Jonathan Casillas

Patriots To Host LB Jonathan Casillas, TE Asante Cleveland

The Patriots are hosting linebacker Jonathan Casillas and tight end Asante Cleveland today, according to Ian Rapoport of (Twitter link) and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link), respectively.

Casillas should be familiar to New England’s decision-makers, as the Patriots acquired him from the Buccaneers at the 2014 trade deadline. He played in eight games for the Pats that season before agreeing to a three-year, $10.5MM deal with the Giants the following offseason. New York is not expected to re-sign the 30-year-old Casillas, who finished the year on injured reserve, so he could help fill out a New England linebacker corps that also includes Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts.

Cleveland, meanwhile, was scheduled to become a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Chargers opted not to tender him a contract. While he’s never topped 12% playing time on offense and only has one career reception, Cleveland would be a candidate for special teams and reserve duty behind Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots are expected to release fellow tight end Dwayne Allen at some point, but given that he doesn’t have any guarantees due in the near future, Allen could stick on the New England roster throughout the summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Notes: Darkwa, Richburg, Bromley

Although he’s drawing interest from the cross-town Jets, the Giants still want to re-sign running back Orleans Darkwa, according to Jordan Raanan of Darkwa, 26, broke out with Big Blue in 2017, posting career-highs in starts (11), yards (751), and touchdowns (five). A former undrafted free agent out of Tulane, Darkwa had only managed 287 rushing yards in the three prior years of his NFL tenure. The Giants could conceivably lose both Darkwa and fellow free agent Shane Vereen to the open market, which would leave them with Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, Terrell Watson, and Jalen Simmons on their running back depth chart.

Here’s more on the Giants, all courtesy of Raanan:

  • Teams around the league are viewing Giants free agent Weston Richburg as both a center and a guard, per Raanan. Richburg has played at the pivot for the past three years, but he spend time at guard during his rookie season in 2014. Although injuries limited him to only four games in 2017, Richburg will be the best center available on the open market, leading a positional group that also includes Ryan Jensen, John Sullivan, Russell Bodine, and Travis Swanson, but he could increase his number of suitors by exhibiting versatility.
  • The Giants could field five new starters along their offensive line in 2018, a source tells Raanan. While that overhaul likely wouldn’t removing Brett Jones, who filled in for Richburg at center last season, but it would still represent a massive overhaul. Notably, changeover at all five positions would mean New York has moved on from former first-round pick, and incumbent left tackle, Ereck Flowers. Panthers guard Andrew Norwell could be part of the renovation, as Giants general manager Dave Gettleman reportedly “loves” the Carolina free agent, Raanan writes in a separate piece.
  • A number of Giants free agents are unlikely to remain with the club next year, per Raanan. Defensive lineman Jay Bromley and Kerry Wynn aren’t expected to re-sign, as neither is a good fit for new defensive coordinator James Bettcher‘s 3-4 scheme. Bromley, notably, is reportedly looking for a larger role on defense, according to Raanan, as he’s spent the majority of his career as a reserve. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas, additionally, doesn’t appear to be on the Giants’ radar, as the club is looking to get younger at the second level of its defense.
  • Gettleman will likely try to improve the Giants’ locker room culture by inking established veterans on the defensive side of the ball, and Raanan lists incumbent linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and Dolphins’ special teams ace Michael Thomas as players New York could sign for their leadership.

Giants Place LB Jonathan Casillas On IR

The Giants have placed linebacker Jonathan Casillas on injured reserve and promoted wide receiver Darius Powe from their practice squad, the club announced today. New York also waived linebacker Nigel Harris from injured reserve, tweets Dan Duggan of Casillas (Vertical)

Casillas, who is dealing with injuries to both his neck and his wrist, didn’t play against the Raiders on Sunday, and has missed four games total this season. When he was on the field, the 30-year-old Casillas wasn’t effective: Pro Football Focus ranked Casillas as the single worst run-defending linebacker in the NFL, and while his pass defense mark was a bit better, Casillas still placed as a bottom-10 ‘backer overall. He’ll hit the open market next spring when his three-year contract expires.

Powe, who went undrafted out of Cal in 2016, has never appeared in an NFL game, as he’s spent the entirety of his pro career on the Giants’ practice squad. On a roster now devoid of weapons, Powe could certainly see playing time down the stretch behind Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Travis Rudolph.

Giants Haven’t Discussed Extension For OBJ

The Giants haven’t had any recent talks regarding extensions for key players such as wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., guard Justin Pugh, center Weston Richburg, or linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard, according to Jordan Raanan of Beckham Jr.

New York reportedly isn’t prioritizing a new deal for Beckham, and that’s likely because the star wideout is under team control for at least more seasons. Thanks to the fifth-year option, the Giants have Beckham signed through 2018 at a cost south of $11MM. In 2019, Big Blue could opt to utilize the franchise tag to retain Beckham for one more year, although that tender would come with a price tag exceeding $18MM. Beckham recently indicated his desire to become the NFL’s highest-paid player, but that’s not a realistic goal in today’s quarterback-driven league.

