Michael Roberts

AFC East Notes: Jets, CBs, Bell, Patriots

Despite their wealth of cap space this offseason, the Jets still have some apparent needs. One of those is cornerback. Trumaine Johnson leads the Jets’ corner group. Although the team appears to, at least to some extent, regret signing him to a five-year, $72.5MM contract, he is by far the surest thing Gang Green has here. After Johnson, the Jets have Darryl Roberts and slot signee Brian Poole. Both are former part-time starters, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes the Jets are indeed gauging the trade market for possible solutions. The Jets have thus far tried to address this issue with minor signings (Mark Myers and Montreal Meander) but still have $28MM-plus in cap space, so they could take on a veteran contract if need be. This will be an interesting situation to monitor, but the team does have an outside option in Morris Claiborne. A Jets starter over the past two seasons, Claiborne was not in the team’s initial offseason plans but remains in free agency.

Here is the latest out of the AFC East:

  • Another Jets issue does not yet appear to have subsided. Some in the building were upset Le’Veon Bell did not show for OTAs, Cimini adds. While the two-time All-Pro running back reported for minicamp, there will surely be some learning to do when training camp commences. Bell has only played in one offensive system, Todd Haley‘s, in his career. This is the latest in what’s been another complicated Bell offseason, one that included previous reports of Jets dissatisfaction at his absences and Adam Gase not wanting him at the price Mike Maccagnan paid.
  • Gang Green has not decided on an Andre Roberts successor at kick returner yet, but Trenton Cannon looks to be in the early lead, Ethan Sears of the New York Post writes. Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer praised the running back’s work in this department this offseason, but he has one career kick return as an NFLer. That won’t make replacing an All-Pro easy.
  • The Patriots have not featured much in the way of consistency at wide receiver over the past two years, with numerous players — including Julian Edelman, who did not play in 2017 — shuttling in and out of the lineup and on and off the roster. One low-level signee who has a chance to stick as a role player is former Redskins cog Maurice Harris, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Given a one-year, $1MM deal, the 6-foot-3 Harris has been used at multiple positions thus far, Reiss adds, and profiles as a Tom Brady auxiliary target.
  • The pick the Pats were going to send to the Lions for Michael Roberts was the one they acquired from the Falcons in trading them safety Jordan Richards last year, Reiss notes. The Falcons gave the Patriots a 2020 seventh-round pick, so Roberts’ chances of making New England’s roster may have been slim.
  • Both the Bills and Dolphins now have all of their rookies under contract.

Extra Points: Bradberry, Jenkins, Lions

Count Panthers head coach Ron Rivera among those who’d like to see cornerback James Bradberry signed long-term.

“He is a guy that I hope we do keep around because he is important to what we’ve done,” Rivera told Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. “We’ve kind of shown that you have to be able to keep that type of a corner around.”

It’s pretty easy to surmise that Rivera is talking about former cornerback Josh Norman, who left the organization following a messy contract dispuit. Since then, Bradberry has been one of the lone consistencies among Panthers defensive backs, so it only makes sense that the coaching staff would want to keep him around. The 25-year-old is heading into the final season of his rookie contract.

“I think I’ve shown that I am capable of being a top corner in this league,” Bradberry said. “I just had to make sure I stayed on my P’s and Q’s, on top of my toes. Did a lot of film study each and every week.”

That commitment has certainly paid off. The former second-rounder had another solid season in 2018, finishing with 70 tackles, 15 passes defended, and one interception.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie played a role in convincing safety Malcolm Jenkins to attend the team’s minicamp. The veteran had previously missed the team’s voluntary workouts, and there was concern that he’d skip training camp in pursuit of a new deal. However, after talking to Lurie, Jenkins was in a better frame of mind. “One of the reasons that I feel comfortable being here,” Jenkins told Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer, “is because of my relationship with Jeff Lurie and understanding that I do feel valued and respected.”
  • The Lions did not waive Michael Roberts as an injured player, meaning there was no injury settlement, tweets Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. We learned yesterday that Roberts’ trade from the Lions to the Patriots was called off, and the tight end was subsequently waived by Detroit While a failed physical has been the assumed reason for the failed trade, Birkett notes that different teams’ doctors could have differing opinions.
  • Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton has yet to ink his exclusive rights free agent tender and continues to push the club for a new deal. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes that the player may have been inspired by teammate Alejandro Villanueva, who pulled off a similar move in 2017. “I can’t say if it’s better to sign now or later,” Villanueva said. “But betting on yourself, in this business, usually works.” Fowler writes that the two players have discussed the matter, although Hilton may not see the same kind of resolution as Villanueva.

Lions, Patriots Call Off Michael Roberts Trade

Michael Roberts isn’t going to the Patriots, after all. On Friday, the Lions announced that Roberts reverted back to the team’s roster, “per trade conditions.” Subsequently, the Lions waived the tight end.

Earlier this week, the Lions agreed to ship Roberts to the Patriots in exchange for a conditional 7th-round pick in 2020. For one reason or another, the trade effectively fell through.

Roberts has yet to break through at the pro level, but he has flashed some ability over the past two seasons. He had his best showing in October of last year when he caught two touchdown passes against the Dolphins. Ultimately, however, injuries have prevented him from really making a dent in the NFL.

Now, the league’s 30 other teams will have an opportunity to add him to the roster. The Cardinals, who finished with the worst record in the NFL in 2018, have No. 1 waiver priority.

Lions Trade Michael Roberts To Patriots

The Lions are trading tight end Michael Roberts to the Patriots for a conditional 7th-round pick in 2020, according to Justin Rogers of the Detroit News (on Twitter). Roberts, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will hope to find success with a chance of scenery. 

Roberts has yet to break through at the pro level, but he has flashed some ability over the past two seasons. He had his best showing in October of last year when he caught two touchdown passes against the Dolphins. Ultimately, however, injuries have prevented him from really making a dent.

Roberts provides the Patriots with another possibility at tight end, something they sorely need after the retirement of star Rob Gronkowski. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was meant to be one of the team’s solutions at the position, but the Pats released him earlier this month when his personal problems reemerged. Meanwhile, new pickup Ben Watson will be sidelined for the first four games of the season due to PEDs.

As it currently stands, Matt LaCosse projects to be the Patriots’ starting TE when they open the season in September. The Roberts acquisition probably won’t change that, but he could provide some valuable support if he’s able to make the cut.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Shut Down DE Ziggy Ansah

Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah has been placed on injured reserve, according to a team announcement. Ansah has been hurt for much of the season and was forced out of Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, so the move does not come as a surprise. 

This has been a frustrating year for the Lions and Ansah alike. In the offseason, the Lions kept Ansah from the open market by applying the expensive $17.1MM franchise tag. At the time, the Lions indicated that they were willing to discuss a long-term deal because they wanted to see if Ansah could deliver a second consecutive monster season. Unfortunately, injuries completely derailed Ansah and the Lions’ season tanked.

Ansah managed four sacks in his seven games, but he appeared in just 146 snaps on the entire year. That’s hardly the follow-up the Lions wanted after he notched 12 sacks and 44 overall tackles in 2017.

Ansah will be a fascinating case to watch in free agency. The 29-year-old (30 in May) has turned in two great seasons (2015, 2017), two good seasons (2013, 2014), and two dud seasons (2016, 2018) thus far in his career and his health moving forward is obviously a concern. The silver lining here is that his placement on IR will allow him to immediately undergo surgery for a labrum issue, meaning that he should be ready for training camp in 2019.

The veteran figures to be one of several intriguing pass rushers to hit the open market in March. Frank Clark (Seahawks), Jadeveon Clowney (Texans), Trey Flowers (Patriots), Dee Ford (Chiefs), and DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys) are also on course for free agency in 2019.

The Lions also placed tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder) on IR. To fill the two spots, the Lions signed tight end Jerome Cunningham and offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi from the practice squad.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Manziel, Saints, Broncos, Webster

Former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel kicked off his comeback efforts today in Texas, playing two quarters in the Spring League. NFL teams took notice, with at least eight teams sending representatives, according to Yahoo’s Charles Robinson (Twitter link).

Robinson also noted that at least 17 NFL teams have caught a glimpse of Manziel this week as he ramped up activities. Though it is a long way from the NFL, the appearance marked Manziel’s first on a professional field since December 2015.

Manziel’s overall goal, of course, is to land an NFL contract and he is reportedly willing to accept a practice squad deal with no guaranteed money to prove that he belongs in the league. If he can not catch on with a team, the Heisman Trophy winner has not ruled out a move to the CFL.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • After the trade of Aqib Talib, the Broncos could use a little depth at the cornerback spot. According to Denver 7 ABC’s Troy Renck, former Denver defensive back Kayvon Webster be interested in returning to the team (Twitter link). Renck notes the Broncos are more likely to see what their options are in the draft before bringing back Webster, who played four seasons in Denver before spending time with the Rams in 2017.
  • The Lions have an opening at tight end after the departure of Eric Ebron to the Colts. The team thinks 2017 rookie Michael Roberts could fill that role, Tim Twentyman of detroitlions.com writes. Roberts only caught four passes during his first season in the league, but the fourth-round pick does offer intriguing upside. As a senior at Toledo, he hauled in a whopping 16 touchdowns.
  • In February, Michigan defensive tackle and potential first-round pick Maurice Hurst was not allowed to participate in the NFL Combine after doctors discovered a heart condition. He was not later needed for a medical recheck, a common practice in the NFL, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. A recheck is only needed when further imaging or examination is deemed necessary.

