Jesse Davis

AFC East Notes: Newton, Tua, Fins, Bills

The Patriots made a big splash last night when they signed former league MVP Cam Newton to a one-year contract. The assumption is that Newton will be the team’s starting signal-caller, but Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network says the Pats made no promises in that regard. Still, while there is technically an open competition between Newton and second-year pro Jarrett Stidham, it would be stunning if Newton did not win the job (video link). Garafolo also points out that Newton still has to pass a physical, but the Patriots are confident he will do so.

Garafolo also passes along a fun fact (via Twitter): New England is the third team in NFL history to lose one MVP and sign another in the same offseason. The 2000 Dolphins parted ways with Dan Marino and brought in Thurman Thomas, and the 2005 Cardinals bid farewell to Emmitt Smith and signed Kurt Warner.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • The Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa with the belief that he will be the franchise signal-caller the team has been seeking for the past 20 years. He may not start right away, but Albert Breer of SI.com believes the southpaw will be put into the starting lineup at some point this season. While the 2020 Dolphins should be an improved squad over last year’s iteration, Miami is still probably at least a year away from playoff contention, so the team will have no reason to keep Tagovailoa on the sidelines for the entire campaign.
  • Miami is set at the LG and C spots with Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras, respectively. Beyond that, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says the Dolphins are still undecided as to whether second-round rookie Robert Hunt would be a better fit at RG or RT in 2020. If Hunt gets a shot at RT and performs well, that could bump 2019 starter Jesse Davis back to the interior or to the bench. Meanwhile, Michael Deiter will compete for the starting RG and backup C slots.
  • In the same piece linked above, Jackson notes that the Dolphins are working out WR Gary Jennings in the slot — where he thrived in college — and on the outside. Jennings was a fourth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2019, but Seattle waived him in November and Miami scooped him up. He played in just one game for the ‘Fins before getting hurt, but his draft pedigree and upside will give him a good chance to make the club as the fifth or sixth WR.
  • In a minor trade last summer, the Bills acquired OL Ryan Bates from the Eagles in exchange for DE Eli Harold. Philadelphia subsequently cut Harold, but Buffalo hung on to Bates, who was active for nine games. Per Adam Caplan of InsideTheBirds.com, the Bills view Bates, a 2019 UDFA, as a viable right tackle, guard, and center, so they expect him to be a key backup in 2020 who may take on a bigger role down the road.
  • Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic, meanwhile, views Bates as a potential trade candidate. Buscaglia also looks at a few other players that the Bills could put on the trade market, a list headed by WR Robert Foster and TE Jason Croom.

AFC East Rumors: Bell, Dolphins, Patriots

Le’Veon Bell‘s first season with the Jets could not have gone much worse. The two-time All-Pro averaged just 3.2 yards per carry and, despite playing in 15 games, failed to clear 800 rushing yards. Bell’s contract points him toward a second Jets season, but Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News notes this will almost certainly be his last with the team. A report surfaced last offseason that Adam Gase did not want Bell in the first place, and Mehta adds that Gang Green’s HC repeatedly voiced frustrations about the running back behind the scenes last season. While Gase would also assign blame to the offensive line — one that ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric — he shifted between blaming that injury-plagued group and Bell throughout the year. The Jets also believed Bell put on weight as the season progressed.

Other than all of this, the Bell-Jets pact has gone great. The 28-year-old back’s four-year, $52.5MM deal runs through 2022, but the Jets can save $9.5MM in cap space by cutting Bell in 2021. Let’s move on to some other situations in the AFC East:

  • Some slotted Louisiana offensive line prospect Robert Hunt as a better guard fit than tackle in the NFL, but the Dolphins will station their second-round pick at right tackle to start his career, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes. Hunt would then compete with incumbent Jesse Davis — who graded outside Pro Football Focus’ top 60 tackles last season — at right tackle and then slide inside to guard if the Dolphins decide he’s not a good tackle fit. Davis will be the Dolphins’ first-stringer when camp opens, per Salguero. Should Hunt prove to be a better fit at guard, he could compete for the spot opposite recently signed Ereck Flowers.
  • As could be expected based on Austin Jackson‘s age (20), Julie’n Davenport is expected to begin as Miami’s left tackle, Salguero adds. Included in the Laremy Tunsil trade, Davenport suffered an injury that landed him on IR early last season. He returned at the midway point and started the Dolphins’ final seven games. With Jackson being drafted 18th, it should be expected he will be in the lineup at some point in 2020.
  • This could be anticipated based on the Patriots‘ offseason decisions — not drafting a quarterback and not signing either Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton to low-level contracts — but they are not believed to be inclined to add another veteran passer, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. Their (virtual) quarterback room consists of 2019 fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham, on-again/off-again Patriot Brian Hoyer set for his age-34 season and two UDFAs (Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke and Louisiana Tech’s J’Mar Smith).

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Bell, Dolphins

Add the Patriots to the list of teams who were high on promising Redskins wideout Terry McLaurin. In addition to the Raiders, the Patriots were intrigued by the Ohio State alum, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. The Pats considered McLaurin with the No. 73 pick but instead dealt the selection to the Bears in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round choice and drafted Damien Harris at No. 87. Washington nabbed McLaurin at No. 76, and he’s become the team’s top wideout. Part of the reason the Patriots sought the ex-Buckeye was his potential for special teams work, responsibilities he might not become too familiar with due to his high-value role in Washington.

Here’s the Week 6 latest out of the AFC East, moving from one might-have-been Patriot to one of the longest-tenured players in franchise history:

  • Stephen Gostkowski is under contract through the 2020 season, but with his salary rising from $1.1MM to $3.5MM, Reiss adds that the Patriots will examine that figure and determine if it’s worth it to bring the veteran back. The team also stands to look at other options in the draft. The Pats have not drafted a kicker since taking Gostkowski in the 2006 fourth round. New England made a change at punter this year, moving from longtime incumbent Ryan Allen to fifth-round rookie Jake Bailey. Gostkowski will be recovering from hip surgery but would surely generate interest elsewhere if the Patriots jettison him.
  • Le’Veon Bell‘s 2018 absence stemmed largely from fear the Steelers would continue to overwork him and thus diminish his value on the 2019 market. Bell is on pace for 299 carries, which would be his second-highest single-season total. However, now that he’s secured $28MM in guarantees, the Jets starter is not worried about workload issues, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. Bell is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry on a shaky Jets offense.
  • Do not look for the 0-4 Dolphins to cut Josh Rosen‘s audition short. Brian Flores said (via the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero, on Twitter) his quarterback situation is “settled” for the rest of 2019, with Rosen set to keep the job that once belonged to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Rosen played well in the first half against the Chargers, and even though the Dolphins have been outscored 81-0 in four second halves this season, the 2018 No. 10 overall pick does not have to worry about looking over his shoulder.
  • It does not sound like one of Rosen’s former Cardinals teammates, Robert Nkemdiche, is ready to return from the Dolphins’ PUP list. But Miami DC Patrick Graham expects the defensive tackle to be back on the field by early November, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Nkemdiche’s 2018 season ended because of an ACL tear.
  • Look for running back Mark Walton and tackle Isaiah Prince to see more time for the rebuilding Dolphins soon, with Jackson noting Miami’s staff wants to integrate Walton into its Kenyan DrakeKalen Ballage rotation and was impressed by some of Prince’s Week 4 start against the Chargers. While Jesse Davis is back at practice this week after missing the Bolts game, pointing to his return at left tackle, the Dolphins figure to get Prince — a sixth-round rookie — plenty of reps this season on the right side as they continue in evaluation mode.

Dolphins Sign OL Jesse Davis To Extension

Dolphins offensive lineman Jesse Davis has earned a nice pay increase. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that Miami has signed the 27-year-old to a three-year, $15MM extension. The deal includes $8.5MM guaranteed. As an exclusive rights free agent, Davis will earn a $645K salary in 2019.

The 2015 undrafted free agent out of Idaho spent the first year-plus of his career with the Seahawks and Jets before finally finding a home in Miami. He made the Dolphins’ 53-man roster following the 2017 preseason, and he’s proceeded to appear in 32 games (26 starts) over the past two seasons.

As ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe tweets, the coaching staff is especially happy with Davis’ versatility. The lineman started as a swing guard before earning a starting guard spot, and he’s also seen reps at right tackle. In fact, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald predicts that Davis will ultimately start at left tackle for the team’s season opener.

Dolphins Notes: Mills, Drake, Ledbetter

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald passes along a veritable treasure trove of notes for Dolphins fans today, so let’s dive right in:

  • Although free agent acquisition Jordan Mills was disappointing in minicamp and was replaced at right tackle by Jesse Davis, Jackson says the Dolphins are still very much open to having Mills man the RT position. The club will give him a chance to redeem himself in training camp and may elect to keep Davis at guard, where he played last year. Zach Sterup is also in the mix for the right tackle job.
  • Jackson believes that running back Kenyan Drake has been woefully underutilized to date and that he should be getting 12 to 18 carries a game. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics support Jackson’s opinion, citing Drake’s ability to win after early contact and force missed tackles. However, PFF also says Kalen Ballage should serve as Miami’s primary third-down/receiving back, which Jackson’s eye test does not support. Jackson says Ballage looked “unnatural” as a receiver out of the backfield during the club’s offseason program, and he even says the embattled Mark Walton could be the Dolphins’ best receiving back. Drake and Ballage will have plenty of opportunity to prove their worth in 2019, which is an especially crucial year for Drake, a 2020 free agent.
  • UDFAs often have a better chance of cracking the roster of a rebuilding team like the Dolphins then they would on a club with playoff aspirations, and Jackson says Miami hopes at least one of the its undrafted defensive linemen — Dewayne Hendrix and Jonathan Ledbetter — will make the cut. Ledbetter, one of the best collegiate DEs at stopping the run, is attempting to diversify his game by refining his pass rush skills.
  • The team also has several UDFA cornerbacks that merit some attention, and the new coaching staff had plenty of luck developing that type of prospect in New England. 2018 UDFA Jalen Davis flashed in minicamp this year, and while the Dolphins have taken a look at him both outside the numbers and in the slot, his size (5-10, 185) may make him better-suited to a slot role.

East Rumors: Witten, Mills, Patriots, Giants

With minicamps having concluded, we are now in NFL’s true offseason. However, teams use this downtime to size up their rosters and determine which, if any, moves need to be made. Here is how some of the East franchises’ rosters look going into the break:

  • At first, Jason Witten‘s unretirement was believed to be centered around a part-time on-field role and for off-field leadership. But after the Cowboys‘ offseason program, Todd Archer of ESPN.com insists the 37-year-old tight end will play far more than the 25-snap role loosely pegged for the one-year ESPNer upon his return. Witten caught at least 60 passes from 2004-17, so it can be expected the Cowboys want to see him provide Dak Prescott with as much of a short- and mid-range option as he can handle in his comeback year. Backup Blake Jarwin (27 catches, 307 yards in 2018) did grade as Pro Football Focus’ No. 25 tight end last season, so it’s logical the team will use him plenty.
  • The Dolphins‘ initial hope was to slot former Bills starter Jordan Mills at the right tackle spot Ja’Wuan James‘ departure vacated, but that has not gone so well. Mills did not fare well during much of Miami’s minicamp, according to ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe, who writes Mills (48 starts as Buffalo’s right tackle since 2016) was “regularly exposed” during workouts. While it’s hard to tell how linemen are performing until the pads come on, and this Mills update runs counter to a report indicating right tackle was his job to lose. But Wolfe adds Jesse Davis replaced Mills during some practice sessions. The Dolphins would save $2MM by releasing Mills, who has started 82 games in six seasons.
  • Despite not his nomadic stretch since his Chargers days, Dontrelle Inman fared well as a Colts supporting-caster last season. He graded as one of the best part-time wideouts in the league, per Football Outsiders. But Jeff Howe and Nick Underhill of The Athletic leave the 30-year-old receiver off their Patriots‘ 53-man roster projection (subscription required), even in predicting Demaryius Thomas starts the season on the PUP list. The duo only have four true wideouts (Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Maurice Harris, Phillip Dorsett) making the Pats’ roster, with Matthew Slater long used as a pure special-teamer. The Pats guaranteed Inman $300K.
  • The first post-Odell Beckham Jr. Giants receiving corps features clear-cut starters in Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, but a Day 3 rookie may have an outside shot at being New York’s WR3. While Corey Coleman stands as Big Blue’s current No. 3 wideout, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes fifth-round pick Darius Slayton (Auburn) has a decent chance to supplant him. Pat Shurmur called Slayton the team’s most improved player this offseason, and Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com added the team seeks a downfield threat to team with Tate and Shepard. Slayton averaged at least 19 yards per catch in each of his three Auburn seasons.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/3/19

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Re-signed (ERFA): WR Marcus Kemp
  • Waived: CB Step Durham

New York Giants

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/6/19

Here are today’s restricted free agent and exclusive-rights free agent tender decisions:

RFAs

Tendered at original-round level:

ERFAs

Tendered:

Non-tendered:

Ja’Wuan James Facing Season-Ending Injury?

Ja’Wuan James won’t play in the Dolphins’ Week 10 game against the Panthers on Monday night, and it’s possible the right tackle will miss the rest of the season.

Adam Gase said Friday (via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald) the fourth-year blocker could miss the rest of the season due to a hamstring injury. Ian Rapoport (Twitter link) said James is out indefinitely. Salguero notes the Dolphins are seeking out opinions from multiple doctors.

James has played in each of Miami’s eight games, and Gase described his play as being good in some of them. This injury is significant because of James’ contract status. The 2014 first-round pick has a fifth-year option of $9.341MM, but the Dolphins can cut bait on that amount before the start of the 2018 league year.

These options are guaranteed for injury only, so James would have to pass a physical for the team to jettison him free of charge. With that deadline nearly five months away, it would stand to reason James could recover from a hamstring malady by decision time.

Of course, the Dolphins don’t have a next-in-line right tackle to potentially replace James, and UFA solutions aren’t cheap. Dolphins OC Clyde Christensen said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) the cap has limited the Dolphins’ ability to bring in a reliable backup to James; Miami holds barely $1MM in cap room. Former UDFA Jesse Davis will make his first start at right tackle on Monday. Davis has started two games at guard but will move to take James’ spot after Ted Larsen returned off IR.

James started 16 games in both 2014 and ’16 but played in only seven in 2015. A toe injury ended James’ sophomore NFL season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/10/17

Today’s minor moves:

Reserve/Futures Contracts

Miami Dolphins

San Diego Chargers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Practice Squad

Dallas Cowboys