Justin Gilbert

Justin Gilbert Gets Four-Game Suspension

The NFL has suspended free agent cornerback Justin Gilbert for the first four weeks of the regular season, as Courtney Fallon of NFL Network was first to report (on Twitter). Gilbert’s ban stems from a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

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Gilbert’s suspension is yet another blow in what has been a disastrous pro career for the 25-year-old. After going eighth overall to Cleveland in the 2014 draft, Gilbert struggled mightily with the Browns on the field over two years, totaling just three starts and one interception in 23 games, and drew criticism from owner Jimmy Haslam for his lack of maturity.

The Browns gave up on Gilbert last summer, trading him to the AFC North rival Steelers for a 2018 sixth-round pick. Gilbert also failed to realize his potential in Pittsburgh, though, as he played a meager 11 defensive snaps in 12 games. The Steelers cut Gilbert in February, and there hasn’t been any reported interest in him since he hit the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Notes: Brown, Bell, Timmons, Jones

The Steelers have a number of to-do items on their offseason docket, and today general manager Kevin Colbert addressed the media with a focus on what Pittsburgh plans on doing over the next few months. Let’s take a look at the highlights from Colbert’s press conference, courtesy of Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

  • Stating that he wants both wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell to remain Steelers for life, Colbert said the club has opened extension talks with Brown, the only player with whom Pittsburgh has discussed a new deal, according to Dulac. Brown is signed through 2017 with a cap charge of roughly $13.6MM, while Bell is an unrestricted free agent but will likely be retained via the franchise tag. Colbert specifically called reaching a new contract with Brown an offseason “priority,” although a recent report indicated that talks between the two sides will move slowly.
  • Re-signing veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons could also be in the cards for the Steelers, but negotiations with Timmons won’t be as cut-and-dry as talks with Brown and Bell. “Would you like to have him stay? Absolutely,” Colbert said. “Does it all fit? We can make it work, but at what cost? He’s never been a free agent. I’d like to see him finish his career here and he would too.” Timmons, 30, has spent a decade in Pittsburgh, and is coming off a 78-tackle, 2.5-sack season.
  • The Steelers aren’t counting on former second-round cornerback Senquez Golson, who has missed his first two seasons in the NFL with injury, for anything more than potential depth. “I’m a little more apprehensive,” said Colbert. “Just from sitting out two years, where you haven’t played at all, it’s not real easy to just step out there and catch up.” As such, Colbert said Pittsburgh could consider selecting a cornerback in this year’s draft.
  • Because Golson is a question mark, the Steelers could be open to re-signing cornerback Justin Gilbert, who was released last week, tweets Dulac. Gilbert has become a massive draft bust since being selected eighth overall in 2014, and played only 11 defensive snaps last season. He’s still just 25 years old, however, and would make for an interesting (if uninspiring) depth peice.
  • Despite reports of a possible retirement, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return in 2017, and the Steelers hope to re-sign backup signal-caller Landry Jones, as well, as Dulac writes. “We’d like to have Landry stay in the mix,” Colbert said. “Will we add a guy? Absolutely. When? It’s hard to say. Sooner or later we will have to address that.” If Pittsburgh doesn’t view Jones as the long-term replacement for Roethlisberger, the club could look to draft a QB at some point.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Garcon, Garoppolo

Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon would be a quality free agent pickup for the Ravens, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com argues. The Ravens have a history of success with 30-something WRs (Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr.) and Garcon could nicely complement the speed of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Recently, GM Ozzie Newsome talked about his desire to add a receiver with experience and Garcon fits the bill.

Some of the success that we have had here is going out — whether it is by trade or free agency or cap casualty — and getting a veteran receiver that still has some juice left, that still has the ability to play at a high level,” Newsome said. “When I was talking about getting a complementary receiver, that is what I was referring to. It does not necessarily have to come through the draft, but it can come through other means. We definitely will be pursuing that this year.”

Here’s more out of the AFC North:

Steelers Cut Justin Gilbert

The Steelers have cut cornerback Justin Gilbert, per a team announcement, thus ending a short tenure in Pittsburgh for the 25-year-old.
Justin Gilbert

Gilbert joined the Steelers last September via trade with the AFC North rival Browns, who acquired a 2018 sixth-round selection in return. That came just two years after the Browns used the eighth overall pick in the draft on Gilbert, an ex-Oklahoma State star whose success in college hasn’t translated to the pros. Gilbert logged only three starts in two years with the Browns, and he didn’t pick up any in 12 appearances with the Steelers. All told, he played just 11 defensive snaps in Pittsburgh and made one tackle.

Going forward, Gilbert’s 2017 cap charge – upward of $2.17MM – will come off the Steelers’ books, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Trade CB Justin Gilbert To Steelers

1:10pm: The Browns will receive a 2018 sixth-rounder for Gilbert, per a club announcement.

12:44pm: We have not just a trade alert, but an intra-divisional trade alert. The Browns are trading former first-round cornerback Justin Gilbert to the Steelers, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Gilbert, whom the Browns chose eighth overall in the 2014 draft, is one of five first-rounders Cleveland used from 2012-14. None of the players they chose are currently on their roster, as Field Yates of ESPN tweets.

An ex-Oklahoma State Cowboy, Gilbert struggled mightly as a member of the Browns, with whom he appeared in 23 of 32 possible regular-season games and made only three starts. Just nine of those appearances and one start came last year for Gilbert, who amassed 10 tackles and failed to record an interception.

Still only 24, Gilbert will now join contending Pittsburgh, where he’ll attempt to realize his vast potential. The Steelers already have a couple of recent high picks among their top corners in the form of two 2016 selections – first-rounder Artie Burns and second-rounder Sean Davis. William Gay and Ross Cockrell are likely to start, as Roster Resource shows.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Geno, Raiders, Browns, Chiefs, Broncos

Geno Smith‘s prospects when it comes to turning into a viable starting quarterback in the NFL ostensibly aren’t good, but one of his Jets teammates – receiver Brandon Marshall – thinks the 24-year-old has a bright future.

“But like I said from the beginning — and I’ll stand by this — Geno is going to have a monster year, but unfortunately he’s not in it right now,” Marshall said Friday on SiriusXM Radio, according to Newsday’s Kimberley A. Martin. “But he’ll get his shot. He’s still young and he has a long career ahead of him.”

Smith was supposed to be the Jets’ starter this year, but ex-teammate IK Enemkpali broke Smith’s jaw with a punch in August. Since then, Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken the reins and helped lead the Jets to a 2-0 start. As a result, Fitzpatrick has earned a vote of confidence from head coach Todd Bowles. Even without Fitzpatrick to take into consideration, the fact is that Smith hasn’t played well during his career. The 2013 second-round pick’s completion percentage sits in the high-50s and he’s thrown 25 touchdowns against 34 interceptions in 30 games.

Other news and notes from the AFC:

  • Oakland city and stadium officials have restarted exploratory talks on a new stadium with the Raiders, ESPN’s Bill Williamson reports. The Raiders have set a deadline for Oakland to figure out a new stadium plan by year’s end. If no progress is made, the Raiders – whose lease expires at the end of the season – could relocate to Carson, Calif.
  • The Browns had two first-round picks in the 2014 draft. They came out of the round with cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel. Gilbert’s career has been an abject disaster thus far, and Manziel’s hasn’t been a whole lot better. The Browns’ Sunday opponent is the Raiders, whose first two picks in 2014 were star linebacker Khalil Mack and blossoming QB Derek Carr. With that in mind, Tom Reed of Cleveland.com took a look at what could have been for the Browns.
  • In other Browns news, they tried out free agent receiver Jerry Rice Jr. this week, tweets Pro Football Talk. The son of the greatest wideout ever went undrafted out of UNLV in 2014 and has spent time with Washington and Baltimore.
  • Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who won an offseason battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has regained his spot as a starter in the team’s base defense, coordinator Bob Sutton said (link via Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star). This comes on the heels of the three-time Pro Bowler playing 71 of 73 snaps in the Chiefs’ Week 2 loss to Denver. Berry’s increase in playing time means a decrease for Hussein Abdullah, who played 37 percent of snaps in Week 2 compared to 86 in Week 1.
  • The Broncos’ defense has allowed the fewest yards per game and the seventh-fewest points per game this year. Their players and coaches believe third-year tackle Sylvester Williams has played a key role in their success. “It’s exciting to start to see him develop into the type of player that we all know that he can be,” linebacker Von Miller said, according to Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post. “He’ll have a heck of a year. He’s truly a hard worker,” added defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. “He’s got talent, but a lot of guys have talent and they don’t work how he does.”

AFC Notes: Folk, Gilbert, Pryor, Ravens

The Jets entered the day with the second-least amount of cap space in the league, but an adjustment to their kicker’s salary will give them some breathing room.

Nick Folk agreed to convert $1.78MM of his $2.5MM base salary into a signing bonus, freeing up more than $1.18MM in cap space, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). This leaves the Jets with just more than $2.17MM worth of space heading into the season; they previously had just $985K, which was ahead of only the Saints’ $465K +, according to OverTheCap.

Folk enters the season with a $1.46MM cap number.

Here is some news from around the AFC, with Week 1 approaching for 30 teams.

  • Justin Gilbert‘s road-rage incident won’t affect his status for Sunday, but the strained hip flexor the second-year Browns cornerback suffered Aug. 18 might, notes Mary Kay Kabot of Cleveland.com.
  • Recently cut from the Browns after initially making the roster out of the preseason, Terrelle Pryor will work out for two teams this week, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. The former Ohio State and Raiders quarterback will do so as a receiver for both teams, who were not named in the report.
  • Ravens rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis will replace Timmy Jernigan in the starting lineup against the Broncos due to Jernigan’s doubtful status due to a right knee injury, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com reports. Hensley rates Davis, a third-round pick, as the team’s most impressive rookie thus far.
  • Baltimore has also ruled out Breshad Perriman and Lorenzo Taliaferro, per Hensley.

Extra Points: Gilbert, RGIII, Dolphins, CAA

Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert was involved in a road rage incident on Friday, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). The 23-year-old crashed his car into a ditch after being pursued by another driver, who he had had a previous disagreement with.

Rapoport notes that Gilbert was sober and not injured, and police ultimately issued him a ticket for lack of reasonable control. Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com tweets that Gilbert notified the Browns organization immediately, and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says (via Twitter) that the cornerback will be on the team plane to New Jersey.

Some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Now that Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III has been cleared of concussion symptoms, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com believes the organization should part ways with the former second-overall pick.
  • The Dolphins have seemed to patch together an offseason line for this season, but the group is confident in their ability. “We are going to surprise people,” Branden Albert told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “Everyone doubted us last year and I think they’re doubting us again.”
  • Creative Artist Agency (better known as CAA) is set to acquire Five Star Athlete Management, the agency run by Todd France, reports Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes.com. CAA will add 50 clients to their agency, meaning they’ll represent around 180 players.

AFC Links: Mettenberger, Manziel, Cyprien, Broncos

After an impressive showing Friday night behind already-anointed starter Marcus Mariota, Zach Mettenberger should be a Bills or Jets trade target, offers Louis Riddick of ESPN.com.

But the value the Titans would extract in such an exchange wouldn’t equal what they’ll receive with the second-year quarterback serving as key depth behind the No. 2 overall pick, writes Riddick’s ESPN cohort, Paul Kuharsky.

The ESPN Titans reporter notes Mettenberger’s value will go up in time and trading him for what could amount to merely a conditional draft pick now won’t outweigh having a potentially talented backup in case Mariota struggles or experiences health concerns.

Let’s look at some more news from around the AFC.

  • Joining Julius Thomas as an injury-induced preseason spectator will be Jaguars starting safety Jonathan Cyprien, who will miss August with a broken finger in his right hand sustained Friday night, according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union (via Twitter). The 2013 second-rounder’s Week 1 status is uncertain, but Cyprien did play through the injury Friday night and won’t require surgery. Jags coach Gus Bradley is optimistic both will be available, however, per Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • Mike Pettine admitted in an interview with Sports Illustrated he fired quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains due to Johnny Manziel not being held accountable for a disastrous rookie season, notes Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “What we did not do a good enough job here [last year], not nearly a good enough job, is holding [Manziel] accountable, even when he wasn’t the guy,” Pettine told Sports Illustrated. “That’s the main reason why I made the switch at the QB coach position.” The Browns now have 30-year-old Kevin O’Connell in charge of Manziel’s development.
  • The Browns’ coach has been publicly challenging players all week, noting his disagreement with Justin Gilbert‘s “flawless” assessment of his play Thursday night, per Jeff Schudel of the News-Herald.
  • The Broncos‘ hopes at attaining a third Super Bowl title hinge on their defense making good on expectations, unlike last year, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post. They bring back most of the starting unit, with Terrance Knighton‘s nose tackle spot being the most noticeable void.
  • Dan Herron shouldn’t expect to serve in any type of committee with Frank Gore this season, and the fourth-year runner may not have a claim to the third-down back role he occupied at the end of last season, writes Kevin Bowen of Colts.com. Herron did catch 21 passes last season despite starting just three games, while Gore snagged 11 throughout the season.

Cornerback Notes: Cromartie, Gilbert, House

Free agent Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie reiterated his interest in returning to the Jets, tweets the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz. On rejoining the Jets, whom he spent the 2010-13 seasons with before they released him last year, Cromartie said, “It would be an easy choice, if the opportunity presented itself,” according to Schwartz. Cromartie racked up 13 interceptions and two Pro Bowl nods during his tenure in New York.

Here’s more on Cromartie and a couple of his fellow NFL corners:

  • The 31-year-old Cromartie spent 2014 with the Cardinals, for whom he appeared in all 16 regular-season games, amassed three interceptions and made another Pro Bowl. Cromartie’s defensive coordinator in Arizona was Todd Bowles, whom the Jets hired as their coach last month. Despite being in the midst of a four-year playoff drought and hiring a first-time head coach, Cromartie said, “I don’t think the Jets are rebuilding at all,” according to Schwartz.
  • The BrownsJustin Gilbert is drawing heat from team owner Jimmy Haslam. “Justin clearly needs to mature,” Haslam told reporters earlier this week, according to the Akron Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich. Gilbert, the eighth overall pick in 2014, totaled just 29 tackles and one interception during his rookie year. Despite his less-than-glowing appraisal of Gilbert, Haslam isn’t giving up on the 22-year-old, whom he called a “very gifted athlete.” Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith writes that Gilbert will be in danger of being labeled a bust if he doesn’t mature in his second year.
  • Finding a starting job will be the main priority for Packers free agent CB Davon House this offseason, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein. “I don’t like the role just playing special teams, especially when I know I can contribute,” said House. The 25-year-old went on to acknowledge that, although he’d like to stay with the Packers, he doesn’t think he’ll be one of the team’s main priorities this offseason because Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga also need new contracts. “I won’t be back until they all get done. It makes no sense for me to get done before them,” he told Silverstein.