Ezra Cleveland

Vikings’ Riley Reiff Expecting Release?

Riley Reiff‘s Vikings tenure may be capped at three years. The team, which just took on a hefty salary with Yannick Ngakoue‘s reduced franchise tag, is eyeing a pay cut for its veteran left tackle.

Set to make $10.9MM in base salary this season, Reiff does not appear to foresee a solution coming. He has told teammates he expects to be released, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports (on Twitter). Should the Vikings release Reiff, they would gain $8.8MM in cap space. Following their Ngakoue acquisition, the Vikings hold an NFL-low $1.2MM in cap space.

Reiff is not expected to be at practice Monday, according to ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin, who adds that the team has given him a Tuesday deadline to determine if he’ll accept a pay reduction or be cut (Twitter link). The sides failing to compromise would send Reiff back to free agency. He signed with the Vikings in 2017 and has made 43 regular-season starts at left tackle.

Reiff, 31, was a rumored cap casualty earlier this year, but the Vikes kept him around. They then drafted Ezra Cleveland in the second round. Cleveland was seeing time at guard earlier in camp. However, the Boise State product can be viewed as Reiff’s eventual successor. The team, however, does not view Cleveland as ready to play just yet, Florio notes, adding that the more likely post-Reiff O-line configuration would be right tackle Brian O’Neill moving to the left side and Rashod Hill on the right edge.

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NFC North Notes: Packers, Rodgers, Vikings

Let’s take a quick spin around the NFC North:

  • Appearing on a recent episode of “10 Questions with Kyle Brandt,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confirmed he was surprised Green Bay didn’t select a wide receiver in the 2020 draft, and also admitted he’s likely to be traded in the future due to the Packers’ addition of first-round signal-caller Jordan Love (Twitter link via Kevin Clark of The Ringer). The entire clip is well-worth a watch, as Rodgers doesn’t indicate any anger at the Love pick — instead, he comes off as pragmatic and realistic regarding his future in Green Bay. The Packers could most likely move on from Rodgers — whether via trade or release — after the 2021 season.
  • Incumbent Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff is likely to stay put on the blindside, so second-round pick Ezra Cleveland has been working at guard, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak told reporters, including Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Cleveland, who played tackle at Boise State, hasn’t seen much action at guard, but it’s possible he could compete with Pat Elflein and Dru Samia for a starting role at either left or right guard. Minnesota ranked in the top-half of the league in Football Outsiders‘ offensive line metrics in 2019.
  • Packers kicker Mason Crosby and tight end Jace Sternberger, as well as Bears defensive tackle John Jenkins, were among the NFL players recently placed on the COVID reserve list, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 7/22/20

Here are the latest draft pick signings. With rookies set to report to teams’ training camps this week, teams are busy on this front.

  • The Vikings were the busiest team in the draft, making 15 picks this year. They have been active signing them Wednesday. Beyond first-rounder Justin Jefferson, Minnesota has agreed to terms with second-round tackle Ezra Cleveland, fourth-round linebacker Troy Dye, fourth-round defensive tackle James Lynch and seventh-round offensive lineman Kyle Hinton. Cleveland, rumored as a possible late-first-round selection, will be groomed to become a near-future starter for the Vikings.
  • The Broncos began signing some of their picks, most notably getting third-rounders Michael Ojemudia and McTelvin Agim under contract. A cornerback, Ojemudia is set to compete for a starting job opposite A.J. Bouye; Agim profiles as D-line depth behind established starters this season. Denver also signed fourth-round tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, a Mizzou alum set to rejoin his former quarterback (Drew Lock) in the Mile High City. The Broncos also reached an agreement with seventh-round outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka.
  • Despite having T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree under contract, the Steelers used a third-round pick on outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. The Charlotte alum agreed to terms on his four-year rookie deal. Highsmith recorded 15 sacks at the mid-major program last season.
  • Packers third-round pick Josiah Deguara also agreed on his four-year rookie contract. Green Bay eschewed its wide receiver need throughout the draft, using Day 2 to add a running back (A.J. Dillon) and Deguara, who profiles as a tight end/fullback. The Cincinnati product surpassed 900 yards between his final two college seasons, totaling 12 touchdown grabs in that span.
  • Tennessee third-round running back Darrynton Evans signed his rookie deal as well. Evans looks set to replace Dion Lewis as the TitansDerrick Henry change-of-pace back. The Appalachian State alum rushed for 1,480 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He added five receiving TDs.
  • The Giants used first- and third-round picks on tackles. The latter selection, UConn’s Matt Peart, agreed to the terms of his rookie deal Wednesday. Peart profiles as a developmental lineman, working behind expected starters Nate Solder and Andrew Thomas. He stands to join Cameron Fleming as depth for Big Blue.
  • Washington has agreed to terms with third-round running back/wideout Antonio Gibson, fourth-round receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden and fifth-round center Keith Ismael. Gibson and Gandy-Golden figure to be key parts of a Washington offense that is limited, beyond Terry McLaurin, in the passing game. Gibson totaled 1,104 yards from scrimmage at Memphis last season, while Gandy-Golden caught 20 touchdown passes in two years at Liberty.
  • Fourth-round Cowboys pick Reggie Robinson agreed to terms as well. The Tulsa cornerback joins a Cowboys team that lost Byron Jones in free agency. Dallas was active in an effort to replace the Pro Bowler, drafting Trevon Diggs in Round 2 and signing Daryl Worley.
  • Sixth-round Chargers safety Alohi Gilman, a Notre Dame alum, signed his Chargers contract Wednesday. Gillman joins a deep Bolts safety corps.
  • The Buccaneers drafted two running backs this year. On Wednesday, they agreed to terms with the second of those picks — seventh-rounder Raymond Calais. In addition to his work as a running back at Louisiana, Calais was a four-year kick returner for the Rajin’ Cajuns.

Broncos Notes: Draft, Lindsay, O-Line

At pick No. 83, the Broncos drafted center Lloyd Cushenberry. The starting snapper for national champion LSU is the early favorite to be Denver’s Week 1 center. However, he may well have been the Broncos’ second choice for this role. The Broncos had a deal in place to move up to No. 79, where they would have taken Temple center Matt Hennessy, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports. The Jets were set to drop from No. 79 to No. 83 and add a Day 3 pick from the Broncos to do so, Mehta notes. The Falcons, however, scuttled these plans by drafting Hennessy at No. 78. Instead of moving up for Cushenberry, the Broncos stood pat. Interestingly, the Jets’ signing of two-year Broncos starter Connor McGovern created a Denver need at center. With the Falcons interrupting a Jets trade-down maneuver, Gang Green took defensive end Jabari Zuniga at No. 79.

Here is the latest out of Denver:

  • Melvin Gordon‘s two-year, $16MM Denver deal surprised many, with the Broncos already featuring two-time 1,000-yard rusher Phillip Lindsay. Count Lindsay as one of those surprised by the move. “It caught me off-guard,” Lindsay said during an interview with NFL.com’s Terrell Davis (video link via The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala). “It was like, ‘OK, I’ve put in work.’ It makes it seem like they don’t respect you enough to know the work you’re putting in. I was really upset at the beginning. I’m not gonna lie.” Lindsay said soon after he has since come around to the prospect of splitting time with Gordon, viewing the ex-Charger as another weapon in a retooled offense. As a 2018 UDFA, Lindsay is extension-eligible. He is set to make just $750K but has not indicated plans for a holdout.
  • Although the Broncos passed on Garett Bolles‘ $11MM fifth-year option, they did not draft a tackle. The team passed on both Ezra Cleveland and Josh Jones in Round 2, doing so to take Penn State speedster K.J. Hamler at No. 46. The Broncos passed on the blockers because they did not view either as having the chance to beat out Bolles or Elijah Wilkinson at left tackle, per Troy Renck of Denver7. Wilkinson, who played right tackle most of last season because of Ja’Wuan James‘ injury, is set to compete with Bolles for Denver’s starting left tackle gig.
  • Despite Bolles’ penchant for holding penalties and failure to thus far live up to his first-round billing, the Broncos are not in the market for a free agent tackle, Jhabvala notes (subscription required). Jason Peters, Donald Penn, Kelvin Beachum and Cordy Glenn are the most notable names available.

