John Ross

AFC Notes: Bengals, Ross, Texans, O’Brien

Before he landed on IR, the Bengals spoke with first-round pick John Ross about the possibility of moving to cornerback, Mike Florio of PFT hears. It’s not clear how serious the Bengals were about a position change or why they were thinking about it in the first place. One source speculated that it was a move to help solidify the team’s depth at cornerback and Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer hears the same thing. But, another suggested to Florio that the proposed switch had to do with Ross’ overall toughness.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Head coach Bill O’Brien said he wants to be back with the Texans next season. “I enjoy being the head coach of the Houston Texans,” O’Brien said (Twitter link via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com). “I expect to be here, but those decisions are not made by me.” Since taking over in Houston in 2014, O’Brien’s teams have gone a combined 31-30, including three straight 9-7 seasons and two AFC South titles.
  • O’Brien said he expects T.J. Yates to start for the Texans on Sunday against the Jaguars (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Tom Savage was left shaking on the field after a big hit in this weekend’s loss to the Niners. He was later brought back on to the field for a series, raising questions about the league’s concussion protocol.
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson said he doesn’t get the feeling at all that new GM John Dorsey wants to hire his own coach (Twitter link via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal). Although the team has pledged to bring Jackson back for the 2018 season, a report over the weekend indicated that Dorsey is not sold on him.
  • Head coach Sean McDermott says that Tyrod Taylor will be the Bills‘ starting quarterback this week, provided that his knee is healthy enough (Twitter link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com). Meanwhile, backup Nathan Peterman is in the concussion protocol. The Bills finished out Sunday’s game with Joe Webb under center, so it will be at least a couple of days before they get some clarity on who their starting QB will be against Miami.

AFC North Rumors: Harrison, Ross, Browns

James Harrison sounds like he’s regretting his offseason decision to re-sign with the Steelers. The 39-year-old edge defender told NBC’s Michele Tafoya he would have signed elsewhere had he known he was going to receive this level of playing time (Twitter link). Harrison’s been active for just four Steelers games and has played just 29 snaps. While the Steelers viewed him as a bullpen-type weapon this offseason, those plans either haven’t come to fruition or are part of a long-game solution by the Super Bowl-contending team. He delivered standout football as a full-timer last season, and Pro Football Focus has not viewed Bud Dupree‘s work highly this season. But it hasn’t been enough to get Harrison on the field. Harrison signed a two-year deal to stay in Pittsburgh in March; the Steelers can save $1.3MM by cutting him after the season. While Harrison could look elsewhere if he wants to continue his career, he’ll turn 40 in May and did not fare well the only other time he left Pittsburgh, having retired from the 2013 Bengals.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions.

  • John Ross enjoyed an up-and-down 2017. The former Washington speedster became a top-10 selection despite offseason injuries but enjoyed one of the more nondescript rookie seasons a first-round wideout has in memory, playing just 17 snaps over three Bengals games and failing to catch a pass. Ross will encounter more hurdles soon. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter) Ross will undergo surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder. This comes after Ross underwent a procedure to repair the labrum in his right shoulder. While this marks yet another surgery for the oft-injured pass-catcher, Rapoport notes Ross is expected to be ready by OTAs.
  • The Bengals placed Adam Jones on IR on Saturday, but the veteran cornerback does not want to wrap up his career just yet. The 34-year-old Jones said (on Twitter) he’s “not done playing football.” A team option will determine whether Jones will play his age-35 season on the Bengals, who can save $6MM by cutting the polarizing but effective corner.
  • Paul DePodesta and John Dorsey have yet to meet, with their first summit set to come when they watch Sunday’s Browns-Packers game together. Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports the team’s chief strategy officer was not in on the GM’s hiring, and the longtime Browns reporter doesn’t see how this setup will work. The former MLB exec and Dorsey will each report to Jimmy Haslam, with some potentially contradictory philosophies, while the Browns attempt to move on from a chaotic period that was largely caused by disparate-thinking voices in the building.
  • However, the draft choices Brown acquired and cap space he helped create were the most attractive part of this job, Dorsey said (via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com). Dorsey will control the 53-man roster for the first time in his GM history, commandeering these responsibilities after Andy Reid had them in Kansas City, and he’ll be entering an offseason with more than $110MM in cap space and five first- or second-round picks in the upcoming draft. Dorsey will also likely have access to the No. 1 pick, just as he did during his first Chiefs draft in 2013. The Chiefs took Eric Fisher atop a lower-regarded draft that year.

Bengals Place WR John Ross On IR

The Bengals placed wide receiver John Ross on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. This brings an end to a frustrating year for the team’s first-round pick. John Ross (Vertical)

The speedy wideout appeared in only three games this year and did not catch a single pass. Injuries marred his freshman season in the pros, which is exactly what scouts feared in the spring.

Ross was lighting quick, but he had more red flags than a USSR medal ceremony. He tore his ACL and missed the 2015 collegiate campaign and also underwent labrum surgery after the combine. Clubs loved his 4.22-second 40-yard-dash time, but many viewed him as a one contract player and not as a long-term investment. Next year, he’ll work to prove those critics wrong.

At 5-7, the Bengals have less than a 2% chance of reaching the playoffs. They’ll face the Bears, Vikings, Lions, and Ravens, without their top pick in tow.

In related moves, the Bengals have promoted defensive tackle Josh Tupou from practice squad and signed linebacker Carl Bradford to the practice squad.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals WR John Ross Suffers Knee Sprain

Bengals first-round pick John Ross suffered a knee sprain in Cincinnati’s final preseason game. The sprain is expected to keep him out of the season opener and likely for the team’s short turnaround in Week 2, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). He could potentially return for Week 3. John Ross (Vertical)

Cincinnati starts the 2017 campaign at home against the division-rival Ravens, and then faces the Texans just four days later. That quick turnaround could hypothetically force Ross to miss multiple games, especially if he suffers a setback of some sort. After the Bengals’ Thursday night game versus Houston, the club doesn’t play for 10 more days, so September 24 at Green Bay should represent a worst-case return date for Ross.

Ross, the ninth overall selection in this year’s draft, will add an element of speed to Cincinnati’s offense when healthy, but the Bengals have the wide receiver depth to withstand a short absence from their first-year wideout. A.J. Green, clearly, is one of the best receivers in the league, and Cincinnati also boasts secondary options such as Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, Cody Core, and fourth-round rookie Josh Malone.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Browns, Bengals, Oher, Raiders

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is currently without an agent, tweets Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, who adds Gordon has utilized three different agents in three years. Gordon, 26, is in limbo at the moment after applying for reinstatement in March. He’s yet to hear back from the league regarding his status, and Gordon’s fate with Cleveland is also in question. While reports have indicated the Browns may look to trade Gordon, executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown said the club is open to a Gordon return.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Bengals have agreed to pay first-round wide receiver John Ross his entire 2017 base salary even if he lands on the non-football injury list, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Though Ross suffered injuries (including a torn labrum) while playing football, he wasn’t yet in the NFL when those issues cropped, so the NFI list is still a viable option. Clubs aren’t required to pay players on NFI, but will typically negotiate some sort of compensation if a unique situation arises, and that’s especially true if the player was injured upon arrival in the NFL. Cincinnati inked Ross to a four-year deal worth $17.116MM earlier this week.
  • Given that Max Unger may miss the start of the 2017 campaign, the Saints could turn to reserve interior lineman Senio Kelemete to man the center position until Unger returns to full health. Taking over the starting job could be financially beneficial to Kelemete, as he can earn a $200K incentive if he plays 50% of New Orleans’ snaps next season, according to Nick Underhill of the Advocate (Twitter link). Kelemete, 26, can bring in another $200K for hitting the 60% and 70% snap mark, as well. In 2016, Kelemete played on 57.5% of the Saints’ offensive plays.
  • Panthers offensive tackle Michael Oher turned himself in to Nashville police on Tuesday and will now appear in court on June 6, according to Joseph Person and Lavendrick Smith of the Charlotte Observer. Oher was cited for misdemeanor assault last week following an altercation with an Uber driver in which Oher allegedly knocked the driver to the ground. Carolina selected Western Michigan tackle Taylor Moton in the second round, so Oher — who is still dealing with concussion concerns on top of his legal issues — isn’t a lock to return as a starter, or even make the roster, in 2017.
  • The Raiders were “impressed” by undrafted safety Marcus McWilson, and are expected to sign him to a contract following his tryout at the club’s rookie minicamp, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Twitter link). McWilson, a Kentucky product, played in 13 games for the Wildcats in 2016, racking up 108 tackles (4.5 for loss) and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown. Oakland has already signed 17 UDFAs and two additional tryout players, but hasn’t yet announced the signing of McWilson.

Bengals Sign John Ross

The Bengals have signed first-round pick (No. 9 overall) John Ross and fourth-round pick (No. 116 overall) Carl Lawson to their rookie contracts, per Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter).

Apr 27, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Huskies receiver John Ross poses after being selected as the number 9 overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ross, of course, had a breakout final season at Washington (81 catches for 1,150 yards and a whopping 17 receiving TDs), and he has game-breaking speed, which will be an excellent complement to A.J. Green in Cincinnati. The concern, of course, is that the diminutive wideout has major medical red flags, which caused some teams to drop him on their boards or remove him from their boards entirely. Ross tore his ACL and missed the 2015 collegiate campaign and also underwent labrum surgery after the combine, and we heard last week that some clubs only view him as a one contract player and not as a long-term investment.

If he stays healthy, his explosiveness could be a boon to the Bengals both on the offensive side of the ball and in the return game. He will be in line for a four-year deal worth roughly $17MM and a $10.5MM signing bonus.

Lawson, meanwhile, was the first of three fourth-round selections the Bengals made, and he will earn roughly $3MM over the life of his four-year pact. The Auburn product amassed 9.5 sacks in his final collegiate season, and Cincinnati plans to utilize his pass-rushing skills from the outside linebacker position even though he lined up as a defensive end in college.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Bengals, Raiders, Lynch, Patriots

The Bengals selected Washington wide receiver John Ross with the ninth overall pick last Thursday, but some clubs didn’t view Ross as a worthwhile long-term investment, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. “We looked at him as a one-contract player,” one front office told La Canfora. “Our doctors had serious reservations about his longevity at this level.” Ross tore his ACL and missed the 2015 collegiate campaign, and also underwent labrum surgery after the combine. If healthy, Ross and his 4.22-second speed should add a new dynamic to Cincinnati’s offense.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • The Raiders‘ deal with running back Marshawn Lynch is worth $9MM over two years, reports Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). In 2017, Lynch will earn a fully guaranteed base salary of $1.35MM plus a $1MM roster bonus due May 3 (which makes it effectively guaranteed). Lynch can also bring in $500K in per-game roster bonuses and $150K via a workout bonus. In 2018, Lynch’s cap number will be $6MM — including a $4MM base salary — but because none of that money is guaranteed (and because Oakland didn’t use a signing bonus), the Raiders can cut Lynch after 2017 with no dead money accelerating onto their cap.
  • Even if new Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley is handed felony charges after an alleged sexual assault, he can’t be suspended by the NFL, league spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Because the incident and accusations occurred prior to Conley entering the league, the NFL cannot discipline him, although the episode come into play down the line. If Conley were to violate the NFL’s conduct policy going forward, he could be treated as a “repeat offender,” according to Florio.
  • Mike Gillislee‘s two-year pact with the Patriots was front-loaded in order to convince the Bills not to match, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets. Gillislee will earn a fully guaranteed base salary of $1.5MM in 2017, and will also rake $2MM via a roster bonus and $500K in per-game roster bonuses. In 2018, he’ll see a non-guaranteed base salary of $1.9MM with another $500K available in per-gamers. No signing bonus was used in the deal.

Draft Rumors: Cowboys, Conley, McCaffrey

Let’s round up the latest NFL Draft rumors:

  • The Cowboys should not been overlooked as a possible destination when it comes to Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, Tom Pelissero of USA Today tweets. Dallas need cornerback help and, as Pelissero notes, they’re used to taking risks. Dallas had Conley in for a visit and also phoned him on Wednesday. Conley, of course, is dealing with allegations of rape, and could fall as far as the third round. If he’s cleared of all charges, Conley could represent an excellent value for the Cowboys at the end of Round 1.
  • Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) gets the sense that Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is likely to go in the top ten. One NFL GM told Schefter that McCaffrey “had the best combine workout I’ve seen. Ever.” McCaffrey has been linked to the top-10 range for some time, and a number of clubs within that space make sense as a landing spot. The Eagles, sitting at No. 14, are reportedly “infatuated” with McCaffrey, but understand they may have to trade ahead of Carolina.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) wouldn’t be shocked if the Chargers beat the Panthers to the punch on selecting McCaffrey. Los Angeles used a first-round pick on running back Melvin Gordon in 2015, and he broke out with 10 rushing touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. However, the Chargers did lose Danny Woodhead in free agency, and McCaffrey would presumably fill Woodhead’s passing down role with aplomb.
  • The Ravens‘ interest in Corey Davis is real, Peter Schrager of NFL Network tweets. Baltimore owns the No. 16 overall pick, and is certainly in the market for a wide receiver after losing Steve Smith to retirement. Former first-round pick Breshad Perriman has been injured during much of his NFL tenure, so the Ravens could use another pass-catcher to pair with Mike Wallace. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported a strong link between Davis and the Ravens on Wednesday.
  • Both UCLA linebacker Takkarist McKinley and Washington wide receiver John Ross could slide due to their medical history, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Both players underwent surgery during the predraft process. While McKinley and Ross are certainly considered talented prospects, interested clubs will have to weigh injury risk against potential upside.

Draft Rumors: Lamp, Ross, Bengals, Hawks

The Dolphins have been looking for guard assistance for quite some time, and now that Laremy Tunsil will take over at left tackle, the team has an even bigger issue inside. This has put the Dolphins in the market for high-round help at guard, and Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com notes the team is “locked in” on Western Kentucky product Forrest Lamp with its first-round pick. The Dolphins did add Ted Larsen from the Bears, but guard remains the only offensive line position the team doesn’t have a long-term starter. Miami holds the draft’s No. 22 pick, and Pauline notes that defensive end resides as the other critical area the franchise wants to enhance. If a quality edge defender is on the board at 22, the Dolphins may pass and set their sights on a Day 2 guard, Pauline writes.

As for Lamp, Pauline hears the lowest he will drop will be the Falcons at No. 31. Atlanta lost Chris Chester to retirement to open a spot opposite Andy Levitre up front.

Here’s the latest coming from the 2017 draft prospect pool.

  • John Ross‘ medical history is causing some teams to drop him on their boards or remove the former Washington Huskies wideout from draftable lists entirely, Mike Mayock of NFL.com reports. Ross is currently recovering from shoulder surgery and underwent operations on both knees in 2015. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report listed the speedster as a possible Day 2 pick in light of these concerns.
  • However, the Bengals are hovering as a Ross suitor, Pauline reports. They have given Ross a clean bill of health, which looks to be the only issue between the receiver and a first-round selection. The Bengals, who pick at No. 9 (generally before Ross is being projected in mock drafts), took a wideout in the first round last year in Tyler Boyd. Boyd figures to have a bigger role in Cincinnati’s offense this season. The team also re-signed Brandon LaFell, crowding the receiver depth chart even before the draft.
  • East Carolina wideout Zay Jones is on the Seahawks‘ radar, per Pauline. They are expected to be prepared to take Jones in the second round, should the ex-Pirates pass-catcher fall to them at No. 58 overall. Todd McShay of ESPN.com (Insider link) places Jones as his fourth-best wide receiver prospect, and with three receivers potentially set to go in Round 1, that could be a stretch for Jones to make it to Seattle that late in Round 2. The Seahawks have taken two wideouts in the second round during this decade — Golden Tate and Paul Richardson.
  • Obi Melifonwu met with or auditioned for 14 teams, and just one — the Titans — viewed the Connecticut defensive back as a corner, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The UConn safety talent blazed to a 4.40-second 40-yard dash clocking, making him an intriguing get either in the late first or early second round. In addition to the workout circuit, Wilson notes Melifonwu has attracted steady interest from the Ravens, Raiders, Colts and Jaguars. The Bengals attempted to schedule a workout with Melifonwu, but the popular commodity’s schedule didn’t have room.
  • An NFL personnel man and a scout believe the Packers‘ No. 29 pick will be coveted among teams antsy to snag one a quarterback. “I think there’s going to be some action there at the end of the first round,” the scout said, via Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “With these quarterbacks, they need a five-year contract because they’re not ready. I think there will be a lot of movement coming up [into the first round]. With the depth of this draft at defensive end and safety and corner and tight end, I would be looking to trade down.” The personnel man added that the quarterbacks are going to “drive this draft.” With players like Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes expected to go before the Packers pick at 29, it’s conceivable talents like Davis Webb or DeShone Kizer could be coveted at the end of the round.

Draft Notes: QBs, Foster, Ross, Cook, Mixon

Although the 2017 rookie quarterback pool has been heavily scrutinized this offseason, teams are warming up to select signal-callers as the draft nears. While this shouldn’t be unexpected, given the position’s scarcity at the sport’s highest level, Charlie Casserly of NFL.com and Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hear two QBs could well be taken in the top 10. A GM told Casserly he expects two quarterbacks to be taken in the top nine picks, meaning the Bills — who have been linked to passers at 10 — could have to look elsewhere if they don’t trade up. Miller points to Mitch Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes as the players most likely to be those top-nine choices, while a 22-team survey from Casserly produced Trubisky or Deshaun Watson as the quarterbacks teams identify as this draft’s best.

Here’s more from this draft pool, with the three-day event less than six days away.

  • Reuben Foster has been linked as high as No. 2 overall to the 49ers, but since, the former Alabama linebacker has run into off-field trouble on multiple fronts. And Miller hears a Myles Jack-like fall could be in store for the talented ‘backer. Viewed as a top-five talent in 2016, Jack plummeted to the Jaguars at No. 36 last year because of a severe injury he suffered while at UCLA. Foster falling out of the first round based strictly on character issues would stand as a surprise. A failed drug test and his forced exit from the Combine indeed raise red flags, but Foster has been viewed as the top off-the-ball linebacker in this draft throughout the process. It would take a lot of linebacker-needy teams to pass on him for this freefall to commence. PFR’s Zach Links asked whether Foster was going to fall out of the top 10 earlier today; slinking out of the top 32 would be something else entirely.
  • Regarding other possible falling stocks, Miller hears John Ross and Dalvin Cook may fall out of the first round as well. The Florida State back has not seen much momentum since the Combine, with a low SPARQ score accompanying a past that includes some troublesome signs. Ross underwent surgery after the Combine to repair a torn labrum but did set the event’s modern record with a 4.22-second 40-yard dash time. This isn’t the first time Miller’s warned about concerns around Ross potentially causing a slippage for the Washington-developed speedster.
  • Ross’ agent, Brad Cicala, attempted to address concerns that there’s more to Ross’ medical history. Ross underwent two surgeries to correct knee problems in early 2015, per Cicala, but did not undergo two ACL procedures. “Despite recent reports, John Ross III has never sustained 2 ACL injury’s (sic) nor has he had 2 ACL surgeries,” Cicala wrote (via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Facebook link) “In January of 2015 he endured surgery on his right lateral meniscus and in April of 2015 he had surgery on his left ACL.” Cicala adds that Ross has been deemed “ahead of schedule” in his recovery from the labrum surgery, with the wideout expected to be ready by training camp.
  • Miller is hearing Mixon’s name connected to the second round. One team to meet with the runner has a need at running back but is connected to a higher-profile name. The Raiders met with the Oklahoma product who grew up in the Bay Area, and Reggie McKenzie was satisfied with the embattled running back’s answers. “We thought he was a really good kid,” McKenzie said Friday, via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He came off really well. He explained each and every thing. The questions that we had, he had an explanation. He was upfront about everything.” Mark Davis is associated with having a “zero tolerance” policy on domestic violence, and the Raiders are currently negotiating with Marshawn Lynch. So, this would be an interesting fit, to say the least.
  • Former USC wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster said the Rams and Cowboys have shown the most interest in him, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The Los Angeles-based wideout said he would like to play for the Chargers last month.