Jack Conklin

Browns Sign Jack Conklin

The Browns have made their second huge splash of the day. Hours after signing Austin Hooper and making him the highest-paid tight end in league history, they’ve doled out another big contract. Cleveland has agreed to terms with offensive tackle Jack Conklin on a three-year deal, agent Drew Rosenhaus told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Conklin is getting $42MM over the three years, with $30MM of it being guaranteed. He’ll bring in $20MM just in the first year of the contract. Conklin likely could’ve landed a longer-term deal, but Rosenhaus told Schefter they wanted to keep it short due to projected increases in the salary cap so he can hit free agency again soon. Conklin is very young for a top-flight free agent, and will still only be 28 when this new deal ends.

Just minutes ago we heard the Browns were the favorites with the Jets still in the mix, and things came together quickly. Conklin was the eighth overall pick out of Michigan State in 2016, and he’s been the Titans’ right tackle for the past few seasons. Tennessee declined his fifth-year option following a torn ACL and injury-plagued 2018 campaign, a move which blew up in their face when Conklin returned to playing at a very high level last year.

Conklin was one of the top offensive linemen available, and fills a huge need for Cleveland. The Browns already announced they won’t be re-signing Greg Robinson and there has been speculation they’ll move on from Chris Hubbard, both of their starting tackles from last year.

They now have Conklin locked in at one of those spots, and it’s possible they’ll still pursue veterans Trent Williams or Jason Peters like they’ve reportedly been considering. Baker Mayfield was frequently under duress last season, and his play suffered significantly as a result. He got skittish in the pocket at times, and upgrading his protection was always going to be a priority this offseason. With the additions of Hooper and Conklin today, his job has gotten a whole lot easier.

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Browns Favorites For OT Jack Conklin?

The Browns have already made one big splash in free agency by making Austin Hooper the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, and it sounds like they could make another soon. Cleveland is the favorite to land free agent offensive tackle Jack Conklin, Connor Hughes of The Athletic hears (Twitter link). 

Hughes reports that the Jets are still in the mix, but that “there’s a price many believe they will not exceed.” There was a report a few weeks ago that Conklin would likely sign with New York, but that was quickly shot down by Adam Schefter. Conklin has been the Titans’ starter at right tackle for the past four seasons, and is one of the top offensive linemen available. Tennessee declined Conklin’s fifth-year option after an injury-plagued 2018 campaign, a move they likely came to regret as the Michigan State product returned to playing at a high level this past season.

The eighth overall pick of the 2016 draft, Conklin is still only 25. The Browns won’t be re-signing the recently arrested Greg Robinson and there’s been speculation they could move on from Chris Hubbard as well, which would leave them without both of their starting tackles from last season. Obviously, they’ll be doing something to address the position.

We’ve heard that they’ve been considering veteran tackles Trent Williams and Jason Peters, although Conklin is a lot younger than both of those guys and as such is the more appealing long-term option. We heard last month that the Browns were planning to make a big investment in their offensive line this offseason, and it sounds like they’re following through. Whoever Conklin signs with, he should be in for a huge payday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

RT Jack Conklin Unlikely To Sign With Jets

It seemed that one of the most prominent free agent offensive linemen had already come off the board earlier Sunday. Reports emerged that at least one team had been informed that right tackle Jack Conklin would sign with the Jets as soon as free agency began. However, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Conklin is “not expected” to land with Gang Green in free agency.

While Schefter notes the Jets, who are looking to upgrade their offensive line, have interest in Conklin and a plethora of cap space, the competition for Conklin’s services are expected to be “intense” and bring him out of New York’s price range.

Conklin was the eighth overall pick in the 2016 Draft by the Titans and has started each of the 57 games he’s appeared in over his four-year career. He has proven himself as a solid starter at right tackle but failed to develop into an elite player, which led Tennessee to decline his fifth-year option, which allows him to enter the open market this summer.

Jets To Sign RT Jack Conklin?

The Jets may be overhauling their entire offensive line this offseason, they have about $50MM in salary cap space, and RT Jack Conklin looks more likely to hit the open market than be retained by the Titans. We recently heard that New York has expressed “serious interest” in the 2016 first-rounder, and now there is more evidence that Conklin could be headed to Gang Green.

Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, one NFL team has been informed that Conklin plans to sign with the Jets when free agency officially opens on March 18. Florio is careful to put that leak into context, saying that it does not mean that New York has reached a wink-nod deal with Conklin’s camp, and it does not even mean that the two sides have talked (though they probably have).

Several days ago, we learned that the Titans would like to strike a deal with QB Ryan Tannehill quickly so that they can then use their franchise tag and transition tag on Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin. But if that doesn’t happen, or if the team is prohibited from using both tags as a result of the new CBA, Conklin would probably be the member of that trio to shake loose (plus, if the Titans put the transition tag on Conklin, it wouldn’t prevent the Jets or some other team from signing him to an offer sheet that Tennessee wouldn’t want to match).

Last May, the Titans declined the fifth-year option on Conklin, which would have kept him under contract through the 2020 season. Now, he is likely to leave the team without one of Tannehill’s top protectors and one of Henry’s road graders. Conklin graded out as the 15th-best tackle in the league in 2020, per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics, and he could well land a deal that pays him $16-18MM per year (or more).

If the Jets do strike an accord with Conklin, look for GM Joe Douglas to address the rest of his O-line needs in the draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Rumors: Titans, Luck, Jags, Falcons

Perhaps no team’s free agency plan hinges on the CBA more than the Titans‘. They have three marquee free agents, and the previously reported goal of extending Ryan Tannehill soon looks to have an auxiliary purpose. The Titans’ hopes of extending Tannehill before the franchise-transition tag window closes March 12 doubles as a way to keep Tannehill, Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin. Tennessee would then like to use both its tags on Henry and Conklin, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. The Conklin component here is interesting, as little has emerged on a possible reunion between the tackle and the Titans. It will almost certainly require a tag to keep the former first-round lineman off the market. Conklin has generated immense interest thus far.

This Titans plan might not be viable, leading to some frenetic extension talks in order to prevent them from losing two members of this trio. Teams may not be permitted to use both tags. While a ruling has yet to emerge, the possibility of a CBA ratification forcing a team to vacate one of its tags remains in play.

Here is the latest from the South divisions:

  • No surprise here, but the Jaguars are prepared to use their franchise tag on Yannick Ngakoue, La Canfora adds. The standout defensive end held out from Jags offseason activities last year and will not be pleased the team will prevent him from hitting the market, per JLC. The Jaguars not picking up Marcell Dareus‘ option freed up $20MM in cap space, giving them just more than $21MM — just enough for an approximately $18MM Ngakoue tag. GM Dave Caldwell called Ngakoue the team’s top priority at the end of last season.
  • Jim Irsay appears to be hoping Andrew Luck will change his mind, but Frank Reich does not expect him to. The Colts HC continues to talk to the team’s former franchise quarterback, but those discussions apparently do not progress to the subject of a comeback. “I talk to him; we communicate. I sense none of that. We don’t talk about that,” Reich said, during an appearance on PFT Live, about an NFL return for the 30-year-old passer. “I think he’s retired. He’s like any other ex-player. You’re always going to miss your buddies in the locker room. That’s normal. I don’t read into that a clue that he wants to come back. He’s just a good friend.”
  • A Falcons cog for seven seasons, Kemal Ishmael will likely have to find another team in order to continue his career. The seven-year veteran linebacker-safety will not be brought back, according to Ishmael’s agent (via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The Falcons have shuttled the 28-year-old defender/special-teamer between safety and linebacker and have re-signed him to one-year deals in each of the past three offseasons.

FA Notes: Clowney, Conklin, Patriots, Jones

This year’s edge rusher free agency class could be especially deep, depending on how certain teams proceed with their respective franchise tags. But that doesn’t apply to the biggest name. Jadeveon Clowney cannot be tagged and is on track to test the market, and said market may be taking shape at the Combine. Thus far in the process, the Colts and Giants are two teams who have surfaced in connection to Clowney. Both could have interest in the former No. 1 overall pick, per Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Both teams feature edge rusher needs, the Giants more than the Colts, and each holds north of $70MM in cap space.

The Seahawks, however, are not out of the mix. Clowney said (via Anderson, on Twitter) after spending a season in Seattle he would “definitely” like to stay, though the six-year veteran pass rusher added he is open to relocating. Seahawks GM John Schneider confirmed (via ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson) the team wants Clowney back. Seattle has both Clowney and defensive tackle Jarran Reed as free agents, leaving major holes on the team’s defensive line.

Here is the latest from the free agent market:

  • With major needs up front, the Jets are expected to make several additions this offseason. They have expressed serious interest in Jack Conklin, according to Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com. A four-year starter at right tackle in Tennessee, Conklin will be coveted by many teams and will command a top-market contract. The Jets have deployed a bottom-tier offensive line for years, and the Titans having Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry as looming UFAs will likely send Conklin out of town.
  • The Patriots, who extended Shaq Mason in 2018, are preparing to lose his longtime guard mate. Joe Thuney has been expected to leave since last year’s Combine, per Doug Kyed of NESN.com. Approximately 20 teams have the four-year Patriots starter on their respective radars, Pauline adds. A market like this, coupled with the CBA potentially set to see record cap spikes in the coming years, likely puts Thuney in line to eclipse Lane Johnson‘s $14.1MM guard-record pact.
  • However, the Pats are not giving up on retaining some of their other key free agents. They have spoken with the representatives of Devin McCourty and Jamie Collins, Kyed notes. McCourty played out a five-year extension signed back in 2015, while Collins re-established his value on a low-level Pats accord. The latter will likely be looking for a deal closer to the $12MM-plus pact he inked with the Browns in 2017.
  • Although Chris Harris is the most accomplished cornerback on this year’s market and rated higher by some outlets, Byron Jones is viewed by corner-needy teams as the top prize at the position this year, Pauline notes. At 27, Jones is three years younger than Harris. The Cowboys are likely set to let Jones walk, having authorized numerous recent extensions and are set for crunch-time negotiations with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. Jones is expected to see big offers from multiple teams, per Pauline, and is almost certainly set to raise the bar from its longstanding place at $15MM per year.

Titans To Decline Jack Conklin’s Option

The Titans will not pick up Jack Conklin‘s 2020 option, a source tells Mike Florio of PFT (on Twitter). This was not necessarily the expected outcome for the former First-Team All-Pro. 

The 24-year-old (25 in August) started in every possible game in his first two seasons in the league. However, things turned a bit in the Titans’ divisional round loss to the Patriots following the 2017 season. Conklin’s torn ACL sidelined him for the offseason plus the first three games of 2018. Then, Conklin landed back on IR in December of last year.

In between the maladies, Conklin was not as sharp as his rookie self. Reading between the lines, it sounds as though the Titans have doubts about how well Conklin can recover from his knee injuries and concussions.

Last year, Conklin graded out as the 45th ranked tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. That positions Conklin as a starting-caliber tackle, but not an elite one, making his would-be $12.866MM salary for 2020 a bit too rich for the Titans’ blood.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans Place RT Jack Conklin On IR

The Titans have formally placed right tackle Jack Conklin on injured reserve, according to a team announcement. The club also officially placed tight end Jonnu Smith on IR. 

Both Conklin and Smith went down in Thursday night’s game against the Jaguars. For Smith, the seriousness of the injury was readily apparent – the Titans learned on Friday that he would be sidelined for the year with a severe MCL injury. However, the Titans were hoping to get Conklin back on the field for the postseason, should they qualify.

Conklin, the No. 8 pick in the 2016 draft, played in every possible regular season game over the first two years of his career before going down with a torn ACL in the Titans’ divisional round loss to the Patriots. That injury cost Conklin time this year, as he missed the first three games of the season before returning in Week 4. Since then, Conklin played nearly every snap for Tennessee (save for Week 5 when he suffered a concussion), grading as the NFL’s No. 42 offensive tackle among 78 qualifiers in the process, per Pro Football Focus.

Unfortunately, Conklin’s knee issue will keep him out of action the rest of the way. The Titans, meanwhile, still have a 34% chance of reaching the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.

To fill the gaps, the Titans signed tight end Cole Wick off of the 49ers’ practice squad and signed veteran offensive lineman Austin Pasztor.

Titans OT Jack Conklin To Miss Time

Titans offensive tackle Jack Conklin is expected to miss the rest of the regular season after suffering a knee injury against the Jaguars on Thursday night, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). If Tennessee secures a postseason berth, Coklin has a chance to return for the playoffs.

The Titans have roughly a one-in-four chance of making the playoffs, per Five Thirty Eight. Although the Texans lost today, they’re still the overwhelming favorites to win the AFC South, so Tennessee will have to compete for the sixth wild card slot in the AFC. The Titans are one of several contenders for the No. 6 spot that has at least a 10% chance of heading to the postseason, including the Ravens, Colts, and Dolphins.

Conklin, the eighth overall selection in the 2016 draft, played in all 32 regular season games over the first two seasons of his career before going down with a torn ACL in the Titans’ divisional round loss to the Patriots in January. That injury cost Conklin time in 2018, as he missed the first three games of the year before returning in Week 4. Since then, Conklin had played nearly every snap for Tennessee (save for Week 5 when he suffered a concussion), grading as the NFL’s No. 42 offensive tackle among 78 qualifiers in the process, per Pro Football Focus.

With Conklin ailing, the Titans will turn to seventh-year pro Dennis Kelly at right tackle. Originally acquired in exchange for wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in 2016, Kelly has appeared in 40 games and made nine starts over the past two-plus years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Rumors: Dez, Buccaneers, Conklin

Friday’s top news thus far affected Dez Bryant. The veteran wide receiver and Saints employee for barely a day is feared to have torn one of his Achilles’ tendons. This would put him out for the season and impact his free agency. This reality appears to be in motion. The Saints are “pretty sure he tore it,” Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. While Michael Crabtree did buck the trend of Achilles injuries taking up to a year and more to recover from when he came back in six months to join the 2013 49ers late that season, Bryant is now 30 and was already dealing with damaged stock based on his recent work. Bryant doesn’t appear to be considering retirement and sounds ready to go through a rehab process (Twitter link). It’s possible Bryant could have to accept another one-year deal in the event he recovers from this injury, and that contract may not arrive until he recovers. He may well be back in a similar situation he was this year, when the Cowboys irked him by releasing him well after potential free agency suitors had spent on wideouts.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions:

  • Jack Conklin won’t be available for the Titans on Sunday. The third-year right tackle has not cleared concussion protocol and has been downgraded to out for Tennessee’s game against the Patriots. Swing tackle Dennis Kelly will start on the right side, Turron Davenport of ESPN.com notes.
  • The Buccaneers won’t have Vinny Curry in uniform against the Redskins. The first-year Bucs defensive end is out because of an ankle injury that prevented him from practicing all week. Carl Nassib started opposite Jason Pierre-Paul when Curry was previously out, in Weeks 7-8, and figures to do so again. Nassib’s three sacks are second on the Bucs, though well behind JPP’s eight.
  • Speaking of the Bucs, they could create an immense amount of cap space this offseason while not incurring much dead money to do so. Tampa Bay could create more than $100MM in cap space and incur barely $12MM in dead-money charges, according to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap, by cutting several veterans. Mentioning Jameis Winston (guaranteed-for-injury fifth-year option of $20.9MM), Curry ($8MM savings, no dead money), DeSean Jackson ($10MM savings, no dead money) and Gerald McCoy ($13MM, no dead money), Fitzgerald sees a path for Tampa Bay to move into better spending position. Of course, some of these players — almost certainly McCoy — will still be around to help the Bucs, the organization’s lack of signing bonuses increases its flexibility. As of now, the Bucs are projected to hold just $10MM in cap room next year.