 

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Richardson, Redskins, Bucs, Lions

With teams officially able to place the franchise tag on players beginning tomorrow, there is growing speculation that the Seahawks will use the option on defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, writes Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Condotta cited a number of league insiders who believe the team is likely to use the tag due to the Seahawks paying a steep price to acquire him leading up to the 2017 season. Shortly before the 2017 campaign kicked off, Seattle sent wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick to the Jets in exchange for the fifth-year lineman.

With the Seahawks likely to have about $14 MM in cap space this offseason, they would likely need to rework some deals or extensions in order to afford the $14.5 MM tag the defensive tackle would command. In the piece, Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly said Richardson could be a transition-tag candidate, which would cost the Seahawks roughly $11.7 MM.

If the team doesn’t use the tag, it is likely to lose out on the impact defensive tackle. In January, it was reported the Richardson has a soft spot for the Jets and could land back with his former team.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Redskins are interested in re-signing receiver Ryan Grant, according to ESPN’s John Keim. In 2017, Grant posted career highs with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns. Keim notes the team is expected to look for a speed wideout to pair with Josh Doctson on the outside. If the team brought back Grant, that would essentially relegate him to fourth-wideout duties.
  • The Lions plan to bring back tight end Eric Ebron, and unrestricted free agent Darren Fells and the team are not close to a contract extension, the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett writes. Should Fells leave, which seems likely, Birkett says Michael Roberts is planning on playing a starter’s role in 2018. Ebron’s $8.25 MM deal becomes guaranteed on the first day of the new league year.
  • The Buccaneers are hiring Brentson Buckner as their new defensive lineman coach, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports (Twitter link). Buckner spent the last five seasons working with the Cardinals in the same position.

Lions Sign LB Jarrad Davis

The Lions announced that they have signed eight of their nine draft picks, plus 14 undrafted free agents. The complete list:

Draft Signings:

UDFAs:

As far as draft picks go, Northern Illinois wide receiver Kenny Golladay is the only player that has yet to put pen to paper. The reason for the delay is not known, but third round picks often take longer to sign than other picks as things are less rigid in those slots.

Davis was said to be a target of the Dolphins at No. 22, so it’s a good thing that the Lions were up at No. 21. Davis impressed scouts at his Pro Day when he posted a 4.56 40-yard dash and 38.5 inch vertical jump. As shown on Roster Resource, Davis may be in for a starting role in 2017.

Tabor fell to the Lions at No. 53 but some draft analysts, like NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, felt that he should have gone much higher. The Florida product suffered a hamstring injury during his workout with Detroit and was unable to audition for other teams, so that might explain why he was still available. Then again, we’ve seen “pretend injuries” before, so it’s possible there was a wink-wink deal between Tabor’s team and the Lions.

Kaaya was said to have one of the highest football IQs of any quarterback in this year’s class. It remains to be seen whether he has the arm to make it as an NFL quarterback, but the Lions believe that he can be a solid backup QB, at minimum.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (on Twitter), Valoaga got $22K guaranteed ($12K bonus, $10K base) to sign with Detroit. Typically, UDFAs get around $5K, so that’s a sign that Valoaga had at least a few teams interested in adding him to the 90-man roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Chargers, Buccaneers, Jets

The Chargers have been connected to a number of quarterback prospects, including DeShone KizerPatrick Mahomes and Josh Dobbs. Current signal-caller, veteran Philip Rivers, understands why his team would start looking for an heir apparent. However, the 35-year-old was also adamant that he’s not looking to give up his role anytime soon.

“I think it’s to be expected they’re going to get a young guy in the room to try and develop him and groom him,” Rivers said (via ESPN.com’s Eric D. Williams). “It doesn’t by any means really affect me. I think it’s healthy for me. … This thing doesn’t last forever. I have to get to playing better and keep this thing going as long as you can.

“As long as I do that, then whoever it is they bring in here, they’re going to sit for a while.”

Rivers finished this past season with 4,386 yards, 33 touchdowns, and a career-high 21 interceptions.

Let’s take a look at some other draft notes…

  • The Buccaneers have shown interest in a pair of safeties, according to ESPN.com’s Jenna LaineObi Melifonwu (Connecticut) and Budda Baker (Washington). The organization is also eyeing wide receivers Chris Godwin (Penn State) and Rodney Adams (South Florida), offensive tackle Julien Davenport (Bucknell), running back Kareem Hunt (Toledo), and tight end Michael Roberts (Toledo).
  • According to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com, Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan didn’t show a whole lot of speed during his school’s Pro Day, but he looked solid in positional drills. The defender previously met with the Saints, and he had dinner with the Jets on Thursday night.
  • There were a number of offensive line coaches at Utah’s Pro Day, including staff from the Jets, Browns, Jaguars, and Lions. Offensive tackle Sam Tevi was impressive during the workouts, and the big man has drawn particular interest from both the Saints and Patriots.
  • Eastern Washington doesn’t have their Pro Day until early next week, but that didn’t stop some coaches from visiting their top prospects. The Cardinals and Buccaneers reportedly visited campus to work out defensive lineman Samson Ebukam.