Justin Bethel

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/23/19

Here are today’s minor transactions:

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

  • Claimed: DL Jonathan Harris (from Bears)

Detroit Lions

Houston Texas

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Patriots To Sign DB Justin Bethel

4:34pm: This visit apparently went incredibly well. The Patriots are signing Justin Bethel, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Bethel will add firepower to the Patriots’ special teams units. The Ravens’ recent release of Bethel will benefit the AFC’s perennial Super Bowl favorites.

4:27pm: A day after the Ravens released Bethel for procedural purposes, the veteran cornerback/special-teamer visited the Patriots, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Although Bethel did not work out as the Cardinals’ starting corner opposite Patrick Peterson, he has become a top special-teamer. Bill Belichick has been known to value that skill, and the 20th-year Patriots coach/exec is taking a look at one of this year’s top AFC rivals’ recently discarded assets.

Bethel, 29, made two tackles in seven Ravens games and recovered a fumble. John Harbaugh, a former special teams coordinator, called the veteran the best special teams player in the league. Bethel made the Pro Bowl three times for his special teams acumen, doing so from 2013-15 in Arizona. It will be interesting to see where he lands. The Patriots already employ a seven-time Pro Bowl special-teamer in Matthew Slater.

Because defensive lineman Brent Urban did not last on the Titans’ roster until Week 10, the Ravens lost their shot at a fourth-round compensatory pick. By dropping Bethel, they resumed their place in the queue. Baltimore values compensatory picks immensely, and it cost the franchise a key specialist in a 5-2 season.

Ravens Release Justin Bethel

On Monday, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced the release of cornerback Justin Bethel. He also called him “the best special teams player in the NFL.”

Bethel didn’t lose his job for performance reasons. Instead, Harbaugh admitted that the Ravens were releasing the veteran in order to potentially pick up a fourth-round compensatory pick.

It’s complicated. Or, as Harbaugh put it, it’s a “funky” rule that will give the Ravens some extra firepower in the draft after defensive lineman Brent Urban, who left the Ravens for the Titans in the offseason, was cut by Tennessee last week.

Because Urban did not last on the Titans’ roster until Week 10, the Ravens lost their shot at a fourth-round compensatory pick. By dropping Bethel, they resumed their place in the queue.

Bethel will now seek work elsewhere, after notching a team-high six tackles for Baltimore.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Sign CB Justin Bethel

The Ravens announced that they’ve signed cornerback/special teamer Justin Bethel to a two-year contract. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) first reported Baltimore as nearing a deal with Bethel.

Bethel has been a starting cornerback in the past, as he played at least 25% of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps in each season from 2015-17. But he’s struggled in that capacity, and is known primarily for his work on special teams. A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro as a special teamer, Bethel played zero defensive snaps for the Falcons in 2018 but saw action on two-thirds of Atlanta’s ST snaps.

Bethel will have little opportunity to play defense in a Baltimore secondary that ranks as one of the league’s best (especially after adding Earl Thomas), but the Ravens have always placed a strong emphasis on special teams play. Bethel will play under new ST coordinator Chris Horton, who replaced longtime Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg earlier today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Sign CB/ST Justin Bethel

The Falcons have signed former Cardinals cornerback and special teamer Justin Bethel, per a Falcons release. ESPN’s Field Yates first reported that a deal between the two sides was done (on Twitter) and ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss first reported that Bethel was likely headed to the Falcons (on Twitter).

Bethel’s deal will be for one year, though the terms have of the deal have yet to be revealed, per ESPN’s Vaughn McLure (on Twitter).

Bethel, 27, has been one of the NFL’s most prominent gunners, having already been selected to three Pro Bowls, and has seen more time at cornerback in recent years with the Cardinals.

Bethel represents the Falcons’ biggest free-agent offseason splash thus far. Up until Saturday, their only free-agent addition was signing former 49ers guard Brandon Fusco and re-signing defensive end Derrick Shelby. The Falcons had hosted Bethel for a visit on Wednesday.

The Cardinals are dealt another loss to their secondary having already watched Tyrann Mathieu sign with the Texans following his release. They added depth to their secondary Friday by signing Bene Benwikere to a one-year deal. Safety Tyvon Branch remains the Cardinals’ final unsigned unrestricted free agent in their secondary.

Bethel didn’t start a single game at cornerback in his first three years in the NFL after the Cardinals took him in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. Over the last three years, though, he’s accumulated 14 starts at cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. He’s racked up four interceptions in that time, including a pick-six in each season.

The Falcons have Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford locked in at cornerback with long-term deals. While Bethel is likely to contribute on the Falcons’ special teams they are thin in their cornerback depth. Brian Poole, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Marcelis Branch currently serve as the only other cornerbacks on the roster outside of Trufant and Alford.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Meet With CB Justin Bethel

Cornerback Justin Bethel will meet with the Falcons on Tuesday, according to a release from the team. This is Bethel’s first known free agent visit of this cycle. 

[RELATED: Falcons’ Depth Chart, Via Roster Resource]

Bethel earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2013-2015, mainly for his special teams work. At different times over the last three seasons, the Cardinals have tried to use Bethel as their No. 2 cornerback opposite star Patrick Peterson. The results were mixed, at best, though he does have four interceptions since 2015.

The Falcons have been pretty quiet in free agency thus far with with guard Brandon Fusco representing their only signing. If Bethel comes to Atlanta, it’ll be largely for special teams purposes with some reps behind starters Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Cards, Rams, Giants

Extension chatter regarding contract-year Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks has died down after some early summer rumblings, but the 27-year-old made it clear Thursday that he’d like to remain in Chicago. Hicks said on multiple occasions that “I would love to be a Bear for a long time,” per JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago. Back in July, in advance of his second season with the Bears, Hicks hired super agent Drew Rosenhaus as his representative. Rosenhaus has reportedly been seeking $10MM per year for Hicks on a new deal. Hicks made a case for that type of money last season when he tallied 54 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles across 16 starts and 930 snaps. Barring a change, he’ll earn a $4MM base salary this season to conclude a two-year, $10MM pact.

Elsewhere around the NFC…

  • Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians referred to cornerback Justin Bethel as a “failure in progress” last season, and it now looks as if the defender took that to heart. Arians announced Thursday that Bethel will start opposite Patrick Peterson come Week 1 (video link via the Arizona Republic). “He’s earned that job,” said Arians, who added that Bethel “outplayed everybody” he was competing against for the role. Bethel, 27, took a pay cut in the offseason just to remain with the Cardinals, who deleted the last year of his contract (2018) in the process. He’ll be eligible for free agency next winter as a result.
  • Rams coach Sean McVay said Wednesday that running back Lance Dunbar is likely to open the season on the physically unable to perform list, according to the Associated Press. Dunbar, who has been battling knee issues, would miss the Rams’ first six games in that scenario. The Rams’ hope was that the offseason signing and former Cowboy would serve as their top complement to starter Todd Gurley for the entire year. With Dunbar unavailable for the foreseeable future, Los Angeles will choose between Malcolm Brown – a 2015 undrafted free agent who has 22 carries for 56 yards under his belt – and undrafted rookie Justin Davis to begin the year as the main backup to Gurley.
  • Cornerback Valentino Blake left the Giants on Wednesday because “he’s dealing with personal issues,” coach Ben McAdoo told reporters Thursday (via Dan Duggan of NJ.com) “We’re going to give him some time and space to deal with those.” It remains unclear whether Blake will resume his career, and it’s also unknown how long the Giants will keep him on the exempt list. They’re currently using Blake’s vacated spot on safety Tim Scott, a Thursday signing.

West Rumors: Conley, Broncos, Cardinals

It took the Raiders until their training camp eve to reach an agreement with first-round pick Gareon Conley. Although no legal clarity has come after a woman accused the cornerback of sexual assault in April, the Raiders did not design Conley’s contract with that alleged incident in mind. Conley’s deal contains 90 percent guaranteed money, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, adding the language in the four-year contract is standard despite the legal cloud surrounding the ex-Ohio State defender presently. The Raiders also agreed to terms with second-rounder Obi Melifonwu this week. Titans first-rounder Corey Davis is the only unsigned pick remaining.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions on opening camp weekend.

  • The Broncos opened 2016 with a dominant outside linebacker corps, with DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett joining Von Miller in the fold. Miller has none of those sidekicks available for the time; Ray and Barrett may both be out throughout the preseason. Vance Joseph discussed the early replacement hierarchy here Saturday, calling recent UFA signing Kasim Edebali the top edge rusher alongside Miller (via Mike Klis of 9News, on Twitter). Edebali played three years with the Saints but wasn’t offered an RFA tender in March, leading to his one-year deal with the Broncos.
  • Bruce Arians said Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams could be battling for the Cardinals‘ No. 2 cornerback job until the final week of the preseason, but Williams and others will have some additional opportunities to build a case early. Bethel suffered a hyperextended knee and will be out for the coming days, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com reports. Arians did not believe this injury was serious, but given this position duel likely coming down to the wire, it stands to raise Bethel’s degree of difficulty here.
  • Regarding Williams, the second-year man has evidently been usurped on the depth chart by Ronald Zamort — a 2016 UDFA who spent last season on Arizona’s practice squad — according to Kent Somers of AZCentral.com (on Twitter). The Cardinals have been connected to Brandon Flowers and Tramon Williams this week, and Arians’ status on his own corners looks to have changed. Somers notes he now wants to add a veteran.
  • The Raiders‘ handling of Donald Penn‘s holdout will be key to how future free agents view the team, Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News writes. The Raiders relied immensely on free agency in recent years, Penn being one of the key signings. On a two-year deal worth $6.25MM AAV, the 34-year-old Penn is now by far the fourth-highest-paid offensive lineman on his own team, after the Raiders made Gabe Jackson an $11MM-per-year man in June. Penn saw a host of less proven tackles sign for more than him this offseason, and he’s seeking top-10 left tackle money. His per-year wages rank 20th presently. The Raiders have just more than $14MM in cap space. Oakland lined up Marshall Newhouse at Penn’s left tackle spot and second-year man Vadal Alexander at right tackle on Saturday.
  • Menelik Watson has missed 37 of a possible 64 regular-season games due to various injuries through four seasons, and the Broncos‘ projected right tackle starter dropped a lot of weight in an attempt to stay on the field. The former Raiders right tackle is close to 315 pounds after playing in the 340s earlier in his career, per Troy Renck of Denver7 (Twitter links), noting Watson told him the reduction is because of the slew of setbacks he encountered.
  • Joseph won’t have 5-foot-7 rookie Isaiah McKenzie return kicks due to his slight frame, Klis tweets. Carlos Henderson and Cody Latimer are vying to handle those duties for the Broncos while McKenzie has the inside track to return punts. This is a deviation of sorts for a Broncos team who received high-end kick-return production from 5-5 Trindon Holliday in 2012-13. The team has not had much success in this area since, leading to the selection of McKenzie in the fifth round.

West Notes: Broncos, Cardinals, 49ers

The Broncos entered the offseason with questions at two of the game’s most important positions – quarterback and left tackle – and that remains the case, writes Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. But general manager John Elway, who’s sticking with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch under center and drafted ex-Utah left tackle Garett Bolles in the first round, expects the Broncos to return to the playoffs in 2017. “I like where we are. I like where we’ll be if we continue to work,” said Elway, whose club went 9-7 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Elway added that the Broncos are “a pretty good football team,” which led him to trade two draft picks and reduce his selection total from 10 to eight. “We had the meeting before the draft started … and we started counting numbers,” Elway explained. “It’s going to be hard to make our football team. We’ve got a lot of good football players, so that’s why we have to be that good in the draft because we’ve got to find guys that can come in and compete and have a chance to make our football team.”

Now the latest on a couple NFC West teams:

  • Regarding his decision to accept a pay cut earlier this offseason, Cardinals cornerback and special teams standout Justin Bethel told Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic, “It’s called betting on yourself.” Bethel agreed to a reworked contract that hacked $2MM off his base salary for this season and erased the final year of his deal, 2018, which will give him an opportunity to hit free agency next March. In order to cash in, though, Bethel will need to be more of a defensive factor than he was last season, when he only saw action in 25 percent of snaps. Along the way, head coach Bruce Arians called Bethel a “failure in progress.” But Arians acknowledged last month that a broken foot may have held Bethel back, and the defender agrees. “Before I broke my foot, I thought I was going to come into the season and earn the starting job,” Bethel said. “I still had high hopes that I would be healthy by training camp. That wasn’t the case. I was just trying to make it through (the season). I knew I wasn’t healthy enough to play corner all the time.” Bethel and Arians are now “on good terms,” according to Bethel, who will get a chance to start opposite Patrick Peterson in 2017. With free agency looming, the upcoming campaign will be a make-or-break season for Bethel, opines Bickley.
  • The 49ers have tabbed Ran Carthon as their new director of pro personnel, general manager John Lynch announced Friday. Carthon served in the same role with the NFC West rival Rams over the previous five seasons, before they dismissed him last month.
  • In other 49ers news, the team worked out defensive lineman Carlos Wray on Thursday, tweets Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. Wray was among three defensive linemen whom the 49ers auditioned, along with the previously reported Kedric Golston and Cedric Reed. A former Duke Blue Devil, Wray signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent last spring, but they waived/injured him in July.

Cardinals Targeting CBs In Draft?

Entering the 2017 draft in slightly worse shape, depth-wise, at cornerback than they appeared last season, the Cardinals have identified that area as a place to target in the upcoming draft, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com notes.

Still housing a throng of uncertain cogs alongside Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals lost Marcus Cooper to the Bears and did not make any notable additions to the position group. Bruce Arians, though, identified cornerback as one of the positions the team could target a player to learn behind current veterans this season. The fifth-year Arizona coach also included wide receiver and inside linebacker in that category.

Arizona again has Justin Bethel and 2016 third-rounder Brandon Williams as top in-house candidates to start opposite Peterson. Arians could be counting on the Cardinals’ recent ability to unearth some Day 2 and Day 3 standouts to help out this group, however.

“I don’t know if we can get all those high picks, but we’ve been really, really lucky from round three to round six, I think, of getting some quality guys, and as college free agents, too,” Arians said, via Weinfuss.

The Cardinals added the likes of Tyrann Mathieu, John Brown, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson and Rodney Gunter in Rounds 3-5 over the past four years. Arians also called this draft “loaded with corners.” While ESPN.com’s Todd McShay (Insider link) placed Marshon Lattimore and Kevin King as second- and third-tier players in this draft, respectively, the ESPN draft guru put six corners — Gareon Conley (Ohio State), Quincy Wilson (Florida), Tre’Davious White (LSU), Marlon Humphrey (Alabama), Jourdan Lewis (Michigan) and Adoree’ Jackson (USC) — on his next tier of draftable prospects. McShay also includes Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu, whom some teams like as a corner, in this group.

Arizona added veterans in recent years to team with Peterson, with Antonio Cromartie, Cooper and Mike Jenkins — the latter of whom did not play after a season-ending injury in camp — but Weinfuss notes the Cardinals may not want to go that route again. Some interesting options are out there if the Cards don’t like what they see early in the offseason, though. Tramon Williams, Shareece Wright, Alterraun Verner, Sam Shields and Darrelle Revis are UFAs. Teams are also monitoring former 49ers starter Tramaine Brock, should he not be charged with domestic violence for the alleged incident that prompted his Niners exit.

Furthering this sense the Cardinals may go with what they have: Arians also appears to have softened his stance on Bethel, whom he called a “failure in progress” last season. Bethel did accept a paycut this offseason, though.

I think Justin Bethel is going to play a hell of a lot better if he can finally practice,” Arians said, via Weinfuss. “He hasn’t practiced for two years on that broken foot. I think he’s going to really, really take off with it this spring so I feel fine with those guys.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.