David DeCastro

AFC Notes: Jackson, Sanders, DeCastro

There’s been a lot of talk about the coming Lamar Jackson extension this offseason. Both he and the Ravens have insisted something will get worked out, and that they’re not worried about when. We heard this past week that Jackson was still operating without an agent, and that his mother was running point on negotiations as his business partner. Apparently that has some people concerned, causing the NFLPA to reach out. The players’ union “has tried to assist to no avail,” during the process, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes.

La Canfora says Jackson has received “zero guidance” from the NFLPA. He also notes that since no agent is involved, there’s naturally “zero flow of information about it in the agent community.” La Canfora opines that since the contract negotiation process “requires exposing warts and engaging in a bare-fisted back-and-forth at times,” it can be a “far easier exchange with a third party.” He also says he’s inclined to think the negotiations drag “on for a while, and we don’t get a lot of action in the first half of July.” It’s a unique situation for the Ravens and their franchise quarterback, and one everyone around the league will be watching with eyebrows raised. It should be very interesting to see how it all plays out.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Bills finally got their man, signing Emmanuel Sanders to a one-year deal this past offseason. Apparently they’ve been after the veteran receiver for a while. GM Brandon Beane tried to trade for Sanders at the 2019 trade deadline, Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic writes. He was ultimately traded from the Broncos to the 49ers at that deadline instead. We knew Buffalo pursued him in free agency last year, but he ended up signing with the Saints. The third time turned out to be the charm. Sanders turned 34 in March but remained fairly productive in New Orleans last season and Buscaglia seems bullish on his outlook, writing that he’s the “most underrated piece” of the Bills’ offense and that Josh Allen looked for him often during recent practices.
  • David DeCastro was just released by the Steelers last week, and the veteran lineman is reportedly considering retirement. Although DeCastro will apparently wait at least a couple of months before deciding whether or not to play again, he has another decision that sounds easier for him to make. DeCastro is “likely to file a grievance” through the NFLPA against the Steelers, Ed Bouchette of The Athletic writes. Pittsburgh released him with a non-football injury designation, but DeCastro said recently the ankle problem for which he’ll soon undergo another surgery is something he was dealing with from last season that didn’t heal right. Bouchette seems to think the Steelers know they’ll have to end up paying DeCastro some more money down the line, but that they made the move so they’d immediately be able to fit Trai Turner‘s contract into their salary cap.

David DeCastro Months Away From Decision On Continuing Career

While David DeCastro is now one of the top free agents available, the All-Pro guard has a major issue to navigate before he considers signing with another team. He will undergo a third ankle surgery soon.

Although the Steelers released the nine-year veteran with a non-football injury designation, DeCastro confirmed this issue was indeed a problem during the 2020 season. He still made the Pro Bowl — in a year without alternates expanding the invite list, no less — but it certainly sounds like the former first-round pick’s career is in jeopardy.

I’ve thought about it all offseason,” DeCastro said of retirement, via Jim Colony of 93.7 The Fan. “I knew something was wrong. I wanted to give it that 18-month window (which) is usually when you can tell with surgery, so I gave it time to rest then started working out, running and moving around. But I knew something wasn’t right.”

No Steelers injury report mentioned DeCastro’s ankle problem last season, according to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly (on Twitter). DeCastro appeared on Pittsburgh’s injury report with knee, hand and abdomen issues. DeCastro missed three games in 2020, with the knee and abdomen problems shelving him.

I had surgery on this ankle last year and it didn’t heal right,” DeCastro said. “Last year, it bothered me. Not only is it painful, but it’s hard to play on when you feel like you’re playing half-legged.”

This could open up the Steelers to an NFL inquiry regarding their injury reporting, and DeCastro will need additional time before determining if his career can continue. The 31-year-old lineman said it will be at least two months before he will know if playing this season is realistic, per Colony. A situation in which DeCastro takes the 2021 season off and returns in 2022 could arise, or a team could make a rare impactful in-season free agency addition. But for now, it appears unlikely DeCastro will be connected to any teams as a free agent.

DeCastro entered the offseason as the last link to Pittsburgh’s “Killer B’s” offensive lines. The Steelers lost a combined 17 Pro Bowls on their O-line this offseason, with Maurkice Pouncey (nine) retiring and Alejandro Villanueva (two) signing with the Ravens. Trai Turner is on board to replace DeCastro, but he is coming off a poor season with the Chargers. The Steelers will enter training camp with significant questions regarding Ben Roethlisberger‘s blockers.

Former Steelers G David DeCastro To Retire?

Former Steelers guard David DeCastro is now free to sign with any team in the NFL. However, the multiple-time Pro Bowler says that he might call it a career instead. 

Gotta see how the surgery goes,” DeCastro said (via Joe Starkey of the Post Gazette). “But I’d have no problem calling it a day and moving on with my life.”

DeCastro is set for a third surgery on his ankle to fix a recurring issue with bone spurs. The Steelers released him earlier this week with a non-football injury designation, a sign that they’re not so sure about his ability to bounce back. By releasing him, they saved ~$8MM, though it remains to be seen how they’ll replace him on the interior.

A starter since his 2012 rookie season, DeCastro has made the past six Pro Bowls and has secured two first-team All-Pro nods. Now, on the verge of what would be his his age-31 season, he’s giving serious thought to life after football.

The Steelers and the former first-round pick agreed to a five-year, $50MM extension back in September 2016. That deal worked out well for Pittsburgh — DeCastro carved out holes for Le’Veon Bell during his All-Pro campaigns, teaming with Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster to form one of the league’s best interior lines.

Steelers Release G David DeCastro

Already set to feature a far less experienced offensive line this season, the Steelers are now pivoting further in that direction. They are releasing All-Pro guard David DeCastro, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

A starter since his 2012 rookie season, DeCastro has made the past six Pro Bowls and has secured two first-team All-Pro nods. The former first-round pick is going into his age-31 season. This is certainly a surprise, given DeCastro’s accomplishments and the makeup of Pittsburgh’s offensive front.

It does not sound like DeCastro is 100% healthy at this stage of his career, however. Ankle issues plagued him in the recent past, and he underwent surgery to address the problem. The nine-year veteran is evaluating his NFL future, according to NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter). DeCastro did not show for Pittsburgh’s OTAs but reported to minicamp. He did not participate in the mandatory offseason workouts, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly tweets. This release comes with a non-football injury designation, per Aaron Wilson of Sports Talk 790 (on Twitter).

The Steelers and DeCastro agreed to a five-year, $50MM extension back in September 2016. That deal worked out well for Pittsburgh, which ascended to lofty heights on offense in the mid-2010s and remained a top-tier attack for several seasons. DeCastro was a key driver for both Le’Veon Bell All-Pro campaigns, teaming with Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster to form an elite interior O-line. All three players are gone, and all the O-line starters from the “Killer B’s” era are no longer with the team. Pouncey retired, while left tackle Alejandro Villanueva signed with the Ravens after the draft.

One season remained on DeCastro’s contract, but the $10MM-per-year deal was manageable due to the guard market’s growth in the nearly five years since DeCastro signed his deal. The Steelers will save at least $8MM on their 2021 salary cap, but replacing another high-end O-lineman will be a task. The Steelers did bring in former Panthers and Chargers starter Trai Turner for a visit last week. The five-time Pro Bowler’s Pennsylvania trip makes more sense now.

This era-ending transaction will leave the Steelers with major question marks up front. Only one starter is set to return from last year’s unit — Chukwuma Okorafor — and he will be playing a new position. Okorafor is slated to slide from right to left tackle; he has one season’s worth of starting experience. The Steelers re-signed Week 1 right tackle starter Zach Banner, but he is coming off an ACL tear and has started one game in four NFL seasons. Second-year player Kevin Dotson, a fourth-round pick out of Louisiana, is on track to start at left guard. The Steelers drafted Kendrick Green in this year’s third round; he will have a chance to succeed Pouncey at center.

Steelers Place OL Stefen Wisniewski On IR

Entering Week 2, the Steelers remain shorthanded at guard. All-Pro David DeCastro will miss a second straight game, and Stefen Wisniewski looks likely to be out much longer.

The Steelers placed Wisniewski on IR Friday. He will not be able to return to action until at least Week 5. The 10th-year veteran interior lineman is sidelined with a pectoral injury. Wisniewski is expected to return at some point this season, with NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero noting the injury is not expected to require surgery (Twitter link).

Wisniewski signed with the Steelers earlier this offseason, doing so after working as a Chiefs starter in their three playoff games. The two-time Super Bowl starter was set to replace retired left guard Ramon Foster and started in Week 1. But the Steelers have been forced to make other plans at the position to start the Season. Fourth-round rookie Kevin Dotson is expected to replace him at guard against the Broncos, Mike Tomlin said.

Pittsburgh already lost right tackle Zach Banner, so the team will be down to just two O-line starters — center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva — on Sunday. DeCastro is battling a knee injury.

The Steelers will also promote tackle Derwin Gray, a 2019 seventh-round pick, from the practice squad, the team announced.

Contract Re-Workings: Bucs, Evans, 49ers, Ford, Steelers, DeCastro, Seahawks, Moore

On this busy Saturday morning we’ve got a few contract re-workings to pass along. A few teams, all franchises hoping to compete for a championship this year, are freeing up some cap space, possibly to pursue some of the veterans left on the market:

  • Mike Evans, WR (Buccaneers): Tampa freed up $9.5MM by converting some of Evans’ salary into a signing bonus, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The Bucs are loading up for their potential Tom Brady title run, having just signed Leonard Fournette earlier this week, and it’s possible they aren’t done yet. Evans is under contract through the 2023 season.
  • Dee Ford, DE (49ers): San Francisco also created $9.5MM in space by doing the same thing with Ford, Yates notes in the same tweet. Ford was a disappointment in his first year with the 49ers in 2019 as he battled various health issues that limited him to 11 games, and the organization reportedly shopped him before the draft. He’s signed through the 2023 season as well, although there are outs earlier. He’s also reportedly dealing with a relatively minor calf issue at the moment.
  • David DeCastro, OL (Steelers): Pittsburgh created $3.85MM with the signing bonus trick with DeCastro, Yates notes. The veteran guard has two years left on his five-year, $50MM pact.
  • David Moore, WR (Seahawks): Moore has reworked his deal to stay in Seattle, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. This one sounds like more of a pay cut in order to keep his roster spot rather than the vets above who just had salary converted to signing bonuses. Rapoport notes that Moore had been set to make $2.13MM under his RFA tender, and he presumably took less than that to make the 53. He had 17 receptions for 301 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Injury Notes: Lindsay, Packers, DeCastro

An illness that has been going through the Green Bay locker room has claimed another victim. The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman tweets that Packers punter JK Scott is now questionable for tomorrow’s NFC Championship Game. Fortunately, the team has an open roster spot, so they won’t have to cut anybody to add some reinforcement.

Scott had a solid season for the Packers, averaging 44 yards on his 77 punts. He landed 29 punts inside the 20 yard line, earning him a spot on Pro Football Reference’s NFL All-Pro Second Team

Wide receiver Geronimo Allison was listed on the injury report with an illness this week, but he was a full participant at Friday’s practice.

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

  • Steelers guard David DeCastro underwent an ankle procedure this week, according to Yahoo’s Charles Robinson (via Twitter). The surgery provides an explanation for why the offensive lineman dropped out of the Pro Bowl. Robinson notes that the operation went well, and DeCastro isn’t expected to “miss extended time in the offseason program.”
  • Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay underwent a “simple, clean-up arthroscopic procedure” on his right wrist, according to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver. The team’s top rusher should be recovered by offseason team workouts in April. Lindsay actually suffered the wrist injury during the 2018 season, and he dealt with the ailment throughout the 2019 campaign. Despite the discomfort, the running back still managed to finished with his second-straight 1,000-yard season.
  • Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ACL in his knee, tweets NFL Network’s James Palmer. The rookie second-rounder started all 16 games for Kansas City, compiling 58 tackles, five passes defended, and three interceptions. He suffered the injury during his team’s Week 17 game against the Chargers, sidelining him for the entire postseason.
  • Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson had back surgery this week, tweets Vic Tafur of The Athletic. The fourth-round rookie was placed on injured reserve to start the year, and he was ultimately activated in November. Johnson proceeded to appear in five games for Oakland, collecting two tackles and one pass defended.

North Notes: Mayfield, Steelers, Moore

Browns fans enjoyed the chance to see a matchup between the quarterback most assumed they’d select vs. the one they actually did on Thursday, and Baker Mayfield won the first round between he and Sam Darnold. The USC-developed passer loomed as the frontrunner to go No. 1 overall for months, until Mayfield buzz increased during draft week. However, it wasn’t that tough of a decision for John Dorsey, with Terry Pluto of cleveland.com noting the new Browns GM had a “far higher” grade on Mayfield than Darnold. Both Pluto and cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot write that a return to Tyrod Taylor as the starter doesn’t make sense, with Cabot adding the months-long stance to start Taylor over Mayfield was made by both Dorsey and Hue Jackson. After the Browns’ 21-17 win over the Jets, Dorsey, per Cabot, was overheard saying to owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, “I think I picked the right one,” appearing to reference the controversial Mayfield-over-Darnold selection.

Here’s the latest out of the North divisions:

  • Sterling Moore has a workout scheduled with the Bears for next week, Jane Slater of NFL.com tweets. A former Saints, Cowboys and Buccaneers starter, Moore failed to make the Lions’ 53-man roster out of training camp. The 28-year-old cornerback played six games with the Saints last season, his second stint in New Orleans.
  • The Steelers‘ corner situation will see a boost in a bigger-than-expected spot Monday night. Joe Haden appears set to return for Pittsburgh after missing Week 2, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio tweets. Haden practiced fully on Saturday. Morgan Burnett, however, doesn’t look likely to suit up Monday. The Steelers listed their recently signed safety as doubtful to face the Buccaneers.
  • Pittsburgh’s reeling on its offensive line. David DeCastro will miss his second straight game because of the fractured right hand he suffered in Week 1. Marcus Gilbert is doubtful for Week 3 because of a hamstring malady. The Steelers declared DeCastro out, and the Associated Press notes B.J. Finney will start in his place. Matt Feiler is in line to start at right tackle for Gilbert, per the AP. The Steelers struggled to produce much on the ground in Week 2 without some key pieces, with James Conner being held to 17 rushing yards after a 135-yard debut in Cleveland. Of course, the Chiefs’ 21-0 start forced the Steelers to pass much more often than they would have otherwise done.
  • The Ravens did not make a move to adjust their cornerback situation on Saturday, meaning they’ll be down to four healthy players at this spot against the Broncos on Sunday. Rookie Anthony Averett will miss Week 3, Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun notes. This may force rookie UDFA Darious Williams into action. Although, Baltimore’s still in relatively good shape despite Averett and Jimmy Smith‘s absences. Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young are available.

Injury Notes: Elflein, DeCastro, Mosley

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said today that starting center Pat Elflein will be returning to the field “pretty soon.” However, the coach wasn’t able to give a definite return date, which probably indicates that the offensive lineman won’t be ready for this weekend’s matchup against the Packers.

“It’s way too early,” Zimmer said (via Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com). “I’m not going to make any determinations like that yet.”

The offensive lineman missed the preseason and the first week of the season as he recovered from shoulder and ankle ailments, but he’s still found ways to contribute to the team. As Tomasson writes, the second-year pro has been tutoring replacement Brett Jones, who was acquired from the Giants in late August.

“Pat’s been a lot of help so far, and it’s been good,” Jones said. “We’re trying to get on the same page with me being new, and he’s made the transition easier. He’s played lots of these defenses, just being in the (NFC North), so he can help me out with what to expect.”

Let’s take a look at some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Steelers All-Pro guard David DeCastro fractured his hand during last weekend’s game, and he acknowledged that the injury was worse than he initially thought. The offensive lineman has sat out the past few days of practice, and he’s set to be fitted for a brace. While he may have to wait another few days for swelling to go down, DeCastro indicated that it wouldn’t be missed practice time that forces him to miss a game. “I’m old enough now,” he told Joe Rutter of TribLive.com. “We’ll see how the swelling goes.” The 28-year-old has only missed a single regular season game over the past three seasons, and he’s earned three Pro Bowl nods during that span.
  • C.J. Mosley was carted off the field during the Ravens‘ game against the Bengals tonight, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the linebacker is being evaluated for a knee injury (Mosley has since been diagnosed with a bone bruise). His absence was felt right away; after forcing a three-and-out on Cincy’s first drive, the Ravens defense allowed touchdowns on the next three series. Much of this could be attributed to Baltimore’s lack of depth and experience at middle linebacker, as the team is only rostering Patrick Onwuasor, Chris Board, and Bam Bradley (currently on the PUP) behind Mosley.
  • Leonard Fournette is feeling better, but the Jaguars running back said it will be a “game time decision” on whether he’ll play this weekend against the Patriots.

AFC North Notes: Eifert, Browns, DeCastro

Despite being one of the NFL’s biggest injury risks, Tyler Eifert returned to the Bengals this offseason. The team that used a first-round pick on the former Notre Dame tight end has a plan for trying to prevent another significant setback, though. The Bengals are going to try to limit Eifert’s snaps, Marvin Lewis said (via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer). Since Eifert’s Pro Bowl 2015 season, he’s played in only 11 games. With Eifert being most effective in the red zone (20 career touchdown receptions, 19 from inside the 20, per Dehner), that will surely be a place the Bengals try to deploy the sixth-year pass-catcher. But Lewis identifies Eifert as the team’s best blocking tight end, too. Eifert averaged 58 snaps per game during the 2015 season. Lewis doesn’t envision his starting tight end getting there again.

Well I hope he never gets 50,” Lewis said. “It’s a plan thing. There are certain things (OC Bill Lazor) is going to plan to do with him on the field, both runs and passes. I think that and then using him as a decoy at times to help open up other things for the other guys.”

This plan may limit Eifert financially. He has $3MM tied up in performance incentives, ones that will become difficult to reach if the Bengals place heavy restrictions on his usage. He played 23 snaps against the Colts.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North:

  • Emmanuel Ogbah‘s run into injury trouble again. Hue Jackson didn’t believe the third-year edge defender suffered a high ankle sprain but said (via ohio.com’s Nate Ulrich) it was “something like that” and that Ogbah will miss time. Chris Smith entered the fray as Myles Garrett‘s sidekick following Ogbah’s first-quarter injury and should be expected to start Sunday against the Saints. Recent waiver claim Anthony Zettel should have a role, too, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes. Ogbah saw a foot injury halt his momentum last year and end his season. His development was part of the reason the Browns selected Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb.
  • The Browns‘ left tackle position contributed to several NFL news cycles this offseason, due to Joe Thomas‘ retirement and the layered search for his replacement. But Jackson insists no change will commence between Week 1 and Week 2. Desmond Harrison will remain the Browns’ left tackle, per Jackson (via the Lorain Morning Journal’s Jeff Schudel, on Twitter). The rookie UDFA made the start, despite Greg Robinson and 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett residing on the roster. Pro Football Focus graded Harrison as the second-worst full-time tackle in his debut, and Rotoworld’s Evan Silva adds (on Twitter) Harrison allowed the most hurries of any lineman last week.
  • Kenneth Dixon suffered a knee injury in the Ravens‘ blowout win in Buffalo, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects (Twitter link) it to keep him out for several weeks. Dixon scored a touchdown against the Bills after missing the entire 2017 season. Buck Allen should move into the role of Alex Collins‘ backup for the time being.
  • David DeCastro fractured his hand on Sunday, and Mike Tomlin said this could limit him going forward. But the veteran Steelers blocker expects to play Sunday against the Chiefs, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter).