Tavon Young

NFC North Rumors: Gafford, Graham, Bears, Jenkins

Packers’ offseason acquisition Rico Gafford has been asked to move from wide receiver back to his original position of cornerback, according to Matt Schneidman who did an early projection of how the Packers’ 53-man roster could play out for The Athletic this week. Gafford is a speedy player whose versatility led the Raiders to use him as a Lamar Jackson stand in on scout team before playing the Ravens when he was in Las Vegas a couple of years ago.

Gafford was an undrafted cornerback out of Wyoming back in 2018. Over two years of play with the Cowboys, he recorded 6 interceptions, 11 passes defensed, and 3 forced fumbles at the collegiate level. After signing initially with the Titans, Gafford was cut before training camp and signed with the Raiders who asked him to change his primary position to wide receiver because of his speed. He played mostly special teams in Oakland but did catch two balls including a 49-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr in 2019.

Green Bay has a history of moving undrafted wide receivers to cornerback, most recently in 2016, when the Packers convinced University of Miami wide receiver Herb Waters to move to cornerback due to a couple of injuries in the position room. More famously, the Packers persuaded another former Hurricanes’ receiver, Sam Shields, to switch to cornerback after he went undrafted in 2010. Shields was named the third cornerback on the depth chart after the preseason, behind Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, and went on to start 62 of the 80 games he would play in a Packers’ uniform over a seven-year stay in Green Bay.

Here are a few more rumors out of the NFC North, all of these coming out of the Windy City:

  • After making his NFL debut late into the season last year, Bears cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. could have a shot at a starting spot in the slot over free agent addition Tavon Young in the upcoming season, according to Courtney Cronin of ESPN. A sixth-round pick in 2021, Graham struggled early to make the team, spending most of the season on the practice squad. In a late-December game against the Vikings, though, Graham heard his name called as the Bears’ roster was depleted by injuries and COVID-19. An impressive performance in that game made his promotion permanent as he spent the rest of the season on the active roster. The Bears used their highest draft pick this year to select Kyler Gordon in the second round to start opposite Jaylon Johnson on the outside. This will leave Graham to compete with the former Raven, Young, in the slot. Young, once the highest-paid nickel corner in the NFL, has suffered multiple torn ACLs and a neck injury that have forced him to miss the entire 2017 and 2019 seasons, as well as most of the 2020 season. Even if Graham can’t beat out Young to start, the Bears will be glad to have him as a strong back-up option.
  • The Bears announced some updates to their staff this week, according to Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic. The team has announced Reese Hicks as the new West Coast scout, Tom Bradway as the new Northeast scout, and Ryan Cavanaugh as the team’s new Midwest scout. In addition to those personnel positions, Chicago announced two moves in the analytics department. Krithi Chandrakasan will be the director of football analytics and Ryan Hubley will serve as the football systems developer.
  • With recent news that the Bears will look at 2022 fifth-round draft pick Braxton Jones at left tackle in camp, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reminded readers that when Teven Jenkins was drafted in the second round last year, many saw him as a guard at the NFL-level. If Jones does end up impressing on the blindside this summer, Jenkins could find himself filling the Bears’ hole at right guard.

Bears To Sign CB Tavon Young

The Bears are making another addition to their secondary. According to Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson, the team is signing slot cornerback Tavon Young to a one-year, $1.365MM deal (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Bears Sign DB Cruikshank]

Young, 28, had been with the Ravens since they drafted him in 2016. During his time there, he established himself as effective member of the team’s secondary. While his tenure overlapped with Pro Bowlers such as Eric Weddle, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, he carved out a role for himself as the slot corner.

Young’s play earned him a three-year extension in 2019. Valued at just under $26MM, the deal made him the highest-paid slot CB in the league. In the two seasons immediately following that signing, however, he played in only two games; the 2019 campaign was the second in his relatively brief career (the other being 2017) that he missed in its entirety, primarily due to knee injuries.

The former fourth rounder was able to return to full health, as he played all 17 games in the 2021 season. During his four campaigns in Baltimore, he totalled 127 tackles, four interceptions and four sacks. That tenure came to an end last month, though, as he was cut in a cost-saving move.

Young should be able to step in to the starting slot role in Chicago, where, if he can stay healthy, he will likely provide solid value relative to the modest contract. Without many experienced options behind the aforementioned Humphrey and Peters, the Ravens are expected to turn to the draft for Young’s replacement, or at least depth at the position.

Ravens Release CB Tavon Young

Tavon Young battled back from three major injuries to play in all 17 Ravens games last season. The team is still moving on from its longtime slot cornerback.

