Jaelen Strong

Jaguars Activate WR Dede Westbrook

Wide receiver Dede Westbrook is finally set to make his NFL debut. The Jaguars activated the rookie wideout from the reserve/injured list this morning, the team announced. The organization also activated defensive back Calvin Pryor from the reserve/injured list and promoted receiver Larry Pinkard from the practice squad. To make room on the roster, the team placed wideout Arrelious Benn on the injured reserve and waived defensive tackle Sheldon Day and receive Jaelen Strong.

Dede Westbrook (vertical)We learned in late October that the Jaguars had designated Westbrook for return. The fourth-rounder was initially placed on the injured reserve with a core injury prior to the start of the regular season. A former Oklahoma standout, Westbrook collected 80 receptions for 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, making him a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Considering the fact that Allen Robinson was already out for the season and the team let go of two wideouts today, Westbrook could easily slide behind Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns on the depth chart.

Pryor was claimed off waivers from the Browns in September, although he was placed on the injured reserve shortly thereafter. As our own Dallas Robinson noted, Pryor will be stuck in a reserve role behind Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson, who both rank among the NFL’s top defensive backs, according to Pro Football Focus. Of course, the 25-year-old still has plenty in the tank, as he finished the 2016 campaign with 62 tackles and six passes defended in 15 games for the Jets.

Benn, a 2010 second-round pick, has been stuck towards the bottom of the depth chart during his two-year tenure in Jacksonville. After having hauled in 55 receptions during his first two seasons in the league, Benn only has six receptions for 128 yards and one touchdown in two seasons with the Jaguars (24 games). The 29-year-old was productive on special teams, however, compiling eight tackles over the past two years. Strong, a 2015 third-round pick, joined the Jaguars in mid-September after being waived by the Texans. He ultimately didn’t see the field for the Jaguars. Pinkard, a former undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion, has yet to get in an NFL game. Day, a 2016 fourth-round pick, was buried on the depth chart for the Jaguars, as the 23-year-old had only compiled three tackles and one sack in six games this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars Claim WR Jaelen Strong Off Waivers

The Jaguars have claimed wide receiver Jaelen Strong off waivers from the Texans, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Strong was released by Houston on Monday. Jaelen Strong (vertical)

Because he is not yet a vested veteran, Strong was subject to the waiver wire. With one of the league’s worst records last year, the Jaguars had higher waiver priority than most.

Jacksonville is hoping that Strong will flash some of the skills that made him a third round pick in 2015 draft. So far, he hasn’t done much in the NFL. In his final game as a member of the Texans, he drew zero targets despite the team being paper thin at receiver.

But, at Arizona State, he had 82 catches for 1,165 yards and ten touchdowns in his final season on campus. He’s a 6’3″ target with the strength to push away defenders, so he can make plays happen even though he doesn’t have tremendous speed.

Strong will provide depth for a WR group that is without Allen Robinson for the remainder of the year and without rookie Dede Westbrook for at least six more games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Cut WR Jaelen Strong

The Texans have released wide receiver Jaelen Strong, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Strong served a one-game suspension to start the year and had only just recently returned to action. To take his place, the team re-signed wide receiver Andy Jones.Jaelen Strong

Strong was one of three active Texans receivers on Thursday night, but he did not draw a single target in the win over the Bengals. As of this writing, the Texans have only three fully healthy receivers in DeAndre HopkinsBraxton Miller, and Jones. With Bruce Ellington (concussion) and Will Fuller (broken collarbone) still dealing with their ailments, the Texans may sign another wideout soon.

Strong was a third round pick of Houston in the 2015 draft but has yet to really produce at the professional level. He caught 14 passes in each of his first two seasons and did not register a touchdown in his eight games last year.

The Texans also considered releasing Strong before the season, according to Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Place C.J. Fiedorowicz On IR

Less than two weeks after signing an extension, C.J. Fiedorowicz won’t be available for the Texans for a while. The team placed its starting tight end on IR after he sustained a concussion, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Fiedorowicz missed time with a concussion last season as well, and this latest head injury will shelve him for at least half of Houston’s season. The Texans re-signed Ryan Griffin this offseason but are thin behind him, with only second-year UDFA Stephen Anderson on the roster.

The Texans activated wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who served a one-game suspension.

Fiedorowicz played in Week 1 but left with the concussion. With the Texans playing on Thursday, he was not going to be cleared in time for Week 2. He will now be out for much longer. Griffin also is in concussion protocol, making it likely Houston looks for tight ends soon. Brian Cushing and Bruce Ellington are also in the protocol, and Bill O’Brien didn’t sound optimistic Tuesday when assessing their chances for Thursday night.

The fourth-year tight end broke out last season, more than doubling his previous career receiving yardage total by catching 54 passes for 559 yards.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaelen Strong Gets One-Game Suspension

The NFL has suspended Texans wide receiver Jaelen Strong for Week 1 for a violation of its substance abuse policy, Josina Anderson of ESPN reports (on Twitter). The ban stems from a 2016 arrest on marijuana possession, Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk notes, and will keep Strong out of action for a home matchup against the AFC South rival Jaguars.

Jaelen Strong

The 23-year-old Strong joins Will Fuller as the second prominent member of the Texans’ receiving corps who won’t be available for the season opener. While Strong’s absence will be a short-term one, Fuller will miss several weeks of the regular season on account of a broken collarbone. Without those two around against Jacksonville, quarterback Tom Savage won’t have much to choose from at wideout behind DeAndre Hopkins and Braxton Miller, though the Texans do have a pair of productive tight ends in C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin.

Strong, whom the Texans chose in Round 3 of the 2015 draft, hasn’t been all that productive to this point. He caught 14 passes in each of his first two seasons, and after hauling in three touchdowns as a rookie, he failed to find the end zone in eight appearances last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Place Jaelen Strong On IR

After having missed four straight games with an ankle injury, Jaelen Strong‘s season is over. ESPN’s Adam Caplan reports (via Twitter) that the Texans have placed the wideout on the injured reserve. Caplan also tweets that the team has promoted cornerback Denzel Rice from the practice squad to take Strong’s roster spot.

The 2015 third-round pick hasn’t done much during his first two seasons in the league. In eight games this season, Strong has hauled in only 14 catches for 131 yards. This was similar production to his rookie campaign, when he compiled 14 receptions for 161 yards and three touchdowns. Strong seemed to have a hold of the number-three receiver role in Houston, but rookie third-rounder Braxton Miller will now slide into that spot. The team is also rostering second-year wideout Keith Mumphery.

Despite the presence of DeAndre Hopkins and first-rounder Will Fuller, Houston wideouts have struggled mightily in 2015. The Texans have only compiled 2,509 receiving yards this season, the third-lowest mark in the league. Of course, that lack of production could be partially attributed to quarterback Brock Osweiler.

Rice, a 2015 undrafted rookie out of Coastal Carolina, could make his Texans debut this weekend. The 23-year-old made four appearances with the Eagles in 2015.

AFC Notes: Bills Stadium, Jets, Texans

The idea of the Bills building a new facility to replace 43-year-old Ralph Wilson Stadium came to the fore last week, but team officials indicated then that they weren’t in any hurry to start the process. Club president Russ Brandon elaborated further on Monday, telling the Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci that the Bills “have not met and discussed anything relative to all the noise.”

In fact, the New Stadium Working Group – which consists of state and local political leaders – hasn’t gathered since April 2014, per Brandon. That was shortly after franchise founder and previous owner Ralph Wilson passed away and before Terry and Kim Pegula took control of the Bills in October 2014. One reason the Bills aren’t rushing to build a new stadium is because it would likely have far fewer seats than their current 71,850-seat venue, notes Carucci. Another, as Brandon mentioned last week and brought up again Monday, is that Buffalo isn’t a booming business town.

“People say, ‘Oh, we’re very similar to Minneapolis.’ They have 28 Fortune 500 companies in that community. We have zero,” he said, referencing the Vikings and their new stadium. “We have to be a regional operation. We know that. That’s proven.”

More from the AFC:

  • The Jets are in position to get great bang for their buck on the three-year, $10.5MM free agent deal they signed defensive tackle Steve McLendon to, argues Brian Costello of the New York Post. McClendon has an enormous task ahead of him in taking over for now-Giant Damon Harrison at the center of the Jets’ defensive line, but Costello points to head coach Todd Bowles’ scheme as a reason to expect impressive production. In Pittsburgh, where he played from 2010-15, McLendon’s role was to occupy blockers so the linebackers could make plays. In New York, though, the 280-pounder will have more freedom to get upfield and attack.
  • Texans receiver Jaelen Strong tells Mike Florio of PFT that he is not threatened by the team’s addition of rookies Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. “I felt like it was a great addition,” Strong said. “I feel like we’re going have some fun out there this year and I’m very excited for Braxton and Will. Two young guys ready to come to work every day. Every day they’re excited, they ask questions and that’s the stuff we need.”
  • Earlier this week, in an exclusive for PFR, NFL scouting analyst Dave-Te Thomas discussed the immediate impact that both Fuller and Miller could have on the Texans’ offense in 2016. He also weighed in on the draft class of the AFC South rival Titans.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Extra Points: J. Smith, Strong, Packers, Cowboys

