Ladarius Green

Extra Points: Colts, Pack, Steelers, Falcons

Following a report that quarterback Andrew Luck could return to practice this week, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano gave reporters, including Mike Wells of ESPN.com, a clouded answer regarding his signal-caller’s health. “Andrew is progressing well, getting stronger and there might be chance,” Pagano said. “He might be able to start some practice this week, but I’m not guaranteeing nothing, so don’t write anything. There’s a possibility. When our doctors and our trainers tell me that he’s at a point where he can get back out there to begin to practice then I’ll be able to tell you for sure.” Luck is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but has no restrictions on his timetable given that Indianapolis did not place him on the physically unable to perform list to begin the season.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Packers re-signed defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois to the same one-year deal that he originally agreed to in March, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Jean-Francois was released by Green Bay just after the start of the season, only to re-sign eight days later. The veteran defender may not have missed a game check, which would mean he’s not eligible to receive termination pay (and double-dip on his contract from the Packers). Jean-Francois will earn $2MM for the 2017 campaign.
  • Speaking of contractual intricacies, tight end Ladarius Green picked up $1.15MM in injury protection from the Steelers, tweets salary cap guru Ian Whetstone, who adds Pittsburgh could also be on the hook for another $550K to Green in 2018. Green lasted only one season with the Steelers after inking a four-year, $20MM last spring, as concussions and a surgically-repaired ankle ultimately led to his release. He hasn’t garnered any known interest since hitting the free agent market.
  • The Falcons worked out linebackers Kennan Gilchrist, Kenneth Olugbode, and Kache Palacio, plus RB Josh Rounds, on Monday, reports Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. None of that foursome has any NFL experience, so Atlanta is likely looking at options to develop on its practice squad, as McClure notes.

Extra Points: Cousins, Fitz, Bills, L. Green

Franchise-tagged quarterback Kirk Cousins has spoken highly of Redskins brass lately, but it remains doubtful that the two sides will agree to a long-term contract by the July 15 deadline, writes Rich Tandler of CSNMidAtlantic.com. Cousins has little incentive to take Washington’s $20MM-per-year offer, observes Tandler, as he’s set to make a fully guaranteed ~$24MM as the team’s franchise player this season and could earn another $34MM in 2018 in the unlikely event it places the franchise tag on him again. Otherwise, Cousins could be in position next offseason to hit free agency and ink a lucrative contract with either the Redskins or someone else.

More from around the NFL:

  • Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s one-year, $3MM deal with the Buccaneers could be worth up to $5MM, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). With Fitzpatrick now off the board, the only remaining free agent QBs who started a game in 2016 are Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Shaun Hill, notes Field Yates of ESPN (on Twitter). In case you missed it, Tampa Bay did not consider signing Kaepernick before it tabbed Fitzpatrick to serve as Jameis Winston‘s backup in 2017.
  • The Bills made a few changes to their scouting staff Friday, most notably hiring former Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey as a senior college scout, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Hickey only lasted as Miami’s GM from 2014-15, but he previously worked in a scouting capacity for several years in Tampa Bay. Along with Hickey, the Bills added scouts Gerald Dixon, Doug Majeski and Brian Fisher, per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The team dismissed all three last month, but they’ll return in newly hired GM Brandon Beane‘s front office.
  • Speaking of the Bills, quarterback Tyrod Taylor has gotten off to a nice start in OTAs in new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison‘s system, says James Palmer of NFL Network (video link). Taylor is familiar with both Dennison and the Gary Kubiak-created system the Bills are using, as the passer studied it in Baltimore as Joe Flacco‘s backup from 2011-14 (Dennison was the Ravens’ QBs coach in 2014). Moreover, Kubiak has always regarded Taylor as a good fit for the system, per Palmer. That could bode well for Taylor as he enters a crucial season in Buffalo, which will have the opportunity to easily escape his contract next winter.
  • Although injuries (especially to the head) have beset tight end Ladarius Green in recent years, he’s not planning to retire. After the Steelers released the 26-year-old on Thursday, a player Green spoke with told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that he’s hoping to catch on elsewhere as a free agent (Twitter link). Ankle and head issues limited Green to six games and 18 receptions in 2016, the first season of a four-year, $20MM contract.

Steelers Release TE Ladarius Green

The Steelers have released tight end Ladarius Green. In a related move, Pittsburgh signed running back Terrell WatsonLadarius Green

Pittsburgh signed Green as a free agent last offseason with the idea that he would become one of Ben Roethlisberger‘s go-to weapons. Instead, ailments kept him off the field for much of 2016. His Steelers career ends after six games and 18 receptions for 304 yards and a touchdown. His best game with the Steelers came against the Giants in Week 13, when he had six receptions for 110 yards and his one score on the year.

In the past, Green has suffered from chronic headaches. Those headaches, he says, stemmed from sinus issues and not concussions. Last summer, there were reports that he was mulling retirement as a result of the head trauma he has suffered, but he later denied those claims. Late in the 2016 regular season, the tight end was placed in concussion protocol following a big hit in Week 15. Depending on who you ask, it was either the concussions or the surgically-repaired ankle that kept Green out of action for much of last season.

Before coming to the Steelers, Green amassed 37 catches for 429 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games (11 starts), a solid stat line considering that he was sharing the field with Antonio Gates in many of those games. From a talent perspective, the league had been waiting for multiple seasons for the ultra-athletic tight end to break out. Sadly, Green’s football future seems pretty murky after his disappointing season and today’s release.

With Green out of the picture, Jesse James projects as the Steelers’ No. 1 tight end for 2017. The Steelers did not address the position in the draft, so he is without any real competition at this time.

Green earned just over $6MM in the first year of his would-be four-year, $20MM deal. By cutting him early, the Steelers are left with $3.562MM of dead money on the books. They’ll save $2.625MM in 2017, however.

Watson spent part of the 2016 season on the Browns, Broncos and Eagles practice squads. He was on the Eagles’ 53-man roster for the final week of the regular season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Patriots, Texans, Steelers, Jags

The University of Alabama is hiring Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll as its new offensive coordinator, according to Chris Low of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Daboll, who has led offenses at the NFL level for the Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs, was first linked to the Crimson Tide earlier this week by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports. Former Texans play-caller George Godsey was also in consideration for the vacancy in Tuscaloosa, per Feldman.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Veteran safety Quintin Demps hasn’t engaged in contract negotiations with the Texans as of yet, and although the pending free agent would prefer to return to Houston in 2017, he’s not interested in offering the club any sort of hometown discount, Demps told SiriusXM NFL Radio today (Twitter links). Demps is entering his age-32 campaign, which could depress his value, but he’s started 26 games over the past two years and is coming off a season in which he graded as the league’s No. 12 safety, according to Pro Football Focus. After earning only $1.5MM in 2016, Demps should be in a for raise, but he’s not going to break the bank in a safety market that also includes Eric Berry, Tony Jefferson, and T.J. McDonald.
  • Tight end Ladarius Green is expected to be healthy enough to play in 2017, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert yesterday told reporters, including Chris Bradford of the Beaver County Times (Twitter link). Green only appeared in six games during his first campaign with Pittsburgh, as concussion issues limited his ability to get on the field. Although he provided 16.9 yards per reception when he was on the field, Green could represent too large a risk for the Steelers to undertake, especially given that his post-June 1 release would clear $5MM in cap space.
  • Defensive tackle Abry Jones‘ four-year, $16MM deal with the Jaguars contains $6.5MM in guarantees, which are comprised of a $2.5MM 2017 base salary, a $1MM roster bonus due next March, and $3MM 2018 base salary, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Meanwhile, backup quarterback Chad Henne‘s new one-year contract is worth $3.5MM, reports Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link), and contains a $500K signing bonus, a $750K roster bonus due on September 7, and $2.5MM available via incentives.
  • Steelers linebacker Steven Johnson‘s new deal is a one-year, minimum salary benefit contract that comes with $80K in guaranteed money, per Caplan (Twitter link). Under the terms of the MSB, Johnson will only count for $615K on Pittsburgh’s salary cap.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Steelers, Ravens

Should the Browns‘ newly assembled power structure consult the team’s franchise player about a plan for the No. 1 overall pick, Joe Thomas would not use it on a quarterback. Going into his 11th year, the perennial All-Pro left tackle would rather see his team use the selection to bolster the pass rush.

I think you need to get a pass-rusher,” Thomas said on the Dan Patrick Show today (via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com). “… You gotta be careful reaching for a quarterback at No. 1 because if they fail, they don’t help your team at all. Whereas if you pick a defensive lineman and maybe they don’t live up to the hype, you can still find a place to get him on the field and to have an impact. We need guys that can come in and start and that can contribute.”

Thomas, who has two years left on his Browns deal and will turn 33 during the 2017 season, said in the past the Browns need to identify a franchise quarterback. There isn’t a better spot to do that than the No. 1 pick. But this quarterback class — fronted by Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and Cleveland-area product Mitch Trubisky — has divided scouts. The Browns have been reportedly coveting Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett at No. 1 and considering a Watson pick at No. 12. But obviously, the versatile Clemson talent is no lock to be there when Cleveland’s second first-round window opens, given quarterback prospects’ rises as drafts near.

Here’s more from northeast Ohio and some other regions housing AFC North franchises.

  • Jamie Collinsfour-year, $50MM extension will pay $37.5MM in its first three years before containing no guaranteed money during the 2020 season, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald tweets. Collins will also receive a $5MM signing bonus as part of the deal (per Howe, on Twitter) which includes $26.5MM guaranteed.
  • Negotiations between the Ravens and UFA nose tackle Brandon Williams have not yet begun but are expected to commence before he hits the market, Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun notes. Even before Zach Orr‘s retirement, Williams was set to be the top priority, per Preston, for a Ravens team that’s lost numerous talents in free agency in recent years. It’s a big year for free agent defensive tackles, with Dontari Poe and Kawann Short residing as impending UFAs.
  • The Ravens tied up some loose ends on their coaching staff today, per the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zreibec (on Twitter). Chris Hewitt will take over new Bills DC Leslie Frazier‘s position as secondary coach, and Mike MacDonald will assist him, Zreibec tweets. Craig Ver Steeg, a nine-year Ravens offensive assistant, will coach quarterbacks, will slide over from skill-position assistance to helping QBs coach/OC Marty Mornhinweg with the signal-callers, Zreibec notes (on Twitter). Drew Wilkins will serve as the assistant defensive line coach. Each of these staffers’ assignment changes represents an internal promotion.
  • The Steelers could determine another year with Ladarius Green is too risky, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Green will enter his sixth season after experiencing a disastrous fifth, playing in just six games. However, he averaged 50.7 yards per game and made several big plays when healthy. But concussion issues dogged Green to the point Mike Tomlin said a decision needs to be made about the tight end. “I don’t have an assessment, long-term, of where he is,” Tomlin said. “I think that’s one of the chief medical decisions and questions that we have to have moving forward, in terms of guys getting an assessment of their overall health and what it means for 2017.” A Green cut will cost the Steelers $3.56MM in dead money while saving the team barely $2MM. Green said earlier this week he does not intend to retire.
  • Antonio Brown‘s constant desire for targets has rubbed many teammates the wrong way, but his occasionally selfish ways aren’t viewed as detrimental to the team, Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette writes. Ben Roethlisberger has told the All-Pro wideout to “shut up” multiple times on the field, and since-retired tight end Heath Miller told Brown to “stop complaining about not getting the ball” at a 2015 practice. However, Dulac notes Brown not a problem in the locker room. This could be a key point as Brown’s payday looms.

Ladarius Green In Concussion Protocol

Steelers tight end Ladarius Green is in the league’s concussion protocol, the team announced. He has not been formally ruled out for Week 16, but this isn’t a good sign for Green considering his history with head injuries. Ladarius Green (vertical)

[RELATED: Steelers Expected To Franchise Le’Veon Bell]

Green suffered two apparent concussions in two weeks in 2015, but he later claimed that his headaches around that time stemmed from sinus issues. He also had a concussion in 2014. There were reports this year that he was considering retirement because of the concussions, but he denied those claims.

Green, 26, has appeared in only six games for the Steelers after inking a four-year, $20MM deal in free agency. He has tremendous potential, but one has to wonder what this latest concussion means for him in the long term.

On the season, Green has caught 18 of 34 targets for 304 yards and one touchdown.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Green, Collins, Bengals, Howard

Although Ladarius Green is expected to make his Steelers debut on Sunday against the Cowboys, the tight end is not at 100 percent, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today (on Twitter).

The recent addition categorized his explosion as lacking at present due to the calf trouble he’s had, and the ankle surgery the fifth-year veteran underwent placed screws and plates in it that haven’t gone unnoticed by the recovering tight end (Twitter link). Pelissero added Green’s ankle procedure was also due to cartilage damage, so Green could be a bit away from becoming the field-stretching tight end the Steelers hoped they were acquiring when they made the rare decision to dabble in free agency.

Pittsburgh’s encountered extreme difficulties putting its preferred lineup on the field this season, with suspensions of Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell — and injuries to Ben Roethlisberger, Green and Markus Wheaton — limiting the team’s offensive potential. Green is coming off a career-best season, having caught 37 passes for 429 yards and four touchdowns in his final slate as Antonio Gates‘ sidekick.

Here’s more coming out of the AFC.

