Jihad Ward

Giants To Re-Sign DE Jihad Ward

The Giants have made some notable outside additions so far in free agency, but a targeted incumbent player is staying in the fold. New York has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with defensive end Jihad Ward, per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan (Twitter link).

The 28-year-old bounced around to four different teams before landing in the Big Apple last offseason. His decision to head to New York proved to be a wise one, as he earned a starting role for the second time in his career (and first since his rookie season) in 2022.

Ward saw a 58% snap share in his debut Giants season, one in which he reunited with defensive coordinator Don Martindale. The pair worked together with the Ravens in 2019 and ’20, and Ward’s familiarity with the latter’s scheme allowed him to enjoy a productive campaign. The former second-round pick matched his career high in sacks with three, and set new personal marks in tackles (43), QB hits (13) and pressures (15). Retaining him was thus one of the Giants’ top priorities this offseason.

New York has invested in their pass rush in recent years, a process which included the selection of Kayvon Thibodeaux in the first round of last year’s draft. Like the latter, Ward has the ability to play both on the edge and inside, a degree of versatility which has helped earn him earn numerous opportunities despite never putting up eye-popping statistics. He is now in line for an extended look in his latest home, one which has been the site for plenty of activity so far this offseason.

The Giants will have both quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley in place for next season, and their offense has been augmented with the trade acquisition of tight end Darren Waller. Defensively, the signing of linebacker Bobby Okereke will help the unit’s second level. By re-upping Ward, though, they will maintain continuity up front as they look to repeat the surprising success of 2022.

Giants, Saquon Barkley Moving Closer To Deal; Team Begins Dexter Lawrence Talks

Sitting as the second domino in the Giants’ offseason equation for weeks, Saquon Barkley remains unsigned. He and the Giants have been in talks since midway through last season, but Joe Schoen pointed to progress Tuesday.

The second-year Giants GM said the sides are “a little bit closer” on terms. It is believed the Giants offered Barkley a deal in the $12.5MM-per-year range; that did not move the needle much during the fall talks. The Giants have not been connected to being open to moving too much higher, but they might be willing to climb a bit to retain their dynamic back.

We haven’t totally bridged [the difference]. We’re a little bit closer,” Schoen said, via ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan. “There’s still a gap, [otherwise] would’ve done it. We’ll still work through that. We’re working with Roc Nation and [Barkley’s agent] Kim [Miale]. We have a great relationship with them and her.

“… Again, you have to draw a line in the sand — like we’re not going any further. And if it goes past this [line], alright, let’s shift to Plan B. Again, hopefully we don’t get to all that but we went through all these plans.”

A recent report indicated a deal at around $14MM per year could move this lengthy process past the goal line. That still would place Barkley outside the top three among running backs, and with those deals (for Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott) all being signed in 2020 or before, it would obviously be somewhat unsatisfying for the Giants back to accept such terms now that the cap has spiked to $224.8MM. But the Giants could have both the advantage of the franchise tag and a robust running back market that could suppress players’ values.

Barkley, 26, has already pocketed considerable cash, being a former No. 2 overall pick and having finished his fifth-year option season. But this offseason represents his best chance to cash in during a career not expected to last too much longer. Barkley should still have multiple prime years left, but backs routinely do not play past 30 in the modern game. The Giants have until March 13 to keep Barkley off the market, but their real deadline may be March 7 — the last day to apply franchise tags.

Schoen reiterated the Giants’ plan to tag Daniel Jones (at a steep $32.4MM) unless an extension is reached. A $10.1MM Barkley tag would, then, only commence if Jones is extended. While the GM expressed cautious optimism extensions for Barkley and Jones will be completed, via the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard (on Twitter), the Giants are likely to go down to the wire here.

Beyond the Jones-Barkley components of this offseason, the Giants have Dexter Lawrence coming off a breakout year and heading into a contract campaign. The Giants have already begun talks with Lawrence, Schoen said (via Leonard), but the discussions look to be preliminary in nature. It is not known if the Giants want to be the team that first bridges the gap between Aaron Donald and the field at defensive tackle. The Commanders just tagged Daron Payne, but he will be part of that mix that includes Jeffery Simmons and Chris Jones, who are each in contract years.

Those contracts would stand to drive up the price for Lawrence, who is going into his fifth-year option season. But the former Clemson standout (and last piece of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade still on either the Giants or Browns) said he wants to stay in New York. The Giants would have the option of a 2024 franchise tag with Lawrence, though their 2023 tag candidates obviously take precedence.

Scrolling further down Big Blue’s expanding priority list, Schoen confirmed the Giants want to keep Julian Love. The Giants will speak with Love’s agent at the Combine, but a deal may not transpire until the Giants survey the market. Schoen said the team will wait to see if teams cut safeties to create a market surplus, which would affect Love’s value. John Johnson will be one of the cap casualties, joining a market set to house Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Jordan Poyer, whom Schoen has close ties to from his Buffalo days. Additionally, Schoen mentioned Jihad Ward as a leadership type the Giants will not want to lose (Twitter links via Leonard). The rotational edge rusher just played out a league-minimum contract.

Giants Sign Jihad Ward

Free agent pass rusher Jihad Ward has found his new home in the NFL. The Giants announced that they have signed the veteran. 

[RELATED: Falcons To Sign LB Carter]

Ward, 27, was a second round pick of the Raiders in 2016. Despite starting 14 of 21 games, however, he was only there for two years, next spending nine games as a Colt split between the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The second team he was on that year – the Ravens – is where he first played under Don Martindale. During 21 games in Baltimore, Ward registered four sacks (the most he’s had with any one team), along with two fumble recoveries. His play earned him a deal with the Jaguars, although he only started one of 17 contests in Jacksonville.

By signing with the Giants, Ward will reunite with Martindale, who became the team’s new defensive coordinator earlier this offseason. He will also likely have at least a rotational role available to him, as Lorenzo Carter signed with the Falcons earlier today.

Alongside Ward, New York currently has a pass-rushing corps which includes recent draftees Oshane XiminesAzeez OjulariElerson Smith and Quincy Roche. While he will add a veteran presence to the position group, the Giants are widely expected to target more help in that department using one of their two top-ten picks in April’s draft.

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

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

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: G Oli Udoh

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Bryce Hall

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Jaguars To Sign Jihad Ward

The Jaguars have agreed to sign former Ravens defensive end Jihad Ward (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The deal will reunite Ward with ex-Baltimore position coach Joe Cullen who now serves as the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator.

Ward will join former Bears standout Roy Robertson-Harris on the Jags’ revamped defensive line. The Jaguars also re-upped Dawuane Smoot earlier this week to maintain consistency and flexibility as they adjust their scheme.

Ward, a 6’5″, 290-pound lineman, entered the league in 2016 as a second-round pick of the Raiders. In 2018, he was traded to the Cowboys, but he missed their final cut. That led him to the Colts, where he was used sparingly over two seasons. Ward joined up with the Ravens in mid-2019 and cracked the starting lineup in 2020. Last year, he notched three sacks, four tackles for loss, and eight quarterback hits.

COVID-19 Latest: Ravens, Tuitt, Colts

Multiple standout defensive linemen will be back in action in Week 13, and although the Ravens still have several players on their reserve/COVID-19 list, their roster is no longer as depleted as it was Wednesday.

  • Baltimore’s coronavirus list still houses 10 players, including Lamar Jackson, but the team will have multiple starters back at practice soon. The Ravens activated Calais Campbell, Mark Ingram and defensive lineman Jihad Ward from their virus list. Ingram was eligible to play against the Steelers on Wednesday, but the Ravens held him out. A five-time Pro Bowler, Campbell has not played since Nov. 8 due to a calf strain.
  • The 11-0 Steelers will have Stephon Tuitt back in action when they face Washington on Monday. They activated the seventh-year starter from their reserve/COVID list. Three Steelers remain on the virus list, including starters James Conner and Maurkice Pouncey.
  • Pricey trade acquisition DeForest Buckner came off the Colts‘ virus list as well. Buckner landed on Indianapolis’ COVID list after testing positive for the virus in late November. The Colts, who allowed the Titans to rush for 229 yards in Buckner’s absence last week, also removed Jonathan Taylor from their virus list.
  • The Ravens announced Saturday that four strains of the coronavirus were present in their building. While the team believes it contained three of those strains, the fourth ended up spreading to the point it forced the NFL to postpone the team’s Steelers rematch three times. Ten straight days commenced with at least one Raven testing positive for the virus, and the team had as many as 23 players on its reserve/COVID list at the height of the outbreak. Four straight days, however, have passed without a Ravens positive test.

Contract Details: Lawson, Trufant, Shelton, Witten,

Kyler Fackrell (Giants), One year, $4.6MM, $3.5MM guaranteed, base salary 2020: $2.6MM, $2MM roster bonus, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.

Antonio Hamilton (Chiefs), One year, $1.047MM, $887.5k guaranteed, $137.5k signing bonus; salary 2020: $910k ($750k guaranteed), according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Shaq Lawson (Dolphins), Three years, $30MM, $21MM guaranteed, $4MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $6.4MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $7.9MM (fully guaranteed), 2022: $8.9MM; $2.5MM fully guaranteed roster bonus in 2020, $100k workout bonus in 2020-2021, potential $2MM in annual incentives, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

John Miller (Panthers), One year, $4MM, $2MM guaranteed, $2MM signing bonus; salary 2020: $1.79MM; $160k in per-game roster bonuses, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Danny Shelton (Lions), Two years, $8MM, $4MM guaranteed, $2.5MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $1.5MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $4MM, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.

Desmond Trufant (Lions), Two years, $20MM, $14MM guaranteed, $5MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $4.5MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $9.5MM ($4.5MM guaranteed for injury at signing); $500k in annual per-game roster bonuses, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Jihad Ward (Ravens), One year, $1.047MM, $637.5k guaranteed, $137.5k signing bonus; salary 2020: $910,000 ($500,000 guaranteed), according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Jaylen Watkins (Texans), Two years, $3MM, $300k guaranteed, $300k guaranteed; salaries 2020: $1.1MM, 2021: $1.4MM; 200k first-game roster bonus in 2020, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Jason Witten (Raiders), One year, $4MM, $3.5MM guaranteed; salary 2020: $3.5MM (fully guaranteed); $500k in per-game roster bonuses, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.

Ravens To Re-Sign Jihad Ward

The Ravens are finalizing a new contract for OLB/DE Jihad Ward, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link). Ward was one of the handful of free agents Baltimore added to its defense in the middle of the 2019 season who helped fortify the unit and keyed the club’s 14-2 finish.

The Raiders selected Ward in the second round of the 2016 draft, which gives some clue as to his upside. He was traded to the Cowboys in April 2018, but he did not make Dallas’ roster that year and ultimately caught on with the Colts’ taxi squad. He played in six games for Indy in 2018 and recorded three sacks, but his season was cut short due to an ankle injury.

He saw action in three games for the Colts in 2019 before being waived, and the Ravens, in need of pass rush help, picked him up. Though he recorded just one sack in 11 games in Baltimore, he, like fellow under-the-radar pickups Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, brought much-needed stability to the team’s front seven.

He also accounted for 23 pressures in only 398 snaps, which is even more valuable since some of those pressures came from the interior. He will turn just 26 in May, so it makes sense for the Ravens to keep him around at what will probably be a low-cost deal and to see if he can’t stay healthy and start converting those pressures into sacks.

AFC North Notes: Berry, Ravens, Mixon

Let’s take a quick swing around the AFC North:

  • The Browns hired former Eagles’ VP of Football Operations Andrew Berry to be their GM and EVP of Football Operations today, and he will report directly to owner Jimmy Haslam, just like new head coach Kevin Stefanski and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta. However, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks it’s fair to wonder whether Berry will really have final say over roster decisions, as his contract says he will. Of course, in order to pry Berry away from Philadelphia, Cleveland needed to give him such power contractually, but whether Berry will be permitted to fully use that power is another story. Stefanski and DePodesta may not be keen on consistently yielding to Berry, who was probably the team’s No. 2 choice behind Vikings exec George Paton.
  • In 2019, the Ravens made a number of in-season signings to bolster their defense that ended up paying major dividends. Baltimore has already inked one such acquisition, L.J. Fort, to a two-year extension, and Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic believes the club could also look to re-sign OLB/DE Jihad Ward and DT Justin Ellis.
  • Many have noted the Ravens‘ need to add pass rushing talent, and much of that discussion has focused on edge rushers. But in the same piece, Zrebiec says Baltimore will think long and hard about selecting a quality pass-rushing interior defensive lineman if one is available near the end of the first round. The Ravens haven’t really had such a player since the heyday of Haloti Ngata.
  • Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic lays out a number of moves he believes the Bengals should make this offseason. The entire piece is worth a read for Cincy fans, but one move that Dehner thinks is especially likely to come to fruition is an extension for running back Joe Mixon. We recently heard that director of player personnel Duke Tobin would explore a new contract for his RB1, and such a deal won’t be cheap.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/7/19

Here are today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Houston Texans

Washington Redskins