Jihad Ward

AFC North Notes: Berry, Ravens, Mixon

Let’s take a quick swing around the AFC North:

  • The Browns hired former Eagles’ VP of Football Operations Andrew Berry to be their GM and EVP of Football Operations today, and he will report directly to owner Jimmy Haslam, just like new head coach Kevin Stefanski and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta. However, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks it’s fair to wonder whether Berry will really have final say over roster decisions, as his contract says he will. Of course, in order to pry Berry away from Philadelphia, Cleveland needed to give him such power contractually, but whether Berry will be permitted to fully use that power is another story. Stefanski and DePodesta may not be keen on consistently yielding to Berry, who was probably the team’s No. 2 choice behind Vikings exec George Paton.
  • In 2019, the Ravens made a number of in-season signings to bolster their defense that ended up paying major dividends. Baltimore has already inked one such acquisition, L.J. Fort, to a two-year extension, and Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic believes the club could also look to re-sign OLB/DE Jihad Ward and DT Justin Ellis.
  • Many have noted the Ravens‘ need to add pass rushing talent, and much of that discussion has focused on edge rushers. But in the same piece, Zrebiec says Baltimore will think long and hard about selecting a quality pass-rushing interior defensive lineman if one is available near the end of the first round. The Ravens haven’t really had such a player since the heyday of Haloti Ngata.
  • Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic lays out a number of moves he believes the Bengals should make this offseason. The entire piece is worth a read for Cincy fans, but one move that Dehner thinks is especially likely to come to fruition is an extension for running back Joe Mixon. We recently heard that director of player personnel Duke Tobin would explore a new contract for his RB1, and such a deal won’t be cheap.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/7/19

Here are today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Houston Texans

Washington Redskins

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/1/19

We don’t dance now, we make minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Colts Place DT Jihad Ward On IR

The Colts placed defensive tackle Jihad Ward on the injured reserve list, according to an announcement from the team. To fill his place on the roster, the Colts elevated wide receiver Steve Ishmael from the practice squad. 

Ward, a 6’5″, 290-pound lineman, saw time in six games for the Colts this year. Unfortunately, a serious ankle injury cut his season short after he tallied a new career high of three sacks.

The former Raiders second-round pick was traded to the Cowboys back in April. However, he failed to make the roster, and he caught on with the Colts practice squad in early September. Days later, he earned a promotion to the varsity squad.

In his limited sample of work this year, Ward gave talent evaluators reason to believe that he can perform at a high level when healthy. Durability remains a concern, but he showed something after losing much of 2017 to a foot ailment.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Waive TE Erik Swoope

Erik Swoope‘s tenure with the Colts has come to an end. Adam Caplan tweets that Indy has waived the tight end. Defensive tackle Jihad Ward has been promoted from the practice squad to take the open roster spot.

The Colts were hoping they landed the next Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates when they signed the undrafted free agent back in 2014. Up to that point, Swoope had never played organized football, but the six-foot-five forward did play 110 games for the Miami Hurricanes basketball team over four seasons.

After appearing in only a single game as a rookie, Swoope proceeded to play in 16 games (four starts) in 2015, hauling in 15 catches for 297 yards and one touchdown. However, he sat out all of the 2017 campaign after undergoing minor knee surgery, and he found himself behind Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron on the depth chart heading into 2018. With Ryan Hewitt on the roster and Ross Travis sitting on IR, the Colts decided it was time to move on from the 26-year-old.

Ward, a second-round pick by the Raiders back in 2016, was traded to the Cowboys back in April. However, he failed to make the roster, and he caught on with the Colts practice squad earlier this month. The 24-year-old showed promise as a rookie, compiling 30 tackles in 16 games (13 starts). Unfortunately, a foot injury limited him to only five games last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 9/3/18

We’ll keep track of today’s practice squad moves here:

Atlanta Falcons

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

  • Signed: DE Christian LaCouture

Chicago Bears

Signed:

Cleveland Browns

Signed:

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Signed:

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Signed:

New York Giants

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

  • Signed: OL Zack Golditch

Seattle Seahawks

Signed:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Signed:

Tennessee Titans

Cowboys Announce Roster Cuts

In addition to releasing veteran kicker Dan Bailey, the Cowboys have made several other moves in order to move their roster to 53 players:

Cut:

Green, a former third-round pick, has struggled mightily in his effort to become Dallas’ third offensive tackle. Ward, for his part, was acquired in exchange for wide receiver Ryan Switzer earlier this year.

Extra Points: Giants, Eli, Chiefs, Cowboys

To the dismay of many analysts, the Giants didn’t use the second overall pick on a franchise quarterback, instead opting to select running back Saquon Barkley, who figures to make a more immediate impact. Incumbent signal-caller Eli Manning, however, was — perhaps obviously — pleased with New York’s decision not to draft his successor. “It was kind of a vote of confidence in that they trusted in me that I can play at a high level, can win games, take us deep in playoffs and win championships and win championships still,” Manning said, per SiriusXM NFL Radio. “And you know what? I want to prove them right and I want to make them look smart and make them to have made the right decision in doing that.” The Giants are going all-in with Manning under center, and are hoping new head coach Pat Shurmur can do for Manning what he did for journeyman Case Keenum in Minnesota in 2017. Last year, the 37-year-old Manning finished just 23rd in both adjusted net yards per attempt and passer rating.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Chiefs second-round defensive end Breeland Speaks had been on Kansas City’s radar for awhile, as general manager Brett Veach explained (link via Josh Norris of Rotoworld). After initially grading Speaks as a third-round pick, the Chiefs quickly realized that not only would Speaks likely be off the board by the time their third-rounder came up, but he might not even be available when Kansas City selected at No. 54 in the second round. Therefore, the Chiefs sent a third-round pick to the Bengals for the right to move up to No. 46, and took Speaks — an Ole Miss product — there instead. Speaks, whom Veach characterized as a “high-motor, intense player,” will vie for rotational snaps in Kansas City’s 3-4 scheme behind starters Chris Jones and Allen Bailey.
  • Defensive tackle Maliek Collins isn’t a lock to return for the Cowboys‘ Week 1 contest after breaking his foot in May, and if the third-year interior defender doesn’t recover quickly, he could lose his starting job to trade acquisition Jihad Ward, according to Jori Epstein of the Dallas Morning News. Collins underwent a similar foot operation in January and underwent a foot procedure in the 2016 offseason as well, so he’s no stranger to lower extremity issues. Collins, who was selected in the third round of the 2016 draft, is even more critical given that fellow defensive tackle David Irving is suspended for the first four games of the season. Ward, meanwhile, managed to play in only five games a season ago before being shipped to Dallas in exchange for wideout Ryan Switzer.
  • The Alliance of American Football will offer players non-guaranteed three-year, $225K contracts, which puts them in line with the XFL’s pay scale, writes Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. Additionally, AAF players will be allowed to leave their contracts in order to join the NFL, indicating a policy which differs from that of the Canadian Football League. The AAF will allocate players to rosters based on where they attended college, which should help draw fans. “If the Birmingham teams has [former Alabama running back] Trent Richardson, we think that will be something that would be a significant gate attraction,” league co-founder Bill Polian said.

AFC Notes: Bengals, Raiders, Broncos

You’re not likely to see the Bengals drop Brandon LaFell from the roster, Katherine Terrelle of ESPN.com tweets. While there is lots of young talent at wide receiver, cutting LaFell would require a $3MM+ dead money hit just after re-signing him this year. He also has a strong mentor/mentee relationship with A.J. Green that coaches do not want to bust up. The Bengals have Green, speedy rookie John Ross, Tyler Boyd, LaFell, and fourth-round pick Josh Malone as their top five receivers. Youngsters Cody Core, Alex Erickson, Jake Kumerow, and Chris Brown are left to fight for a spot that may or may not be available.

More from the AFC:

  • Raiders starting defensive lineman Jihad Ward recently underwent left foot surgery, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The procedure was minor and should keep Ward out until mid-August, adds Rapoport. The second-year man suffered the injury during practice on June 6, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. As a rookie last season, Ward tallied 13 starts in 16 appearances, though Pro Football Focus gave his performance the worst grade among the NFL’s 127 qualified interior defensive linemen.
  • Receiver looks to be the most competitive position on the Broncos’ depth chart, observes Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. Given that the Broncos are nine deep at wideout, head coach Vance Joseph has described the position as “crowded.” That could spell doom for Cody Latimer, who has totaled just 16 receptions since Denver chose him in the second round of the 2014 draft. While Latimer has emerged as a reliable special teamer for the Broncos, his roster spot is in jeopardy suggests Legwold.
  • Earlier Thursday, we rounded up the latest from the AFC East.

Draft Signings: Dolphins, Raiders, Saints

We’ll keep track of today’s draft signings here:

  • A second-round pick who is expected to play a key role for a Dolphins cornerback corps that lost most of its starters from 2015, Xavien Howard has signed his rookie deal, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports. He’s the fifth player in Miami’s eight-man draft class to sign. For Baylor last season, Howard snared five interceptions and broke up 15 passes en route to All-Big 12 acclaim. He’ll vie to join Byron Maxwell as the Fins’ starting corners.
  • The Saints have now wrapped up their draft class’ contracts after signing fourth-round defensive lineman David Onyemata, according to the team’s website. The first University of Manitoba player to be drafted, the Nigeria native finished with 9.5 sacks in 37 games with the Bison. A 300-pound lineman who was selected No. 120 overall, Onyemata won the J.P. Metras Trophy, which is given to the best down lineman in Canadian Interuniversity Sport football.
  • The Raiders announced the signing of second-round defensive lineman Jihad Ward. Ward, selected with the No. 44 overall pick, played for Illinois over the last two seasons. In his time for the Fighting Illini, Ward started all 25 games, totaling 104 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. The 6’6″, 295-pound athlete climbed up draft boards in the weeks leading up to the draft, leading to his mid-second-round selection.