Vikings Take T Ezra Cleveland At No. 58

After addressing clear needs at wide receiver and cornerback in the first round, the Vikings took a tackle who slid down the board. 

Minnesota used its second-round pick on Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland. The former Mountain West standout was viewed as a near-lock to go in the first round, so this may well represent good value for the Vikings.

The Vikings were a rumored Cleveland suitor, but given his rumored pre-draft rise, it was perceived that said interest would have required the team using one of its two first-round picks. The 6’6″ blocker rated as Scouts Inc.’s No. 22 overall prospect.

Riley Reiff‘s status has been a discussion point this offseason, and the Vikings may have drafted his replacement. Reiff has worked as the Vikings’ left tackle since 2017. The Vikings have now used second-round picks on tackles in two of the past three years, having drafted right tackle starter Brian O’Neill in 2018. Reiff is under contract through 2021 but would not be a particularly prohibitive cut at this stage of his deal.

NFL Draft Rumors: Vikings, Jags, Redskins

The Vikings have “done a lot of work on” Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link), but Minnesota may have to move up in Round 2 in order to land him. Per Wolfson, the Vikings may need to get ahead of the Jaguars at No. 42 if they want to grab Cleveland. Minnesota’s second-round pick doesn’t come until No. 58 overall, so general manager Rick Spielman would need to work some magic in order to move up. Luckily, the Vikings have 12 picks remaining in the draft that could be used as trade ammunition.

Here’s more on the 2020 draft:

  • Speaking of the Vikings and offensive tackles, the ideas of Minnesota acquiring Redskins tackle Trent Williams and moving up in Round 2 aren’t mutually exclusive, as Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune tweets. Washington wants draft capital it can use this year, and while the club has been asking for a second-round pick, the Redskins could also accept a combination of selections that add up to the value of a second-rounder, per John Keim of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Minnesota could use any number of those aforementioned 12 remaining picks in order to patch together an offer for Williams.
  • Two clubs were attempting to move into the Buccaneers‘ No. 14 slot in order to land Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs, which prompted Tampa Bay to move up one spot into No. 13 and take Wirfs for themselves, reports Jenna Laine of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Presumably, the Bucs figured teams moving to No. 14 would also be trying to move to No. 13, which was held by San Francisco. Instead, Tampa Bay shipped a fourth-round pick to the 49ers and added Tom Brady‘s new right tackle.
  • When the Raiders‘ first came on the clock at No. 12, the club’s initial discussions involved offensive tackles, tweets Josina Anderson of ESPN.com. Oakland’s interest in tackles is a little puzzling, as it already has 2018 first-rounder Kolton Miller on the left side and the high-priced Trent Brown on the right. Eventually, the Raiders settled on Alabama wideout Henry Ruggs.

Vikings, Jaguars Interested In Ezra Cleveland

A few weeks ago, Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland seemed ticketed for the second or third round. Now, it’s sounding more and more like he’ll hear his name called tonight. The Jaguars and Vikings are both showing serious interest in Cleveland, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network hears.

The Browns have reportedly been enthralled with Cleveland, too, and not just because of his name. He has the potential to feature at four different offensive line spots (every one but center), plus enough bulk at 300+ pounds to hold his ground. Recently, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo adds that the Boise State tackle is a “mortal lock” to be chosen in Round 1.

The Vikings have been exploring tackle options lately, even though Riley Reiff remains an option. If they drafted Cleveland, they slot the youngster at right tackle and kick Reiff inside. The Jaguars, meanwhile, will return every featured OL from last year, except for Cedric Ogbuehi, but they’re looking to bulk up the unit further.

The No. 10 pick would be too early for the Browns to take Cleveland, but they could trade down for him or fill a different need there and trade back into the first round later.

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Draft Rumors: Hurts, Giants, Jags, Tua

With the draft in less than 24 hours, several names have started to surface as potential first-round upsets. It would not surprise some around the league to see TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor and Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet end up as first-round picks, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes. The Eagles have surfaced as a Reagor candidate; the TCU product clocked two sub-4.3-second 40-yard dashes recently. The tight end class is not viewed to be nearly as strong, but an AFC coach said Kmet’s landing spot will likely be in the back end of the first round or start of the second.

Notre Dame pass rusher Julian Okwara and Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette profile as players who could sneak into Round 1, per Pelissero. One exec compared Romeo Okwara‘s younger brother to an Anthony Barr type who could rush passers and drop into coverage. Julian Okwara registered 12 sacks over the past two seasons. Arnette would join Jeffrey Okudah as a first-rounder in this instance and follow a host of recent Buckeye corners by being a Thursday-night draftee. Arnette started 38 games in his Ohio State career.

Here is the latest from the draft world:

  • While Jalen Hurts is not expected to creep into the first round, Pelissero notes some NFL personnel believe he will go higher than most predict (Twitter link). So will Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr., Pelissero adds. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Hurts going off the board at No. 49 overall to the Steelers; Scouts Inc. grades the dual-threat quarterback as its No. 94 overall prospect. The Packers, Chargers and Raiders are among the teams believed to be interested. Winfield (29th per Scouts Inc.) is a second-generation NFLer, the son of former Vikings Pro Bowl corner Antoine Winfield. The younger Winfield intercepted seven passes last year and is also seen as a player who, like his father, could move into the slot.
  • Ex-Hurts teammate Tua Tagovailoa is “very well-regarded” in New England, per Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. However, Curran also believes the scenario NBC Sports’ Peter King suggested of the Patriots moving up to No. 13 (the 49ers’ slot) to draft a falling Tagovailoa doesn’t make much sense for the team, due to the Pats’ various other needs. Tagovailoa may now be back in play for the Dolphins at No. 5 anyway.
  • Buzz has surfaced about the Giants having a trade partner. While it is not certain the Jaguars are that team, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets several GMs have pointed to the Giants moving down from No. 4 and the Jags climbing up from No. 8. The Giants are believed to be serious about wanting to move down. Although the Jaguars are believed to be planning to give Gardner Minshew a legitimate opportunity, JLC speculates a move up would be for a quarterback.
  • This draft could well see five tackles taken in the first round. With Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt listing Ezra Cleveland as a player who will go higher than expected, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo adds that the Boise State tackle is a “mortal lock” to be chosen in Round 1 (Twitter link). The Browns were believed to be eyeing Cleveland, which would be a fun fit. If they pass on a tackle at No. 10, the Browns may need to consider making an early move back into Round 1 for the rising player.

Browns Eyeing OL Ezra Cleveland?

“Buzz is building” around the Browns and offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). The Browns could consider a trade back in the first round, allowing them to take the big man out of Boise State.

[RELATED: No Truth To Browns/OBJ Talk]

At 6’6″ and 300+ pounds, Cleveland has been moving up the boards over the past couple of months. At the combine, he impressed in his on-field drills, bringing him closer to the top tier of offensive lineman in this year’s class.

Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs, and Andrew Thomas figure to be the first tackles selected, but Cleveland has also made a case to be an early pick. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein lauds Cleveland’s quick feet and ability to accelerate, skills that could allow him to thrive in the Browns’ multi-faceted offense. At the same time, the draft guru notes that Cleveland is green in some areas – his play strength, punch timing, and ability to separate all need some fine-tuning.

With help from the NFL Research team, Rapoport notes that this would be just the fifth time that a drafted player shared the same name as his team’s city. The Browns also have some experience in that area. Since 1970, they’ve selected seven players with the last name Brown. And, in 1957, they selected the legendary Jim Brown. Soon, we’ll know whether Cleveland gets share a similar status.

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