Pugh and Richburg, however, are entering the final years of their respective rookie contracts, which makes their situations all the more pressing. The franchise tag isn’t a practical option, as the offensive line tender’s price is enhanced by tackles, meaning it’s unsuitable for interior lineman. As James Kratch of reported last month, the Giants aren’t expected to reach an extension with Pugh, who seems intent on hitting the open market. A new pact for Pugh would need to include at least $25MM in guarantees for Pugh to take the offer “seriously,” per Raanan.

At linebacker, Kennard isn’t a full-time player, as he saw action on roughly 40% of the Giants’ snaps. As a ‘backer who comes off the field on third downs, Kennard isn’t on track for a hefty pact. Casillas is an every-down player, but he’s entering his age-30 campaign and didn’t earn positive grades from Pro Football Focus a year ago. Still, he’s a stabilizing force on New York’s defense, and Rannan suggests there are reasons for Big Blue to “extend its relationship” with Casillas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Giants, Gruden

Had the Giants let Jason Pierre-Paul hit free agency instead of franchise-tagging him for the second time, the Cowboys were prepared to intervene. Dallas was going to attempt to pry JPP away from the Giants if he were available, Ralph Vacchiano of reports. While fitting Pierre-Paul’s high-end salary demands would have been difficult for a Cowboys team that as of now has the least cap room in the league at $3.3MM, Jerry Jones wants to upgrade his team’s pass-rushing corps.

A source informed Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram the Cowboys are seeking help at pass-rusher and wide receiver this offseason. An interest at wideout seems interesting given that the Cowboys stand to return their top three pass-catchers from 2016, with only Terrance Williams being a free agent, and the team having shifted to a run-based offense. Dallas plans to try and retain Williams, but only at a certain price, per Hill. If the sides can’t work something out, the Cowboys will target a receiver in free agency or the draft.

We can’t come up empty. We have somebody meaningful there. They are part of our core strategy. But it’s two [positions]. It’s not nine,” Jones said, without identifying those positions. “And I think we have the cap room and whatever we resolve with Tony [Romo], I feel confident we will not lose on those two.”

Here’s more from the NFC East.
  • The Giants have made an effort to keep Johnathan Hankins, but he’s likely going to test the market, Vacchiano reports, adding that the defensive tackle will almost certainly leave the Giants if he reaches free agency. Vacchiano notes the feeling around the league is Hankins is not quite on Damon Harrison‘s level, but his age (25 in three weeks) should help him secure a deal in Harrison range. Vacchiano estimates Hankins will fetch a deal that pays him around $7MM or $8MM per year. The Giants have just more than $14MM in cap space after spending to fortify their defense last season. Their defensive line contains per-year payments of $17MM (Olivier Vernon) and $9.25MM (Harrison), and coupled with Pierre-Paul’s $16.9MM price tag, it’s unlikely Big Blue can afford to keep Hankins.
  • Despite that lofty price for tagging JPP again, the Giants would be OK with the eighth-year defensive end playing the season on the tag. Vacchiano notes. The sides remain far apart in talks. The Giants want to keep as much of their defense together for a Super Bowl run during the final three years of Eli Manning‘s contract, Vacchiano writes, but would be hamstrung by Pierre-Paul’s 2017 salary if it’s unable to be reduced via extension.
  • The Giants are likely to cut or reduce the salary of linebacker J.T. Thomas, Vacchiano writes. Signed to three-year, $10MM deal in 2015, Thomas missed 15 games last season after starting 11 in his first Giants slate. A Thomas cut would create $3MM in cap room while saddling the Giants with a $1MM dead money charge.
  • Jay Gruden‘s two-year Redskins extension came together quickly after an impromptu meeting at the Combine, Jason La Canfora of reports. Team president Bruce Allen and Gruden’s agent, Bob LaMonte, met in Indianapolis and agreed to tack two more years on top of the two that remain on his initial Washington deal. La Canfora notes how this will help counter some of the concerns about GM Scot McCloughan‘s status with the team.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jonathan Casillas received small performance-escalator bonuses, per Vacchiano. The fourth-year Giants corner and third-year linebacker will each receive $500K bonuses in their 2017 salaries. DRC will make $6.98MM in base salary, while Casillas will earn $2.75MM.

Giants Sign Jonathan Casillas

WEDNESDAY, 9:36pm: The Giants announced that Casillas’ signing is official, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News tweets.

TUESDAY, 3:22pm: The Giants have agreed to sign linebacker Jonathan Casillas, tweets Dan Graziano of Per Graziano, it’s a three-year deal worth $10.5MM.

Casillas, a 27-year-old journeyman, had spent time with Saints and Buccaneers before being traded to the Patriots last year. In New England, he started three games, but was mostly a special teams contributor. In New York, he’ll join Jon Beason, who recently restructured his contract, at linebacker.

Updates On Players Traded At Deadline

The trade deadline passed a little over a month ago, and while the NFL never sees the level of activity that do other sports, there were several notable players dealt. With 33 days worth of observation, we can begin to assess how certain trades have worked out for the acquiring teams, and if the players involved will remain on their new clubs’ rosters for the long term. Using our list of 2014 NFL trades, here’s a look at the four deals that occurred within a month of the October 28 deadline:

Jets WR Percy Harvin (acquired from Seahawks on 10/18):

  • After sending a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick to Seattle for Harvin, the Jets have employed their new weapon on roughly 68.3% of their offensive snaps. He’s responded by catching 18 passes on 32 targets, totaling 176 yards; he’s also rushed the ball 11 times. New York has utilized Harvin on special teams as well, where he’s returned 11 kickoffs, averaging nearly 24 yards per return. The Jets are turning back to Geno Smith at quarterback, so perhaps the club will use the final five games to determine if Harvin meshes with the second-year QB (although it’s far from guaranteed that Smith will return as the starter next season). Because it acquired Harvin via trade, New York isn’t responsible for any of his prorated bonus money, meaning the club essentially holds a year-to-year option on the receiver. The 26-year-old is owed nearly $10MM in 2015 base salary, and given the Jets’ abundance of cap room, I’d tentatively expect them to retain Harvin.

Patriots LB Akeem Ayers (acquired from Titans on 10/22):

  • It’s odd to think that a player who seemingly couldn’t find a place on the defense of a 2-5 team could immediately slot in as a contributor to one of the best defensive units in the league, but that’s what happened with Ayers, whom the Patriots acquired for just a 2015 sixth-round pick. Ayers, a 2011 second-rounder, has already notched three sacks in only four games with New England. He’s played on about 72.7% of the the Pats’ defensive snaps, after seeing action in just one game (10 snaps) with Tennessee. Ayers is still just 25 years old, and though it’s only been a month since the trade, it looks like the Titans may have given up on a player with untapped potential. Ayers will hit unrestricted free agency after the season.

Patriots LB Jonathan Casillas (acquired from Buccaneers on 10/28):

  • Casillas hasn’t had nearly the impact in New England that has Ayers, as he’s played on less than 16% of defensive snaps. That number is a bit skewed however, as his role has been slowly growing each week — after playing just one snap in his Patriots debut, he saw action on 12 and 22 snaps in Weeks 11 and 12, respectively. Casillas, 27, is a reserve on a talented linebacking corps that includes Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Ayers, so while he might not play much, he could be a valuable piece if a starter suffers an injury. New England actually gave up more (a 2015 fifth-round pick) for Casillas than they did for Ayers; like Ayers, Casillas will be a free agent at season’s end.

Rams S Mark Barron (acquired from Buccaneers on 10/28):

  • Barron garnered the highest draft pick compensation of any of the four players traded near the deadline, as the Rams surrendered 2015 fourth- and sixth-round picks to acquire the 25-year-old defensive back. After playing on nearly half of St. Louis’ defensive snaps in Week 10, his role has been drastically reduced — he saw time on just 25 of 136 snaps during Weeks 11 and 12. Barron, the seventh overall pick in 2012, seems to have fallen behind both T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod on the Rams’ depth chart. He’s under contract for 2015 at a base salary of roughly $2.363MM. St. Louis holds a 2016 option on Barron, but if his playing time doesn’t increase, it could signal that the club doesn’t view him as a integral part of its future.

Pats Acquire Jonathan Casillas From Bucs

3:59pm: The Bucs are getting a 2015 fifth-round pick in the deal in exchange for Casillas and a 2015 sixth-rounder, reports Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). Meanwhile, the Pats have waived offensive lineman Chris Barker to make room on the roster for Casillas, says Field Yates of ESPN Boston (via Twitter).

3:02pm: After acquiring one linebacker (Akeem Ayers) from the Titans last week, the Patriots are finalizing a deal for another, according to Ian Rapoport of, who reports (via Twitter) that the Buccaneers are sending Jonathan Casillas to New England. The move is being completed in advanced of today’s 3:00pm CT trade deadline.

Casillas, 27, began his NFL career with the Saints in 2009 after going undrafted out of Wisconsin. He joined the Bucs in 2013 and has played for the team since then, starting seven of his 17 games with the club. In parts of five seasons, Casillas has accumulated 127 tackles in 55 contests, defending five passes and recovering a pair of fumbles. While he has played 109 defensive snaps so far this season, the Wisconsin product’s playing time has been on the decline since 2011.

Several Buccaneers had been cited as potential trade candidates, but according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (via Twitter), running back Doug Martin isn’t going anywhere, and it sounds as if Vincent Jackson will stay put as well.

Buccaneers To Re-Sign Jonathan Casillas

The Buccaneers have agreed to terms on a new one-year contract with linebacker Jonathan Casillas, according to Scott Smith of (Twitter link). Casillas had been eligible for unrestricted free agency next week.

Casillas, 26, joined the Bucs last season after spending the first three seasons of his NFL career in New Orleans. The Wisconsin alum appeared in the team’s first 12 games, playing a total of 199 defensive snaps, before heading to injured reserve with a knee issue. Casillas was also a contributor on special teams, racking up 11 tackles on return plays.