Ezra Cleveland

Jaguars, G Ezra Cleveland Agree To Deal

6:29pm: In terms of base value, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio indicates the deal checks in at $24MM. The deal includes $13.5MM fully guaranteed and can max out at $27.5MM via playing time and team-achievement incentives. Both Cleveland’s 2024 and ’25 salaries are guaranteed at signing; his 2026 base ($6.75MM) is nonguaranteed.

9:24am: After acquiring Ezra Cleveland midseason in 2023, the Jaguars will keep him in place for the foreseeable future. The veteran guard agreed to terms on a three-year, $28.5MM deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Rapoport adds the pact includes $14.5MM in guaranteed money. Cleveland served as a full-time starter for much of his Vikings tenure, which came to an end at the 2023 trade deadline. Jacksonville acquired him as a rental at a cost of a sixth-round pick, and the possibility remained that he would depart in free agency. Instead, the 25-year-old will stay in Duval County on his second NFL contract.

Cleveland played at right guard during his rookie campaign, but since then he has played all-but exclusively at the opposite guard spot. That includes nine games in 2023 following the trade, during which he started five contests. Given the nature of this deal, the former second-rounder will be in the team’s plans as a first-teamer for 2024 and beyond.

PFF evaluated Cleveland consistently over the course of his Minnesota tenure. He ranked eighth amongst qualifying guards in 2022, but last season did not produce a similar grade. Cleveland’s overall mark of 59.5 in 2023 was by far the worst of his career, and he placed 38th at the guard spot. Still, the Boise State alum will be counted on as a key member of the Jags’ offensive front moving forward. The unit has each of its starting members under contract for 2024 as a result of this move.

Jacksonville ranked 21st in pass protection and 31st in run blocking, per PFF’s O-line evaluations for 2023. Improvement in both respects will be a goal as the team aims to rebound from the disappointing nature of last season’s performance, which resulted in missing the postseason. The $9.5MM AAV of Cleveland’s deal will rank 13th amongst guards and add further to Jaguars’ financial investments up front.

Jacksonville already has right guard Brandon Scherff on a $16.5MM-per-year deal, but he is set to carry a cap hit of nearly $24MM in 2024. Left tackle Cam Robinson is also due to count just under $22MM on the Jags’ cap sheet, although his future with the team appears to be safe. It will be interesting to see if Scherff remains in place without a contract adjustment but for now, he and Cleveland are on track to continue as Jacksonville’s guard tandem.

Jaguars Pursued DE Chase Young

A compensatory third-round pick ended up being enough for the 49ers to acquire Chase Young from the Commanders, but as Washington listened to offers following its Montez Sweat trades, two AFC teams made pushes.

In addition to the previously reported Ravens pursuit, Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz notes the Jaguars were in on Young before last week’s deadline as well. Considering Jacksonville’s offseason efforts and place in AFC playoff graphics, it is not too surprising to see the AFC South leaders as a buyer.

The 6-2 team had already acquired Ezra Cleveland from the Vikings, a deal that needed only a 2024 sixth-rounder (originally a Panthers pick) to complete. But the more telling trade matter here involved ex-Cleveland teammate Danielle Hunter, whom the Jaguars chased this summer. The Jags and Vikings were believed to be close to completing a swap that would have sent the Pro Bowl edge rusher to Florida. Minnesota instead held onto Hunter, reaching an August resolution that ended up making him less valuable in trades.

Minnesota received calls on Hunter, and it appears likely Jacksonville circled back on the NFL’s sack leader. But Hunter’s summer Vikings agreement prevents the ninth-year veteran from being franchise-tagged. With it becoming clear the surging Vikings would hold onto Hunter, Young became a key deadline piece.

The 49ers and Commanders, whose GMs both worked together in San Francisco and suited up as DBs together in Tampa, began talking about a prospective deal ahead of Week 8. John Lynch and Martin Mayhew finalized the exchange for a pick that will land at the end of the third round. It appears the Jags and Ravens were not ready to beat that, though it is not known if another third-round pick emerged in the sweepstakes. Odds are, it didn’t, given what it took to acquire Young, whom Commanders owner Josh Harris pushed to move despite Sweat already being dealt.

Jacksonville will head into the stretch run with Josh Allen anchoring its pass rush. The contract-year edge’s nine sacks rank fifth in the NFL, while his 26 pressures are tied for second. Travon Walker, however, sits second on the Jags with 3.5 sacks; the 2022 No. 1 overall pick has compiled 14 pressures. The Jags have not had their full pass rush available for long, though; both Dawuane Smoot and DaVon Hamilton were in-season activations. With Young set to finish out a contract year in San Francisco, the Jags will need to rely on their batch of Allen sidekicks heating up.

Young, 24, will debut for the 49ers this week. San Francisco’s depth chart lists the former Defensive Rookie of the Year as a starter opposite Nick Bosa. The prospect of the 49ers rolling out a Bosa-Young-Javon HargraveArik Armstead quartet is promising for Steve Wilks‘ defense, which also has the services of Randy Gregory, Clelin Ferrell, Javon Kinlaw and 2022 second-rounder Drake Jackson. Young was not aiming to discuss an extension in Washington, and it still sounds like he will cross that bridge after the season. The 49ers will need to decide on paying a fourth D-lineman (or tagging their newest addition) or letting him walk for a likely compensatory pick.

The trade the Jaguars did end up making does not look like it was for a player the team plans to start. Cleveland will settle in as a backup behind starters Brandon Scherff and Walker Little, Doug Pederson said (via ESPN’s Michael DiRocco). A 2020 second-round pick, Cleveland has been a starter for most of his career. He began this season as Minnesota’s starting left guard.

This will be an interesting transition for the relocating blocker, whose rookie contract expires at season’s end. The Jags moved Walker to guard this season, after he began the year at left tackle due to Cam Robinson‘s suspension. Little has missed the past three games, but Pederson is intent on plugging the third-year lineman back in at left guard. With Little returning as a backup in Week 8, it sounds like the Stanford product will be starting against the 49ers this week.

Poll: Who Fared Best At Trade Deadline

A week removed from this year’s trade deadline, every team will soon have its acquired talent in uniform. The 49ers, Lions and Jaguars made trades while in bye weeks; Chase Young, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Ezra Cleveland will suit up for their new teams soon.

On this note, it is time to gauge the position every notable buyer and seller landed in following the deals. This year’s deadline featured two second-round picks being moved, though the teams that made those moves (Chicago, Seattle) have different timelines in place.

We have to start with the Commanders, who scrapped their yearslong Young-Montez Sweat partnership by making the surprise decision to move both defensive ends hours before the deadline. Although the team was listening to offers on both, it was widely assumed they would only part with one, thus saving a contract offer or a 2024 franchise tag for the other alongside well-paid D-tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. New owner Josh Harris looks to have made his bigger-picture plan clear, however, pressing upon the Commanders’ football-ops department to explore moving both.

Washington collected a second-rounder that likely will land in the 30s in exchange for Sweat, who was in a contract year at the time. It only obtained a compensatory third for Young, who drew interest from other teams (including the Ravens). For the first time in the common draft era, Washington holds five picks in the first three rounds. It cannot be assumed Ron Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew will be making those picks, but Harris has effectively forced his hot-seat staffers to make do this season without Young and Sweat, who have combined for 11.5 sacks this year.

The initial team to pounce on the Commanders’ sale made a buyer’s move despite being in a seller’s position for the second straight year. After trading what became the No. 32 overall pick for Chase Claypool, GM Ryan Poles signed off on the Sweat pickup. The Bears have struggled to rush the passer under Matt Eberflus, having traded Khalil Mack in March 2022 and Robert Quinn last October. While acquiring a veteran in a contract year injects risk into the equation, Poles had the franchise tag at his disposal. But the Bears made good use of their newfound negotiating rights with Sweat, extending him on a four-year, $98MM pact. Despite no Pro Bowls or double-digit sack seasons, Sweat is now the NFL’s fifth-highest-paid edge rusher. Though, the Bears’ long-term edge outlook appears rosier compared to its pre-Halloween view.

Mayhew, Robert Saleh and Mike McDaniel have provided third-round compensatory picks for the 49ers, who have been the NFL’s chief beneficiary of the Rooney Rule tweak that awards third-round picks to teams who see minority coaches or execs become HCs or GMs. The team has more picks coming after the Ran Carthon and DeMeco Ryans hires. Using one to acquire Young seems like a low-risk move, given the former Defensive Rookie of the Year’s talent. Young has made strides toward recapturing the form he showed before his severe 2021 knee injury, and he is on pace for a career high in sacks.

The 49ers, who won last year’s trade deadline by landing Christian McCaffrey, will deploy Young alongside ex-college teammate Nick Bosa and the rest of their high-priced D-line contingent. The team will have a decision to make on Young soon; the free agent-to-be is not eyeing in-season extension talks, either. San Francisco could at least be in position to nab a midround compensatory pick, should Young leave in 2024.

The Young move came a day after the Seahawks obtained Leonard Williams from the Giants. That move cost Seattle second- and fifth-round picks. Williams is also in a contract year, but with the Giants picking up most of the tab, Seattle has the veteran D-tackle on its cap sheet at $647K. The former Jets top-10 pick has shown consistent ability to provide inside pressure, and the USC alum’s best work came in his previous contract year (2020). Gunning for another big payday, Williams joins Dre’Mont Jones in what is probably the best interior D-line duo of the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll era.

Seattle still surrendered a second-round pick for a player who could be a rental. Williams cannot realistically be franchise-tagged in 2024, with the Giants tagging him in 2020 and ’21, and he is not yet on Seattle’s extension radar. The Giants have already paid Dexter Lawrence and were planning on letting Williams walk. They passed on a comp pick for the trade haul, effectively buying a second-round pick in the way the Broncos did in the 2021 Von Miller trade. The Giants, who suddenly could be in the market for a 2024 QB addition, now have an additional second-rounder at their disposal.

While they made their move a week before the deadline, the Eagles landed the most accomplished player of this year’s in-season trade crop. Kevin Byard is a two-time first-team All-Pro safety, and although he is in his age-30 season, the former third-round pick is signed through 2024. The Eagles sent the Titans fifth- and sixth-round picks (and Terrell Edmunds) for Byard, a Philadelphia native, marking the team’s second splash trade for a safety in two years. Philly’s C.J. Gardner-Johnson swap turned out well, and Byard not being a pure rental could make this a better move.

Rather than turning to a fifth-round rookie, the Vikings acquired Josh Dobbs in a pick swap involving sixth- and/or seventh-rounders and saw the move translate to a surprising Week 9 win. Dobbs following in Baker Mayfield‘s footsteps as a trade acquisition-turned-immediate starter also made him the rare QB to see extensive action for two teams in two weeks; Mayfield was inactive in his final game as a Panther. The well-traveled Dobbs could give the Vikings a better chance to stay afloat in the NFC playoff race.

The Lions (Peoples-Jones), Jaguars (Cleveland) and Bills (Rasul Douglas) also made buyer’s moves at the deadline. The Bills gave the Packers a third-round pick, collecting a fifth in the pick-swap deal, for Douglas. They will hope the Green Bay starter can help stabilize their cornerback corps after Tre’Davious White‘s second major injury.

Who ended up faring the best at this year’s deadline? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this year’s moves in the comments section.

Jaguars To Acquire G Ezra Cleveland From Vikings

The Vikings are not expected to trade Danielle Hunter, but they will send another of their contract-year players away. The Jaguars are acquiring fourth-year guard Ezra Cleveland, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo. In a corresponding move, Jags announced that 2020 fourth-rounder Ben Bartch has been waived.

Cleveland expressed interest in a Vikings extension this offseason. Instead, he will relocate to Florida to join the first-place Jags in his contract year. A 2020 second-round pick, Cleveland has been a starter for much of his Vikings career. It will cost the Jags only a sixth-round pick to pry Cleveland from Minnesota, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com tweets. Dianna Russini of The Athletic clarifies that Jacksonville will send a 2024 sixth-rounder which originally belonged to the Panthers.

This transaction comes months after the Vikings and Jaguars moved close to completing a Hunter trade. The sides circled back but settled on Cleveland as the exchange piece. The Boise State alum has started 49 career games, converting from college tackle to NFL guard. He will likely be on track to start opposite Brandon Scherff in Jacksonville. Cleveland will reunite with Jaguars offensive line coach Phil Rauscher, who was previously on the Vikings’ staff.

The Jags will acquire Cleveland despite the experienced blocker having missed the past two games due to a foot injury. From Minnesota’s view, the team has a veteran ready to step in. The team signed four-year Broncos starter Dalton Risner early this season, ending the 2019 second-round pick’s longer-than-expected free agency stay. The Vikes also drafted Ed Ingram in the 2022 second round, installing him at right guard. Minnesota does not have much money devoted to its O-line, but Christian Darrisaw is a clear candidate to join right tackle Brian O’Neill in receiving a big-ticket extension.

The 49ers showed interest in adding Cleveland, Russini’s colleague Matt Barrows reports. San Francisco’s weak point on offense has shown to be their play up front, so it would have come as little surprise if they invested a Day 3 pick in a starting-caliber addition. Instead, the 49ers have turned their attention to a blockbuster defensive add in the form of edge rusher Chase Young.

Jacksonville ranks mid-pack in a number of offensive categories, posting middling numbers both through the air and on the ground. Cleveland’s run blocking PFF evaluations have generally far outweighed his grades in pass protection, though in this season the two are nearly identical. If he can carry over that two-way effectiveness with the Jaguars, he could play a signficant role in another Jacksonville playoff run and boost his free agent stock in the process.

Adam La Rose contributed to this post.

Ezra Cleveland Interested In Vikes Extension

Deploying an offensive line flooded with first- or second-round rookie contracts, the Vikings will soon have to make decisions regarding those young blockers’ futures. Garrett Bradbury is nearing free agency, and Ezra Cleveland is now extension-eligible.

While the matter of keeping Cleveland may not yet be on the Vikes’ front burner, it represents one of the team’s long-term calls this offseason. Cleveland is a former second-round pick whose deal lacks a fifth-year option like Bradbury’s did or Christian Darrisaw‘s does.

As of now, the 2023 season will be a walk year for Cleveland. The fourth-year guard, however, is interested in a long-term Vikings deal, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson (Twitter link).

The former Boise State left tackle took a step in 2022; Pro Football Focus graded him as a top-10 guard. This came after the advanced metrics site slotted him as a top-30 player at his position in 2020 and ’21. Although PFF graded Cleveland as one of this season’s top run-blocking guards, he landed outside the top 10 on ESPN’s run block win rate. PFF also did not view Cleveland as a plus pass protector, charging him with five regular-season sacks allowed.

Since moving into the starting lineup during his rookie season, Cleveland has been a dependable cog. The ex-Alexander Mattison college teammate has started 17 games in each of the past two seasons.

Of the Vikes’ front five, only Brian O’Neill has signed a long-term extension. Bradbury is set to be a free agent, but Darrisaw, Cleveland and right guard Ed Ingram remain on rookie deals. Darrisaw can be kept through 2025 via the fifth-year option, while Engram’s rookie pact also runs through 2025. After determining Bradbury’s Twin Cities future, the Vikes will need to decide on Cleveland’s. Bradbury has maintained he wants to stay in Minnesota; the Vikings declined their center’s fifth-year option in 2022.

Minnesota was the only team to field an O-line consisting of five homegrown first- or second-round picks this season. The NFC North champions’ defense will present more questions compared to the Kevin O’Connell-overseen unit, but the Vikings have higher extension priorities on offense. Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson are in Minnesota’s extension queue, with the latter joining Cleveland in a contract year. Once the Vikes pick up Jefferson’s fifth-year option, he will be under contract through 2024. Jefferson and the Vikes are expected to huddle up on an extension this offseason, despite teams generally avoiding re-ups for non-quarterbacks with two years of rookie-contract control. The team’s pricey year-to-year Kirk Cousins plan stands to factor into its extension budget as well.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/8/22

Today’s updates for the reserve/COVID-19 and practice squad/COVID-19 lists:

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/3/22

Here are Monday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: OT Mike Remmers (remains on IR)

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: RB Raymond Calais (remains on IR)

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Vikings’ Riley Reiff Expecting Release?

Riley Reiff‘s Vikings tenure may be capped at three years. The team, which just took on a hefty salary with Yannick Ngakoue‘s reduced franchise tag, is eyeing a pay cut for its veteran left tackle.

Set to make $10.9MM in base salary this season, Reiff does not appear to foresee a solution coming. He has told teammates he expects to be released, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports (on Twitter). Should the Vikings release Reiff, they would gain $8.8MM in cap space. Following their Ngakoue acquisition, the Vikings hold an NFL-low $1.2MM in cap space.

Reiff is not expected to be at practice Monday, according to ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin, who adds that the team has given him a Tuesday deadline to determine if he’ll accept a pay reduction or be cut (Twitter link). The sides failing to compromise would send Reiff back to free agency. He signed with the Vikings in 2017 and has made 43 regular-season starts at left tackle.