  • The Bengals sitting at 3-4-1 places them on tenuous terrain regarding the AFC playoff race. One reason is a defense that ranks 23rd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, having regressed to the point some within the organization are labeling several veterans as having “aged overnight,” Pete Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes. The Bengals have several starters either over 30 or within months of their 30th birthday, and Daugherty writes a regression from the playoff race the team has participated in the past five years would open Marvin Lewis to preparing for a rebuild on that side of the ball. Of course, the 14th-year coach being in charge of said rebuild may be iffy should a veteran team that’s failed to win a playoff game despite five straight AFC bracket cameos finish out of contention.
  • Ray Horton‘s defense giving Jamie Collins fewer coverage assignments should allow him to put up more numbers than he did with the Patriots and further enhance his value, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com writes. Collins playing every snap in the Browns‘ loss to the Ravens on Thursday night could help the team’s process in convincing the fourth-year linebacker he has a long-term home in northeast Ohio.
  • In addition to Jeremy Maclin and Justin Houston being set to miss the Chiefs‘ Week 10 game against the Panthers, starting defensive end Jaye Howard is out too, Dave Skretta of the Associated Press reports. While Kansas City is expected to have Alex Smith and Spencer Ware back, the team is now down both of its starting defensive ends from the start of the season. Allen Bailey is out for the season, meaning the Chiefs are going to turn to a Chris JonesKendall Reyes tandem in Charlotte. Re-signed to a two-year, $12MM contract in March, Howard is dealing with a hip injury. He’s played in all eight of the Chiefs’ 2016 contests so far.

Steelers Activate Ladarius Green

3:09pm: Green has been elevated to Pittsburgh’s active roster, Mark Kaboly of DKPittsburghSports.com tweets. The Steelers cut outside linebacker L.J. Fort to make room. A five-year veteran, Fort played in seven games for the Steelers this season, making two tackles.

9:53am: It’s looking like tight end Ladarius Green will soon be making his Steelers debut. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (via Twitter), the team is expected to activate the tight end from the PUP list. The reporter says that Green is expected to play in this weekend’s game against the Cowboys, but he notes that the decision will ultimately be up to coach Mike Tomlin.

The Steelers originally added Green this past offseason on a four-year, $20MM deal. The tight end was placed on the physically unable to perform list in late August as he recovered from his surgically-repaired ankle. The 26-year-old was also sidelined with lingering headaches, and this led to rumors that Green could consider retirement. Fortunately, the tight end seems to be doing better, as he’s been practicing with the Steelers since late October.

Green previously spent four seasons with the Chargers, where he served as a backup to Antonio Gates. Despite being second on the depth chart, the tight end still managed to haul in 77 receptions for 1,087 yards and seven touchdowns. 2015 was a career-year for Green, as the tight end caught 37 passes for 429 yards and four touchdowns.

With Green out, backup tight end Jesse James has stepped up. The second-year tight end has 24 receptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns this season. It’s unclear whether the Steelers will cut one of their other tight ends (Xavier Grimble, David Johnson) to make room for Green.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers TE Ladarius Green To Practice Today

Could we finally see Ladarius Green take the field for the Steelers? The team announced today that Green will practice today. From here, the team will have 21 days to decide whether to activate him or keep him on the PUP list for the season. Ladarius Green (vertical)

The Steelers signed Green to a four-year, $20MM deal this spring with the expectation that he would take over for the retired Heath Miller. However, Green was sidelined for much of the summer. Initially, it was believed that Green was being held back by his ankle which was surgically repaired in January. Later, it was reported that Green was kept off the field because of painful chronic headaches and was even considering retirement. For what it’s worth, Green insists that his ankle has been the issue and denies that he thought about walking away from football.

After spending years in the shadow of Antonio Gates, the athletic Green is looking to break out with his new team. Last year, Green caught 37 passes for 429 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. The belief is that he can be a difference maker if he’s given the type of snap count that Gates enjoyed in San Diego. Of course, he’ll have to prove that he is healthy first.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ladarius Green To Return Soon

The Steelers rarely make a splash in free agency, but they signed tight end Ladarius Green to a four-year, $20MM deal this offseason to replace the retired Heath Miller and to give Pittsburgh yet another dynamic offensive weapon. But Green landed on the PUP list in August, making him ineligible to practice with the team or join the active roster until after Week 6. Plus, there were reports this summer indicating that Green is suffering from the after-effects of multiple concussions, and that he has even contemplated retirement (though Green has refuted all such reports).

Ladarius Green (vertical)

However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that the Steelers expect Green to return soon. Apparently, it is Green’s preexisting ankle issue that has been the real source of his absence; as La Canfora notes, although Green has suffered from headaches since his time in San Diego, he is not in the league’s concussion protocol and is ready to pass a physical for the ankle injury and begin practicing.

La Canfora adds that Green has been working out on his own and, once activated, Green does not believe he would need more than a week or two to get game-ready (in fact, Mark Kaboly of DKPittsburghSports.com tweets that Green was working out on the field today prior to the Steelers’ matchup with Miami). When Green returns to the field, he would further boost a passing attack that is already among the league’s best.

Although Green was largely overshadowed by Antonio Gates during his tenure with the Chargers, he did flash high-level ability while on the West Coast, particularly when Gates was sidelined by injury. He set career highs in 2015 with 11 starts, 37 receptions, 429 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. All of those numbers could increase considerably over the course of a fully-healthy season in Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.