Matt Judon

Ravens Were Out Early On Za’Darius Smith

The Ravens for years have let edge rushers test the market, with several of those processes ending in the franchise recouping mid-round compensatory picks after contract-year standouts departed. They did not deviate from this formula this offseason.

But as a result of both Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith leaving this year, the team is thinner than usual at this premier position. As for Smith, the Ravens were never in the mix to bring him back, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Smith signed with the Packers on a four-year, $66.5MM contract; the former part-time Ravens starter is now the NFL’s third-highest-paid 3-4 outside linebacker. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta seemed to predict Smith’s exit in January, noting how the market escalates for this type of young talent, and Zreibec notes the Ravens did not want to compete with that cost. Smith registered 8.5 sacks and 25 quarterback hits last season and followed previous Baltimore walk-year standouts like Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee in signing big deals elsewhere.

McPhee is now back in Baltimore, with he, Shane Ray, third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson and returning starter Matt Judon comprising the Ravens’ edge-rushing contingent. Judon has yet to say if he and the Ravens have discussed an extension. In terms of young edge defenders potentially set for next year’s market, Judon (15 sacks over the past two seasons) joins Yannick Ngakoue, Bud Dupree and Dante Fowler among those in contract years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Brown, Steelers, Broncos, Ravens

While the Antonio Brown saga might seem like it’ll never end, a resolution could actually be forced relatively soon. “The Steelers will try to trade Brown sometime during a five-day window that begins March 13, when the new NFL season opens, and March 17, the date on which the Steelers would have to pay him a $2.5 million roster bonus”, writes Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

It makes sense why the Steelers have no interest in paying him the roster bonus, and if that’s the case we should know where Brown will be playing next year within the next couple of weeks. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert confirmed yesterday that three teams have inquired about a trade for Brown. Having a set date they need to trade him by would seem to reduce Pittsburgh’s leverage in trade talks. League executives are already saying they don’t expect the Steelers to fetch more than a third round pick.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Broncos won’t be re-signing cornerback Tramaine Brock this offseason, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9 News. Klis also writes “the odds aren’t great for” fellow cornerback Bradley Roby being brought back, so Denver’s secondary will be undergoing a significant amount of turnover this offseason. Denver’s once vaunted ‘No Fly Zone’ is a thing of the past, and the team needs a young cornerback to develop next to Chris Harris Jr. Brock is 30, and coming off a down year, he could struggle to find a ton of interest on the open market. Roby was Denver’s first round pick back in 2014 and started 15 games last year, but has mostly been a disappointment and fallen out of favor with the front office.
  • The Ravens signed cornerback Tavon Young to an extension a couple of days ago, and they might not be done handing out new deals just yet. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, outside linebacker Matt Judon, and kicker Justin Tucker are all “logical candidates” for extensions as they prepare to head into the last years of their contracts, writes Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link). Tucker remains the league’s best kicker, so the team will almost certainly prioritize a new deal for him that should break records.
  • In case you missed it, the Patriots’ McCourty twins have both announced they plan to continue playing in 2019.

2019 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $2MM in 2019. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2019 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

Bears: RB Jordan Howard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Bengals: LB Nick Vigil

Broncos: G Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, S Justin Simmons

Browns: S Derrick Kindred, LB Joe Schobert

Buccaneers: G Caleb Benenoch, DE Carl Nassib, CB Ryan Smith

Chargers: LB Jatavis Brown

Chiefs: CB Kendall Fuller, WR Tyreek Hill, S Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson

Colts: QB Jacoby Brissett, T Joe Haeg

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown, DT Maliek Collins, QB Dak Prescott

Dolphins: RB Kenyan Drake

Eagles: CB Jalen Mills, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, G Wes Schweitzer

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Jets: LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Rashard Robinson, T Brandon Shell

Lions: C Graham Glasgow

Packers: LB Kyler Fackrell, DE Dean Lowry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Antonio Morrison

Patriots: G Joe Thuney, LB Elandon Roberts

Rams: G Austin Blythe, TE Tyler Higbee

Ravens: DE Matt Judon, OL Alex Lewis, CB Tavon Young

Saints: DT David Onyemata

Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave

Texans: DT D.J. Reader

Titans: S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

AFC Draft Signings: Chiefs, Texans, Jaguars

The Chiefs have signed second-round pick Chris Jones, a source tells PFT (Twitter link). The defensive lineman out of Mississippi State becomes KC’s first rookie to sign. Jones’ stock rose in the weeks leading up to the draft as more and more teams zeroed in on interior pass rushers.

Here are the rest of today’s draft signings from the AFC:

  • The Texans signed fifth-round nose tackle D.J. Reader, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (via Twitter).
  • The Jaguars sign sixth-round quarterback Brandon Allen, as Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union tweets.
  • The Jaguars signed sixth-round linebacker/defensive end Tyrone Holmes, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • Linebacker Jatavis Brown inked his rookie contract with the Chargers, Rand Getlin of NFL.com tweets. The Akron product was taken in the fifth-round.
  • The Jets signed seventh-round punter Lachlan Edwards, according to his agency on Twitter.
  • The Patriots signed sixth-round linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill to a $2.44MM deal, including a $100K signing bonus, as his slot dictates, Wilson tweets.
  • The Steelers announced the signing of seventh round draft picks Demarcus Ayers and Tyler Matakevich. Ayers, a wide receiver/returner from the University of Houston, and Matakevich, a linebacker from Temple, are now the first two Pittsburgh rookies to sign from this year’s class.
  • The Ravens signed fifth-round defensive end Matt Judon, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • The Texans signed fifth-round safety K.J. Dillon, as Mark Berman of FOX 26 tweets.