Jimmy Smith

AFC North Notes: Browns, Burrow, Ravens

The Browns have not honored David Njoku‘s trade request. The former first-round pick enters his fourth season in Cleveland, and while Kevin Stefanski said he had not spoken with Njoku in several weeks, the first-year Browns coach noted he is eager to work with him.

My stance hasn’t changed. The organization’s stance hasn’t changed in that we believe in David, excited to work with him,” Stefanski said, via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I’ll get to finally be in the same room as him this weekend as he is coming in for physicals and then get out on the field with him Monday.”

Njoku has not lived up to his Round 1 billing yet, leading the Browns to give Austin Hooper a tight end-record contract. While Njoku’s unhappiness was reported to predate the team’s Hooper addition, he tweeted that he “loves Cleveland” while noting the game includes “a lot of complications.” Regardless, Njoku is set to earn $1.76MM this season. The Browns picked up his fifth-year option (worth $6MM) but can cut bait on that cost before the 2021 league year.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic preventing teams from conducting on-field workouts throughout the offseason, the Browns have not changed their plan at tackle. First-round pick Jedrick Wills will begin his career as Cleveland’s starting left tackle, Stefanski adds. The Alabama product will make the interesting transition from college right tackle to NFL left tackle. Recently signed free agent Jack Conklin, a college left tackle, will continue his NFL right tackle work.
  • The Browns hired former Vikings QBs coach Kevin Rogers as a senior offensive assistant. Rogers was with the Vikings from 2006-10, which doubled as Stefanski’s first five years with the franchise, but has not coached since 2016. Rogers, 68, spent decades at the college level. He worked as the offensive coordinator for Syracuse (1991-98), Notre Dame (1999-2001) and Boston College (2011). His most recent gig was at alma mater William & Mary; that four-year stay ended after the 2016 season.
  • The Ravens will use Jimmy Smith in a matchup-based capacity. They are trying their longtime starting cornerback at safety and in the slot, John Harbaugh said. As of now, there is no plan to permanently move the veteran corner to safety. The Ravens are deep at cornerback, with Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey and slot man Tavon Young back in the fold. Young, however, has missed two of the past three full seasons. Harbaugh said the fifth-year corner is back to 100% after a neck injury last summer.
  • Ravens rookie UDFA tight end Jacob Breeland will miss the 2020 season, Harbaugh confirmed. The Oregon product was one of the top contenders for Baltimore’s No. 3 tight end spot, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (subscription required).
  • As expected, Joe Burrow‘s rookie year will consist of on-the-job training. The Bengals will not give one of their more experienced QBs the first snaps as their starter in training camp. Burrow will take them, Zac Taylor said, per Marisa Contipelli of Bengals.com (on Twitter). Cincinnati returns 2019 draftee Ryan Finley and agreed to terms with fifth-year quarterback Brandon Allen, who worked with Taylor in Los Angeles.

North Notes: Ravens, Amos, Steelers

Rumors of the Ravens becoming the latest team to execute a tag-and-trade transaction have not surfaced in months, and Matt Judon is not expecting to be dealt. The franchise-tagged outside linebacker signed his tender Thursday night and expects to be with the Ravens this season, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Although the Ravens acquired All-Pro defensive lineman Calais Campbell, they did not make a big move at outside linebacker this offseason. They will need their top 2019 edge defender back to anchor their pass rush.

Here is the latest from the North divisions, continuing first with more news out of Baltimore:

  • John Harbaugh said (via Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun) cornerback Jimmy Smith could see some time at safety. The veteran cornerback re-signed earlier this year and is set to play a 10th season in Baltimore. The Ravens have Earl Thomas and the recently extended Chuck Clark at safety, so it will be interesting to see how they deploy Smith this season.
  • The pectoral injury Adrian Amos battled in the playoffs did not require surgery, and the Packers safety said he is back to 100%, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, on Twitter. Amos played all but four of Green Bay’s defensive snaps during the regular season but was unable to finish the NFC championship game.
  • Two of the league’s most influential decision-makers were against the fourth-and-15 proposal, which the NFL tabled Thursday. Both Steelers owner Art Rooney II and HC Mike Tomlin, the latter a member of the competition committee, came out against the proposal — one that gained steam from last year to the point where ownership was split on it. “We’re open to thinking, ‘Is there something we can do with the kickoff in more of a traditional setting that might allow onside kicks a better chance of happening? But this one was too much of a gimmick,” Rooney said, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “(Tomlin) and I didn’t like the idea.” Rooney said interest remains in finding an alternative to the current onside kick setup, which has hindered comeback efforts since a recent rule change prevented kicking-team players from running starts prior to the kick.

Ravens To Re-Sign CB Jimmy Smith

The Ravens have agreed to re-sign cornerback Jimmy Smith, as Smith himself tells Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Smith will ink a one-year deal worth $3.5MM, tweets Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, who adds Smith can earn another $2.5MM via playtime incentives.

Smith had spent his entire career in Baltimore since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2011, but it was unclear if he’d be sticking with the Ravens going forward. Baltimore allowed the veteran defensive back to reach the free agent market, but he’s now returning on a relatively team-friendly deal.

Smith made the fewest starts of his career (five) in 2019, thanks in large part to a knee injury that sidelined him for much of the season. Health questions have historically been a problem for Smith, who has only played a full 16-game slate twice in nine NFL seasons.

Baltimore ranked fourth in the league in pass defense DVOA, and the club will now return almost all of its cornerbacks — save for Brandon Carr — in 2020. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Tavon Young comprise the Ravens’ starting corner package, leaving Smith as a well-compensated, highly-experienced dime defensive back.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Ravens’ Hayden Hurst, Jimmy Smith

Given the relative dearth of quality tight ends expected to be available when free agency opens on March 18, plenty of pundits have connected the dots between TE-needy teams and the Ravens’ Hayden Hurst. After all, Hurst was a first-round pick in 2018, but he has been surpassed on the Baltimore depth chart by Mark Andrews, and the Ravens have another sturdy tight end in Nick Boyle who is lauded for his blocking abilities but who also has some skill as a receiver.

A report last week suggested that there is a “real chance” the Ravens will move Hurst, but Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic isn’t buying it. Zrebiec says the Ravens have indeed received periodic inquiries on Hurst since last year, but they are not looking to trade the former Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand. After all, although Hurst’s counting stats don’t jump off the page, he has displayed all of the abilities that made him a top draft choice in the first place: soft hands, good route-running, and surprising speed. He posted a 30/349/2 slash in 2019, but a good number of those 30 catches were difficult and were in critical situations.

Plus, the Ravens’ offense relies heavily on its TEs, so they need a lot of talent at the position. Zrebiec says GM Eric DeCosta is always willing to listen, but Hurst is not being shopped.

As for CB Jimmy Smith, the last we heard on him is that he is likely to hit free agency. Zrebiec says Baltimore values its 2011 first-rounder and would like to bring him back on a short-term contract paying him roughly $7MM per year, but Smith — who had an AAV of a little over $10MM on his last contract — would prefer a longer deal for a little more money. Given his injury history, he may not get the term he’s looking for on the open market, but he may be able to top $7MM per season from another club.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens CB Jimmy Smith To Test Free Agency?

The Ravens discussed a contract extension with veteran corner Jimmy Smith during the 2019 season, but the two sides could not come to terms. Although there is mutual interest in a reunion, it sounds like Smith will see if there are greener pastures on the open market.

At the scouting combine, Baltimore GM Eric DeCosta told reporters, including Clifton Brown of BaltimoreRavens.com, that he does not expect to strike an accord with Smith prior to the opening of free agency. “We’ve had conversations with Jimmy,” DeCosta said. “I suspect Jimmy’s going to want to hit the market and assess what his value is, as he probably should. He’s a veteran, he’s worked hard to see what his value is on the market. Lots of respect for Jimmy as a player. His agent and I have a really good relationship. So we’ll just see.”

The Ravens selected Smith, a Colorado product, in the first round of the 2011 draft. He eventually established himself as a legitimate No. 1 corner, and while he has struggled with injuries throughout his career, Baltimore’s defense has generally been markedly better when he’s on the field. The team already has standouts Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters under contract, but the secondary depth was a key piece of the Ravens’ defensive success in 2019, and DeCosta was clear that he would like Smith to return.

“Love to see him back in Baltimore,” the second-year GM said. “But he’s a free agent, so we’ll see what happens.”