Reiff, 31, was a rumored cap casualty earlier this year, but the Vikes kept him around. They then drafted Ezra Cleveland in the second round. Cleveland was seeing time at guard earlier in camp. However, the Boise State product can be viewed as Reiff’s eventual successor. The team, however, does not view Cleveland as ready to play just yet, Florio notes, adding that the more likely post-Reiff O-line configuration would be right tackle Brian O’Neill moving to the left side and Rashod Hill on the right edge.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Rodgers, Vikings

Let’s take a quick spin around the NFC North:

  • Appearing on a recent episode of “10 Questions with Kyle Brandt,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confirmed he was surprised Green Bay didn’t select a wide receiver in the 2020 draft, and also admitted he’s likely to be traded in the future due to the Packers’ addition of first-round signal-caller Jordan Love (Twitter link via Kevin Clark of The Ringer). The entire clip is well-worth a watch, as Rodgers doesn’t indicate any anger at the Love pick — instead, he comes off as pragmatic and realistic regarding his future in Green Bay. The Packers could most likely move on from Rodgers — whether via trade or release — after the 2021 season.
  • Incumbent Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff is likely to stay put on the blindside, so second-round pick Ezra Cleveland has been working at guard, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak told reporters, including Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Cleveland, who played tackle at Boise State, hasn’t seen much action at guard, but it’s possible he could compete with Pat Elflein and Dru Samia for a starting role at either left or right guard. Minnesota ranked in the top-half of the league in Football Outsiders‘ offensive line metrics in 2019.
  • Packers kicker Mason Crosby and tight end Jace Sternberger, as well as Bears defensive tackle John Jenkins, were among the NFL players recently placed on the COVID reserve list, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 7/22/20

Here are the latest draft pick signings. With rookies set to report to teams’ training camps this week, teams are busy on this front.

  • The Vikings were the busiest team in the draft, making 15 picks this year. They have been active signing them Wednesday. Beyond first-rounder Justin Jefferson, Minnesota has agreed to terms with second-round tackle Ezra Cleveland, fourth-round linebacker Troy Dye, fourth-round defensive tackle James Lynch and seventh-round offensive lineman Kyle Hinton. Cleveland, rumored as a possible late-first-round selection, will be groomed to become a near-future starter for the Vikings.
  • The Broncos began signing some of their picks, most notably getting third-rounders Michael Ojemudia and McTelvin Agim under contract. A cornerback, Ojemudia is set to compete for a starting job opposite A.J. Bouye; Agim profiles as D-line depth behind established starters this season. Denver also signed fourth-round tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, a Mizzou alum set to rejoin his former quarterback (Drew Lock) in the Mile High City. The Broncos also reached an agreement with seventh-round outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka.
  • Despite having T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree under contract, the Steelers used a third-round pick on outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. The Charlotte alum agreed to terms on his four-year rookie deal. Highsmith recorded 15 sacks at the mid-major program last season.
  • Packers third-round pick Josiah Deguara also agreed on his four-year rookie contract. Green Bay eschewed its wide receiver need throughout the draft, using Day 2 to add a running back (A.J. Dillon) and Deguara, who profiles as a tight end/fullback. The Cincinnati product surpassed 900 yards between his final two college seasons, totaling 12 touchdown grabs in that span.
  • Tennessee third-round running back Darrynton Evans signed his rookie deal as well. Evans looks set to replace Dion Lewis as the TitansDerrick Henry change-of-pace back. The Appalachian State alum rushed for 1,480 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He added five receiving TDs.
  • The Giants used first- and third-round picks on tackles. The latter selection, UConn’s Matt Peart, agreed to the terms of his rookie deal Wednesday. Peart profiles as a developmental lineman, working behind expected starters Nate Solder and Andrew Thomas. He stands to join Cameron Fleming as depth for Big Blue.
  • Washington has agreed to terms with third-round running back/wideout Antonio Gibson, fourth-round receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden and fifth-round center Keith Ismael. Gibson and Gandy-Golden figure to be key parts of a Washington offense that is limited, beyond Terry McLaurin, in the passing game. Gibson totaled 1,104 yards from scrimmage at Memphis last season, while Gandy-Golden caught 20 touchdown passes in two years at Liberty.
  • Fourth-round Cowboys pick Reggie Robinson agreed to terms as well. The Tulsa cornerback joins a Cowboys team that lost Byron Jones in free agency. Dallas was active in an effort to replace the Pro Bowler, drafting Trevon Diggs in Round 2 and signing Daryl Worley.
  • Sixth-round Chargers safety Alohi Gilman, a Notre Dame alum, signed his Chargers contract Wednesday. Gillman joins a deep Bolts safety corps.
  • The Buccaneers drafted two running backs this year. On Wednesday, they agreed to terms with the second of those picks — seventh-rounder Raymond Calais. In addition to his work as a running back at Louisiana, Calais was a four-year kick returner for the Rajin’ Cajuns.