Jesse James

Bears To Sign Jesse James

The Bears have agreed to sign Jesse James to a one-year deal. The tight end (Twitter link via’s Mike Garafolo). It’s likely a low-cost, one-year deal for the veteran, allowing Chicago to evaluate him in camp with little risk. 

James was released by the Lions earlier this year, just halfway through his four-year, $22.6MM pact he signed back in 2019. Starting out as a fifth-round pick of the Steelers back in 2015, he flashed some potential in Pittsburgh, including a 423-yard campaign in 2018. Between 2016-2018, James managed 112 grabs for 1,113 yards and eight touchdowns.

That potential earned him the big contract from the Lions, but the Penn State product disappointed there. In 32 games (18 starts) over two years, James hauled in just 30 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns.

Outside of some reported interest from the Bills back in April, we haven’t heard much about James this offseason. Now, he’ll look to join a TE group that includes Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, and fellow newcomers J.P. Holtz and Jake Butt.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Interested In Jesse James

The top tight ends have all found their new homes, but there are still some (relatively) big names left for the second wave. One of those is Jesse James, who is apparently on the radar of an AFC contender.

The Bills are interested in James, sources told Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork. Those same sources did caution that “they are not close to a contract.” James was released by the Lions last month just halfway through the four-year, $22.6MM pact he signed with Detroit back in 2019. James started his career as a fifth-round pick of the Steelers back in 2015. He flashed some potential in Pittsburgh, including with a 423-yard campaign in 2018.

That potential earned him the big contract from the Lions, but the Penn State product disappointed there. In 32 games (18 starts) over the past two years in Detroit, James has hauled in 30 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns. The Bills didn’t get a ton of production from the position in 2020 despite having a dynamic passing game overall, so it’s not too surprising they’re looking to add to the group.

2019 third-rounder Dawson Knox led the Bills’ tight ends with only 288 yards last season. Pauline writes that it could be a situation where Buffalo or another team looking for help there signs James on “Day 3 of the draft if they can’t come away with a tight end in Rounds 2-4.”

Buffalo already has a great receiving group highlighted by Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, so tight end is the natural spot to bolster as they look to take the next step in 2021.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Release TE Jesse James

Jesse James‘ two-year stint in Detroit has come to an end. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the Lions have released the veteran tight end. The move will save the team more than $6MM over the next two years.

The tight end initially joined the Lions on a four-year, $22.6MM deal back in 2019, but he hasn’t come close to matching the (limited) production he displayed during his time with the Steelers. In 32 games (18 starts) over the past two years, James has hauled in 30 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns. The 26-year-old had cap hits of $6.4MM in 2021 and $7.1MM in 2022, and the Lions will be left with dead cap hits of $4.2MM in 2021 and $5.7MM in 2022.

The 2015 fifth-round pick spent the first four seasons of his career with Pittsburgh, starting 36 totals games. His best season came in 2018 when he hauled in 30 receptions for 423 yards and two scores.

T.J. Hockenson obviously sits atop the Lions tight ends depth chart, but the team will surely be looking for some reinforcement behind him. Hunter Bryant is the only other tight end under contract for the 2021 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions To Sign TE Jesse James

The Lions have agreed to a deal with former Steelers tight end Jesse James, a source tells Mike Garafolo of (on Twitter). This marks the latest deal on what has proven to be a busy day in Detroit. It’s a four-year deal worth $25MM with $11MM fully guaranteed, according to a source who spoke with Ian Rapoport of (on Twitter).

Earlier today, the Lions agreed to sign defensive end Trey Flowers, nickel corner Justin Coleman, and wide receiver Danny Amendola. Now, James joins the mix, and he could be an important addition despite his lack of star power.

James, 25 in June, has averaged 37 catches for 378 yards and nearly three touchdowns over the last three seasons in Pittsburgh. He also graded out as one of the better pass blocking TEs in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus.

With Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo headed towards free agency, the Lions needed a new face at tight end. They have their man in James, though you can expect another addition or two to the TE group this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2018 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Jay Ajayi (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.908MM in 2018. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2018 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Trent Brown, T; Eli Harold, LB

Bears: Adrian Amos, S

Bengals: Tyler Kroft, TE; Josh Shaw, DB

Bills: John Miller, G

Broncos: Max Garcia, G; Trevor Siemian, QB

Browns: Duke Johnson, RB

Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, LB

Cardinals: David Johnson, RB; J.J. Nelson, WR

Chargers: Kyle Emanuel, LB

Chiefs: Chris Conley, WR; Steven Nelson, CB

Colts: Henry Anderson, DE; Mark Glowinski, G; Denzelle Good, OL

Dolphins: Bobby McCain, CB

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, RB; Jordan Hicks, LB

Falcons: Grady Jarrett, DT

Jaguars: A.J. Cann, OL

Lions: Quandre Diggs, CB

Packers: Jake Ryan, LB

Panthers: Daryl Williams, T

Patriots: Trey Flowers, DE; Shaq Mason, G

Raiders: Clive Walford, TE

Rams: Jamon Brown, G

Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, LB

Redskins: T.J. Clemmings, OL; Jamison Crowder, WR

Saints: Tyeler Davison, DT

Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR

Steelers: Jesse James, TE

Vikings: Stefon Diggs, WR; Danielle Hunter, DE was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Draft Rumors: Mixon, Charlton, McCaffrey

The Chiefs are “still doing research” on embattled Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, as Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star writes. Several teams have reportedly scratched Mixon off of their draft boards, while others are “digging in hard” on him. Kansas City, of course, selected another talented player with an ugly domestic abuse incident on his record, Tyreek Hill, last year, and Hill was a key component of the club’s success in 2016. Chiefs brass was noncommittal when asked about the possibility of drafting Mixon, simply saying that there is more evaluation to be done. A report last month suggested that, despite Mixon’s history and the fact that some teams are not considering him at all, his draft stock is on the rise.

Now for more draft-related rumors:

  • Add the Dolphins to the long list of teams with interest in Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports that Miami has scheduled a visit with Charlton, who is a consensus first-round talent. Charlton has also met, or will meet, with at least seven other clubs.
  • As Rich Cimini of observes, the Jets will have met with every top QB prospect in the draft by the time draft day arrives, but he believes those visits are more of a smokescreen than anything else. New York is clearly in rebuilding mode, and Cimini posits that the Jets are hoping to drive up the value of their No. 6 overall pick, which he does not believe the club will use on a signal-caller, despite public suggestions to the contrary.
  • Jordan Raanan of believes the Giants will select a quarterback in the draft, but he does not think Big Blue will use a first- or second-round selection on one. Instead, he suggests New York will target a player like Josh Dobbs or Jerrod Evans in the middle rounds. He adds that the Giants would love to draft former Stanford star Christian McCaffrey, but it’s unlikely McCaffrey will still be on the board when the Giants make their No. 23 overall selection.
  • Thanks to Jesse James‘ surprisingly effective 2016 campaign, the Steelers do not have to select a starting-caliber tight end in this month’s draft, as Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests. The club has proven that it can win with James as a starter, although Ladarius Green‘s health concerns may still compel Pittsburgh to select a developmental tight end in the middle rounds of the draft. Fittipaldo names Michigan’s Jake Butt — who may have been a first-round prospect but for his devastating knee injury in the last game of his collegiate career — Arkansas’ Jeremy Sprinkle, and Iowa’s George Kittle as potential targets.
  • Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer believes that the Browns will draft Mitch Trubisky somewhere in the first round — although presumably not with the No. 1 overall selection, as the team seems set to take Myles Garrett there — if Trubisky is available. If they cannot somehow land Trubisky, Cabot believes Patrick Mahomes is the backup plan. Mahomes is probably not worth the Browns’ No. 12 overall selection, but he may be gone by the time Cleveland picks again at No. 33, so if the Browns want Mahomes, they may need to trade into the bottom of the first round to get him.

Sunday Roundup: T. Johnson, Long, 49ers

We recently heard the the Rams are considering using the transition tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency in just over two weeks. Mike Florio of discusses why a team would consider the transition tag–which does not net a team any compensation when the tagged player signs elsewhere–when a slightly more expensive franchise tag would virtually assure the team of retaining the tagged player. As Florio writes, “Some may be doing it just to see what the player’s value is, knowing that if it’s too high they’ll let him walk. Others possibly don’t want the franchise tender to lay the foundation for a long-term deal.”

Florio, citing a league source, says that if Johnson does get the transition tag, he will not sign the transition tender. Instead, he will actively seek an offer sheet from another team, just as Alex Mack did in 2014 and Charles Clay did last season.

Now let’s take a look at some more notes from around the league:

  • Sheil Kapadia of takes a look at whether the Seahawks will pursue recently-released DE Chris Long, who has 8.5 sacks in 15 career games against Seattle as a member of the division-rival Rams. Long’s age and injury history suggest that he’s probably in line for a relatively modest deal, and given that the Seahawks are always on the lookout for pass rushing help, Kapadia suggests that Long could be a fit.
  • Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers‘ No. 1 priority this offseason is resolving the Colin Kaepernick dilemma, and he sets forth four ways in which the team could find that resolution. Right now, indications are that Kaepernick would like to resume his career elsewhere, and if San Francisco wants to move on as well, the 49ers can give Kaepernick permission to seek a trade and work out a restructured contract with another team before a trade is finalized. Alternatively, the two sides could work out a settlement in which the team releases him and is not on the hook for the $11.9MM he is owed in 2016.
  • The Jaguars do not plan on filling the vacancy that was left when they promoted Todd Wash from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator, according to Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union. Instead, Wash will continue to coach the team’s defensive lineman, and head coach Gus Bradley downplayed any notion that his first-time coordinator would be stretched too thin.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides his ranking of the Falcons‘ top 12 unrestricted free agents. Given that O’Brien Schofield tops the list, it is clear that the Falcons’ pending free agents are comprised primarily of role players and reserves.
  • Jesse James, selected in the fifth round of last year’s draft, will get the first chance to replace the recently-retired Heath Miller as the Steelers‘ No. 1 tight end, as Mark Kaboly of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. After being inactive for the first eight games of the regular season, James saw limited action in the next ten, including the playoffs. The Steelers will likely add a tight end in free agency to complement James and high-upside practice squad player Xavier Grimble, even though the free agent class of tight ends is fairly weak. Ben Watson, who met with Pittsburgh during training camp a few years ago, is perhaps the best fit for the Steelers.

Draft Signings: Eagles, Steelers, Bengals, Jags

Coming into today, fewer than 90 players selected in the 2015 NFL draft remained unsigned, with well over half of this year’s 256 draftees having reached agreements with their respective teams. A few more rookie have struck deals with their clubs today, so let’s round up the latest news, with all contract info coming from Over the Cap:

  • The Eagles have finished deals with all six of their draftees, agreeing to terms today with third-round linebacker Jordan Hicks, according to the team (Twitter link). Hicks’ four-year deal will be worth a little under $3MM, including a signing bonus of about $653K.
  • The Steelers have signed fifth-round tight end Jesse James to his rookie contract, leaving the team with three unsigned picks, including first-rounder Bud Dupree (Twitter link via the club’s official account).
  • The Bengals have signed tight end C.J. Uzomah, their fifth-round pick out of Auburn, the team announced today (via Twitter). The second tight end selected by Cincinnati in the draft, Uzomah will count against the Bengals’ cap for just over $488K in 2015, assuming he makes the regular season roster.
  • The Jaguars have now locked up half their draft picks, signing seventh-round tight end Ben Koyack to his contract today, per John Oehser of (Twitter link). Koyack will receive a signing bonus worth approximately $69K on his first NFL deal.

Draft Rumors: Gregory, Falcons, Bills, Saints

While Randy Gregory‘s failed drug test at the combine might not be enough to push him too far down draft boards on its own, there’s concern about the pass rusher’s ability to “handle the mental rigors of professional football,” according to Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer of As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes, the report is quite vague and short on specifics, but Rapoport and Breer suggest that multiple teams have removed Gregory from their draft boards entirely. According to the duo, Gregory’s issues might be manageable, but not fixable, which makes it crucial that he lands in the right situation.

“It all depends on the organization, and what they have in place for him,” said one NFC personnel executive. “There are quite a few players that have issues. It’s where you place football character over the things he can’t control. That’s the big thing to me.”

Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports indicated earlier today that he wouldn’t touch Gregory, alluding to the Nebraska defender’s “other issues” (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets that those “issues” are a combination of mental health concerns and recreational drug use.

With players like Josh Gordon and Dion Jordan set to serve season-long suspensions, it makes sense that teams would be wary of a player like Gregory, who could potentially run into similar off-field trouble. It’ll be interesting to see which club eventually takes a chance on a player who has top-10 talent, and when exactly that happens.

Here are a few more draft updates:

  • As rumors swirl suggesting that the Falcons could trade up from No. 8 for a top pass rusher, Rapoport tweets that most of the teams he has spoken to believe Atlanta will actually trade back and select an offensive lineman.
  • According to Rapoport (via Twitter), Bills owner Terry Pegula initially planned to make the trip to Texas this week for the club’s meeting with Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. It ultimately didn’t work out, but it could be a sign that Buffalo is serious about Petty.
  • Jason La Canfora of identifies the Rams, Saints, Bengals, Cowboys, Colts, Patriots, and Seahawks as teams that may be willing to roll the dice on some of the prospects in this year’s draft class who have red flags related to character and/or off-field incidents.
  • While the Saints earned a mention in La Canfora’s list, GM Mickey Loomis did say today that some players will be off New Orleans’ draft board because of character issues, tweets Brett Martel of The Associated Press. Still, Loomis noted that in many cases he’s more concerned about a player’s judgment than the incident itself, and said it’s important to be careful about labeling a player based on one incident (Twitter links).
  • Loomis also said today that the Saints are unlikely to trade picks, but will listen to opportunities to move up or down. The overarching goal for the draft, according to the GM, is to make the team better “right now” (Twitter links via Martel).
  • Penn State tight end Jesse James, a probable mid-round pick, worked out for the Ravens, sources tell Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

Draft Updates: Monday

As one of the top offensive lineman available, Stanford tackle Andrus Peat is a projected first-round pick in the 2015 draft, but there’s one catch — he hasn’t officially declared yet. However, multiple sources tell Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link) that the junior is expected to enter the draft, so we’ll probably hear an announcement before the January 15 deadline. Here’s more updates on NCAA underclassmen…

  • Like Peat, fellow offensive lineman Ronnie Staley hasn’t yet declared for the draft, and he remains truly undecided, per Getlin (via Twitter). The Notre Dame product would rank as the No. 1 OT in the draft, according to Josh Norris of Rotoworld.
  • Rice defensive lineman Christian Covington has declared for the 2015 draft, according to Joe Schad of ESPN (Twitter link). Covington, who underwent knee surgery in November, is the seventh-rated DT on’s rankings.
  • Penn State tight end Jesse James will forgo his senior season and enter the 2015 draft, according to a press release. James holds the record for touchdown catches by a Nittany Lion TE.
  • Announcing the news himself via Twitter, Florida offensive tackle D.J. Humphries revealed he’ll skip his senior season and enter the draft. A highly-sought after high school player, Humphries had trouble staying healthy in Gainesville, and is rated as the 20th overall tackle per
  • Washington State defensive end Xavier Cooper told that he’ll enter the 2015 draft. Cooper, a three-year starter who racked up five sacks last season, said he expects to be a third- or fourth-round pick.
  • Kansas receiver Nigel King has declared for the 2015 draft, the school announced via press release. King, who caught 29 balls for 518 yards in 2014, could go undrafted, as he isn’t ranked on’s list of the top 150 WRs.