Joseph Ossai

Joe Burrow To Play In Week 1; Bengals Rule Out DE Joseph Ossai

Joe Burrow has a new contract in hand and the Bengals will not need to wait long to have him in the lineup after working out a record-setting extension. Head coach Zac Taylor confirmed on Friday that Burrow will play in the regular season opener.

That has been the expected decision after Burrow continued making progress from the calf strain he suffered in July. The team gave him a recovery timeline of “several weeks” upon diagnosing the injury, which left open the possibility of missed game action in September. However, the league’s newest top-paid player resumed throwing shortly thereafter and returned to practice last week.

Given those developments, it comes as little surprise that Burrow will be in place on Sunday despite the missed training camp reps. The former No. 1 pick said early this week that he expected to play in Week 1, though he added, via Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic, that the injury is one which he will have to manage (subscription required).

Burrow also said he is unsure of how long he will take to return to 100%, but his presence will be welcomed in Week 1 and throughout a season in which the Bengals are expected to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Cincinnati lost backup Brandon Allen in the offseason, and questions remain about who will emerge as the team’s new QB2; that competition is now between Jake Browning and recent practice squad addition Will Grier.

The Bengals will not be at full strength when they take the field against the Browns, however. Taylor ruled out edge rusher Joseph Ossai, who has been dealing with an ankle injury. The 2021 third-rounder missed his entire rookie campaign, and he will now begin his third NFL season on the injury list. Ossai missed only one game between the regular and postseason in 2022, though, logging a 32% snap share. A rotational role behind Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard will await him upon return.

DL Notes: Donald, Jones, Young, Cowboys

The Rams moving on from a wave of defensive starters this offseason could soon call Aaron Donald‘s status into question. No notable Donald trade noise has circulated just yet, but with the Rams retooling, those would not surprise. Donald’s landmark extension runs through 2024, but the guarantees on that $31.7MM-per-year deal end this year. Donald’s contract includes a no-trade clause, but it does not look like he will prioritize his hometown Steelers — either via trade or a potential free agency run. While the Pittsburgh alum may not necessarily rule out a stint with his hometown team, NBC Sports’ Peter King notes the all-time great does not have such a move as a priority. The Rams must decide on Donald’s 2024 status by Day 5 of the 2024 league year, when $30MM becomes guaranteed.

Donald, 32, threatened to retire last year but secured a landmark raise. The 10th-year veteran was not closely connected to retirement plans this offseason. Here is the latest from the D-line scene:

  • Chase Young is on the verge of returning to full-time duty, after a 2021 ACL tear and patellar tendon rupture sidetracked the former Defensive Rookie of the Year’s career. But the fourth-year Commanders defensive end is recovering from another issue. As a result of a stinger sustained in the first preseason game, The Athletic’s Ben Standig notes Young has not received full clearance to return and is not a lock to be available in Week 1 (subscription required). Young has not practiced fully in more than two weeks; he was expected to meet with a doctor this week. The Commanders declined Young’s fifth-year option in May, putting him in a contract year along with Montez Sweat.
  • Chris Jones‘ holdout has extended past the one-month mark, and while fines have piled up, the disgruntled D-tackle has indicated he would be willing to push this hiatus toward the midseason point. Jones reporting only to pick up an accrued season would certainly harm the Chiefs, who have relied on their dominant interior D-lineman for years. On that note, GM Brett Veach said (via Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams) the sides have increased communication this week. Jones would accumulate nearly $10MM in total fines — from training camp fines and missed game checks — were he to sit out until Week 8. Andy Reid said Friday he has not been given any indication Jones will be back in time for Kansas City’s Thursday-night opener. Jones wants Donald-level money; the Chiefs are looking to pay him closer to the second tier of DT deals that formed this offseason. Quinnen Williams‘ $24MM-AAV deal tops that contingent.
  • The Cowboys appear to be planning to work in first-round Mazi Smith slowly. The Michigan product is expected to be a rotational player to begin his career, with The Athletic’s Jon Machota and Saad Yousuf noting Johnathan Hankins and Osa Odighizuwa are likely to be team’s defensive tackle starters in Week 1. Smith, however, will obviously be expected to move into the starting lineup early in his career.
  • Joseph Ossai‘s status for the Bengals‘ opener is up in the air due to a high ankle sprain, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes. The third-year defensive end is unlikely to suit up against the Browns, per Conway. While Ossai has shown some promise, injuries have continued to intervene. The 2021 third-round pick missed his entire rookie year and, after playing through a torn labrum late last year, underwent offseason surgery. The Bengals are deeper at D-end now, having drafted Myles Murphy in Round 1 to join Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Steelers, Ossai

Lamar Jackson‘s foray as his own agent involved years of proposals and counterproposals, and while the former MVP received criticism for playing out his rookie contract, the Ravens rewarded their centerpiece player with a record-setting deal. That $52MM-per-year contract includes $135MM fully guaranteed. While that is not in the Deshaun Watson stratosphere — a range Jackson sought to enter — it places the sixth-year veteran second for full guarantees. One of Jackson’s proposals along the way included a three-year, $156MM fully guaranteed deal, Albert Breer of notes. The Ravens did not relent on term length, but Jackson’s proposal probably factored into the final result. By March 2024, Jackson will see his guarantee total balloon to $156MM.

The Ravens made a seismic bet Jackson (11 missed games since 2021) will stay healthy, as this contract locks them in through 2025 at least. Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • While the Steelers drafted Joey Porter Jr. 32nd overall, he was in consideration for their first-round selection. Had the Steelers not traded up to draft tackle Broderick Jones at No. 14, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly notes they likely would have chosen Porter at 17 (subscription required). Teams often paint rosy pictures of their draft plans in the aftermath, but Porter — who visited the Steelers’ facility, a place he is quite familiar with due to his father’s history with the team — was viewed as a first-round talent who slipped a bit. The Steelers did make it known the 32nd pick was available, and as Will Levis also fell out of Round 1, they received multiple offers. But they now have Jones and Porter in the fold.
  • Joseph Ossai‘s final-seconds hit on Patrick Mahomes may well have denied the Bengals a second straight Super Bowl berth, giving the Chiefs a better chance of avoiding overtime. Following Harrison Butker‘s game-winning field goal, Ossai headed toward a rehab-filled offseason. The edge rusher suffered a torn left shoulder labrum during a December game against the Browns and played hurt the rest of the way. Ossai, who had rebounded from a full-season rookie absence (due to a meniscus injury) to play 19 games last season, is expected to be ready for training camp, Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets.
  • When the Steelers brought Bud Dupree in for a visit, they wanted to re-sign their former first-round pick back to a two-year deal, Kaboly adds. A previous report indicated the Steelers did not discuss terms with Dupree, but it does appear the club had a preferred contract range — one that would have helped keep the edge rusher’s 2023 cap number low. Dupree signed a one-year, $3MM Falcons deal that could spike to $5MM.
  • On the subject of contracts that did come to pass, Rock Ya-Sin‘s one-year Ravens deal will be worth $4MM. That amount is fully guaranteed, according to OverTheCap. This will give the former Colts and Raiders cornerback a chance to re-establish his value for a possible 2024 free agency bid.
  • Shifting back to Pittsburgh, the Steelers will see some front office turnover. Mark Gorscak, who has been with the team for 28 years, will retire from his scouting post this offseason, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. Also known for his role as the Combine’s 40-yard dash starter, Gorscak follows another Steelers staffer in place since the 1990s — assistant coach John Mitchell — as mainstays departing the team this offseason.
  • The Steelers are hiring former Raiders southeast area scout Zack Crockett to work in the same capacity, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Crockett, who enjoyed a 13-year career (mostly with the Raiders) as a fullback, spent the past 14 years as a Raiders scout. Las Vegas’ Dave Ziegler– and Josh McDaniels-led regime parted ways with Crockett, 50, earlier this offseason.

Bengals Down To 53

The Bengals are in the books. With less than an hour before the deadline, the Bengals announced a series of roster cuts to take them down to 53. Here’s the full rundown:

Placed on Reserve/Non-Football Injury list:

Placed on Reserve/Injured list:



For now, this leaves the Bengals with seven wide receivers on the roster: Ja’Marr ChaseTyler Boyd, Mike Thomas, Auden Tate, Stanley Morgan Jr., Tee Higgins, and Trenton Irwin. Meanwhile, they’re down a couple starters from last year in Michael Jordan and Mike Daniels.

Bengals To Sign DE Noah Spence

The Bengals are signing free agent defensive end Noah Spence, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). Cincinnati brought Spence in for a workout several days ago in the wake of injuries to DLs Khalid Kareem and Joseph Ossai, and as Pelissero notes in a separate tweet, Ossai is likely to miss the entire 2021 campaign. The third-round rookie sustained a meniscus injury that will require surgery.

The loss of Ossai will be an especially difficult pill for the Bengals to swallow. The club mustered a league-worst 17 sacks in 2020, and while the free agent addition of Trey Hendrickson was supposed to help offset Carl Lawson‘s defection to the Jets, Cincy was also relying on Ossai to play a significant role in its pass rush. The Texas product did not disappoint in his preseason debut against the Bucs last week, piling up five pressures and sacking Tom Brady in an absolutely dominant showing.

Unfortunately, Ossai suffered a wrist injury during that game, and as he was being examined for that ailment the following day, he also noted that he was feeling some knee pain. Further examination of the knee revealed the depth of the problem (Twitter link via Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic).

Spence, meanwhile, has not done much since a promising 5.5-sack performance in his rookie season with Tampa Bay in 2016. The former second-round pick did not make it to the final year of his rookie contract with the Bucs, as he was waived as part of final cutdowns in August 2019. He hooked on with Washington several weeks later, but after seven games with WFT yielded just one sack and three tackles, he was waived again.

The 27-year-old signed with the Saints later that year. He did not get into a game with New Orleans, but the club saw enough from him in practice to re-sign him to a one-year contract for 2020. Unfortunately, a torn ACL suffered in May of that year knocked him out for the season, and after he signed another one-year pact this March, Spence was unable to carve out a spot on the Saints’ roster. He was cut one week ago.

The Bengals hope that Spence can finally start to unlock some of his potential in the Queen City. They are going to need it.

Bengals Sign Ja’Marr Chase

It’s officially official. On Wednesday, the Bengals formally signed first-round wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. They also inked third-round defensive end Joseph Ossai, completing their ten-man draft class. 

Chase opted out of the 2020 season at LSU, but that didn’t bother NFL evaluators much. In the previous year, Chase set SEC single-season records in receiving yards (1,780) and receiving touchdowns (20). That same Burrow-led offense produced three skill position players that went in the first round of the 2020 draft, including Justin Jefferson. Chase, according to many scouts, is an even better prospect.

I thought Chase was on a different level [than Jefferson],” one scout told The Athletic earlier this year. “Watching what Jefferson did this year (with the Vikings), that just makes me say, ‘Good Lord.’ Honestly, I thought (Chase) was the best receiver in the class last year.”

All in all, Chase’s 27 career games (21 starts) saw 98 catches for 2093 yards and 23 TDs. He also notched eight career 100-yard receiving games, including three 200-yard showings.

Here’s the full rundown of the Bengals’ 2021 draft class — now signed from top to bottom: