Larry Ogunjobi

Bengals Sign DL Larry Ogunjobi

Larry Ogunjobi is staying in the AFC North. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that the defensive lineman, who spent the first four years of his career with the Browns, is heading to the Bengals on a one-year deal (Twitter link).

This represents yet another defensive acquisition for Cincinnati, which has added a pair of cornerbacks — Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie — and defensive end Trey Hendrickson over the past several days. The Bengals have tangled with Ogunjobi two times per season since he entered the league as a third-round draft choice in 2017, and they were apparently impressed.

They also got him for less of a commitment than many expected. As of late January, Spotrac pegged Ogunjobi’s market value at three years and roughly $28MM, and as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com wrote at the time, the Browns were not going to be involved in the bidding if it got to that point. But Ogunjobi, as many players have done, elected to take a one-year pact with the hopes of hitting the market again in 2022, when the salary cap should dramatically increase.

Pro Football Focus was not high on Ogunjobi’s work in 2020, grading him as the 105th-best interior defender out of 125 qualifiers. But he has been a full-time starter since 2018 and has shown some ability to generate interior pass rush (14.5 career sacks) while holding up against the run. Just 26, he still might not have hit his ceiling, and his presence could allow the Bengals to part with stalwart Geno Atkins.

Atkins, who will turn 33 later this month, has been rumored as a cap casualty after an injury-marred 2020 season. His release would free up $9.5MM of cap room.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Smith, Easterby, Ogunjobi

Perhaps the best story of the unprecedented 2020 NFL season was the improbable return of Alex Smith. Not only did Smith shockingly return to the starting lineup for Washington, something nobody in their right mind saw coming, he also went 5-1 as a starter and led them to a playoff berth. He didn’t always look too mobile, and a calf injury to the same leg he had his devastating infections in cut his season short prematurely. But if you were expecting Smith to ride off into the sunset after his incredible triumph, you might be in for a surprise. In a recent interview with the Rachel Ray show, the quarterback certainly didn’t sound like someone dead-set on retiring.

For me, this year was such a crazy rush to be out there, practicing out there every single day. To be able to put on my cleats and helmet. But for me, the crazy thing was how well my body responded to that. I just feel like I continued to get stronger and stronger and better and better,” the Washington signal-caller said. “I still feel like I’m kind of a kid right now headed into the offseason. I’m excited for this offseason to see what I can go do — football and everything else. Skiing, snowboarding — I plan on doing as much as I can. I had such an amazing time playing. I felt so good out there. It was crazy after that first game how comfortable I felt back out on the field.”

If Smith does want to keep playing he might have to do it with a new team, as Washington appears to be looking to upgrade at the position. They reportedly were aggressive in going after Matthew Stafford, offering their first-round pick and then some. Smith is under contract for two more seasons, but Washington can get out of it fairly easily this offseason. No matter what happens next, Smith has already shattered all expectations and can hold his head high.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • If you were a Texans fan hoping that controversial exec Jack Easterby would quietly slink into the background after all the Deshaun Watson drama, you might be disappointed. “Easterby is still making calls to agents on behalf of the team and is very much involved in football side,” Lance Zierlein of NFL.com hears (Twitter link). As Zierlein points out, that would conflict with Houston’s stated spin that Easterby is merely a pastor and ‘character coach’ of sorts. He seems to be very much involved in football ops alongside new GM Nick Caserio. For whatever reasons, Easterby seems to be sitting pretty in his role and clearly has a great deal of influence with owner Cal McNair. We haven’t heard the last of him, and this saga has no end in sight.
  • The Browns are coming off an incredibly successful season that saw them make it back to the playoffs for the first time in nearly 20 years, but there will still be changes coming in Cleveland. One of the biggest could be the departure of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. Ogunjobi will likely be allowed to hit free agency and the Browns “probably won’t want to pay him what he can get on the open market,” Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Ogunjobi has been a very solid player for Cleveland, starting at least 15 games each of the past three seasons, but with Sheldon Richardson still also manning the middle and fellow defensive tackle Andrew Billings set to return from COVID opt-out in 2021, Kay Cabot thinks he’s expendable.
  • Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy has gotten a lot of attention for getting passed over for head coaching jobs, but Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is similarly upset about the other offensive coordinator coaching in the Super Bowl. “I was very, very pissed that Byron [Leftwich] didn’t at least get an interview this year for the job that he’s done,” Arians said, via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com (Twitter link). “I get way too much credit and so does Tom Brady for the job that Byron has done.” Strong words from Arians in support of his OC, the former quarterback who spent 10 years as a player in the league from 2003-12. Leftwich got his coaching start as Arians’ quarterbacks coach with the Cardinals in 2017, and was then hired as his OC when he took the job in Tampa in 2019. If the Bucs have this kind of success again in 2021, Leftwich probably will start to get some serious head coaching buzz next cycle.

AFC North Notes: Garrett, Steelers, Ravens

While last week’s focus on the brawl that ended with an indefinite suspension for Myles Garrett centered on his ugly on-field act, this week produced an explosive allegation from the Browns defensive end. Although Garrett did not accuse Mason Rudolph of using a racial slur publicly after the fight, he did say that occurred when pleading his case to the NFL. However, Garrett also told some of his Browns teammates the Steelers quarterback used the slur, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Freddie Kitchens added that he believes Garrett, who is not permitted to communicate with the Browns until he’s reinstated. The Steelers have denied the slur occurred, as did Rudolph’s attorney. Garrett’s statement indicated Rudolph’s alleged slur does not excuse his actions, but with the Browns and Steelers set to play again next week in Pittsburgh, with Rudolph presumably under center, this is likely to come up again soon.

With news of more fines being handed out, here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Rudolph, Garrett and Maurkice Pouncey led the way in fines for this ugly scene, but overall, the league doled out a whopping $716K in total fines assessed to the teams and players involved. While Larry Ogunjobi was suspended for a game, the Browns defensive tackle was not fined by the league for his role in the skirmish. Overall, 32 players were fined for varying roles in the fight, with most of them being charged just more than $3K, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter).
  • A young staffer has John Harbaugh‘s ear during Ravens games. Football analyst Daniel Stern communicates win probabilities to the 12th-year Baltimore coach from the booth, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (subscription required). Current running backs coach Matt Weiss previously held this role, but Stern, a 25-year-old Yale graduate, is now tasked with aiding some of Harbaugh’s key game-management decisions. Be it the fourth-and-2 touchdown against the Seahawks or two-point conversion attempts against the Chiefs, the Ravens have been noticeably more aggressive this season.
  • The Browns worked out former Colts safety Jake Thieneman this week, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter).
  • The Bengals will have left tackle Cordy Glenn back in their starting lineup on Sunday.

NFL Upholds Larry Ogunjobi’s Suspension

While the outcome of Myles Garrett‘s appeal is not yet known, the Browns will be without Larry Ogunjobi against the Dolphins on Sunday.

The NFL upheld the one-game suspension it handed down to the third-year Cleveland defensive tackle. Ogunjobi was suspended for his role in the game-ending melee against the Steelers, which featured him shoving Mason Rudolph to the ground after the quarterback and Garrett got into it.

The verdicts on Garrett and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey will not emerge until later this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Garrett received an indefinite suspension that is expected to end his season, while Pouncey is slated to be out three games for his role in the fight. The league did rescind Ogunjobi’s $10K fine, however.

While Garrett’s absence will overshadow it, the loss of Ogunjobi will certainly affect the Browns. The ex-Day 3 pick has five sacks, a half-sack shy of his career high. He dropped Rudolph during last week’s game.

With Garrett and Ogunjobi sidelined, it’s possible the Browns have just one defensive line starter available Sunday. Olivier Vernon missed the past two games with a knee injury. A third straight absence would leave only Sheldon Richardson in place up front.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns-Steelers Brawl

NOV. 18: Per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Ogunjobi’s appeal will be heard Monday, and Pouncey’s appeal will be heard Tuesday. Schefter says that Garrett’s appeal will be heard on Wednesday (Twitter link). Schefter notes in a separate tweet that Garrett intends to be at the hearing to state his case in person.

NOV. 17: The NFL has suspended Browns defensive end Myles Garrett indefinitely, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Garrett will appeal the ban (Twitter link).

In case you haven’t heard, Garrett was the central figure in a horrific melee that broke out in the final moments of Thursday night’s contest between the Steelers and Browns. While both fanbases certainly have their own perspective on the matter, it’s clear that Garrett unnecessarily drove Steelers QB Mason Rudolph into the ground after Rudolph released a pass. The play could have been flagged — and may have been if the game were in doubt at that point or if there were more then eight seconds left — and Rudolph took exception to it.

Rudolph grabbed at Garrett’s helmet and kicked out at him, which caused Garrett to escalate the scuffle beyond what anyone could have reasonably expected, yanking Rudolph’s helmet off of him and striking him over the head with it. That naturally led to a scrum between both clubs that saw Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (three games) and Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi (one game) receive suspensions. Rudolph, Pouncey, and Ogunjobi were all fined, and obviously Garrett will be fined as well.

As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, more fines will be coming for Rudolph and others. While NFL head of football operations Troy Vincent and his team initially reviewed the footage of the brawl with a focus on who committed offenses worthy of a suspension, they will now comb through the tape to determine the full amount of fines (and what other players may deserve them). Vincent says there will certainly be another wave of fines on the way, and both the Steelers and Browns have been hit with $250K sanctions.

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com says the appeals for Garrett, Pouncey, and Ogunjobi will be heard on Monday and Tuesday by jointly-appointed officers Derrick Brooks and James Thrash. The rulings are expected no later than Wednesday. Schefter adds in a separate report that at least 10 players will be fined, and that the announcement will be issued next weekend.

Per Rapoport, Garrett’s camp will argue that the CBA does not allow for indefinite suspensions for on-field acts and that the league should impose a ban for a finite number of games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/18/17

The latest draft signings from around the NFL:

  • The Bills have signed second-round wide receiver Zay Jones, who’s the fourth of their six draft picks to ink his rookie deal. Jones caught an FBS-record 399 passes, including a ridiculous 158 last season, in four years at East Carolina. That production helped lead the Bills to trade up for Jones, who should be the wideout-needy club’s No. 2 WR after Sammy Watkins in 2017. Jones is now dealing with a knee injury, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak, though it doesn’t seem particularly serious.
  • The Ravens have signed third-round linebacker Tim Williams (per Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun), meaning they now have their entire seven-player draft class under contract. Williams, the 78th overall pick, is coming off back-to-back seasons with at least nine sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss at Alabama. The Ravens’ hope is that both Williams and second-rounder Tyus Bowser will beef up a pass rush that finished just 24th in the league in sacks last season.
  • The Cardinals have announced the signing of third-round receiver Chad Williams, a former Grambling State standout. The 6-foot-1, 204-pound Williams went 98th overall to Arizona, whose non-Larry Fitzgerald receivers didn’t offer much production in 2016. Moreover, the 2017 campaign could be Fitzgerald’s last, while John Brown will be a free agent next offseason. Therefore, it was imperative for the Cardinals to invest a relatively high pick in a wideout.
  • The Browns have inked third-round defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, per a team announcement. Ogunjobi, who went 65th overall after a strong career at UNC-Charlotte, might start immediately in Cleveland alongside fellow D-tackle Danny Shelton.
  • The Patriots have signed former Arkansas defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, a fourth-rounder who was the 131st overall selection. Wise underwhelmed as a senior with the Razorbacks last season, when he posted 3.5 sacks after totaling eight in 2015, notes Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. However, the 6-5, 274-pounder possesses “rare physical attributes,” Zierlein writes.
  • The Colts have announced the signing of fourth-round defensive tackle Grover Stewart. Formerly with Albany State, Stewart went to Indianapolis with pick No. 144. He has the makings of a developmental project, according to Zierlein.
  • Jets fifth-round tight end Jordan Leggett, the 150th selection, is now under contract. Leggett racked up a combined 86 catches and 15 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Clemson. Given both the Jets’ woeful tight end production last year and their lack of offseason upgrades at the position, Leggett could be in line to make an impact as a rookie.