Jesse James

Browns Place DE Chase Winovich, TE Jesse James On IR

The Browns placed two players on IR today. Tight end Jesse James and defensive end Chase Winovich landed on injured reserve, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). This will knock the duo out for at least the next four games.

It sounds like both players suffered injuries during Cleveland’s loss to the Jets on Sunday. According to Kevin Stefanski, Winovich suffered a hamstring injury and James suffered a biceps injury.

Winovich was acquired from the Patriots this offseason for linebacker Mack Brown. The former third-round pick barely made the roster out of the preseason, and he didn’t see the field for any defensive snaps during Week 1. He got more run this past weekend, appearing in 37 percent of his team’s defensive snaps. He finished that game with a tackle and two QB hits.

James made a name for himself in Pittsburgh, hauling in 120 receptions in 56 games. He had a two-year stint in Detroit before spending the 2021 campaign with the Bears. He started nine of his 14 games last season, hauling in seven receptions. The Browns signed the veteran before the start of the regular season, and he saw a handful of snaps through the first two weeks while serving as the third tight end behind David Njoku and Harrison Bryant. One of Miller Forristall or Zaire Mitchell-Paden could be promoted from the practice squad to replace James.

Browns To Sign TE Jesse James

The Browns have already made one major financial commitment at the tight end position, but they entered today lacking depth on the 53-man roster. They have added a veteran, signing Jesse James to a one-year deal (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler). 

A fifth-round pick of the Steelers in 2015, James’ most productive years came in Pittsburgh. Between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, he totaled 73 catches, 795 yards and five touchdowns. That led him to the Lions in free agency, though his two seasons in the Motor City yielded little in the way of production. Only halfway through his four-year, $22.6MM contract, he was released.

The Penn State alum spent last season in Chicago. Despite starting nine of 14 games, however, he made just seven catches, as he took on a lesser offensive role and transitioned more into a blocker than a pass-catcher. Facing stiff competition for targets in the form of Cole Kmet, it came as little surprise that the Bears were uninterested in a reunion.

A return to the AFC North was in the cards, after James worked out for the Browns last week. He will help in the blocking department, allowing David Njoku to focus on his play as a pass-catcher. Expectations are higher than ever for the latter, after he signed a four-year, $56.75MM deal in May. The only other tight end on the 53-man roster prior to this signing was 2020 fourth-rounder Harrison Bryant.

James won’t see much in the way of targets behind Njoku and Bryant, but head coach Kevin Stefanski‘s affinity for multi-tight end sets could lead to an increase in playing time compared to last year.

AFC Workouts: Raiders, James, Clement

Las Vegas seems to be trying to fill in a few gaps all over the roster. Over the past two days, the Raiders have kicked the tires on an offensive lineman, a pair of linebackers, and a couple of defensive backs.

On Thursday, Las Vegas took a look at former Colts’ draft pick Joe Haeg, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Haeg started 14 games for Indianapolis as a rookie after being selected in the fifth round in 2015. Haeg suffered an ankle injury in 2018 that landed him on injured reserve, and he never quite came back to his former status as a starter. He spent two separate seasons as a backup lineman for the Buccaneers and Steelers before Pittsburgh released him to make room for offensive lineman Jesse Davis, whom they acquired in a trade on cut-day. Haeg is visiting multiple teams, according to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, so no deal is currently imminent.

The Raiders also brought in two high former draft picks to audition for linebacker roster spots, trying out Alec Ogletree and Reggie Ragland, according to Field Yates of ESPN. Despite creeping up on 31-years-old, Ogletree has been a serviceable starter for every team he’s played on over the years, except for the Jets who released him early into the 2020 season. Since being drafted by the Chiefs in 2016, Ragland has been a spot starter for Kansas City, Detroit, and New York. He has a working relationship with Las Vegas defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who held the same position with the Giants last year.

Graham looked at another familiar face when the Raiders auditioned defensive back Jarren Williams, who spent the last two seasons with the Giants as a reserve cornerback. Las Vegas also took a look at cornerback T.J. Carrie who was a seventh-round pick for the team in 2014. Carrie looks to return to the organization after two stints as a rotational cornerback with the Browns and Colts.

Here’s a look at a couple of other workouts from around the league, starting with a tight end visiting a division rival of his former team:

  • The Browns worked out tight end Jesse James yesterday, according to Yates. James spent his rookie deal as the main tight end in Pittsburgh. Since then, he’s spent time in the NFC North with the Lions and Bears. After releasing Austin Hooper back in March, Cleveland hold only David Njoku and Harrison Bryant on the 53-man roster. James holds some receiving ability, but has taken a role lately as more of a blocker, something the Browns could use more of in the tight end room.
  • The day after roster cuts, the Jaguars brought in running back Corey Clement for a work out, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The team ended up claiming JaMycal Hasty off the waiver wire from the 49ers, filling their fourth running back roster spot, so Clement will have to keep searching for his next NFL job.

Bears To Sign Jesse James

The Bears have agreed to sign Jesse James to a one-year deal. The tight end (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo). It’s likely a low-cost, one-year deal for the veteran, allowing Chicago to evaluate him in camp with little risk. 

James was released by the Lions earlier this year, just halfway through his four-year, $22.6MM pact he signed back in 2019. Starting out as a fifth-round pick of the Steelers back in 2015, he flashed some potential in Pittsburgh, including a 423-yard campaign in 2018. Between 2016-2018, James managed 112 grabs for 1,113 yards and eight touchdowns.

That potential earned him the big contract from the Lions, but the Penn State product disappointed there. In 32 games (18 starts) over two years, James hauled in just 30 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns.

Outside of some reported interest from the Bills back in April, we haven’t heard much about James this offseason. Now, he’ll look to join a TE group that includes Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, and fellow newcomers J.P. Holtz and Jake Butt.

Bills Interested In Jesse James

The top tight ends have all found their new homes, but there are still some (relatively) big names left for the second wave. One of those is Jesse James, who is apparently on the radar of an AFC contender.

The Bills are interested in James, sources told Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork. Those same sources did caution that “they are not close to a contract.” James was released by the Lions last month just halfway through the four-year, $22.6MM pact he signed with Detroit back in 2019. James started his career as a fifth-round pick of the Steelers back in 2015. He flashed some potential in Pittsburgh, including with a 423-yard campaign in 2018.

That potential earned him the big contract from the Lions, but the Penn State product disappointed there. In 32 games (18 starts) over the past two years in Detroit, James has hauled in 30 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns. The Bills didn’t get a ton of production from the position in 2020 despite having a dynamic passing game overall, so it’s not too surprising they’re looking to add to the group.

2019 third-rounder Dawson Knox led the Bills’ tight ends with only 288 yards last season. Pauline writes that it could be a situation where Buffalo or another team looking for help there signs James on “Day 3 of the draft if they can’t come away with a tight end in Rounds 2-4.”

Buffalo already has a great receiving group highlighted by Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, so tight end is the natural spot to bolster as they look to take the next step in 2021.

Lions Release TE Jesse James

Jesse James‘ two-year stint in Detroit has come to an end. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the Lions have released the veteran tight end. The move will save the team more than $6MM over the next two years.

The tight end initially joined the Lions on a four-year, $22.6MM deal back in 2019, but he hasn’t come close to matching the (limited) production he displayed during his time with the Steelers. In 32 games (18 starts) over the past two years, James has hauled in 30 receptions for 271 yards and two touchdowns. The 26-year-old had cap hits of $6.4MM in 2021 and $7.1MM in 2022, and the Lions will be left with dead cap hits of $4.2MM in 2021 and $5.7MM in 2022.

The 2015 fifth-round pick spent the first four seasons of his career with Pittsburgh, starting 36 totals games. His best season came in 2018 when he hauled in 30 receptions for 423 yards and two scores.

T.J. Hockenson obviously sits atop the Lions tight ends depth chart, but the team will surely be looking for some reinforcement behind him. Hunter Bryant is the only other tight end under contract for the 2021 campaign.

Lions To Sign TE Jesse James

The Lions have agreed to a deal with former Steelers tight end Jesse James, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). This marks the latest deal on what has proven to be a busy day in Detroit. It’s a four-year deal worth $25MM with $11MM fully guaranteed, according to a source who spoke with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

Earlier today, the Lions agreed to sign defensive end Trey Flowers, nickel corner Justin Coleman, and wide receiver Danny Amendola. Now, James joins the mix, and he could be an important addition despite his lack of star power.

James, 25 in June, has averaged 37 catches for 378 yards and nearly three touchdowns over the last three seasons in Pittsburgh. He also graded out as one of the better pass blocking TEs in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus.

With Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo headed towards free agency, the Lions needed a new face at tight end. They have their man in James, though you can expect another addition or two to the TE group this offseason.

2018 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Jay Ajayi (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.908MM in 2018. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2018 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Trent Brown, T; Eli Harold, LB

Bears: Adrian Amos, S

Bengals: Tyler Kroft, TE; Josh Shaw, DB

Bills: John Miller, G

Broncos: Max Garcia, G; Trevor Siemian, QB

Browns: Duke Johnson, RB

Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, LB

Cardinals: David Johnson, RB; J.J. Nelson, WR

Chargers: Kyle Emanuel, LB

Chiefs: Chris Conley, WR; Steven Nelson, CB

Colts: Henry Anderson, DE; Mark Glowinski, G; Denzelle Good, OL

Dolphins: Bobby McCain, CB

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, RB; Jordan Hicks, LB

Falcons: Grady Jarrett, DT

Jaguars: A.J. Cann, OL

Lions: Quandre Diggs, CB

Packers: Jake Ryan, LB

Panthers: Daryl Williams, T

Patriots: Trey Flowers, DE; Shaq Mason, G

Raiders: Clive Walford, TE

Rams: Jamon Brown, G

Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, LB

Redskins: T.J. Clemmings, OL; Jamison Crowder, WR

Saints: Tyeler Davison, DT

Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR

Steelers: Jesse James, TE

Vikings: Stefon Diggs, WR; Danielle Hunter, DE

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Draft Rumors: Mixon, Charlton, McCaffrey

The Chiefs are “still doing research” on embattled Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, as Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star writes. Several teams have reportedly scratched Mixon off of their draft boards, while others are “digging in hard” on him. Kansas City, of course, selected another talented player with an ugly domestic abuse incident on his record, Tyreek Hill, last year, and Hill was a key component of the club’s success in 2016. Chiefs brass was noncommittal when asked about the possibility of drafting Mixon, simply saying that there is more evaluation to be done. A report last month suggested that, despite Mixon’s history and the fact that some teams are not considering him at all, his draft stock is on the rise.

Now for more draft-related rumors:

  • Add the Dolphins to the long list of teams with interest in Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports that Miami has scheduled a visit with Charlton, who is a consensus first-round talent. Charlton has also met, or will meet, with at least seven other clubs.
  • As Rich Cimini of ESPN.com observes, the Jets will have met with every top QB prospect in the draft by the time draft day arrives, but he believes those visits are more of a smokescreen than anything else. New York is clearly in rebuilding mode, and Cimini posits that the Jets are hoping to drive up the value of their No. 6 overall pick, which he does not believe the club will use on a signal-caller, despite public suggestions to the contrary.
  • Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com believes the Giants will select a quarterback in the draft, but he does not think Big Blue will use a first- or second-round selection on one. Instead, he suggests New York will target a player like Josh Dobbs or Jerrod Evans in the middle rounds. He adds that the Giants would love to draft former Stanford star Christian McCaffrey, but it’s unlikely McCaffrey will still be on the board when the Giants make their No. 23 overall selection.
  • Thanks to Jesse James‘ surprisingly effective 2016 campaign, the Steelers do not have to select a starting-caliber tight end in this month’s draft, as Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests. The club has proven that it can win with James as a starter, although Ladarius Green‘s health concerns may still compel Pittsburgh to select a developmental tight end in the middle rounds of the draft. Fittipaldo names Michigan’s Jake Butt — who may have been a first-round prospect but for his devastating knee injury in the last game of his collegiate career — Arkansas’ Jeremy Sprinkle, and Iowa’s George Kittle as potential targets.
  • Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer believes that the Browns will draft Mitch Trubisky somewhere in the first round — although presumably not with the No. 1 overall selection, as the team seems set to take Myles Garrett there — if Trubisky is available. If they cannot somehow land Trubisky, Cabot believes Patrick Mahomes is the backup plan. Mahomes is probably not worth the Browns’ No. 12 overall selection, but he may be gone by the time Cleveland picks again at No. 33, so if the Browns want Mahomes, they may need to trade into the bottom of the first round to get him.

Sunday Roundup: T. Johnson, Long, 49ers

We recently heard the the Rams are considering using the transition tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency in just over two weeks. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com discusses why a team would consider the transition tag–which does not net a team any compensation when the tagged player signs elsewhere–when a slightly more expensive franchise tag would virtually assure the team of retaining the tagged player. As Florio writes, “Some may be doing it just to see what the player’s value is, knowing that if it’s too high they’ll let him walk. Others possibly don’t want the franchise tender to lay the foundation for a long-term deal.”

Florio, citing a league source, says that if Johnson does get the transition tag, he will not sign the transition tender. Instead, he will actively seek an offer sheet from another team, just as Alex Mack did in 2014 and Charles Clay did last season.

Now let’s take a look at some more notes from around the league:

  • Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com takes a look at whether the Seahawks will pursue recently-released DE Chris Long, who has 8.5 sacks in 15 career games against Seattle as a member of the division-rival Rams. Long’s age and injury history suggest that he’s probably in line for a relatively modest deal, and given that the Seahawks are always on the lookout for pass rushing help, Kapadia suggests that Long could be a fit.
  • Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers‘ No. 1 priority this offseason is resolving the Colin Kaepernick dilemma, and he sets forth four ways in which the team could find that resolution. Right now, indications are that Kaepernick would like to resume his career elsewhere, and if San Francisco wants to move on as well, the 49ers can give Kaepernick permission to seek a trade and work out a restructured contract with another team before a trade is finalized. Alternatively, the two sides could work out a settlement in which the team releases him and is not on the hook for the $11.9MM he is owed in 2016.
  • The Jaguars do not plan on filling the vacancy that was left when they promoted Todd Wash from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator, according to Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union. Instead, Wash will continue to coach the team’s defensive lineman, and head coach Gus Bradley downplayed any notion that his first-time coordinator would be stretched too thin.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides his ranking of the Falcons‘ top 12 unrestricted free agents. Given that O’Brien Schofield tops the list, it is clear that the Falcons’ pending free agents are comprised primarily of role players and reserves.
  • Jesse James, selected in the fifth round of last year’s draft, will get the first chance to replace the recently-retired Heath Miller as the Steelers‘ No. 1 tight end, as Mark Kaboly of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. After being inactive for the first eight games of the regular season, James saw limited action in the next ten, including the playoffs. The Steelers will likely add a tight end in free agency to complement James and high-upside practice squad player Xavier Grimble, even though the free agent class of tight ends is fairly weak. Ben Watson, who met with Pittsburgh during training camp a few years ago, is perhaps the best fit for the Steelers.