Gareon Conley

Texans Place Gareon Conley On IR

The Texans will be without Gareon Conley for at least a little while. On Monday, Houston placed the cornerback on injured reserve, which will rule him out for a minimum of three games per the league’s modified rules for 2020. 

[RELATED: Texans Sign Deshaun Watson To $177MM Extension]

Conley was activated from the PUP list in August after making strides in his recovery from arthroscopic ankle surgery. The move to IR is a frustrating setback for Conley, who was neck-and-neck with second-year pro Lonnie Johnson for a starting job. Once he’s back, Conley will push for playing time as he makes his case ahead of free agency.

The Texans declined Conley’s fifth-year option for 2021, which would have paid him $10.24MM. Still, the Texans were excited to see what he could bring to the table this year. After a rocky tenure in Oakland, Conley managed eleven pass breakups in Houston. That gave him the second-highest total on the team, just two shy of team leader Jonathan Joseph. Without Conley, the Texans will move forward with Bradley Roby, Vernon Hargreaves, Lonnie Johnson, John Reid, Keion Crossen, and Phillip Gaines as their cornerbacks.

In related moves, the Texans placed wide receiver Isaiah Coulter on IR while re-signing tacke Brent Qvale and long snapper Jon Weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Ngakoue, Benson, Campbell

A little over a week ago, Michael Lombardi of The Athletic reported that the Jaguars were on the verge of a deal that would ship disgruntled defensive end Yannick Ngakoue out of Jacksonville. Jags GM Dave Caldwell refuted the report, saying no trade involving Ngakoue is imminent.

But Lombardi has doubled down and insists a trade will happen soon (subscription required). He says Ngakoue is not motivated by money right now, he is motivated by a change of scenery, so he is not worried about missing game checks. According to Lombardi, if Ngakoue is not traded, he will not report until the 10th game of the season, the deadline for him to be able to count the 2020 season as an accredited year towards free agency. And at that point, the trade deadline will be in the rear-view mirror and the Jaguars will be left with nothing but a comp pick when Ngakoue signs elsewhere.

On the other hand, Lombardi’s second report linked above was published on August 21, and nothing has materialized on the Ngakoue front since then. It is, as ever, a situation to keep an eye on.

Now for more from the league’s south divisions:

  • Saints owner Gayle Benson tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced. Luckily, the 73-year-old was not hospitalized and is recovering at her New Orleans home. Benson is the second NFL owner to test positive, joining the Cardinals’ Michael Bidwill. Bidwill was hospitalized for his symptoms but appears to have made a full recovery, and it sounds as if Benson will do the same.
  • Mike Chappell of Fox 59 reports that Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell is in the concussion protocol following a minor car accident earlier this week. Indianapolis nabbed the Ohio State speedster in the second round of last year’s draft, and after his rookie campaign was derailed due to injury, he was in the midst of a solid training camp this year. He is a roster lock, of course, but it’s unfortunate that his positive momentum has been slowed a bit.
  • The Texans activated Gareon Conley from the PUP list earlier this month, and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports that the 2017 first-rounder is progressing well from his offseason arthroscopic ankle surgery. Houston declined Conley’s fifth-year option for 2021, so he will be eligible for free agency next year and could cash in with a strong platform campaign. However, Wilson says second-year pro Lonnie Johnson and Conley are neck-and-neck for a starting job, as Conley has been inconsistent since his return to the field.
  • We learned earlier today that the Buccaneers are interested in extending longtime LB Lavonte David.

Texans Activate CB Gareon Conley

Gareon Conley has passed his physical and is good to go for training camp. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets that the Texans have activated the cornerback from the physically unable to perform list.

The 25-year-old had undergone knee surgery during the offseason, and his recovery forced him to land on PUP late last month. Now, the defensive back can return to the field prior to a crucial season.

Last October, the 2017 first-round pick was traded to the Texans from the Raiders for a third-round pick. Conley played fine for Houston down the stretch; he started six of his eight games for the Texans, compiling 27 tackles and 11 passes defended. He also started both of Houston’s playoff games, collecting 11 tackles and one sack.

However, thanks in part to his underwhelming performance in Oakland, the Texans declined Conley’s fifth-year option back in April. That makes the defensive back an unrestricted free agent following the 2020 campaign, and he could increase his stock following a solid showing with the Texans. It sounds like Conley is excited to prove his worth, as defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver told Wilson that the cornerback is “champing at the bit” to return to the field.

“Gareon, while he did have surgery, he is starting to feel better,” Weaver said. “I know he’s on PUP right now but he’s champing at the bit to get back out there. He’s already coming up to me asking about when we can watch film together so he can know what I’m thinking when I’m making play calls and things of that nature.” 

Make-Or-Break Year: Texans CB Gareon Conley

Before last year’s trade deadline, the Texans swung a deal for former Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley. The deal gave Conley a change of scenery and an opportunity to turn his pro career around. With fellow former Ohio State first-rounder Bradley Roby and veteran Johnathan Joseph out of action, Conley would have the chance to see significant reps, especially since second-round rookie Lonnie Johnson was greener than expected.

[RELATED: Texans Call Off Timmy Jernigan Deal]

Johnson didn’t improve much, but the Texans still turned down Conley’s fifth-year option for 2021, which would have paid him $10.24MM, guaranteed for injury only. Now, he’s in limbo with one year and $1.89MM on his deal.

Conley has an awful lot riding on his 2020 season. With a big showing, Conley could secure the bag – either with the Texans or another club. If he doesn’t performed, he’ll be viewed as a low-risk pickup, the kind of player that nets a cheap base salary on a one-year prove-it deal.

Conley didn’t quite cut it in Oakland, so you could be forgiven for overlooking his natural skillset and quietly solid second half with Houston. The Raiders shipped Conley out after he failed to make plays consistently in their zone scheme. But, with the Texans, Conley broke up eleven would-be passes – two less than team leader Johnathan Joseph in five fewer games.

The big-game talent has been there all along – Conley was a first-round pick for a reason and, if not for his strange pre-draft saga, he might have been a Top 10 choice. The Ohio State product was also surprisingly solid in coverage with the Raiders, even though he didn’t quite gel with the team. Conley boasts the highest forced incompletion rate of any cornerback in the NFL over the past four years, as noted by Pro Football Focus (Twitter link). That stat comes with a small asterisk since Conley has only been on the field for two years, but the fact remains that he’s a quality stopper.

If Conley can stave off Johnson for the CB2 job opposite Roby, the stage is set for him to break out and cash in next spring.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans To Decline Gareon Conley’s Fifth-Year Option

Months after acquiring Gareon Conley via trade, the Texans plan to make him a contract-year defender. The team is passing on the cornerback’s 2021 option, per Mark Berman of Fox 26 (on Twitter).

While the Texans are still high on Conley, per Berman, this changes his status. The cornerback would have been attached to a $10.24MM salary in 2021 had the Texans exercised the option. Conley will earn $1.89MM in 2020.

This option would have been guaranteed for injury only, with the 2017 class being the last first-round group to not have their fifth-year options fully guaranteed.

The Texans sent the Raiders a third-round pick for Conley before the deadline last season. The former Ohio State defender resides as one of Houston’s key corners, along with Bradley Roby and 2019 second-rounder Lonnie Johnson. Conley, however, played just 38% of Houston’s defensive snaps last season. The Texans, though, let nine-year contributor Johnathan Joseph sign with the Titans, opening up more time in their secondary.

Pro Football Focus graded Conley as the Texans’ top corner last season, though he came in outside the top 50 at the position. Conley missed much of his rookie year with an injury but started 14 games for the 2018 Raiders. He was operating as a 2019 Oakland starter before the trade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Acquire Gareon Conley From Raiders

Eight days away from this year’s trade deadline, two AFC teams have struck a deal. The Raiders agreed to send cornerback Gareon Conley to the Texans in exchange for a third-round pick, according to Vic Tafur of The Athletic (on Twitter).

Conley has started every Raiders game this season and will head to a Texans team dealing with injuries at corner. The 2017 first-round pick is signed through the 2020 season and can be controlled through 2021 via fifth-year option. The Ohio State product has started 20 games over the past two seasons, shaking off an injury-marred rookie slate.

And just like the Broncos did when they traded Demaryius Thomas to the Texans last season, the Raiders will see Conley again soon. The Raiders will be in Houston for a Week 8 Texans matchup Sunday.

This marks yet another high 2020 pick the Texans have surrendered, with the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain reporting (via Twitter) it’s a 2020 third. The Texans owned the Seahawks’ 2020 third-rounder from the Jadeveon Clowney deal and will send that selection to the Raiders. The Texans traded their 2020 first-rounder in the Laremy Tunsil deal and are likely to send a third-rounder to the Browns for Duke Johnson. Overall, Houston has traded five 2020 or ’21 Day 1 or Day 2 picks since August.

This would stand to leave Houston with only its second-rounder on Days 1-2 of next year’s draft, further committing the current GM-less team to a hopeful deep 2019 playoff run.

This marks an interesting deal between two teams contending in the AFC. Although the Raiders did not fare well in Green Bay on Sunday, they remain 3-3. They have struggled in pass defense this season, with Aaron Rodgers‘ historic day being the most recent such reminder. Oakland also added two corners in this year’s draft — second-rounder Trayvon Mullen and fourth-rounder Isaiah Johnson — and signed Nevin Lawson. Lamarcus Joyner has also worked in the slot as a Raider. Johnson is expected to make his debut soon, and this transaction figures to mean more Mullen snaps going forward.

The Texans have lost Bradley Roby, also an Ohio State-produced first-rounder, and on Sunday saw veteran Johnathan Joseph carted off the field Sunday. They drafted Lonnie Johnson in Round 2, but he has graded as Pro Football Focus’ second-worst cornerback this season. The Texans also placed Phillip Gaines on IR on Monday. The 4-3 team will add Conley to the mix, and he should be set to contribute immediately. PFF has Conley slotted as this year’s No. 82 overall corner. He has four career interceptions, one of which coming this season.

Conley, 24, represents yet another Reggie McKenzie-era first-rounder the Jon Gruden regime has jettisoned. Gruden shipped out Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper in trades last season and has now dealt away McKenzie’s final first-round pick as Raiders GM. Karl Joseph is the last remaining McKenzie first-rounder on the Raiders’ roster.

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Raiders Audition T.J. McDonald, Other DBs

One of the many veterans the Dolphins either traded, released or let walk in free agency this year, T.J. McDonald has drawn interest from another AFC team. The Raiders put McDonald through a Thursday workout, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

McDonald and fellow defensive backs Kentrell Brice, Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Juston Burris participated in the audition. Additionally, Marcus Cooper and Coty Sensabaugh were part of this extensive audition, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter).

The Raiders lost first-round safety Johnathan Abram to a severe shoulder injury, which is expected to end his rookie season after one game, and saw cornerback Gareon Conley stretchered off the field in a scary scene Monday. Conley, however, avoided a serious injury and may have a chance to play in Week 2.

A 28-year-old safety who came into the league with the 2013 Rams, McDonald has started all 75 games in which he’s played. This included 14 starts for the 2018 Dolphins. The Dolphins ate nearly $5MM in dead money by cutting McDonald in August.

The Buccaneers signed Brice in March but cut him earlier this month. Brice started 10 games at safety for the Packers last season. A three-year cornerback veteran, Boddy-Calhoun played in 43 games (22 starts) for the Browns from 2016-18. Burris suited up for 38 with the Jets and Browns from 2016-18. Sensabaugh and Cooper are much older, having begun their careers in 2012 and ’13, respectively. Sensabaugh started in 10 Steelers games last season; Cooper was buried on the Bears’ 2018 depth chart and didn’t see too much action later that season as a Lion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Carr, Raiders, Peterson, Taylor

We learned earlier this morning that Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson has requested a trade, though the team wants to keep him. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Jackson, on his way to the team bus this morning, declined to comment on the report.

With the trade deadline two days away, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league (Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who says many GMs expect there to be three to five “impactful” deals over the next 48 hours, offers a helpful primer, which includes a list of some of the most-discussed players on the market):

  • Albert Breer of TheMMQB says that the Raiders may not be done dealing just yet, though he does not expect the team to move Derek Carr (indeed, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported this morning that the Raiders have told Carr that he is the quarterback of the present and future). However, Oakland is open to moving Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley, though the Raiders are driving a “hard bargain” with teams interested in Conley.
  • Breer names a number of other players whose names we have not heard in recent rumblings but who could nonetheless be on the move: the PackersHa Ha Clinton-Dix, the 49ersPierre Garcon and Jimmie Ward, the CardinalsChandler Jones, and the BroncosShane Ray and Brandon Marshall. Breers adds that San Francisco would need to get something “significant” to deal Ward. He also says that, while teams are certainly interested in Denver corners Bradley Roby and Chris Harris, he thinks it would be difficult for the team to trade either.
  • If they had elected to trade Patrick Peterson, La Canfora writes that the Cardinals could have received a bounty for him, and may have even landed multiple first-round picks (in fact, several teams were already prepared to offer a first- and second-rounder). JLC reports that Peterson was considered the “crown jewel” of the deadline, and given his attractive contract status, he may be the subject of renewed trade rumors during the offseason.
  • Breer also writes that the Browns are open to trading Tyrod Taylor, whose contract structure could make a deal feasible. Meanwhile, Tony Grossi of ESPN.com suggests that Cleveland GM John Dorsey may be trying to acquire wide receiver help (Twitter link).
  • The Bills remain unlikely to trade LeSean McCoy, per Schefter.
  • Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has demonstrated a proclivity for making trades, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says Maccagnan has been doing his due diligence on everyone, including big-name players. But while there is a sense that New York could swing a deal, the fact that the team is in a no-man’s land between buyer and seller, and the fact that the roster does not have many tradeable pieces, could make a trade difficult to pull off.

AFC Rumors: Jets, Nagy, Conley, Bengals

Todd Bowles and Matt Nagy will face off Sunday when the Jets head to Soldier Field, but this matchup’s visiting coach wanted Nagy to be his offensive coordinator last year, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports. The Jets ended up hiring the since-fired John Morton to be their OC in 2017, but Mehta writes Bowles’ top choice to replace Chan Gailey was Nagy, whom he’s known for decades. However, Nagy did not take an interview, continuing as Andy Reid‘s top offensive lieutenant with the Chiefs. Reid did not want to lose Nagy, per Mehta. Nagy stayed in Kansas City and served as a part-time play-caller last season. That ended up being a critical decision, with Nagy overseeing a dynamic Chiefs offense — one that continued to incorporate college concepts and doubled as one of the league’s most innovative attacks — and the season leading to the Bears hiring him as their head coach. Jeremy Bates is now the Jets’ OC.

Here’s the latest out of the Big Apple and other AFC cities:

  • Bilal Powell‘s career may be in jeopardy. The Jets placed their longtime passing-down running back on IR today, and the neck injury Powell’s sustained will need to be surgically repaired. Bowles said (via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, Twitter link) this could be a career-threatening setback. Powell’s played with the Jets since arriving in New York as a fourth-round pick in 2011. He’s by far the longest-tenured Jet, having served as a backfield complement to the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Chris Ivory and Matt Forte.
  • Patrick Peterson is either off the market, or the Cardinals are orchestrating an impressive smokescreen, so cornerback-needy teams will need to look elsewhere. Some are gauging whether the Raiders would trade another Reggie McKenzie first-round pick, with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweeting teams are inquiring about Gareon Conley. Janoris Jenkins is the other player contenders are monitoring, but Conley is only in his second season. He is, however, one of the many Raiders who’ve seen their stock drop under Jon Gruden. The Raiders benched Conley prior to their London game; he’d started the previous five Oakland games after missing almost all of his rookie season due to a shin injury. However, the Raiders aren’t believed to be ready to part with Conley. JLC adds the Eagles, Patriots and Steelers are among the teams exploring what it would take to land a corner.
  • An NFLPA grievance against the Bengals filed on behalf of Eric Reid did not go in the union’s favor, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports. An arbitrator denied the grievance, ruling the Bengals were within their rights to ask the then-free agent safety if he planned on continuing to kneel during the playing of the national anthem. The NFLPA argued the Bengals passed on Reid solely because of the anthem controversy, per Garafolo. Now on the Panthers, Reid has knelt during the anthem with Carolina. His collusion grievance against the NFL is still pending and isn’t expected to be heard in the near future, Garafolo adds.

Fallout From Raiders’ Trade Of Amari Cooper

After looking at the Amari Cooper trade from the Cowboys’ perspective, let’s take a look at things from the Raiders’ side:

  • Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie insists that Cooper’s contract situation, or the fact that he is represented by the same agent as Khalil Mack agent (Joel Segal) had nothing to do with his desire to make a deal (Twitter link via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area).
  • McKenzie said the trade “was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on, to get a first-round pick. … I love Amari but I just felt it came down to getting the pick,” (Twitter link via Vic Tafur of The Athletic).
  • The Raiders are now in a full rebuild mode, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) doesn’t think they’re done yet. Safety Karl Joseph is another first-rounder who could be available, giving the Raiders a chance to add even more to their 2019 draft haul. As Rapoport understands it, quarterback Derek Carr and cornerback Gareon Conley are unlikely to be dealt, but many other players could be had for the right price.
  • Head coach Jon Gruden did not immediately address the trade with his team (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Review-Journal). Some players saw Cooper pulled off of the practice field on Monday but didn’t know why until they checked their phones in the locker room.