Michael Pierce

AFC Notes: Hill, Funchess, Ravens, Jets

In May, Roger Goodell said the NFL would not interfere with the Kansas Department for Children and Families’ Tyreek Hill investigation, indicating the league would interview the Chiefs wide receiver “whenever we have permission to.” It is unclear if the Kansas DCF’s investigation has concluded, but if it has not, the news about NFL investigators meeting with Hill represents a reversal and, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, perhaps an acknowledgement by the league something needs to transpire on this front by the time the Chiefs report to training camp July 23. While the investigation is likely covering the bruises and welts that appeared on the body of Hill’s 3-year-old son, Florio notes Hill’s history of violence, and the comment his fiance needing to worry about more possible violence, will almost certainly result in a Hill suspension. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was suspended four games in 2018 for threatening and the mother of his child and “engaging in emotional abuse.” With audio evidence having surfaced in this case, and Hill not being punished for his admitted 2014 violence against Crystal Espinal, that would seem to be the baseline for his potential punishment.

Here is the latest out of the AFC:

  • John Harbaugh has committed to Patrick Onwuasor returning as a starting linebacker for a revamped Ravens defense, but the 12th-year HC has not made a decision on C.J. Mosley‘s successor. While former UDFA Chris Board has impressed, Harbaugh indicated a committee is the likely post-Mosley plan. Harbaugh said (via Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com) Board will probably join 2018 fourth-rounder Kenny Young and hybrid safety Anthony Levine alongside Onwuasor in sub-packages. Young led the trio with 381 linebacker snaps last season; Board played just 21.
  • Onwuasor may be the best bet for the young defender who signs a Ravens extension, per Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic (subscription required). With emerging sack artist Matt Judon perhaps in line to continue a trend of edge rushers pricing themselves out of Baltimore and nose tackle Michael Pierce coming to Ravens minicamp at least 25 pounds overweight, in Zreibec’s view, the Ravens preventing their top inside linebacker from following Mosley out of Maryland seems logical. A former UDFA, Onwuasor has started 26 games. He graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 40 linebacker last season.
  • Devin Funchess has put together an inconsistent career thus far and went through most of the Colts‘ offseason program without working with Andrew Luck, who was sidelined with a strained calf. But Frank Reich said (via Kevin Bowen of 107.5 The Fan) he is “very encouraged” by Funchess’ route-running, for a player his size, and his overall progress in his system. Reich lobbied early for Funchess in March, and the former Panthers target will almost certainly play a big role for the Colts this season.
  • Another AFC free agent signing, Brian Poole, looks aimed toward a big role in his first AFC season. The Jets have used the former Falcons slot cornerback both inside and outside this offseason, Brian Costello of the New York Post notes. Gang Green did not bring in a proven outside starter opposite Trumaine Johnson, and Morris Claiborne remains a free agent. While another corner will have to step up to join the duo in nickel sets, Poole appears set for a steady gig in New York.

Michael Pierce Addresses Conditioning Issue

Having missed the voluntary portion of the Ravens’ offseason program, Michael Pierce was present for minicamp after signing his second-round RFA tender. But John Harbaugh sidelined him early on the first day of the mandatory workout due to the emerging defensive tackle being well over his listed 340-pound frame.

Harbaugh pulled Pierce off the field after the stretching portion of the Ravens’ workout, citing the lineman’s health as the reason. The fourth-year defender showed up “significantly” heavier than his listed weight, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Throughout the offseason, I tend to lift more than run,” Pierce told WNSP-FM radio in Alabama (via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). “Being a nose guard, I want to be strong or whatnot. I, honestly, just mismanaged my running a little bit.

At the end of the day, you expect a team leader to come back in better shape than I did. That’s a mistake on my behalf I have to correct.”

This is a critical year for Pierce, who is attached to a $3.095MM salary because of the RFA tender. The former UDFA out of Samford is due for unrestricted free agency next year, and given the Ravens’ pattern of letting talent walk and recouping compensatory picks, Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 interior defender last season may well have a chance to hit the market. This is obviously not a good start to Pierce’s contract year.

You know, of course, you are disappointed with him,” Ravens DC Don Martindale said, via Zreibec. “He’s a dominant player, and he’s got a challenge from here until training camp to hit a certain stage, and that’s (up to) the trainers and (GM Eric DeCosta) and Harbs on where they want him to be at. I know he’ll be there. I know he will.”

Pierce will face a pivotal stretch over the next five-plus weeks, needing to reduce his weight to return to the kind of shape he was in last season. The 26-year-old defender, who started two games last year and 13 in 2017, will have to pass a conditioning test before taking the field for training camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens DT Michael Pierce Signs RFA Tender

Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce has signed his second-round restricted free agent tender, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Pierce will now earn $3.095MM for the 2019 season.

The deadline has already passed for NFL teams to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets, so Pierce didn’t have the ability to leave Baltimore. A rival club would have had to sacrifice a second-round pick in order to land Pierce, and while he’s an excellent player, the relatively low positional value for run-stuffing defensive tackles made such a scenario unlikely.

Pierce, 26, has appeared in 46 games for the Ravens since going undrafted in the 2016 draft. The 6’0″, 340-pounder played behind stalwart Brandon Williams on Baltimore’s interior defensive line last season, managing four tackles for loss on 389 total snaps. Pro Football Focus graded Pierce as the fifth-best defensive tackle in the league, and also ranked him 11th among interior defenders in run-stop percentage.

With Pierce now under contract, the only restricted free agents yet to sign their tenders are Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson, Rams linebacker Cory Littleton, and Rams cornerback Troy Hill.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Expected To Tender DT Michael Pierce

The Ravens are expected to place a second-round tender on nose tackle Michael Pierce, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (via Twitter). The 26-year-old will earn $3.095MM via the tender.

The move officially makes Pierce a restricted free agent, meaning he can field offers until April 19th. If he signs an offer sheet with another team, the Ravens will have the ability to match. If Baltimore doesn’t match, they’d receive a second-rounder.

While Pierce has shown some intriguing flashes through his first three years in the NFL, it’s unlikely a team would be willing to give up that kind of capital to secure his services. It’s most likely that the defensive tackle ultimately returns to Baltimore on the one-year tender.

The 2016 undrafted free agent appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, and that led to him earning a starting nod in 2017. Pierce only started two game in 2018, but he still finished the campaign with 32 tackles. Pro Football Focus has always been a particularly big fan of Pierce, and they ranked him fifth among 112 interior defenders last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Sign Seven Draftees, 11 UDFAs

Like a number of other teams around the league, the Ravens made an effort to get plenty of contracts done before their rookie minicamp got underway, securing seven of their 11 draftees, and adding another 11 undrafted free agents to their roster.

The Ravens confirmed today that they’ve signed fifth-round defensive end Matt Judon, whose agreement was reported earlier this week, and announced that they’ve locked up six other draft picks, writes Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com. Sixth overall pick Ronnie Stanley remains unsigned, as do Bronson KaufusiTavon Young, and Keenan Reynolds. However, the following Baltimore draftees are now under contract, having signed their four-year rookie deals:

In a separate press release on their website, the Ravens also listed their 11-man UDFA class, complete with a scouting report for each player. Here are Baltimore’s UDFA additions: