played in five games and started two as a rookie. The Giants will also audition former Broncos cornerback Michael Hunter, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). These workouts will take place Tuesday.
  • Hunter was part of a four-cornerback contingent that auditioned for the Texans on Labor Day, with veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer tweeting Hunter, Breon Borders, Chris Campbell and Jalen Myrick took part in the Monday showcase. Of this quartet, only Myrick has NFL experience. He played five games as a Texan last season.
  • Dan Bailey appears to have a good chance to be the Jets‘ next kicker, but in the event the team doesn’t sign him, an insurance option is coming to the Big Apple for a workout. Matt McCrane will kick for Jets brass on Wednesday, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweets. The Cardinals cut McCrane last week. Jason Myers currently sits as Gang Green’s kicker, but he may not have a good grip on the job.
  • Prior to the Raiders signing Brandon LaFell, they worked out one of their former wideouts. Brice Butler trekked back to Oakland for a Monday workout, Vic Tafur of The Athletic tweets. Although most of Reggie McKenzie‘s draft picks aren’t too popular with Jon Gruden right now, Butler joined the Raiders as a 2013 seventh-round and played sparingly in 2013 and ’14. The Raiders traded him to the Cowboys prior to the 2015 season. Butler did not impress the Cardinals in camp, despite signing a two-year deal this spring.
  • The Patriots worked out tight end Stephen Anderson, tackle Eric Smith and wide receiver Jace Billingsley on Monday, Balzer tweets. New England will sign Smith to its practice squad.
  • Thinner at wide receiver after losing Marqise Lee, the Jaguars will work out former Giants wideout Kalif Raymond on Tuesday, Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com tweets. The former UDFA mostly served as a Giants return man last season.
  • Multiyear Steelers backup Fitzgerald Toussaint visited the Colts on Monday, per Pro Football Talk (on Twitter). The Steelers cut the 28-year-old running back last week after what ended up being a three-year stay.
  • Linebacker Jonathan Celestin will work out for the Browns on Tuesday, per NFL Draft Diamonds (Twitter link). The Falcons axed Celestin after the preseason.
  • Lastly, the Chiefs auditioned tackle Pace Murphy on Monday, per Balzer.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 9/3/18

We’ll keep track of today’s practice squad moves here:

Atlanta Falcons

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

  • Signed: DE Christian LaCouture

Chicago Bears

Signed:

Cleveland Browns

Signed:

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Signed:

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Signed:

New York Giants

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

  • Signed: OL Zack Golditch

Seattle Seahawks

Signed:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Signed:

Tennessee Titans

Dolphins Cut Roster To 53

The Miami Dolphins are the latest team to cut their roster all the way down to the required 53 players. Here are their latest moves:

Waived:

Waived/Injured

Terminated vested veteran

Overall, not too many surprises. It looks like the Dolphins will be keeping three quarterbacks, with both Brock Osweiler and David Fales making the team.

Dolphins Place Julius Thomas On IR

The Dolphins have placed tight end Julius Thomas and offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod on injured reserve. In related moves, they promoted tight end Thomas Duarte and activated offensive tackle Eric Smith off of injured reserve. Julius Thomas (vertical)

The move means that Thomas and Bushrod will not be able to suit up for the team’s final two games against the Chiefs and Bills. This could also mean that the two players have played their final snaps for the Dolphins. Thomas is under contract with a $6.6MM cap number next year, but the team can get out of the entire obligation by releasing him. Bushrod, meanwhile, is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March.

This year, Thomas had 41 catches for 388 yards and three touchdowns. It has been widely assumed that he’ll be released outright, but Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald recently suggested that Thomas could instead return at a reduced salary. Recent comments by coach Adam Gase also indicate that Thomas could have a future with the team.

I see it different than it seems everyone else does,” Gase said. “He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do. I wish there’s been situations we’ve called plays for him and haven’t been able to get the ball to him either by coverage or the ball didn’t go there for whatever reason. When we’ve asked him to do things in the running game he’s given me max effort. He’s been there every day for us in practice and at games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Hawks, Lions, Texans, Giants

The Seahawks had hoped to re-sign Dwight Freeney after cutting him last week, but the Lions claimed him off waivers before they could so, as Freeney explained to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Seattle needed to reinforce its depth at linebacker, and waiving Freeney was simply the easiest move the club could make. That’s not to say there wasn’t a financial component to the Freeney’s release, as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times noted last week. Nevertheless, Freeney now heads to Detroit, a team that had interest in signing him at several points earlier in the season, tweets Birkett.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Linebacker Brian Cushing is now eligible to return to the Texans after serving a 10-game PED suspension, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. Houston has a one-week roster exemption for Cushing, whom Wilson reports is still in excellent shape. That exemption expires next Monday, and head coach Bill O’Brien didn’t commit to placing Cushing on the Texans’ active roster before the club’s Week 13 contest against the Titans. Cushing did not appeal his most recent PED ban, the second of his NFL career.
  • Giants running back Orleans Darkwa earned a $150K bonus by surpassing 500 yards rushing for the season on Sunday, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. While New York’s offense has been extremely poor as a unit, Darkwa has been surprisingly effective. In 10 games (seven starts), the 25-year-old Darkwa has averaged 4.6 yards per carry and ranks as a top-15 back in DVOA, DYAR, and success rate, all of which are Football Outsiders metrics. Darkwa is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in the spring after earning $1.1MM in base salary this year.
  • The Dolphins have designated offensive lineman Eric Smith to return from injured reserve, reports Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Smith, a rookie undrafted free agent out of Virginia, earned a spot on Miami’s 53-man roster before going down in October. If activated, he’ll earn something of a multi-game tryout over the rest of the regular season. The Dolphins have already placed three other offensive lineman on IR this year, so Smith could see playing time down the stretch.
  • The NFL has agreed in principle to a deal that would donate nearly $100MM to social causes put forth by the league’s players, according to Jim Trotter and Jason Reid of ESPN.com. However, several members of the Players Coalition — a group led by Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins that negotiates with owners — have since departed, citing a lack of communication on the unit’s proceedings. The agreement does not tackle the league’s ongoing debate regarding national anthem protests, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/3/17

Today’s minor moves:

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

Tennessee Titans

Dolphins Sign 14 UDFAs

The Dolphins announced the signings of 14 undrafted free agents Friday. Here’s the list: