Jay Ajayi

Eagles Could Still Re-Sign Jay Ajayi

Jay Ajayi’s free agency is in a bit of a holding pattern, but it could end with the running back landing with the Eagles. Agent Drew Rosenhaus says he is maintaining discussions with the Eagles about his client, as Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets

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Ajayi recently visited the Colts and Rosenhaus says the meeting went well, even though the two sides left without a deal in place. It could be a little while before Ajayi signs because, as Rosenhaus puts it, he’s expected to be ready for the start of the season, but not much before that point.

Ajayi, 26 in June, is arguably the best back still available on the open market after Le’Veon BellTevin Coleman, and Mark Ingram came off the board during the first week of free agency. The Eagles pursued Coleman, but didn’t sign him, which leaves a big need in the backfield.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: Colts, Ajayi, Giants, Lions, Chiefs

Although the Colts met with free agent running back Jay Ajayi this week, there’s no deal imminent between the two parties, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). However, Indianapolis does plan to continue talking with Ajayi, which suggests it could look to sign the ex-Eagle down the line. Ajayi, 25, is arguably the best back still available on the open market after Le’Veon Bell, Tevin Coleman, and Mark Ingram came off the board during the first week of free agency. The Colts don’t necessarily need another running back given their depth chart already includes Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, and Nyheim Hines, but Ajayi could give the club another dimension in the backfield.

Here’s more from the free agent rumor mill:

  • The Giants had interest in defensive end Vinny Curry before he signed with the division-rival Eagles, and in fact offered Curry more money than Philadelphia, reports Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Aside from last season, Curry had spent his entire career with the Eagles, and it sounds like he simply preferred to return to Philadelphia rather than consider other destinations. Indeed, Curry only landed a one-year deal with a base value of $2.25MM from the Eagles, although the pact does contain $1.25MM in incentives. Before landing with the Eagles, Curry also took a visit with the Bengals.
  • Free agent Jake Fisher will work out as a tight end for the Bills on Thursday, tweets John Keim of ESPN.com. A second-round pick of the Bengals as an offensive tackle in 2015, Fisher is now attempting to convert to a skill position, and is reportedly down to 285 pounds. Fisher, who played tight end in high school, has been limited by injuries and ineffectiveness throughout his career, and has started just 12 games in four years. He’s also auditioned for the Texans and Redskins.
  • The Lions hosted defensive tackle Al Woods on Wednesday, according to NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link). Woods is now entering his age-32 season and didn’t perform well in 2018 (bottom-20 DT among 112 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus), so he likely won’t command much guaranteed money. Detroit is already well-stocked in the middle of its defensive line with Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, and Da’Shawn Hand in tow.
  • Although he recently announced his retirement and took a collegiate coaching position, former Buccaneers tight end/fullback Alan Cross took a visit with the Chiefs this week, tweets Greg Auman of The Athletic. Cross, who posted 13 receptions over three seasons in Tampa Bay, would give Kansas City an option as they seek to replace former No. 2 tight end Demetrius Harris. The Chiefs also met with former Jets tight end Neal Sterling this week.

Jay Ajayi To Visit Colts

Jay Ajayi is set to visit with the Colts next week, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter).

It was only two years ago that Ajayi had just wrapped up a 1,272-yard campaign with the Dolphins. Since that time, the 25-year-old has been traded, forced to take on a reduced role, and suffered a major injury, and this will presumably reduce his value on the open market.

After being acquired from Miami during the 2017 campaign, Ajayi ended up playing a significant role for Philly en route to a Super Bowl championship. While he was the starter heading into the 2018 season, he was forced to share carries with several of his teammates. Ajayi then tore his ACL during Week 5, ending his season early. He ultimately finished the campaign having compiled 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns in four games (three starts).

The Colts aren’t necessarily hurting for running back depth. Marlon Mack had a breakout season in 2019, and they’re also rostering a pair of 2018 draft picks in Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Giants, Manning, Eagles

Is Eli Manning to blame for the Giants’ 1-4 start? That’s not necessarily a new question in New Jersey. People in the Giants organization began wondering if Manning was hindering the offense as early as four or five years ago, sources with knowledge of the club’s thinking tell Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com.

Recently, Odell Beckham Jr. made waves by questioning Manning’s effectiveness, among other things. One could argue that the offensive line is hindering the passing game, but that excuse might not hold up after the Giants signed left tackle Nate Solder to a four-year, $62MM deal with $34.8MM guaranteed.

Last year, Giants fans revolted when the club benched Manning in order to audition backup Geno Smith. Ultimately, the Giants reversed course by reinstate Manning as the starter and tossing GM Jerry Reese and coach Ben McAdoo on the Turnpike. If the Giants continue to struggle this year, the new regime might be able to move on from Manning without fan interference.

Manning’s contract runs through the end of the 2019 season, but the Giants can release him this offseason with just $6.2MM in dead money versus a cap savings of $17MM. The $17MM savings won’t be enough to sign an elite quarterback (if there is one available), but the Giants could find their signal caller of the future in the draft, particularly if they’re picking in the top five.

Here’s more from the East divisions:

  • Eagles running back Jay Ajayi is done for the year after suffering a torn ACL, but he’s protected thanks to a unique insurance policy, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes. Ajayi’s loss-of-value insurance policy will cover him up to $5MM, tax free, in the event that his open market value dips to the point where he is a lower-level free agent. The exact parameters of his policy are unknown, but if Ajayi was valued as being able to earn a four-year, $16MM deal before the injury, but nets just $8MM over four years after the ACL tear, the policy will nearly make up the difference. Most players do not have policies such as this, but it’s something that pending free agents should probably look into. Rapoport hears that this type of insurance can cost between $80K-$100K, and that’s a relative drop in the bucket for players who are in the mix for mega deals.
  • Jets head coach Todd Bowles says that defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers visited the team facility on Thursday and there is a “small chance” that he will coach this weekend (Twitter link via Manish Mehta of the Daily News). Rodgers is dealing with an undisclosed medical issue that Bowles says is “serious.”

NFC Notes: Olsen, Eagles, Breida, Giants

Greg Olsen opted against undergoing surgery on his refractured foot this season, but the Panthers tight end does expect to need a corrective procedure done on it. The Pro Bowl tight end said (via The Athletic’s Joe Person, on Twitter) he likely will need a surgery to fix his Jones fracture. However, he will try to make it through the season before doing so. Olsen’s missed the past four Panthers games but could be in line to return on Sunday, Ron Rivera said. He’s been ramping up his workouts in recent weeks and views Wednesday as the key day in determining his Week 6 availability, per the Charlotte Observer’s Jourdan Rodrigue.

As one of the finest quarterbacks in the NFC’s history continues his coronation night, here’s the latest from the conference:

  • The ACL Jay Ajayi tore is in his left knee, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane reports (on Twitter). This is key because Ajayi’s past issues have been with his right knee. Ajayi tore his right ACL while at Boise State, and his draft stock took a hit because of reports of chronic issues with that knee. The Eagles running back will undergo surgery on Thursday, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). He’s not believed to have torn any additional knee ligaments. Rapoport adds this injury came while Ajayi was working in pass protection, but the fourth-year veteran played through it until game’s end.
  • Philadelphia has engaged in “exploratory” conversations regarding Le’Veon Bell, according to Rapoport (video link), but those talks haven’t really gotten off the ground. The Bell-to-Philly subject has been a disputed topic thus far this month, with some outlets reporting the Eagles aren’t going down that road and others indicating they have strongly considered doing it.
  • Fletcher Cox‘s restructured contract gave the Eagles $6.5MM in 2018 cap space, pushing that total to around $10MM. The veteran defensive tackle will see $8.19MM in base salary converted to a roster bonus, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets, adding that his 2019 base will be reduced to $930K. An option bonus of $14.76MM will be included in Cox’s contract now, per Yates, though it’s unclear when that option would vest. But Cox accepting the restructure would indicate he’s not in danger of losing that money he transferred from his 2018 and ’19 base salaries.
  • The 49ers will likely have another starting running back when they take the field against the Packers on Monday night. Matt Breida is going to be doubtful to suit up in Green Bay, Kyle Shanahan said (via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch, on Twitter). The good news on Breida, though, is he didn’t suffer a high ankle sprain. Instead, it’s a less severe mid-ankle sprain, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. Alfred Morris would be in line to start, with Raheem Mostert possibly backing him up. Shanahan said the team will consider bringing Jeff Wilson up from the practice squad. The 49ers intended to deploy Jerick McKinnon as their starter, and they turned to Breida after the initial first-stringer’s season-ending injury. But Breida should be expected to return fairly soon.
  • Pat Shurmur wants to add a kicker to the Giants’ practice squad, Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com tweets. Big Blue will need another offensive tackle soon as well, being set to end the Ereck Flowers era on Tuesday. Aldrick Rosas serves as the Giants’ kicker, and the second-year UDFA is 100 percent (11-for-11) on field goals thus far.
  • Prior to signing Bryan Witzmann, the Bears visited with offensive lineman Willie Beavers, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Beavers was a fourth-round Vikings pick in 2016.

Eagles Place Jay Ajayi On IR

The Eagles’ depleted running back situation became considerably thinner on Monday. The team is placing starter Jay Ajayi on IR.

A knee malady’s afflicting Ajayi, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter), and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reveals (via Twitter) it’s a severe setback. Ajayi tore an ACL and will miss the rest of the season. The 25-year-old back was already playing through a fracture in his back.

The Eagles signed defensive tackle T.Y. McGill to take Ajayi’s roster spot.

This is brutal timing for Ajayi, who is in a contract year. The fourth-year running back had knee issues coming into the NFL, and they’re believed to have caused the 2015 fifth-round pick to have dropped in the draft. Nevertheless, he submitted two seasons of starter work, the second of which helping the 2017 Eagles soar to the Super Bowl LII championship.

Now, Ajayi will likely head into free agency on the heels of one of the worst injuries possible in football.

Philadelphia already has been without Darren Sproles and Corey Clement, forcing the likes of Wendell Smallwood — the team’s previous No. 4 back — and Josh Adams (the player whom Smallwood beat out for that back-end job during the preseason) into action. Clement, though, looks to be close to returning from his quadriceps injury. He was active on Sunday against the Vikings but didn’t play.

This also figures to add heat to the Le’Veon Bell-to-Philly rumors. That’s been out there for several days now, with the Eagles reportedly giving “serious consideration” to acquiring Bell from the Steelers. Now that their backfield is bereft of a proven starter, this figures to be perhaps the team to watch if Pittsburgh is indeed ready to unload its superstar back.

Ajayi exited Week 5 averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Following the midseason trade from the Dolphins, Ajayi posted a stellar figure of 5.8 per tote for the Eagles last season. He rushed for a career-high 1,273 yards en route to a Pro Bowl nod in 2016. It’s fair to wonder if Ajayi will be able to secure a medium- or long-term pact from a team after this ill-timed injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Thomas, Bradford, Eagles, Reid

The Seahawks have indeed fined safety Earl Thomas, who missed practice for non-injury reasons for the second consecutive week. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that the Seahawks — who were considering imposing a substantial fine on Thomas last Sunday — fined the star defender for missing practice and for “other things.” Rapoport adds that “communication should increase going forward,” but it is presently unclear as to whether he is referring to communication between Thomas and Seattle or between Seattle and other clubs who may want to trade for Thomas. We heard earlier today that the Steelers were interested in Thomas, but there has been no communication between Seattle and Pittsburgh at this point.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds that the Seahawks are still asking for a second-round pick for Thomas, and that the Chiefs remain interested (though Kansas City does not want to give up a second-rounder). The Cowboys, of course, offered a second-round pick to Seattle earlier this year, but the Seahawks wanted more from Dallas at the time since the two teams were set to play each other last week. Now that the Cowboys-Seahawks matchup has taken place, perhaps the Seahawks will be more willing to consider the Cowboys’ offer, but Rapoport indicates (video link) that the Seahawks want two second round picks in exchange for Thomas, which seems like an especially lofty asking price.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Sam Bradford is now the Cardinals‘ No. 3 quarterback, per Schefter, who says that going forward, rookie Josh Rosen will be the starter and will be backed up by Mike Glennon (Twitter link). That means that Bradford will generally be inactive on game days and will miss out on his active roster bonuses of $312,500 per game, a situation we explored in more detail last week.
  • Another tough blow for Rams outside linebacker Dominique Easley. Per the team’s official website, Easley, who has suffered three torn ACLs since 2011, may be heading for his fourth surgery in the last seven years. Head coach Sean McVay said that Easley, who converted to outside linebacker during training camp, is suffering complications from his previous injuries.
  • Prior to signing him a few days ago, the Panthers did not ask new safety Eric Reid about his anthem protests or his collusion case against the league, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. GM Marty Hurney said team ownership was not involved in the signing, and that it was a purely football move.
  • Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery will make his 2018 debut today, per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen (via Twitter). Rapoport (video link) reports that Jeffery’s status for this week was up in the air because of a virus that made him seriously ill, but that his shoulder is good to go.
  • As Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer observes, the Eagles have four prominent starters playing out the final year of their respective contracts: Jordan Hicks, Ronald Darby, Jay Ajayi, and Brandon Graham. Even if the Eagles wait until after the 2019 season to give quarterback Carson Wentz what will surely be a massive extension, Philadelphia has to plan for that contract now, which means the club will have some difficult decisions to make with respect to its impending free agents. McLane posits that Hicks is the most likely of the above-named players to be retained, and he examines the futures of all four players in detail.
  • Jane Slater of the NFL Network reports that Cowboys WR Terrance Williams will be inactive today, and that the recently re-signed Brice Butler will be leaned upon more heavily as a result (Twitter link). Williams, the most expensive receiver on Dallas’ roster, may be facing a suspension stemming from his May arrest and recently missed practice, though that absence was reportedly an excused one and was unrelated to the possible suspension. Williams, though, has just two catches for 18 yards this season, and the team wants to give someone else a shot.

Injury Notes: Titans, Mariota, Falcons, McKinley, Colts, Doyle, Eagles, Ajayi

Marcus Mariota‘s injury remains a mystery. It hasn’t been disclosed exactly what he’s dealing with although it has reportedly caused him to lose some feeling in his hand. Blaine Gabbert started, and won, for the Titans last week, and it’s possible he’s asked to do so again this week against the Jaguars.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters that he would make the decision between Gabbert and Mariota within the next “24 hours” and that he would let them know then according to Jim Wyatt of the Titans’ official website (Twitter link). If Mariota can’t go it would be a huge blow for Tennessee against the league’s top defense. One thing that could make their matchup a bit easier is that Jalen Ramsey was added to the injury report Friday with an ankle injury, although it’s unclear if he’s in any danger of missing the game.

Here’s more injury updates from around the league:

  • The Falcons just can’t seem to catch a break. It was already known they’d be without Devonta Freeman and several other starters, but it was announced today that they’d also be without talented pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley. McKinley is currently dealing with a groin injury.
  • The Colts will be quite shorthanded for their trip to Philadelphia as the team ruled out tight end Jack Doyle, running back Marlon Mack, defensive tackle Denico Autry, and right tackle Anthony Castonzo. Doyle’s injury is a big blow, as he formed an effective tight end duo with Eric Ebron through the first two games.
  • The Eagles will also be significantly shorthanded on offense, with their backfield being particularly banged up. Running backs Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles have been ruled out, while Corey Clement is questionable. If Clement isn’t able to go, the running back situation would be dire. Alshon Jeffery is questionable, but reporters have written that he’s very unlikely to play.

AFC Notes: Dolphins, Bortles, Coleman

Frank Gore may be competing for touches with fellow running back Kenyan Drake, but that doesn’t mean the veteran isn’t impressed by his Dolphins teammate. In fact, Gore told Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post that he understands why the organization moved on from their former starter in order to give Drake more reps last season.

“I was like, ‘Man, I kinda see why they traded Jay Ajayi,’” Gore said. “He’s very talented. Jay Ajayi was a great back, too, but Kenyan is a very talented guy. He’s smart. He can do everything on the field. I think that me and him can really help this team be successful this year.”

Ultimately, Gore is expected to be a mentor to both Drake and fourth-rounder Kalen Ballage. Despite running for at least 850 yards for the 12th-straight season in 2017, the veteran is willing to have a larger impact off the field than on the field.

“People said that I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t (last) more than three years, and I’ve been blessed going into my 14th year,” the 35-year-old said. “Now I want to go out here and be successful, have fun and do whatever it takes with my team and try to get some wins.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the AFC…

  • Blake Bortles is looking forward to his first healthy season in several years. The Jaguars quarterback told ESPN’s Michael DiRocco that he’s been tolerating a right wrist injury for several seasons, forcing him to have three cortisone injections in 2017. Bortles finally opted for surgery this offseason to repair a partially torn ligament on the outside of his wrist, and the 26-year-old said the operation helped him have the best offseason and training camp of his career. “When you do not have to worry about going to rehab or going to get treatment, you have to make sure you warm it up the right way, you have to take anti-inflammatory [medication] and do all of that stuff. … It is just a lot of process to be able to go out there and do what you should be able to do without any pain,” Bortles said. “To be able to do that now finally is pretty awesome.” Despite the injury, Bortles managed to complete a career-high 60.2-percent of his passes last season for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
  • The Bills traded for former first-round wideout Corey Coleman last night, and Joe Buscaglia of WKBW.com believes the receiver could have an immediate impact on his new team. The writer points out that Kelvin Benjamin and Jeremy Kerley are the only two players locked in at the top of the Bills depth chart, and this was emphasized when the coaching staff add recently-recovered Andre Holmes to the first team during camp (Zay Jones has since recovered from his injury, as well). At the very least, Coleman will provide the Bills with unmatched speed, a skill set that the team’s fellow receivers are lacking.
  • When the Patriots released wideout Malcolm Mitchell earlier today, many assumed the former fourth-rounder was still battling a nagging knee injury. While that could be partly true, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the receiver was waived as a healthy player. This means Mitchell passed his final physical with the organization. After making six starts as a rookie in 2016, Mitchell sat out the entire 2017 campaign due to injury.

NFC Notes: Redskins, Scherff, Ajayi, Saints

With Zack Martin recently signing a six-year, $84MM contract ($40MM guaranteed) with the Cowboys, Kareem Copeland of The Washington Post says Redskins guard Brandon Scherff is line for a big extension. The lineman has already earned a pair of Pro Bowl nods during his two seasons in the NFL, and he was rated as one of the best guards in the league per Pro Football Focus. Furthermore, with the organization looking to protect their investment in quarterback Alex Smith, it only makes sense to lock in their offensive line.

Fortunately for Scherff, it sounds like the team is more than willing to keep him around.

“His work ethic is off the charts,” said offensive line coach Bill Callahan. “He’s a guy that continually challenges you as a coach and every day wants to get better, wants to know specifically what he needs to work on to improve. We go over that list continually.

“He’s a guy that you just love to coach because you tell him one time and he gets it and he’s got it. You can do a lot of different things with him because he has that type of versatility and that type of adaptability as well.”

Scherff is set to earn $705K in 2018, but that will be bumped to $12.525MM in 2019 when the Redskins presumably pick up his fifth-year option.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Jay Ajayi is expected to sit atop the Eagles depth chart next season, but Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia says that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll have have 20-plus carries per game. Rather, the writer expects Ajayi to collect less than 200 total carries on the season, especially when you consider the team’s depth at the position and Ajayi’s persistent knee issues. Acquired in a trade with the Dolphins midseason, the running back ultimately appeared in seven games (one start) for the Eagles in 2017, compiling 408 rushing yards and one score on 70 carries. He also collected 42 carries in the playoffs, including a nine-carry, 57-yard performance in the Super Bowl.
  • After being released by the Panthers in February, safety Kurt Coleman quickly signed a three-year deal with the Saints that contained more than $6MM in guaranteed money. It sounds like the organization had high hopes when they signed the defensive back to the contract, as Larry Holder of NOLA.com says Coleman could end up replacing Vonn Bell in the starting lineup. The 30-year-old played in 12 games for Carolina last season, compiling 76 tackles and three passes defended. On the flip side, Bell, 23, was plenty productive last year, finishing with 83 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
  • We learned yesterday that Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham is facing a one-game suspension.