Jim Dray

Coaching Notes: Giants, O’Connell, Browns

Since former Mississippi State coworker Joe Judge landed the Giants‘ HC job, Freddie Kitchens has been linked to a staff position. A report circulated Tuesday indicating Judge will hire Kitchens for an unspecified role (Twitter link via AL.com), but ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan tweets nothing is finalized between the Giants and the former Browns coach. The Giants have hired a quarterbacks coach, Jerry Schuplinski, but certainly could add the longtime offensive assistant in another capacity.

Here is the latest from the coaching carousel:

  • Before deciding to reunite with Scott Turner, Ron Rivera interviewed 2019 Redskins offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell for the job, J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington notes. Rivera was interested in former Giants HC Pat Shurmur for OC, but he declined the interview and opted for the Broncos’ play-calling job. O’Connell landed on his feet as well, becoming the Rams’ offensive coordinator.
  • While the Kitchens hire is not yet certain, veteran secondary coach Jerome Henderson will be joining Judge’s Giants staff, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio tweets. Most recently the Falcons’ DBs coach/defensive passing-game coordinator, the 50-year-old Henderson has also coached the Jets’, Browns’ and Cowboys’ secondaries dating back to 2008. Henderson was a 1991 first-round pick who played eight NFL seasons.
  • The Giants will also add Jody Wright to their staff, according to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman (Twitter link). Wright worked with Judge at Mississippi State in the 2000s and was most recently an offensive assistant with the Browns under Kitchens in 2019. Wright also spent time at Alabama during the 2010s and was an assistant head coach at UAB prior to relocating to Cleveland.
  • On the subject of the Browns, they are not retaining several Kitchens staffers. Most notably, Kevin Stefanski will not bring back quarterbacks coach Ryan Lindley, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Lindley, tight ends coach John Lilly, assistant defensive line coach John Parella and quality control staffers Deuce Schwartz, Tyler Tettleton and Alonso Escalante will not be back. Lindley, 30, served as Browns running backs coach after Kitchens was promoted to OC midway through the 2018 season, and the former quarterback held Cleveland’s QBs coach job this past season.
  • The Cardinals hired another recent Browns staffer, bringing in offensive assistant Jim Dray, Yates adds. A former Cardinals seventh-round pick in 2010 as a tight end, Dray played eight seasons — mostly in Arizona and Cleveland — and wound up with the Browns in 2019 as an offensive quality control coach.
  • Recently notified he was out in Cleveland, James Campen may have an opportunity with Carolina. The Panthers are interested in the former Browns offensive line coach, David Newton of ESPN.com tweets. Campen was Mike McCarthy‘s offensive line coach from 2007-18 and spent 15 years as a Green Bay assistant prior to his Cleveland move last year. The Browns hired Bill Callahan to replace him on Monday.

NFL Workout Updates: 10/3/17

Today’s workout updates, with all links going to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter account unless otherwise noted:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Rams

  • P Brock Miller (link)

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Redskins

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/19/17

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Rams

Seattle Seahawks

Cardinals To Sign Jim Dray

Jim Dray

The Cardinals have agreed to sign free agent tight end Jim Dray, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports (on Twitter). The team’s in need of a body at tight end with Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas battling injuries, Somers notes.

This will be Dray’s second stint in Arizona. The 30-year-old began his career there in 2010 after going in the seventh round of the draft and was a member of the Cardinals for four years, catching 48 passes in 55 games (18 starts). Dray’s most successful year to date was his final season with the Cards, 2013, when he tallied personal bests in receptions (26), targets (32) and touchdowns (two). He went on to play with the Browns, Bills and 49ers from 2014-16.

While Dray was mildly successful in Cleveland from 2014-15 (32 appearances, 18 starts, 23 catches), he wasn’t a factor at all in Buffalo or San Francisco last year. Dray appeared in six games and, for the first time in his career, failed to record a catch. As a result, he didn’t draw any known interest before rejoining the Cardinals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/19/16

Today’s minor moves:

  • The 49ers announced that they’ve claimed linebacker Carl Bradford off waivers from the Packers. San Francisco placed LB Nick Bellore on injured reserve earlier today, so Bradford, who’s appeared in four games for Green Bay this season, will add depth in the Bay Area as the Niners close out the 2016 campaign. San Francisco also announced that it has signed veteran tight end Jim Dray, who began the season with Buffalo.
  • The Jets have signed linebacker Randell Johnson from the Rams‘ practice squad to their 53-man roster, clearing a roster spot by waiving fellow LB Arthur Brown, the club announced today. Brown, a former second-round pick, has now been cut for the third time this calendar year.
  • The Cardinals announced that they’ve promoted 2016 sixth-round cornerback Harlan Miller. In a related move, Arizona waived CB Tharold Simon. Simon had been claimed off waivers earlier this year, but managed only 76 snaps with the Cards.
  • The Dolphins signed linebacker Trevor Reilly off the Patriots‘ practice squad and waived fellow LB Zach Vigil, per a club announcement. Vigil, a undrafted rookie, spent the first portion of this season on the NFI list.
  • The Saints have signed wide receiver Corey Fuller off the Lions‘ practice squad, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Fuller appeared in 28 games with Detroit from 2014-15.
  • The Rams are promoting defensive back Isaiah Johnson to the active roster, reports Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. Johnson had been signed to Los Angeles’ 53-man earlier this season, as well. Johnson takes the roster spot of DB Marqui Christian, who is going to IR, per Gonzalez (link).
  • The Giants will promote defensive lineman Ishaq Williams to the active roster, according to Dan Duggan of NJ.com.

NFC Notes: Dak, Vikes, Panthers, Packers

As expected, the Cowboys are starting quarterback Dak Prescott after the team’s bye week against the Eagles, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Meanwhile, Tony Romo may not be ready to be considered for the following week against the Browns either, Rapoport hears.

More from the NFC:

  • It’s possible Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards’ DWI arrest in May will negatively affect his chances of eventually becoming a head coach, as Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press details (Twitter link). Edwards was among six assistants the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes minority hiring in the NFL, recommended last offseason for a head coaching job. Whether the Fritz Pollard Alliance endorses Edwards again will come down to opinions from Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, FPA chairman John Wooten told Tomasson. “I want to talk to Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer and see what their thoughts are, and whether they still support him in moving up the line,” he said. In a positive development for Edwards, Zimmer stuck by the 49-year-old assistant Wednesday in explaining his role with the 5-0 team. “He does a whole ton of things for me that I don’t have to do,” said Zimmer. “We talk about things all of the time as far as game plans. He goes through a lot of the research tape that I really don’t have time to do and we talk about of different things. But George is a very smart guy. He’s very diligent about his work. He cares about making sure his side of the ball performs very well.”
  • The Panthers worked out 14 free agents Wednesday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk was among those to report. Tight ends Alex Bayer, Kivon Cartwright, Jim Dray and Eric Wallace; defensive backs Tay Glover-Wright, Demetrius McCray, Jeremiah McKinnon and Shaun Prater; running back Darrel Young; quarterbacks Dylan Thompson and Sean Renfree; receivers Jeremy Ross and T.J. Graham; and defensive end Malliciah Goodman each tried to impress Carolina brass. The most experienced members of the group are Dray (91 appearances, 37 starts), Young (90, 36), Graham (47, 17), McCray (46, 16) and Goodman (34, 11).
  • The Packers have to consider moving on from Sam Shields next year, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com opines. Shields, a talented cornerback, recently suffered his second concussion in nine months and his fourth in the last six seasons. The soon-to-be 29-year-old plans to continue playing football, but it’s fair to wonder if he can return to his old form and stay on the field. By cutting Shields, the Packers could recoup some of the four-year, $39MM deal they gave him in 2014.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/4/16

Today’s minor moves:

  • The Bills have released tight end Jim Dray and promoted fellow tight end Gerald Christian from the practice squad, the club announced today. Dray, 29, is a seven-year veteran who inked a one-year deal with Buffalo over the offseason. Though he’s posted 56 career receptions, Dray didn’t garner a single target with the Bills.
  • The Browns announced that they have promoted tight end Connor Hamlett from the practice squad while waiving safety Don Jones. Jones had been a key special teams cog for Cleveland, but he hadn’t received a single defensive snap thus far.
  • The Lions waived tight end Orson Charles, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Detroit signed another tight end — veteran Clay Harbor — earlier today, so Charles is no longer need on the roster.
  • The Colts announced that they have promoted rookie linebacker Trevor Bates from the practice squad to the active roster. With veteran Sio Moore out of the picture after being cut earlier today, it’s possible that Bates could carve out a role.
  • The Buccaneers promoted wide receiver Jeremy Butler to the active roster. In eight games with Baltimore last season, Butler posted 31 receptions for 363 yards.

Bills Sign Jim Dray

SATURDAY, 8:52am: Dray’s deal with the Bills is for one year and $760K (minimum salary), reports ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak (via Twitter). The reporter was uncertain of any bonuses, but he notes that Dray is likely eligible for the veteran minimum cap benefits.

WEDNESDAY, 2:31pm: The Bills have signed free agent tight end Jim Dray, according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com (on Twitter). Dray visited the team on Wednesday and it didn’t take long for the two sides to reach agreement on a deal. Specific terms of the pact are not yet known.

Dray, who is primarily a blocking tight end, apparently made a good impression on the Bills with his performance for the Browns last season. Cleveland, however, did not feel that he was worth the price tag, and instead opted to cut him in February.

Dray was the Browns’ second tight end behind Gary Barnidge during the 2015 season. While Barnidge flourished, enjoying a career year and earning a contract extension, Dray earned only 16 targets all season. He caught six of them, for 61 yards. Dray was heading into a contract year, so the Browns only had to carry minimal dead money ($300K) on their cap while saving $1.775MM.

FA Rumors: Dunbar, Bears, Givens, Bills

Free agent running back Lance Dunbar is continuing his NFC tour today, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who tweets that Dunbar is visiting the Bears. The veteran back, who has spent his first four seasons in Dallas, has also paid visits to the Seahawks and 49ers since free agency began.

Dunbar, 26, was on the verge of becoming a legit weapon out of the backfield for the Cowboys last season, racking up 21 receptions in just three full games, including 10 catches for 100 yards in Week 3 against the Falcons. However, in his fourth game, Dunbar suffered a torn ACL that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. While his upside will appeal to teams seeking a receiving option at running back, Dunbar will have to convince those clubs that he’ll be back to full health for the 2016 season.

Here’s more on free agency from around the NFL:

  • After visiting the Jets on Tuesday, wide receiver Chris Givens is meeting with the Eagles today, according to Schefter (via Twitter). Givens, who was traded from the Rams to the Ravens last October, was targeted 53 times in Baltimore, but only hauled in 19 of them for 346 yards and a touchdown.
  • In addition to confirming a pair of previously-reported visits, the Bills also announced today (via Twitter) that they’re hosting tight end Jim Dray for a Wednesday visit, and brought in wide receiver Deonte Thompson on Tuesday.
  • The Seahawks hosted free agent guard Amini Silatolu for a visit on Tuesday, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com.The former-second pick, who also met with the Cardinals, hasn’t been a full-time starter since his rookie season in 2012, but he’s only 26 years old and could appeal to a Seattle team that doesn’t seem interested in spending a ton on its offensive line.
  • Free agent linebacker Sean Spence, having already visited the Dolphins and Jaguars, is meeting with the Titans on Wednesday, a source tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). A third-round pick in 2012, Spence was limited to just 31 games during his four years with the Steelers due to injuries.
  • The Jets and Texans are both making an effort to sign free agent safety Antonio Allen, tweets Newsday’s Kimberley Martin. Allen, who visited Houston this week, missed the entire 2015 campaign with an Achilles injury.

Browns Release Randy Starks, Jim Dray

The Browns, led by new front-office decision-makers and a new coaching staff, have begun to make changes to their roster, announcing today in a press release that they’ve released veteran defensive tackle Randy Starks and tight end Jim Dray.Randy Starks

[RELATED: Browns expected to cut Johnny Manziel]

Starks, 32, signed with the Browns last March after spending his previous seven years in Miami, where he earned a pair of Pro Bowl nods. Over the course of his seven seasons with the Dolphins, Starks never recorded fewer than three sacks, but he notched just a single sack in 2015 for the Browns in his 15 games, to go along with 29 tackles.

Pro Football Focus graded Starks as the Browns’ top interior defender, placing him 46th overall out of 123 qualified players. However, Cleveland decided to opt for the cap savings created by releasing Starks, rather than keeping him around for the final year of his contract. By cutting the veteran lineman, the Browns clear $3MM from their cap, and will carry just $625K in dead money.

Dray, meanwhile, was the Browns’ second tight end behind Gary Barnidge during the 2015 season. While Barndige flourished, enjoying a career year and earning a contract extension, Dray was used primarily as a blocker, earning only 16 targets all season. He caught six of them, for 61 yards.

Like Starks, Dray was heading into a contract year, so the Browns will carry minimal dead money ($300K) on their cap this season. Releasing the tight end creates $1.775MM in cap savings for Cleveland.

As vested veterans, both Starks and Dray will immediately become free agents without having to pass through waivers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.