If Smith does not re-sign with the Ravens, then that would make a Brandon Carr return more likely. If Smith does re-up, then Carr could be a cap casualty.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Ravens, Brady, Mosley

We heard at the end of December that the Ravens are prepared to slap pass rusher Matt Judon with the franchise tag if they cannot work out a long-term deal with him, but recent comments from head coach John Harbaugh suggested Judon could be suiting up elsewhere in 2020. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic says Baltimore may be disinclined to use the tag, as it would take up a big chunk of their cap and could alienate the emotional and outspoken Judon.

On the other hand, Judon is the only proven pass rusher on the team, and there’s no guarantee the Ravens can win a bidding war for one of this year’s top FAs or land a player at the bottom of the first round of the draft who can make an immediate impact, so GM Eric DeCosta will have to carefully weigh a number of factors.

Let’s round up a few other AFC items, starting with several more nuggets out of Baltimore:

  • The Ravens and veteran CB Jimmy Smith have mutual interest in a reunion, per Zrebiec. However, if Baltimore brings back Smith, it’s unlikely that CB/S Brandon Carr also returns. Meanwhile, the Ravens will almost certainly cut safety Tony Jefferson.
  • Regardless of what they do with Judon, the Ravens will have to add three or four starting-caliber players to their front seven, so Zrebiec expects the team to focus on those areas heavily in the draft, and he fully expects DeCosta to draft a WR or two.
  • Add Jay Glazer of The Athletic to the list of pundits who believe a Tom BradyRaiders partnership makes sense. Like others, Glazer thinks the Chargers are an obvious non-Patriots landing spot, but given the international presence that the Las Vegas outfit is expected to have, both Brady and the team would stand to benefit from a Sin City marriage.
  • In a recent interview with Eddie Paskal of the team’s official website, Raiders GM Mike Mayock said he believes the move to Las Vegas will help the club attract top free agents, even those not named Brady. The fact that Nevada does not have a state income tax will obviously be appealing, as will the sleek new stadium and the general excitement surrounding the franchise. Mayock also noted that he will look to add wide receiver help this offseason.
  • Jets LB C.J. Mosley had to undergo groin/abdominal surgery about six weeks ago, but he expects to be ready for the team’s offseason program this spring, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. One of last year’s biggest free agent fish, Mosley played in just two games for Gang Green, and he has started a vegan diet in the hopes of giving himself an edge.

North Notes: Golladay, J. Smith, Packers

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay has been a rare bright spot for the Lions this season, setting career-highs with 1,118 yards and a league-leading 11 TDs. The 2017 third-rounder will be eligible for an extension after the season, and he expects contract talks to take place in the coming months, as Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com writes.

“I’m sure we will (talk contract) the next few months or so,” Golladay said. “Everything will work itself out. I’m very grateful to be here. [The Lions] definitely took a shot on me and that would be a good way to repay them.”

Now for more from the league’s north divisions:

  • The Ravens agreed to a three-year extension with cornerback Marcus Peters yesterday, but that doesn’t mean Jimmy Smith‘s days in Baltimore are numbered. Per Jeff Zrbeic of The Athletic, the Ravens — who have invested heavily in their secondary in recent years — tried to extend Smith earlier in the season, and the two sides could revisit contract talks this offseason.
  • Regardless of what the Ravens choose to do with Smith, Zrebiec says the team can now focus on adding pass rushers and inside linebackers in free agency and/or the draft. He confirms an earlier report suggesting that Baltimore could put the franchise tag on Matt Judon, and Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says the Ravens are indeed heavily focused on pass rushing talent in the 2020 draft.
  • In the same piece linked above, Miller says the Packers are fully aware of how talented the 2020 class of wide receivers is and could use a first-round pick on a wideout for the first time since 2002.
  • Vikings receiver Davion Davis was arrested for DUI the same late October weekend as teammate Jayron Kearse, as Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes (though they were unrelated incidents). Davis, who was on the active roster at the time but who is now on the practice squad, has since pleaded not guilty to three misdemeanor charges. He has appeared in two games this season and has seen three offensive snaps.

Jimmy Smith To Miss Time With MCL Injury

The Ravens did not come out of their third straight Week 1 blowout win unscathed. Jimmy Smith will miss some time because of a knee injury.

Smith suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain, John Harbaugh confirmed Monday (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Jeff Zreibec). Harbaugh indicated the veteran cornerback will miss multiple weeks and noted the possibility of an IR-return stay exists. However, the 12th-year Ravens coach did not view that as the probable course of action.

This will mark the fourth straight season in which Smith will have missed time. He missed five games in 2016 and four in both 2017 and ’18, with the latter absence caused by a suspension. He has started 79 games for the Ravens since they selected him in the 2011 first round. Smith, 31, loomed as a cut candidate this offseason, but the Ravens opted to keep him for another year.

Baltimore boasts some depth at cornerback, despite losing Tavon Young for the season. Brandon Carr, second-year player Anthony Averett, ex-Cardinal Justin Bethel and return man Cyrus Jones reside on the Ravens’ roster. The Ravens face the Cardinals, Chiefs and Browns over the next three weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Plan To Keep Jimmy Smith

It sounds like the Ravens will keep Jimmy Smith in the fold. While at the owners’ meetings, Ravens GM Eric DeCosta all but confirmed that the team will be moving forward with Smith, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic tweets

One of the greatest strengths of our team right now is our secondary. I think it would be foolish for us to make a strength a weakness for no reason,” DeCosta said.

Smith, 31 in July, is under contract for one more season with a whopping $15MM cap number. The Ravens and Smith agreed to a 2017 restructure, ballooning his cap figure to this level. Releasing Smith would save $9.5MM against Baltimore’s cap, but it would also leave the club with $6.4MM in dead money. That’s not exactly an ideal scenario for the Ravens, so an extension or restructuring could make more sense than an outright release.

Last year, Smith served a four-game suspension for an alleged domestic violence incident. In 2017, he also missed four games due to an Achilles tear that coincided with a four-game suspension for PEDs.

The Ravens lost Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle from their top-tier defense. They will still have one of the league’s oldest secondaries, with the soon-to-be 30-year-old Earl Thomas coming in to join 30-somethings Smith, Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson. Both Carr and Smith were potential cap casualties, but each is instead set to be part of an experienced Ravens DB corps.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Brown, Ravens, Johnson

The Steelers‘ plan remains to trade Antonio Brown. But Kevin Colbert reiterated they will not pull the trigger if they do not believe the compensation is appropriate.

We will only make a trade if it benefits the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Colbert said, via Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. “He knows that. His representation knows that. That’s been clearly explained, and we’re willing to take a look. If there’s something that can be done to benefit both sides, great. If not, then we’ll deal with that when we get to it.”

Pittsburgh still wants to trade Brown to the NFC, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets the organization is prioritizing compensation over a preferred destination. Colbert said an intra-division trade is not ideal but did not put the Bengals, Browns or Ravens as non-starter suitors, saying “we haven’t eliminated anybody” from the trade picture. Colbert added more teams have reached out, which makes sense with all 32 teams in Indianapolis for the Combine. The Steelers would seemingly prefer to deal Brown before March 17, when his $2.5MM bonus is due, but Colbert said (via Pro Football Talk, on Twitter) the team is open to paying him the bonus and trading him later.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • New Ravens GM Eric DeCosta has said the team wants C.J. Mosley back, and a report indicated they also want to re-sign Terrell Suggs for a 17th season. DeCosta on Wednesday said he expects Brandon Carr to stay put. However, the new front office boss was not as certain on Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle joining Carr in the 2019 Baltimore secondary, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic tweets. Carr, who will be 33 in May, is due $7MM. Weddle, 34, has one season left on his four-year deal. It would save the Ravens $7.5MM by cutting him. After indicating he would want to retire if the Ravens didn’t want him back, Weddle recently changed his tune. Smith is just 30, and a release would cost the Ravens more than $6MM. But they could save $9MM-plus by making him a cap casualty. Baltimore currently holds barely $20MM in cap space.
  • With Kareem Hunt now in the fold, the Browns‘ backfield is crowded. Nick Chubb will likely be the Cleveland starter for much of this season, with Hunt in line for a suspension that could comprise more than half of the 2019 season. Duke Johnson remains, too, and although he has done his best work in the passing game, Freddie Kitchens said (via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, on Twitter) the team is not planning to move its passing-down back to wide receiver.
  • The Bengals refuted a report that they are trying to deal 2017 first-rounder John Ross.