A.J. Cole

AFC Rumors: Jags, Judon, Raiders, Browns

Less than a year into the JaguarsUrban MeyerTrent Baalke partnership, the two power brokers may not be seeing eye to eye. Some tension has surfaced between the new coworkers, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. This is certainly not the first sign of trouble for the Meyer regime in Jacksonville. A host of controversies and/or scrutinized decisions have emerged this year, peaking with the first-year NFL HC’s decision not to fly back to Jacksonville with the team earlier this season, and the Jags are now 2-10. They have seen their offense, led by prized QB prospect Trevor Lawrence, struggle for most of the season. The Jaguars are averaging just 10.6 points per game over their six contests since their bye week, inviting speculation about assistants’ job security. Baalke, the ex-49ers GM whom the Jags named to the same position shortly after tabbing Meyer to lead their latest rebuild, might not be on solid ground either. While Meyer being a one-and-done is far from certain, the former national championship-winning coach’s first season has gone about as badly as possible.

Here is the latest from around the AFC:

  • The Patriots’ Matt Judon deal has become one of the best from this past free agency period, with the ex-Ravens edge rusher having amassed a career-high 12.5 sacks. Deviating from its usual lower-key free agency strategy, New England moved quickly to land Judon on a four-year, $54.5MM accord. Prior to this agreement, Judon gave the Ravens a chance to match it, La Canfora writes. Judon had told teammates he did not want to leave Baltimore, JLC adds, though he had said in February everything would have to line up for him to stay. The Ravens, who have let several edge rushers walk to recoup compensatory picks, opted to retool at the position again. After letting let both Judon and Yannick Ngakoue leave, the Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh in Round 1 and signed Justin Houston on a low-cost deal.
  • Jaguars tight ends coach Tyler Bowen is set to become Virginia Tech’s offensive coordinator, Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com reports. Bowen, 32, is in his first season with the Jags. He had previously worked with new Hokies HC Brent Pry at Penn State, being a Nittany Lions assistant from 2018-20.
  • The Raiders figure to have several new staffers next year, with GM Mike Mayock and interim HC Rich Bisaccia far from assured they will be back. But the team will not be parting with Marcel Reece. The former Oakland fullback will be staying on as a senior adviser to Mark Davis, Vic Tafur of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Reece, who played for the Raiders for nine seasons (2008-16), has been in his current role since 2020. He figures to play a role in the franchise’s coaching search as well.
  • A.J. Cole joined Daniel Carlson in signing extensions to keep the Raiders’ current kicking corps intact long-term. The young punter signed a four-year deal worth $12.4MM, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Cole, who will receive $5.9MM guaranteed, is now one of the NFL’s five highest-paid punters.
  • Greg Newsome suffered a concussion on the final play of Browns practice Friday, Jeff Schudel of the Lorain Morning Journal tweets. Cleveland’s first-round pick is out for Sunday’s game against the Ravens. The Browns do have an experienced option to elevate into their starting lineup, with Greedy Williams having been a regular starter as a rookie in 2019. Pro Football Focus grades Williams, who has played 45% of Cleveland’s defensive snaps, as a top-20 corner this season.

Raiders Extend P AJ Cole

The Raiders are busy extending their key special teamers. After reportedly extending kicker Daniel Carlson earlier tonight, the Raiders have now inked punter AJ Cole to a four-year extension, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter).

[RELATED: Raiders Extend K Daniel Carlson]

Cole joined the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of NC State in 2019, and he hasn’t missed a single game for the organization since that time. Cole has appeared in 12 games this season, compiling 2,505 yards on 49 punts (good for a league-leading 51.1 yards per punt).

The terms of Cole’s deal haven’t been reported, but Garafolo notes that Cole will be among the four highest-paid punters in the NFL. Seahawks punter Michael Dickson became the highest-paid player at his position when he signed a pact worth $3.5MM per year.

The Raiders front office is making significant investments in their special teams aces. Earlier tonight, the organization signed Carolson to a four-year pact worth $18.4MM, including a $4MM signing bonus and $10.2MM in guaranteed

Raiders End Punting Competition

The Raiders’ punter competition is over. On Tuesday, the Raiders waived Johnny Townsend, which effectively anoints undrafted rookie A.J. Cole as the team’s punter moving forward. 

The Raiders used a fifth-round pick to select Townsend last year, but he didn’t do much in his rookie season or training camp this summer. Cole, meanwhile, managed to put two punts inside the 20 against the Rams on Saturday. Quickly, Cole earned a fan in head coach Jon Gruden.

[Cole] put on an orbital display the other day against the Rams [in joint practices last week],” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Saturday night (via Scott Bair of NBC Sports). “We haven’t seen kicks like that since [Shane] Lechler was here or [Marquette] King. He has a live leg and it looks like he can directional punt and hold, so Townsend has his hands full.”

In related moves, cornerback Hamp Cheevers was waived. Meanwhile, the club signed defensive backs Makinton Dorleant and Joshua Holsey.

West Rumors: 49ers, Seahawks, Broncos

It’s been a long offseason for the 49ers, who have seen numerous key players deal with injuries throughout the spring and summer. Add more to the list of San Francisco talents set to miss the preseason. Jerick McKinnon and Weston Richburg are both unlikely to play until Week 1. Given $18MM guaranteed, McKinnon is still dealing with knee trouble after missing all of last season with an ACL tear. The sixth-year running back received a platelet-rich plasma injection on his knee and is expected to miss the 49ers’ August slate, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com notes. The team activated him from the PUP list Tuesday, but Kyle Shanahan said his prized 2018 offseason signing experienced significant soreness after going through individual drills the past two days. Richburg, who remains on the active/PUP list after a January knee surgery, is being targeted a Week 1 return. So are Nick Bosa and Jason Verrett. The 49ers hope Dee Ford, who received a PRP injection on his injured knee, can play by the team’s dress-rehearsal preseason game.

Here’s the latest West news from outside of San Francisco:

  • With the Seahawks in desperate need of available pass rushers come Week 1, more blitz opportunities may be on tap. Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks (should he be on the field) are in position to be used more as rushers. “If we can play really good D, it’s going to be because of Bobby and K.J. and Mychal and the guys in the linebacker spot. We’re going to utilize them as much as we can to be a factor in all aspects, run and pass [defense],” Pete Carroll said, via ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson. “Those guys are really good pass defenders, and they love coming off the edge too. We’ll plan on using those guys a lot.” After Frank Clark‘s departure, the Seahawks have Ziggy Ansah and L.J. Collier injured. Jarran Reed incurred a six-game suspension. Wright has not collected a sack since 2016, when he had four. Wagner had 4.5 that year but recorded 2.5 since.
  • Theo Riddick will earn a $2MM 2019 base salary with the Broncos, and $750K of it is fully guaranteed, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Another $250K will be available in per-game roster bonuses. Overall, Riddick signed for $2.5MM with $1MM guaranteed. This makes it a near-certainty Riddick will appear on the Broncos’ 53-man roster in September.
  • The Broncos are already down Todd Davis for multiple weeks; they will be without one of his top backups for longer than that. Joe Jones suffered a triceps injury this week, and a second opinion delivered more clarity on the inside linebacker’s timeline. Jones will be out between six and eight weeks, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. But he will not need surgery, which could increase his chances of making the Broncos. If Jones hits IR before the Broncos finalize their 53-man unit, the special-teamer will be ineligible to return for them this season.
  • Returning 2018 fifth-round pick Johnny Townsend would seemingly be in line to keep his job as the Raiders‘ punter, but Jon Gruden said rookie UDFA A.J. Cole has put himself in the conversation to unseat the incumbent, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (on Twitter). Cole would be an option to handle Raiders kickoffs as well.

Latest On Raiders ST Competitions

The Raiders have Daniel Carlson locked in as their starting kicker, but the coaching staff has some tough decisions to make elsewhere on special teams. As Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes, the organization currently has competitions at both punter and long snapper.

The punter competition is between Johnny Townsend and rookie A.J. Cole. The 24-year-old Townsend is the incumbent after appearing in all 16 games for the Raiders in 2018. However, the Florida product struggled at times during his rookie campaign, and he ranked 30th in the NFL with a 38.3-yard net average. The Raiders ended up adding Cole as an undrafted free agent, but Gehlken notes that Townsend is still the favorite for the position.

“He’s really done a great job working on his hang time,” said special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. “That’s improved tremendously (over) the course of the year. Now, we’ve given up a little bit of direction to get his hang time where he’d like it to be, and hopefully we can get both — the hang and the direction — going into training camp.”

Meanwhile, veteran Andrew DePaola is the favorite at long snapper, although the 31-year-old missed the majority of last season with a torn ACL. The Raiders signed Trent Sieg to fill in, and the rookie ended up appearing in 15 games last year. While DePaola wasn’t able to get on the field with a rookie punter and rookie kicker, the veteran was still instrumental in their development.

“If we had any questions, we’d always ask him because he’s been through it a little more than we have,” Carlson said. “It was just huge for us last season to have that resource. It’s good to have him back and healthy and competing now again.”

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/6/19

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Reserve/non-football injury list: DE Tim Ward

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants 

  • Signed: G Austin Droogsma

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers