Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell Will Not Play This Year

The Le’Veon Bell saga – or, at least, this part of it – is over. The running back will not report to the Steelers or sign his franchise tender before the Tuesday afternoon deadline, Adam Schefter of tweets. This renders him ineligible to play in 2018. 

The Steelers tagged Bell for the second straight time, but he refused to play on a one-year, $14.5MM contract. There was previously confusion about the ramifications of a year-long holdout, but Bell’s camp recently confirmed that he cannot be tagged again at the same rate. A third franchise tag would cost the Steelers roughly $25MM, which assures that he’ll reach unrestricted free agency unless the team throws him a curveball and uses the transition tag.

Bell has sacrificed roughly $8MM in salary up until this point and he’ll forfeit another ~$6MM in earnings by stretching his holdout through the end of the season. He’ll also miss out on a possible Super Bowl run. Despite a rocky start, the Steelers lead the AFC North and appear well on their way to another playoff berth.

Bell’s stance has been the source of controversy this year, but, from a financial perspective, it’s hard to argue with his approach. If Bell suffered a serious injury this year, he would have jeopardized a massive payday in free agency. It’s likely that he’ll be dinged for his high usage in recent years and Bell did not want to take another hit as he seeks to break the mold for running backs.

Some GMs may shy away from Bell for a perceived lack of commitment to the game, but he still figures to command a record-breaking contract in the spring. The Jets, for example, are projected to have upwards of $100MM in cap room and figure to make a strong push for Bell, who will have just turned 27 in March.

Bell’s free agency will be a fascinating case to watch. It’s not often that truly elite players reach unrestricted free agency and Bell will arguably be one of the best to ever hit the open market.

Fortunately for the Steelers, they have found a very capable replacement in Bell’s former understudy. James Conner, 23, has 771 yards off of 164 carries in nine games this year, giving him a stellar average of 4.7 yards per tote. He also has ten rushing touchdowns and a 39/387/1 stat line as a receiver.

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Chargers’ Denzel Perryman Done For Year

Chargers star linebacker Denzel Perryman suffered an injury to his LCL and probably needs hamstring surgery as well, Ian Rapoport of (on Twitter) hears. The double whammy will land him on injured reserve, ending his season. 

The Chargers have been one of the league’s surprise successes this season and Perryman deserves serious credit for their 7-2 start. Through nine games, the 25-year-old (26 in December) tallied 51 total tackles and an interception. The inside linebacker doesn’t have any sacks, but he is ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 23rd best linebacker on the strength of his pass rush pressure.

Perryman, a second-round pick in 2015, is no stranger to injury. Last year, Perryman started the year on IR and went right back after seven games.

Without Perryman, the Chargers will likely turn to Korey Toomer or Nick Dzubnar in the middle. It also stands to reason that they’ll add a linebacker, especially since Kyzir White is on IR and Chris Landrum is healing up from a hip injury.

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Eagles CB Ronald Darby Done For Year

Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby is out for the year with a torn ACL, the team announced on Monday. Darby injured his right knee in the third quarter against the Cowboys on Sunday and further testing confirmed the team’s worst fears. 

The Eagles were already without corners Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills on Sunday thanks to injuries, so the loss of Darby leaves them extra thin at cornerback. Before the injury, Darby started in all nine of the Eagles’ games and tallied 43 tackles plus one interception.

Darby was among the 30 best cornerbacks in the NFL this season, according to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. The timing of his injury is especially rough with the Saints being the next team up on the schedule. After handing a 51-14 drumming to the Bengals – a game that cost defensive coordinator Teryl Austin his job – the Saints’ offense is looking as potent as ever.

The Eagles will likely sign at least one cornerback this week in order to improve their depth in the secondary. If Mills and Jones can’t play this week, they’ll have to rely on Rasul Douglas, fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox, UDFA Chandon Sullivan, and Cre’Von LeBlanc to pick up the slack.

Darby is in the final year of his rookie contract, so his season-ending injury could have a serious impact on his market. Before the ACL tear, Darby profiled as one of the best cornerbacks available in the spring.

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Rams’ Cooper Kupp Suffers Torn ACL

The Rams’ worst fears have been confirmed. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been ruled out for the season with a torn ACL, a source tells Adam Schefter of (on Twitter). 

Kupp, 25, was in the midst of another strong season with 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games. Unfortunately, the injury that forced him out of Sunday’s game against the Seahawks will end his season and leave the 9-1 Rams without one of their best weapons.

The third-round pick out of Eastern Washington was a pleasant surprise for the Rams last season as he racked up 62 catches for 869 yards and five scores. This year, before the injury, he was on pace for about 70 catches for 985 yards and ten scores.

The Rams still have plenty of pass-catching ammo thanks to Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, but each player will attract more attention without Kupp on the field. Josh Reynolds, JoJo Natson, KhaDarel Hodge, and Nick Williams are also on the roster, so the Rams might not have to sign another receiver.

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Bengals Fire DC Teryl Austin

The Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, as Josina Anderson of tweets. For now, head coach Marvin Lewis will assume the Bengals’ defensive coordinator responsibilities, a source tells Adam Schefter of (on Twitter).

On Sunday, the Bengals suffered a 51-14 loss at the hands of the Saints. Even without wide receiver Cameron Meredith, the Saints went off for 509 offensive yards and 44 unanswered points after the game was knotted up at 7-7. This was the third straight game in which the Bengals allowed over 500 yards and Austin has been blamed for the defense’s shortcomings.

For the last two years, Austin has been in the mix for head coaching jobs around the league. This year, he pushed for the Lions to promote him from defensive coordinator to head coach after Jim Caldwell was fired, but the team was dead set on hiring Matt Patricia. When that became apparent to Austin, he hooked on with the Bengals to serve under Lewis.

Now, Austin’s time in Cincinnati is up after just one year. And, fair or not, Austin is now even further away from getting his big break as a head coach.

The Bengals are now 5-4, meaning that their playoff hopes are alive, though they have some ground to make up if they hope to beat out the 6-2-1 Steelers for the AFC North crown.

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Saints Fear Achilles Tear For Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant was helped off the Saints’ practice field Friday. The team fears the ninth-year wide receiver suffered a torn Achilles, Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of report on Twitter.

Bryant is getting an MRI now, and Rapoport and Pelissero report he will seek a second opinion after that scan is complete. This would be a brutal turn of events for a player who spent months in free agency and one who hoped to land an impact deal next year.

This injury occurred when Bryant was running a routine route, Jane Slater of tweets. It is believed to have taken place on the final play of New Orleans’ practice, Adam Schefter of reports (via Twitter). It was indeed a non-contact play, veteran reporter Ed Werder tweets.

While the Saints’ injury report lists Bryant as questionable with an ankle malady, that designation could soon change.

The recently acquired wideout was not supposed to be ready to play in the Saints’ Week 10 game against the Bengals, Pelissero notes (via Twitter). The longtime Cowboy was in the process of acclimating to a new system and presumably would’ve been ready to play in Week 11. While the Saints’ machine figures to hum along as it has for years, this may be a late-career-defining setback — if, in fact, Bryant has actually torn one of his Achilles’ tendons — for the receiver.

The Saints ended Bryant’s free agency stay by choosing him over fellow Tuesday-workout participants Brandon Marshall and Kamar Aiken. The former impressed the Saints, per Schefter (on Twitter), and could well be an option if Dez ultimately has severely damaged an Achilles. New Orleans placed Cameron Meredith on IR this week, and if its new acquisition can’t go, only has three healthy receivers on its roster. Meredith followed Saints wideouts Tommylee Lewis and Ted Ginn to IR, though Lewis has since resumed practicing and could be activated soon.

Dez turned down offers from the Ravens — a three-year, $21MM pact — and Browns (worth less than $5MM). He landed a $1.25MM deal with the Saints that contained incentives. Achilles tears represent one of the toughest injuries to overcome, and given the timing of this, Bryant’s rehab would take him into the free agency period. It would undoubtedly affect his market, particularly after the former All-Pro showed signs of decline during his final years in Dallas.

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Saints To Sign Dez Bryant

The Saints have agreed to sign Dez Bryant, according to Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune (on Twitter). It’s a one-year pact that Bryant will formally ink on Thursday, according to Ian Rapoport and Jane Slater of (Twitter link). The two sides started negotiating shortly after Bryant’s workout on Tuesday afternoon and reached agreement on Wednesday morning. 

The deal brings Bryant’s lengthy unemployment to an end. The Cowboys released Bryant in April, after most of the league’s free agent dollars were already spent. Weeks later, the veteran rejected a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens, a decision that has been panned by many. Bryant ultimately got what he wanted, a short-term deal that will allow him to test free agency again in 2019. However, he missed out on the first half of the season and significant cash.

Bryant averaged 91 catches for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns between 2012 and 2014, but his averages plummeted to 50 catches for 678 yards and six TDs over the last three years. He also missed ten games due to injury between 2015 and 2016, and some say he wasn’t giving 100% towards the end of his run in Dallas. Some say that Bryant isn’t the player that he once was, but the veteran is motivated to prove the doubters wrong.

All in all, the Saints believe he’ll offer more than Brandon Marshall or Kamar Aiken, two receivers who also worked out for New Orleans on Tuesday. Jeremy Kerley was also scheduled to audition, but weather interfered with his flight.

The Saints haven’t lost since their season opener against the Buccaneers and lead the NFC South with a 7-1 record. After losing supporting receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Tommylee Lewis to injury earlier this year, Bryant is expected to provide a boost behind talented starters Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, and Tre’Quan Smith.

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Latest On Steelers, Le’Veon Bell

Per league rules, Le’Veon Bell has until Tuesday to sign his franchise tag and report to the Steelers. However, based on recently discovered information, Bell is reconsidering whether he will put pen to paper before the Nov. 13 deadline, as Mark Kaboly of The Athletic writes. 

It was previously believed that Bell’s franchise tag price for 2019 would be equivalent to last year’s tag if he did not show up for work before the deadline. However, Bell’s camp recently confirmed that his franchise tag price would be unaffected even if he stayed away from the team for the entire year. A third franchise tag would cost the Steelers upwards of $25MM, all but guaranteeing that he would reach free agency unencumbered.

So far, Bell’s stance has cost him $7.7MM in salary. He can still earn $6.84MM if he shows up before Thursday night’s contest against the Panthers, but he’s adamant about being 100% healthy as he reaches free agency and may be willing to forego the rest of his earnings for 2018.

The Steelers would like to get Bell back on the field for their playoff push, but they’ve been doing just fine with James Conner as their primary running back. On Sunday, the Steelers improved to 5-2-1 on the year as Conner ran for 107 yards off of 24 carries against the Ravens. His 1,085 yards from scrimmage sit only behind Todd Gurley, who’s played one more game than Conner.

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Falcons Sign DE Bruce Irvin

Former Raiders defensive end Bruce Irvin has agreed to a one-year deal with the Falcons, according to a team announcement. The deal reunites Irvin with coach Dan Quinn and gives the veteran a chance at reaching the playoffs this season. 

This was a dream [come] true,” the Atlanta native told Vaughn McClure of (on Twitter). “The Patriots and Steelers offered more money, but being able to play for my city and my people, you just can’t put a price on that.”

The Seahawks also tried to sign Irvin, according to Ian Rapoport of (on Twitter). But, rather than don his old uniform, Irvin decided to reconnect with the coach who helped mold him into one of the league’s most feared edge rushers.

Irvin’s new deal will pay him $1.5MM for the final eight games of the season, Rapoport adds (on Twitter). He also gets to collect on the full amount of his remaining Raiders salary, giving him a total haul of $9.75MM for 2018.

Irvin, 31, recorded 88 tackles, 8.5 sacks, five pass defenses, three interceptions and two touchdowns in his two seasons under Quinn in Seattle. The former No. 12 overall pick also had some success with the Raiders, but things took a turn this year under new head coach Jon Gruden.

The Raiders’ pass rush has been listless without Khalil Mack leading the charge, and Irvin was not his usual self, despite leading the team with three sacks at the midway point of the season. In his final game with the Raiders, Irvin played only nine snaps.

With the Falcons, Irvin will join a talented pass rush that includes former first-round picks Takkarist McKinley and Vic Beasley. On the whole, it’s a defense that has not been playing up to its potential. The Falcons are among the lowest-ranked defenses in the league and the front seven has registered just 17 sacks on the year.

Because he was released after the trade deadline, Irvin was subject to waivers. He went unclaimed due to his contract which called for him to earn $3.8MM the rest of the way. Naturally, he’ll earn less on his Falcons deal.

Irvin’s first game with the Falcons will come against the Browns on Sunday.

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Dez Bryant Working On Deal With Saints

Free agent receiver Dez Bryant is negotiating a deal with the Saints, who worked him out on Monday, according to Tom Pelissero of (Twitter link).

Bryant didn’t immediately leave New Orleans with a contract following his audition, but the club was pleased with his performance, per Pelissero. The Saints have been searching for a veteran receiver to replace Ted Ginn Jr., who was placed on injured reserve weeks ago. Drew Brees certainly has other pass-catching options outside of the receiver position, including running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Ben Watson, but Bryant would give the future Hall of Fame quarterback another viable choice behind No. 1 Michael Thomas.

As Pelissero notes, Bryant has come close to agreements with other clubs earlier this year, so his pact with the Saints shouldn’t be considered final until he signs on the dotted line. Bryant reportedly rejected a one-year accord from the Ravens after being cut by the Cowboys, and also had a dalliance with the Browns. If Bryant, who turned 30 years old on Sunday, does reach a deal with New Orleans, it almost certainly will only run through the end of the 2018 campaign.

Bryant certainly comes with risk, as he hasn’t topped 1,000 yards receiving since 2014, while his 12.1 yards per reception in 2017 was the lowest average of his career. But the Saints believe he’ll offer a better performance than any of Brandon Marshall or Kamar Aiken, both of whom also worked out for New Orleans on Monday. Jeremy Kerley was also scheduled to audition, but weather interfered with his flight.

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