J.C. Tretter

OL Rumors: Fins, Meinerz, Bates, Steelers

Addressing needs at left tackle and left guard, the Dolphins are turning their attention to center. GM Chris Grier plans to bring in competition for incumbent Michael Deiter, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The Dolphins are looking to keep costs down here, Jackson adds, noting they are not currently on the radar for J.C. Tretter or Matt Paradis. Both have been center starters for the past several years but would qualify as replacements for Deiter rather than competition. Given Tretter’s performance in Cleveland, the NFLPA president looms as one of the top free agents available. Miami’s to-be-determined center will join Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, Robert Hunt and either Austin Jackson or Liam Eichenberg on the team’s reconfigured O-line.

Here is the latest from the offensive line ranks:

  • Although the Patriots hosted Bills restricted free agent Ryan Bates, it does not appear they were competing with the Bears for his services. Unlike the Bears, the Pats did not extend Bates an offer sheet and, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, the team was not overly interested. The Bills ended up matching the offer sheet to retain Bates. The Pats lost both 2021 guard starters — Ted Karras and Shaq Mason — this offseason. While swingman Michael Onwenu stands to take over at one of the positions, it is uncertain who will join he and longtime center David Andrews as the third interior man.
  • Quinn Meinerz did not open last season as a Broncos starter, but the Division III product looks set to do so in 2022. Nathaniel Hackett envisions Meinerz as the team’s starting right guard, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post notes. “The sky is the limit” for Meinerz, said Hackett, who plans to keep Graham Glasgow‘s midseason replacement in the lineup. That leaves Glasgow’s role uncertain. The 2020 UFA addition has been the Broncos’ starting right guard when healthy over the past two seasons, but he played center for 16 games with the 2018 Lions. Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry has not missed a snap during his initial two NFL seasons, but Pro Football Focus graded the former third-rounder as the team’s worst O-line starter last season.
  • The Steelers signed James Daniels and Mason Cole in free agency. Cole has primarily played center, while Daniels has played the position as a pro as well. Daniels has spent most of his NFL days at guard, and it is possible 2021 Steelers center Kendrick Green becomes the team’s other guard starter. Mike Tomlin is open to moving Green to guard, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic notes (subscription required). A third-round pick last year, Green started 15 games as a rookie. PFF graded him as one of the league’s worst centers. A move to guard, where he spent most of his time at Illinois, could potentially open the door to improvement and threaten Kevin Dotson‘s starting role. Dotson, a 2020 fourth-rounder, opened the season as Pittsburgh’s left guard starter but missed eight games due to injury.
  • Zach Banner‘s Steelers exit stemmed from his 2020 ACL tear remaining a deterrent, Kaboly adds. Banner opened the 2020 season as the Steelers’ starting right tackle but suffered the tear in Week 1. The 6-foot-8 blocker played seven games last season, but Kaboly adds his knee never returned to form.

Browns To Release J.C. Tretter

The Browns have made a cost-cutting move on the offensive line. The team is releasing center J.C. Tretter, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The move saves the team roughly $8.2MM in cap space. 

The 31-year-old was recently named as a cut candidate, given his projected cap hit of over $9.8MM in 2022. That was the final year of his contract. After five seasons in Cleveland, the former fourth round pick will now look for a new home.

After three season in Green Bay, Tretter joined the Browns in 2017, and was the team’s full-time starter at center for his entire tenure there. That durability led general manager Andrew Berry to recently compliment the veteran, despite the questions around his contract status.

“J.C.’s been a real productive veteran for us, he’s been a starter since 2017 for us and played a lot of really good football, we expect him to continue to play some really good football” Berry said. Given today’s news, though, the team will be moving in a new direction looking for a younger, less expensive option in the middle of their offensive front.

Tretter – the president of the NFLPA – has remained a consistent if unspectacular player during his career. He has never been named a Pro Bowler, but has earned a PFF grade of at least 72 in each of the past four seasons. Now, he will enter a center market which has shrunk considerably in recent days. Beside Bradley Bozeman, Tretter will likely find himself near the top of the list for available options.

Latest On Browns C J.C. Tretter, O-Line Plans

Browns center J.C. Tretter profiles as a potential cap casualty, given that his release would save the team $8.2MM against the cap while incurring a modest $1.6MM dead money charge. Cleveland GM Andrew Berry recently addressed Tretter’s status, and he stopped short of confirming Tretter will be back in 2022, the final year of his current contract.

“For all of these situations on our roster, we work through them over the next couple weeks,” Berry said (via Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal). “J.C.’s been a real productive veteran for us, he’s been a starter since 2017 for us and played a lot of really good football, we expect him to continue to play some really good football.”

