Kemal Ishmael

South Rumors: Titans, Luck, Jags, Falcons

Perhaps no team’s free agency plan hinges on the CBA more than the Titans‘. They have three marquee free agents, and the previously reported goal of extending Ryan Tannehill soon looks to have an auxiliary purpose. The Titans’ hopes of extending Tannehill before the franchise-transition tag window closes March 12 doubles as a way to keep Tannehill, Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin. Tennessee would then like to use both its tags on Henry and Conklin, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. The Conklin component here is interesting, as little has emerged on a possible reunion between the tackle and the Titans. It will almost certainly require a tag to keep the former first-round lineman off the market. Conklin has generated immense interest thus far.

This Titans plan might not be viable, leading to some frenetic extension talks in order to prevent them from losing two members of this trio. Teams may not be permitted to use both tags. While a ruling has yet to emerge, the possibility of a CBA ratification forcing a team to vacate one of its tags remains in play.

Here is the latest from the South divisions:

  • No surprise here, but the Jaguars are prepared to use their franchise tag on Yannick Ngakoue, La Canfora adds. The standout defensive end held out from Jags offseason activities last year and will not be pleased the team will prevent him from hitting the market, per JLC. The Jaguars not picking up Marcell Dareus‘ option freed up $20MM in cap space, giving them just more than $21MM — just enough for an approximately $18MM Ngakoue tag. GM Dave Caldwell called Ngakoue the team’s top priority at the end of last season.
  • Jim Irsay appears to be hoping Andrew Luck will change his mind, but Frank Reich does not expect him to. The Colts HC continues to talk to the team’s former franchise quarterback, but those discussions apparently do not progress to the subject of a comeback. “I talk to him; we communicate. I sense none of that. We don’t talk about that,” Reich said, during an appearance on PFT Live, about an NFL return for the 30-year-old passer. “I think he’s retired. He’s like any other ex-player. You’re always going to miss your buddies in the locker room. That’s normal. I don’t read into that a clue that he wants to come back. He’s just a good friend.”
  • A Falcons cog for seven seasons, Kemal Ishmael will likely have to find another team in order to continue his career. The seven-year veteran linebacker-safety will not be brought back, according to Ishmael’s agent (via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The Falcons have shuttled the 28-year-old defender/special-teamer between safety and linebacker and have re-signed him to one-year deals in each of the past three offseasons.

Injury Notes: Vernon, Falcons, Njoku, Cole

With defensive lineman Myles Garrett and Larry Objunjobi suspended for this week’s matchup against the Bengals, the Browns were hoping to invite starting end Olivier Vernon back into the lineup after missing the team’s previous two games with a knee injury. However, according to Mary Kay Kabot of Cleveland.com, Vernon has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, leaving Sheldon Richardson as the team’s only primary starter along the defensive front.

It has been a chaotic season for Cleveland, reaching a climax in last Thursday’s on-field fight with the Steelers. Hoping to put that in the rear-view mirror the Browns will have to rely heavily on their depth to build some positive momentum.

Here’s some more injury notes from around the NFL:

  • The Falcons will be without two of their primary offensive weapons this weekend. Running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Austin Hooper are both out for this Sunday’s game alongside rotational defensive back Kemal Ishmael, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitutional.
  • Browns tight end David Njoku will not return this week from the injured reserve, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Njoku, who has been rehabbing a wrist injury, returned to practice this week, but is not quite ready for game action.
  • Texans linebacker Dylan Cole is out for the season with a torn ACL, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Cole served as Houston’s primary backup at two linebacker positions and played a major role in the team’s special teams. He played in 11 games and recorded 16 tackles on the season. Going forward, the Texans will need to sure up their depth on special teams and on the second level of their defense.

Falcons Re-Sign LB Kemal Ishmael

The Falcons have re-signed linebacker Kemal Ishmael to a one-year deal, the club announced Wednesday.

A seventh-round pick in the 2013 draft, Ishmael has spent his entire career in Atlanta. He saw the most action of his pro tenure back in 2014, when he made 10 starts and posted four interceptions. Since then, he’s made only 10 additional starts, but has played in 61 of a possible 64 games.

Originally drafted as a defensive back, Ishmael has since morphed into a linebacker. Last season, Ishmael played only 64 defensive snaps (the fewest of his career), but played a career-high 330 snaps on special teams, registering 21 tackles in the process. For what it’s worth, Atlanta finished 10th in Football Outsiders’ special teams metrics, but that ranking was mostly due to kicker Matt Bryant‘s success.

Last offseason, Ishmael re-signed with the Falcons on a one-year deal worth $1MM. That pact contained $210K in guaranteed money, and Ishmael likely inked a similar contract this time around.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Re-Sign Kemal Ishmael

For the second straight offseason, the Falcons and Kemal Ishmael have agreed to terms on a one-year deal. The team announced Wednesday the safety will remain in the fold.

A seventh-round pick in 2013, Ishmael has played his entire career with the Falcons. He saw action in all 16 regular-season games last season, representing depth.

The 25-year-old defender saw action at both safety and linebacker last season, playing 126 defensive snaps. A Falcons/Ishmael reunion was rumored late last month and the organization clearly likes what the the former Central Florida defender brings to the table.

Ishmael’s 12 special teams tackles were tied for 12th last season and second among Falcons. He’s now in line to continue working in this capacity in 2018. Atlanta placed a second-round RFA tender on Ricardo Allen and has Keanu Neal signed as its other starting safety. The team is currently light on backup linebackers, an area that will likely be addressed in the draft, however.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Giants, Falcons, Saints

With the quarterback carousel of the 2018 offseason winding down, it is now time for team’s with entrenched signal-callers to review their current deals. At the forefront of that list is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The two sides have been long expected to come to an agreement on a new deal this offseason and Packers president Mark Murphy still expects a new deal to get done this offseason, Chris Roth of WBAY-TV in Green Bay tweets.

It only made sense for Rodgers to wait for Kirk Cousins to set the bar, and he did that when he inked a three-year, $84MM deal with the Vikings earlier this month. Currently, Rodgers’ 2013 extension — which runs through 2019 — pays him $22MM annually. He can expect that number to inch close to an annual salary of $30MM.

Before missing nine games in 2017 with a collarbone injury, Rodgers had played in all 16 games in three consecutive seasons. During that time, the Packers great earned three Pro Bowl selections, a First Team All-Pro nod and claimed league MVP honors in 2014.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Giants trade of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul does not mean the team is dead set on taking his replacement with Bradley Chubb at the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft, SportsNet New York’s Ralph Vacchiano writes. He says the move was simply the team dumping JPP’s contract, and the team is happy to move forward with Olivier Vernon, Kareem Martin and Josh Mauro. That being said, the team could still nab the N.C. State standout if it is not sold on a quarterback or wary of taking a running back in Saquon Barkley.
  • The Falcons could be bringing back safety Kemal Ishmael, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure heads (Twitter link). The versatile hybrid safety has spent five seasons with the Falcons, starting 20 of his 65 career games. In 2017, Ishmael logged one sack and 24 tackles in 16 games.
  • Among several other spots, the Saints can also stand to improve their wide receiver corps, The Times-Picayune’s Larry Holder writes. The team is locked into Michael Thomas as the No. 1 of the future, but the Saints could also bring in a veteran like Jordan Matthews or address the position in the draft, according to Holder. The writer also mentions running back, tight end, fullback and defensive tackle as positions that need to be improved upon.

NFC South Notes: Falcons, Panthers, Bucs

The Falcons have opened extension talks with quarterback Matt Ryan, general manager Thomas Dimitroff told reporters, including Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link), at the combine today. Ryan, 32, has only one year left on his current contract at a cost of $19.25MM in base salary. On an annual basis, Ryan ranks just 14th among quarterbacks, but any new deal will likely catapult him into $28MM+ range. Atlanta has previously expressed a willingness to make Ryan the highest-paid signal-caller in the NFL, so Ryan and his camp may prefer to wait until free agent passer Kirk Cousins inks a new contract (expected to be worth ~$30MM annually) before working out his own pact.

Here’s more from Atlanta and the rest of the NFC South:

  • Left tackle Jake Matthews is set to play on his fifth-year option in 2018, and Dimitroff indicated the Falcons are interested in signing both Matthews and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to multi-year deals, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Matthews has settled in as an above-average tackle since being selected sixth overall in the 2014 draft. He’s scheduled to earn $12.496MM next season. Jarrett, likewise, has developed into one of the league’s best interior defenders, and graded 14th among 122 defensive tackles a year ago, according to Pro Football Focus.
  • Falcons wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and linebacker Kemal Ishmael will both be allowed to hit free agency, Dimitroff said today (Twitter links via McClure). That doesn’t necessarily mean Atlanta doesn’t have interest in retaining either player, but the club will allow Gabriel and Ishmael to gauge their value on the open market. Last season, Gabriel regressed from his excellent 2016 campaign, while Ishmael spent the majority of his time on special teams.
  • Bids for the Panthers franchise haven’t yet been entered, but the sale of the club is likely to be wrapped up in time for the NFL’s spring meeting in late May, report David Newton and Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. At that point, the league’s finance committee must approve any potential deal, and 24 of the NFL’s 32 owners must vote to go forward with the sale. Presently, the only two serious contenders to purchase the Panthers from current owner Jerry Richardson are hedge fund manager/minority Steelers owner David Tepper and South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro, per the ESPN scribes.
  • While the Buccaneers have had conversations with free agent backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, they aren’t nearing a new deal, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). Fitzpatrick, 35, managed a 2-1 record in relief of starter Jameis Winston last season while completing 59% of his passes for six touchdowns and three interceptions. He earned $3MM for his year of work in Tampa Bay.

Falcons To Re-Sign Kemal Ishmael

The Falcons reached an agreement to retain safety Kemal Ishmael on a one-year deal, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (on Twitter). A part-time starter during his first four seasons in Atlanta, Ishmael agreed to a $2.5MM contract.

Atlanta wanted to retain its former seventh-round find prior to free agency and will do so four days into the process. Ishmael started four games for the NFC champions last season and has opened with the Falcons’ first unit in 19 games during his tenure in Georgia.