Typically, teams can get some deals done with their pending free agents between the franchise-tag deadline and the start of free agency, while they still have the right to exclusively negotiate with those players. Last year, for instance, players like Patriots safety Devin McCourty and Packers wideout Randall Cobb re-upped with their respective teams just before reaching the open market.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, however, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell doesn’t expect many players to fall into that category this year. Referring to free agents around the league, rather than just his own players, Caldwell suggested that if they’re not locked up by Tuesday’s franchise-tag deadline, they’ll likely hit the open market. While O’Halloran doesn’t go into detail on Caldwell’s thoughts on the issue, I imagine players will be eager to see what sort of offers are out there for them, now that so many clubs have so much cap space.

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the NFL….

  • Within his weekly MMQB column, Peter King provides a couple interesting draft-related notes, writing that at least one NFL GM remains bullish on injured Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith (“No chance he won’t play at some point, and play well”) and reporting that NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah received at least one offer from an NFL team within the last two months to head up that club’s personnel department.
  • Texans wide receiver Jaelen Strong was arrested late on Sunday night for possession of marijuana, tweets Jason Snavely of ABC15. The off-field incident will put Strong on the NFL’s radar for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, so discipline could be coming down the road.
  • While Packers general manager Ted Thompson hasn’t publicly announced how long he plans to continue in his current role, team president/CEO Mark Murphy said at the combine in Indianapolis that he has an idea of how much longer Thompson will stick around, and Murphy has a succession plan in mind, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
  • As Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News tweets, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is more confident about how to fortify the team’s running back spot than he is for some of Dallas’ holes on defense. “I can actually see ways and options at the running back [position] to get us in good shape,” Jones said. “I don’t actually see ways and have the name in place for the spot relative to the defense.”
  • In his latest piece for The Baltimore Sun, Jeff Zrebiec explores the Ravens‘ potential options for the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, and writes that offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, a release candidate, still appears unlikely to return to Baltimore in 2016.

Texans Sign Entire Draft Class

The Texans have locked up their entire 2015 draft class in one fell swoop, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who reports (via Twitter) that the club has signed all seven of its draftees. That includes first-round cornerback Kevin Johnson and second-round linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

According to Over The Cap’s draft pool figures, Johnson will be in line for a four-year contract worth more than $10MM, including a signing bonus of about $5.569MM. His deal will include a fifth-year option for 2019 as well. As for McKinney, he’ll earn $5.345MM over his four-year rookie deal, including a $2.147MM signing bonus.

Other Texans players who are now under contract with the team include third-round receiver Jaelen Strong, fifth-round wideout Keith Mumphery, sixth-round outside linebacker Reshard Cliett, sixth-round defensive tackle Christian Covington, and seventh-round running back Kenny Hilliard.

As our draft pick signings tracker shows, Houston is the third team to finish signing its 2015 draft class. The Dolphins and Vikings have also reached agreements with all their draftees.

AFC Notes: Steelers, Ravens, Chargers

Before drafting Mississippi cornerback Senquez Golson with the 56th overall pick, the Steelers tried to move up and take Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams, tweets Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review. The Steelers were unable to pull it off, however, and Williams ended up going 55th to the AFC North rival Ravens, who traded up to get ahead of Pittsburgh. Not surprisingly, that displeased the Steelers, according to Kaboly.

While the Steelers may not have been happy to see their division rivals land Williams, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) doesn’t think they were going to take the tight end themselves in that spot — according to La Canfora, Pittsburgh was “locked in” on Golson at No. 56.

Here are a few more draft-related leftovers from day two, from around the AFC…

  • Speaking of the Ravens, they’re eyeing some of the draft’s remaining cornerbacks, per Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter).
  • The Chargers had discussions with multiple teams about moving down in the second round, but they decided to stay put because they wanted Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. The Bolts took Perryman 48th overall.
  • Broncos general manager John Elway didn’t consider taking a quarterback in the third round, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. The Broncos instead used the 92nd overall pick on Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman.
  • Discussing the teams’ day two draft picks, Texans GM Rick Smith said linebacker Benardrick McKinney was the highest-rated player on the club’s board when the second round began, and added that Jaelen Strong‘s injured wrist was medically cleared by the Texans’ staff prior to the draft (Twitter links via Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Josh Cribbs became expendable for the Colts when the team drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round, and Indianapolis released Cribbs earlier today. According to GM Ryan Grigson, the club wanted to give the veteran returner a chance to find “greener pastures,” tweets Mike Chappell of RTV6.