Tretter, 31, has dealt with ankle and knee injuries over the past three seasons, but he has missed just one game since joining the Browns in 2017 (which came in Week 16 of the 2021 season and which was due to a positive COVID-19 test). Although he has never made a Pro Bowl, Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics have consistently rated him as a high-end starter, with a grade no lower than 72.0 since 2018. And with the Browns angling for a postseason berth in 2022, a quality veteran on a reasonable salary at the pivot is a nice luxury for Berry to have.

That is especially true when considering that RT Jack Conklin, who recently restructured his deal, missed 10 games in 2021 due to a variety of injuries, including a torn patellar tendon. Berry said that Conklin is “doing well” in his recovery, but in light of the play-time incentives included in the reworked contract, it seems as if there is at least a chance that Conklin will miss game action in 2022.

If that happens, though, the Browns do not plan to shift LT Jedrick Wills to the right side. Wills had some injury issues of his own in 2021 and did not play particularly well in his 13 contests, but he is going to stay right where he is, despite his RT experience in high school and college.

“No, Jed will stay at left tackle,” Berry said. “We feel good about the depth that we have at the tackle position.”

Berry did leave open the possibility of supplementing that depth. Swingman Chris Hubbard, who played in just one game in 2021 due to a triceps injury, is eligible for free agency, and as a result of the health issues experienced by Hubbard, Wills, and Conklin, 2021 fourth-rounder James Hudson and former Jets taxi squad member Blake Hance were forced into significant action.

On the plus side, 2020 fifth-rounder Nick Harris played well in Tretter’s absence last year. If Berry were to move on from Tretter, that would suggest that he has considerable faith in Harris.

In related news, head coach Kevin Stefanski will continue calling the team’s offensive plays, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (via Twitter). This is despite the fact that Alex Van Pelt no longer has to pull double-duty as offensive coordinator and QB coach.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 12/30/21

Here are Thursday’s reserve/COVID-19 list updates:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

  • Activated from virus list: OL Cody Ford, CB Cam Lewis
  • Activated from practice squad virus list: TE Quintin Morris

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

  • Placed on practice squad virus list: LB Omari Cobb

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

J.C. Tretter Tests Positive For COVID-19

The Browns are set to run into more offensive line unavailability because of the coronavirus. J.C. Tretter announced (via Twitter) he turned in a positive COVID-19 test Thursday.

Barring a false positive, this will rule the Pro Bowl snapper out for the Browns’ Christmas Day matchup against the Packers. Tretter’s positive test follows Jedrick Wills and Wyatt Teller also doing so. Teller returned to play against the Raiders after testing positive, but the two-day window here would make Tretter following suit all but impossible.

Wills remains on the Browns’ virus list, but swing man James Hudson is back on the active roster, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. Cleveland tinkered with its O-line as a result of Wills’ positive, sliding Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio to left tackle. Tretter, however, has not missed a game since signing with the Browns in 2017. The Browns also moved Grant Delpit off their virus list.

Tretter, 30, is also the NFLPA president. He said the union’s push to postpone three games last week — rather than cancel them, a path Tretter indicated the NFL preferred — led to the three Week 15 games being moved rather than players losing out on per-game salaries. His absence Saturday will certainly affect a top-tier Browns O-line in a pivotal game. The Browns’ shorthanded loss Monday dropped them to 7-7; FiveThirtyEight.com gives Cleveland a 15% chance to make the playoffs.

Latest On OTA, Training Camp Negotiations Between NFL And NFLPA

Phase 2 of the league’s offseason workout program kicked off yesterday, and with it came the news that negotiations between the league and the union with respect to that program are officially dead (via Albert Breer of SI.com). Of course, the union advised players to stay away from team facilities for voluntary offseason activities, and the NFLPA and NFL were ultimately unable to come to an agreement on a number of key points.

Instead, players and coaches negotiated their own structures, and per Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, roughly 15 teams have implemented some sort of change as a result of those conversations. Browns center and union president J.C. Tretter predictably approved of the modifications, saying, “The offseason program has gotten out of hand. OTAs have been ratcheted up year after year, and they’ve turned into — especially for big guys and guys on the line of scrimmage — legitimate full-contact, non-padded practices. Nobody puts any restraints on them; they let guys go at it.”

Some teams are even making changes to the non-voluntary sessions. According to Fowler, the Packers moved their mandatory minicamp up a week, which could mean that a week of OTAs gets canceled, and as Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk writes, the Colts and Eagles have canceled mandatory minicamp altogether. Interestingly, although the Broncos were the first team to support the union’s stance on OTAs, Mike Klis of 9News.com reports that over 70 Broncos players showed up for the first day of Phase 2. The off-site injuries suffered by former Broncos Ja’Wuan James and DaeSean Hamilton and the potential money battle that could ensue may have played a role in that attendance figure.

The initial push from the union to have players boycott OTAs was due to persisting COVID-19 concerns, but as that situation improved in this country, NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah says the union began to shift focus. He says that, despite the complete absence of OTAs in 2020, injuries were down and the quality of the games remained the same (Twitter links via Lindsay Rhodes of the NFL Rhodes Show podcast). So, as Tretter implied, a permanent modification of OTAs into a purely mental exercise is appropriate.

Rhodes asked Atallah if the union is essentially attempting to renegotiate the CBA on the fly, and he conceded as much (Twitter link). And players are also pushing to make last year’s approach to training camp the new normal. Tretter said the ramp-up period that was instituted out of necessity last summer was widely embraced by players, who felt better both going into the regular season and coming out of it.

To be sure, the issue of the quality of the games is a subjective one, and whether there is a direct correlation between the ramp-up period and the absence of OTAs and any data showing a decrease in injuries is debatable. But, if everything was clear-cut, there wouldn’t be much need for negotiation.

In related news, masks are no longer required for fully-vaccinated players, coaches, or staff members, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. And teams will once again be permitted to hold training camp away from club facilities (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network).

Injury Notes: Alford, Hargrave, Jets, Tretter

Cardinals cornerback Robert Alford did indeed suffer a torn pectoral yesterday, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the injury will sideline the veteran for the 2020 season.

This is a tough outcome for both Alford and the organization. Arizona inked the defensive back to a three-year, $22.5MM deal in 2019, but Alford missed his first season with the organization after suffering a leg injury. There was optimism out of the Cardinals’ camp that Alford would return to full strength in 2020, but this injury has obviously put a snag in his comeback attempt.

Alford spent the first six seasons of his career with the Falcons, collecting 303 tackles and 10 interceptions in 88 games (76 appearance). The veteran also appeared in five playoff games for Atlanta, and he had had a pick-six on Tom Brady during the Falcons’ Super Bowl loss to the Patriots.

Pro Football Focus wasn’t fond of his performance during his last healthy campaign in 2018, so this could realistically be the end for the 31-year-old.

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

  • The Eagles got some good news today, as they learned that defensive tackle Javon Hargrave suffered only a “minor pectoral strain” (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). The injury is expected to sideline the veteran for only a few weeks. The 27-year-old inked a three-year, $39MM deal with Philly this past offseason after compiling 60 tackles and four sacks with the Steelers in 2019. When he’s back to full health, he’ll join Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson to form one of the top defensive tackle groupings in the NFL
  • Jets wideout Vyncint Smith will miss the next five to eight weeks as he recovers from a core-muscle injury, tweets ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The 24-year-old got into 13 games (four starts) for New York last season, hauling in 17 receptions for 225 yards. As Cimini notes, the organization could be scrambling for receiver depth, as Josh Doctson has opted out of the upcoming season and rookie Denzel Mims is sidelined with a hamstring injury.
  • Browns center J.C. Tretter underwent a minor knee procedure and will miss the next few weeks, reports Rapoport (via Twitter). The veteran opted for the procedure to clean up loose bodies and remedy discomfort. The NFLPA President has spent the past three seasons with Cleveland, starting each of the team’s 48 games.

De Smith, J.C. Tretter On COVID-19 Latest

Union chief DeMaurice Smith and president J.C. Tretter held a conference call with media members today, during which they discussed various COVID-19 issues.

Starting on the financial side of things, Smith told reporters that the salary cap could decrease by as much as $70MM in 2021, unless the union and league come up with a solution to spread out that damage over several years (Twitter link via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com). Obviously, the union would prefer the latter option, and it has summarily rejected the NFL’s most recent economic proposals. Smith said he does not want players to bear the brunt of the financial burden when they are also the ones exposing themselves to the virus (Twitter link via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area).

Of course, the league has made the decision to start training camp on time, and Smith concedes that the union has no ability to fight that. Instead, the NFLPA’s objective is to ensure that the players are as safe as possible (Twitter link via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times). To that end, the union has been in touch with team doctors, who have said, with a couple of reservations, that it is safe to open camp as planned (Twitter link via Condotta).

Indeed, a source familiar with talks between the NFL and NFLPA told Mark Maske of the Washington Post that those discussions were moving in the right direction and that there was reason to believe training camp could start on time (Twitter link). As Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets, the Chiefs are telling players that camp is a go, with rookies and QBs to report for COVID-19 testing on Monday, July 20, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter) says Texans players were told the same (the Texans and Chiefs play each other in the regular season opener). The full team is scheduled to report on July 25, and Pelissero adds in a separate tweet that multiple clubs have been sending tentative reporting dates to players.

Needless to say, there is plenty that still needs to be resolved. For instance, Texans star J.J. Watt, who has been involved in player calls, said yesterday (via Twitter) that players had yet to receive a single valid Infectious Disease Emergency Response (IDER) plan, and as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets, players aren’t supposed to report to camp until IDER plans have been approved. Per Graziano, “some teams” began sending to those plans to the union last night, which the union will need to review to ensure that they are in compliance with the negotiated protocols (Twitter link).

Meanwhile, Tretter says that the union has consulted with team doctors in hotspot markets to discuss how to report to camp safely (Twitter link via Graziano). It’s unclear what, if any, additional protocols will be put in place for such regions, and Tretter also brought up another point that has largely been overlooked (via Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk). He said, as a center, he is in close contact with every player in the offensive huddle and every defensive lineman during practice. If he tests positive, how would the league determine how many people to quarantine, and for how long?

That is one critical unanswered question, and Smith conceded there is no firm answer as to how many positive tests it would take to force an entire team to shut down. He did emphasize that the union continues to push for daily testing, which the league is still opposing.

Smith also said he is unaware of any players who have elected to opt out of the 2020 season (Twitter link via Condotta). We covered the most recent updates on the opt-out situation earlier this week.

Latest On NFL, COVID-19

While the NFL and NFLPA are reportedly close to agreeing to a set of gameday protocols that would nominally attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the two sides still haven’t officially worked out an accord regarding a training camp and preseason schedule. Let’s take a look at the latest as the league and the union work through a variety of health-related issues:

  • NFLPA president J.C. Tretter recently outlined the union’s stance on a number of items, including support for a NFL/NFLPA Joint Committee of doctors-recommended 48-day training camp schedule and the elimination of the preseason (the league prefers to keep two exhibition games in place). While the NFL didn’t publicly comment on Tretter’s piece, one source called the post “very disappointing and contrary to the sense of collaboration going back to the early days of mid-March,” tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.
  • The timing of training camp and the length of the preseason remain key issues. The NFL wanted players to report for camp earlier than the CBA allows in order to fit in a longer schedule, but the union has declined to do so, per Pelissero (Twitter link).
  • The aforementioned Joint Committee recommended one-to-two preseason games, but the league is still standing firm on zero exhibition games, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Appearing on WEEI, NFLPA senior director of player affairs Don Davis questioned why two preseason games would be any safer than four. A source tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that preseason contests are likely to be used a bargaining chip.
  • Amidst the ongoing pandemic, a number of clubs have proactively announced that games will feature limited capacity seating. Of course, those teams are assuming that fans will be allowed to attend contests at all, which is far from a given at this point. So far, the Packers, Chiefs, and Ravens have each announced plans for reduced capacities.

NFLPA Elects J.C. Tretter As President

The NFL Players’ Association has elected J.C. Tretter as its new president, the union announced on Tuesday. Last week, Tretter was one of four players nominated for the position. Now, he’ll spearhead the NFLPA during a critical stretch in the CBA talks. 

Last week, NFLPA’s presidential race came down to Russell Okung, Michael Thomas (of the Giants), Sam Acho, and Tretter. Okung has been lobbying for the job for months, but he backed out of the running this week and put his support behind Thomas.

Tretter, a center for the Browns, will take over for Eric Winston, who has served as the union prez since 2014. There will be little time for on-the-job training: The NFLPA has until Saturday to vote on the proposed CBA and travel hazards associated with the coronavirus scare may complicate things further. Meanwhile, we’re also just days away from the official start of NFL free agency.

If more than 50% of players vote against the CBA, the 2020 season will be played under the current CBA, which was established in 2011. That CBA expires in March 2021. If the proposed CBA is not ratified, we’ll be looking at increased odds of a strike or lockout next year.

In the last round of voting, Thomas and Okung both voted against the CBA, Acho voted in favor of it, and, in the immediate aftermath, no one knew Tretter’s take. But, on Tuesday, PFT’s Mike Florio (via Twitter) reported that Tretter voted in favor of the CBA. With that in mind, Tretter’s election may bode well for a deal between now and Saturday.