Ishmael arrived in 2013’s final draft round out of Central Florida and won’t turn 25 until May. He played 310 snaps for the 2016 Falcons and figures to slot in as a depth piece behind Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal in 2017. Ishmael’s most notable season came in 2014, when he started 10 games for Atlanta and made 96 tackles. He notched four of his five career interceptions that season.

The NFC’s No. 2-seeded team did not have Ishmael for its three playoff games, however, after a shoulder injury sent the 24-year-old defender to IR.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: Pats, Jefferson, Jags, Falcons

Free agency officially opens on March 9, so let’s round up a few FA-related notes and rumors from around the league:

  • Although it is difficult, as usual, to pin down the Patriots‘ free agency plans, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe does his best, writing that the club is “taking a long look” at the tight end position but that Martellus Bennett could certainly be back, that the team is in the defensive end market now that Chris Long is gone and Jabaal Sheard appears unlikely to return, and that Logan Ryan is likely to price himself out of the Patriots’ price range. Volin names the Jaguars and Raiders as two teams with serious interest in Bennett.
  • Speaking of the Jaguars, the club is expected to let Tyson Alualu hit the open market, as Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union writes.
  • In a separate piece, O’Halloran lists the Jaguars‘ most pressing needs in free agency and examines how they could address those needs with an aggressive approach or with a more disciplined approach. He predicts that the Jags will land this year’s top FA cornerback, A.J. Bouye, if Bouye does not re-sign with Houston.
  • Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, citing an agent who represents a FA safety, says that the CardinalsTony Jefferson can expect to land a contract that will pay him $7MM per year (Twitter link). Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, though, tweets that Jefferson is likely to get paid closer to $10MM per year.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the Falcons, who are moving towards an extension for Desmond Trufant, want to re-sign tight end Levine Toilolo, safety/linebacker Kemal Ishmael, and fullback Patrick DiMarco before free agency opens. The team is expected to let Jacob Tamme hit free agency and to wait until after the draft to make a decision on Dwight Freeney. Atlanta is also waiting to hear back from guard Chris Chester, who is contemplating retirement.
  • The Falcons plan to upgrade their defensive front in free agency and the draft, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. The club is expected to re-sign Courtney Upshaw, and McClure names Cowboys’ DT Terrell McClain as one potential target for Atlanta.
  • Mike Klis of 9News.com writes that the Broncos are seeking help on both the offensive and defensive line in free agency, but he observes that the club may be operating with two budgets: one that includes Tony Romo, and one that doesn’t. Even if Denver does not land the long-time Cowboys signal-caller, Klis says the Broncos will have to manage the cap creatively, as they have a number of housekeeping moves to make that will eat into their $35MM of cap room, and offensive and defensive linemen do not come cheap on the open market.

NFL Workout Updates: 12/19/16

The Falcons worked out several safeties today, including veteran Dashon Goldson, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Goldson has already spent time with Atlanta this season, appearing in four games for the club earlier in the year. The Falcons also took at look defensive backs Earl Wolff and Floyd Raven as they seek to replace Kemal Ishmael, who was placed on IR last week.

Here’s more from the workout circuit:

  • Veteran linebacker Joplo Bartu met with the Dolphins today, per Caplan (Twitter link). Bartu has been in the league since 2013, and has 48 games of experience — including 28 starts — under his belt during time with Atlanta and Jacksonville. However, the 26-year-old Bartu hasn’t started a contest since 2014.
  • The Bears worked out a slew of players on Monday, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter links). Chicago met with the following players today: defensive ends Jeoffrey Pagan and Mike Rose; linebackers Taiwan Jones and Frank Beltre; and defensive backs V’Angelo Bentley, Forrest Hightower, Dwayne Hollis, Rashaad Reynolds, and Mitchell White.
  • The Seahawks visited with free agent running back George Winn, tweets Caplan. Winn, who has bounced on and off the Lions and Giants practice squads this season, could add depth on a Seattle roster that has already lost C.J. Prosise and Troymaine Pope for the year.
  • Running back Terrell Watson tried out for the Eagles today, according to Caplan (Twitter link). Philadelphia recently placed RB Wendell Smallwood on injured reserve, meaning Watson — a former Bengals and Browns preseason star — could be a fit.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/16/16

The latest minor moves from around the NFL:

  • The Broncos signed outside linebacker Vontarrius Dora to their active roster and placed long snapper Casey Kreiter on injured reserve Friday. Dora, an undrafted free agent from Louisiana Tech, is now in position to make his professional debut after tallying 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks during his 31-game college career.
  • Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael is headed to IR after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, head coach Dan Quinn announced Friday (via the Associated Press). Ishmael, who had been playing for weeks with the injury, totaled 421 snaps this year between defense and special teams. In 13 appearances (four starts), he racked up 29 tackles.
  • Offensive tackle Chaz Green will undergo back surgery Friday and the Cowboys will place him on IR, as Charean Williams of the Star-Telegram writes. Green, a third-round pick in 2015, didn’t play as a rookie thanks to hip surgery. He appeared in four games this season and started two.

Zach Links contributed to this post.