Larry Donnell

Bengals Work Out Four Tight Ends

With Tyler Eifert out for the season after opting to undergo back surgery last week, the Bengals got an up close look at a number of free agent tight ends today.Larry Donnell (vertical) Cincinnati worked out veterans Larry Donnell, Jace Amaro, Gavin Escobar and John Phillipstweets Adam Caplan of Sirius XM.

None of these options are particularly intriguing given the overall lack of production across the board, but it does show a pointed attempt to address a position that’s very much in flux with Eifert gone for the rest of the season.

Up to this point, the team has mostly relied on Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah to take snaps in Eifert’s place. Kroft, 25, has been the more offensively productive of the two, having caught 14 balls for 139 yards and two scores, which both came in the team’s first victory of the year two weeks ago against the Browns.

The Bengals had a bye in Week 6, but will look to build on their current two-game winning streak when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the AFC North division leading Steelers this coming Sunday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Work Out 8, Sign Cobi Hamilton

Fresh off their first win of the season, the Texans worked out a variety of offensive players on Friday, including the previously reported Gary Barnidge, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links). Fellow tight ends Larry Donnell, Gavin Escobar, David Johnson and MyCole Pruitt joined Barnidge in auditioning, while wide receivers Cobi Hamilton and Jordan, offensive lineman Jah Reid and quarterback Garrett Grayson were also on hand. The Texans saw enough from Hamilton to sign him to their practice squad, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Houston has an obvious need at tight end, with C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson dealing with the aftereffects of concussions. Fiedorowicz is on injured reserve, meaning he’ll miss a significant chunk of time, while neither Griffin nor Anderson dressed for the Texans’ 13-9 win over the Bengals on Thursday. As you’d expect, the tight end position was a non-factor for Houston against Cincinnati, as all 15 of quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s completions went to wide receivers and running backs.

Larry Donnell (vertical)

All of the tight ends the Texans looked at Friday come with NFL experience, though only Donnell and Escobar have extensive pro track records. Donnell had a 63-catch, six-touchdown season with the Giants in 2014, but his production has gone downhill since, thanks in part to injuries, and he hasn’t stuck anywhere since becoming a free agent in the offseason. The 28-year-old’s only employment since last season ended came in the form of a short stint in Baltimore, which signed him July 30 and released him Sept. 1.

Escobar, meanwhile, was a high pick in 2013, when Dallas took him in the second round, but he didn’t make much of a mark there behind all-time great Jason Witten. The 26-year-old, who caught 30 passes and eight TDs during his four-year Cowboys run, signed with the Chiefs as a free agent in March but didn’t crack their Week 1 roster.

Reid was a teammate of Escobar’s for a brief period in Kansas City, which released the tackle/guard on the final day of August. A veteran of 61 appearances and 18 starts, he’d provide depth along a Houston line that’s without its left tackle, holdout Duane Brown, and has already yielded 13 sacks in two weeks.

The other fairly notable player on this list is the Texans’ newest addition, Hamilton, who had been looking for work since the Steelers cut him Sept. 1. The Texans are already the sixth organization for the 26-year-old Hamilton, who’s coming off a career season (albeit a modest one) in Pittsburgh. Hamilton started in eight of 11 appearances and caught 17 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. He added another four receptions and a TD in three playoff games last January.

As is the case at tight end, Houston’s receivers aren’t the picture of health. Both Bruce Ellington and Will Fuller missed Thursday’s game with injuries (the latter will be out until the fall), leaving the Texans wanting at wideout. Believe it or not, DeAndre Hopkins and Braxton Miller are their only receivers who have caught passes this season. Hamilton could be a factor sometime this year, then.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Cut 18 Players

The Ravens made some major strides towards getting under the 53-man limit. On Friday, they announced 24 roster moves, including the release of 18 players. Here’s the full rundown:

Waived:

Released outright (vested veterans who are not subject to waivers):

Placed on IR:

In addition to White, the following players have now been officially placed on IR:

The Ravens are now down to 66 players.

Ravens Cut Bobby Rainey, Larry Donnell

The Ravens are getting a head start on their roster cuts. On Friday, they released both running back Bobby Rainey and tight end Larry DonnellBobby Rainey (vertical)

Rainey was signed in late July and it was believed that he had a chance to make the team following Kenneth Dixon‘s season ending injury. Despite getting positive reviews from coaches this summer and performing well in preseason action against the Saints on Thursday night, the veteran is being shown the door. Rainey’s most notable pro seasons came with the Buccaneers in 2013 and 2014, as he rushed for more than 400 yards in each year. Despite his age (he’ll turn 30 in October), Rainey could still hold appeal for other clubs thanks to his experience and pass catching acumen.

Donnell was also signed to fill a major gap for the Ravens, but he did not earn a spot despite the losses of Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gillmore. Ben Watson, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle are now set to serve as the team’s top three tight ends heading into Week 1.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Sign Larry Donnell

The Ravens have signed free agent tight end Larry Donnell, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). After Crockett Gillmore sustained a potentially serious knee injury Friday, Baltimore suddenly found itself without three tight ends it opened the league year with (Gillmore, Dennis Pitta, and Darren Waller), leaving Ben Watson, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle as the only TEs with game experience on the roster. All have talent, but Watson is 36 and missed all of last season with an ACL tear, Williams has struggled with injuries in his brief professional career, and Boyle is one positive PED test away from a year-long suspension.

Larry Donnell (vertical)

Enter Donnell, who worked out with the Colts last month. The Grambling State product first made a name for himself in 2014 when he had a breakout season with the Giants, catching 63 passes for 623 yards and six scores. Since then, however, he has been hampered by his own injuries and has been unable to reprise his 2014 performance. He missed half of the 2015 season and found himself with a lesser role in the offense in 2016, catching just 15 passes (22 targets) for 92 yards and one score.

As Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun tweets, Donnell could be a quality redzone target, though his blocking prowess leaves much to be desired.

To make room for Donnell, the Ravens waived UDFA wide receiver Tim Patrick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Work Out TE Larry Donnell

The Colts have invited a number of tryout players to minicamp, including cornerback Phillip Adams and former Giants tight end Larry Donnell (Twitter link via Mike Chappell of CBS4). Larry Donnell (vertical)

At this stage of the offseason, Donnell stands as one of the most notable tight ends remaining on the open market. The Grambling State product first made a name for himself in 2014 when he had a breakout season with the Giants, catching 63 passes for 623 yards and six scores. Since then, however, he has been hampered by injuries and has been unable to reprise that performance. He missed half of the 2015 season and found himself with a lesser role in the offense in 2016. Donnell is coming off of a season with just 15 catches (22 targets) for 92 yards and one score.

Adams, 29 in July, has played for six different teams across six NFL seasons. In 2016, he was out of a job, but he’s hoping to hook on with someone for the upcoming year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Offense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Jay Cutler
  2. Chase Daniel
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  4. Colin Kaepernick
  5. Josh McCown
  6. Robert Griffin III
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Christian Ponder
  11. Blaine Gabbert
  12. Ryan Nassib
  13. Shaun Hill
  14. Kellen Moore
  15. Austin Davis

Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.

Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018. Jay Cutler (Vertical)

Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.

Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.

Running back:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. LeGarrette Blount
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Rashad Jennings
  5. Tim Hightower
  6. DeAngelo Williams
  7. Chris Johnson
  8. Christine Michael
  9. Benny Cunningham
  10. Bobby Rainey
  11. Brandon Bolden
  12. Denard Robinson
  13. James Starks
  14. Matt Asiata
  15. Kenjon Barner

Honorable mention: DuJuan Harris, Antonio AndrewsKhiry Robinson

Adrian Peterson (vertical)The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.

Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.

In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.

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Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Offense

NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.

Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.

Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Updated 3-7-2017, 2:55pm CT

Quarterback:

  1. Mike Glennon
  2. Nick Foles
  3. Brian Hoyer (story)
  4. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  5. Colin Kaepernick
  6. Josh McCown
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Christian Ponder
  12. Blaine Gabbert
  13. Geno Smith
  14. Matt Schaub (story)
  15. EJ Manuel

Honorable mention: Ryan Nassib, Landry JonesShaun Hill Mike Glennon (vertical)

Colin Kaepernick’s agents have (wisely) let everyone know that their client will stand for the National Anthem in 2017. That may seem like a minor point, but teams say they would have automatically removed him from consideration if he continued his attention-grabbing protest. He grabbed headlines for his actions on the sidelines last year, but he actually turned in an OK season. From a football standpoint, Kaepernick would make sense for a lot of teams as a QB2 with upside.

Interestingly, this list includes three quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it as the Jets’ starter and three rejects from the 49ers. They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all six of those players (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert) come with varying degrees of potential and proven effectiveness. Smith, somehow, could reportedly be retained by the Jets and installed as the starter in 2017.

Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.

Running back:

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Jamaal Charles
  6. Darren McFadden
  7. Jacquizz Rodgers
  8. Rex Burkhead
  9. Rashad Jennings
  10. Danny Woodhead
  11. Tim Hightower
  12. DeAngelo Williams
  13. Andre Ellington
  14. Chris Johnson
  15. Christine Michael

Honorable mention: Robert Turbin, Travaris Cadet, Benny Cunningham, Lance Dunbar, Bobby Rainey, Brandon BoldenDenard Robinson, James Starks

Adrian Peterson (vertical)As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.

The Patriots believe they won’t be able to match the offers that come in LeGarrette Blount‘s direction. Latavius Murray could circle back to the Raiders, but he won’t be agreeing to a deal with them before free agency opens on Thursday.

Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.

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Giants Will Not Re-Sign Larry Donnell

The Giants are doing some major house cleaning today. Hours after releasing Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings, the Giants have informed tight end Larry Donnell that he will not be re-signed this offseason, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets"<strong

Donnell earned $1.671MM in 2016 but wound up with just 15 catches for 92 yards and one touchdown. Donnell broke out for the Giants in 2014, but he hasn’t been quite the same since suffering a severe neck injury in November 2015. That ailment was thought to be a potential career ender and its admirable that he was able to return at all. Unfortunately, the Giants don’t envision him getting back to his old form.

Donnell looked like a star in the making in ’14 when he caught 63 passes for 623 yards and six touchdowns. Since then, he has totaled just 44 catches for 315 yards and three scores. Now, at 28, he’s parting ways with the only NFL team he’s ever known.

The Giants still have Will Tye at tight end but they’re also likely to make an addition or two at the position.

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Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Notes: Graham, McAdoo, Free Agents

During the 2015 offseason, defensive end Brandon Graham received interest from the Giants. As the 28-year-old Eagles lineman prepares to play New York this weekend, he understands that he made the correct decision to stick with the team that drafted him.

“It was real,” Graham said of the Giants interest (via Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com). “I wasn’t that close. I wanted the Eagles here to get it right, as far as keeping me here. Obviously I made the right decision. I couldn’t be cool with myself going somewhere where I play the Eagles twice a year. I would have had to go outside the division.”

Graham ultimately inked a four-year, $26MM contract ($13MM) to remain in Philadelphia, and the former first-rounded has rewarded his team with 25 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles this season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of MetLife Stadium…

  • The Giants continue to deny rumors that they had discussions with Alabama’s Nick Saban to become their next head coach. George Willis of The New York Post believes we still haven’t seen enough from Ben McAdoo to determine whether he’s the right man for the job. However, if the Giants continue to collect losses, the writer believes the team could revisit their talks with Saban this offseason.
  • According to Hall of Fame boxing promoter Bob Arum, it was Saban’s wife who didn’t want to leave Alabama for the Big Apple. Had his wife decided to make the move to New York, Willis wonders if Saban would currently be coaching the Giants.
  • NJ.com previews the Giants players who are playing for a new contract. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul leads the list, and he’s joined by defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, linebacker Keenan Robinson, right guard John Jerry, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, and tight end Larry Donnell.