The Ravens announced Young’s release Wednesday. This move will save them nearly $6MM. Young was a productive player in Baltimore, but the 2016 fourth-round pick ran into rampant injury trouble over the past several years.

Two knee maladies and a neck injury combined to sideline Young for 46 games over the 2017, ’19 and ’20 seasons. Young bounced back in 2018, playing 15 games and earning his Ravens extension — a three-year, $13.9MM pact. But a neck injury sustained during the 2019 offseason stalled that momentum. His 2020 knee injury led to a reworked contract.

Young, 27, played 51% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in 2021. The Ravens endured a brutal injury season, one that saw corners Marcus Peters miss the entire year and Marlon Humphrey go down in December. This came after Baltimore traded rookie Shaun Wade to New England just before the season. Young broke up three passes, intercepted another and registered three sacks in 2021, giving him a bit of momentum after the run of injuries. But the various health setbacks stand to limit Young’s value on the market.

AFC Rumors: Broncos, OBJ, Ravens, Mack

Deshaun Watson still has significant off-field issues to surmount before being in the clear to resume his career, but the embattled Texans quarterback’s deposition is not set to take place until after the 2021 season ends. This could put Watson on track to play this season, though our Rory Parks noted a Commissioner’s Exempt List stay may well enter into this equation. The Broncos were once a clear suitor for the Pro Bowl quarterback. Now, their focus has shifted. They prefer an Aaron Rodgers trade to waiting out the Watson saga, according to NFL insider John Clayton of 104.3 The Fan. Far and away the clubhouse leaders in Rodgers rumor mentions, the Broncos are planning to make an aggressive pursuit of the reigning MVP — if the Packers make him available for a trade. While Rodgers has not come out and said he wants to leave Green Bay or indicated where he would like to go, the Broncos were on his reported wish list from the start. The future Hall of Fame passer indeed wants to be traded to the Broncos, Clayton adds. Rodgers is not expected to show up for the Packers’ minicamp next month, according to Madison.com’s Jason Wilde.

Although we still appear a ways away from true trade talks, the June 1 date after which a Rodgers deal becomes less financially constraining for the Packers is approaching. Shifting to players already in the AFC, here is the latest from the conference:

  • Tavon Young has become one of the NFL’s most injury-prone players, and the Ravens may have selected his heir apparent in Shaun Wade this year. The former early-round Ohio State prospect is expected to begin his career in the slot, and Young is not yet 100%. ACL tears sidelined Young for all of 2017 and 14 games last season, and he missed all of the 2019 season due to a neck ailment. Baltimore DC Don Martindale said Young has not been fully cleared from his latest round of ACL rehab, Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets. Young has missed an astounding 47 games over the past four seasons. Thanks to restructuring Young’s contract, the Ravens would be tagged with more than $9MM in dead money over the next two years were they to cut the veteran corner after June 1.
  • Better news may be coming out of another AFC North contender’s headquarters. Odell Beckham Jr. has resumed sprinting after suffering an ACL tear last November, and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer expects the Pro Bowl wideout to be in the Browns‘ Week 1 lineup. Beckham’s injury may have helped keep him in Cleveland, depressing the trade market for the talented wideout who has yet to truly take off with the Browns. Trade rumors have followed Beckham in Cleveland, but he is set to return at a $14.5MM salary this season.
  • In more injury rehab news, the Colts had Marlon Mack back on the field this week. Mack did not participate fully in Indianapolis’ OTA sessions this week, but Stephen Holder of The Athletic notes the fifth-year running back was available for part of the voluntary workouts (subscription required). Mack sustained a torn Achilles in Week 1 last season. He re-signed with the Colts on a one-year, $2MM deal, pointing to optimism the former fourth-round pick will be ready to go to start this season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/1/20

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

Ravens Place 6 More On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Ravens now have 20 players on their reserve/COVID-19 list. A day after practice squad tackle Will Holden‘s positive COVID-19 test, Baltimore now has nearly a third of its active-roster/P-squad players on the coronavirus list.

Slot corner Tavon Young (already on IR), edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson, guard D.J. Fluker, rookie defensive back Khalil Dorsey and rookie defensive lineman Broderick Washington joined Holden and 14 others on the team’s virus list Saturday.

Beyond Holden, it is not known if any of the other players involved in these latest COVID-related roster moves tested positive for COVID-19. But the timing of Holden’s positive test could make each of the four additional non-IR players included here unavailable for Tuesday’s game against the Steelers. Should the Ravens’ virus list expand much further, the NFL will have to postpone this game beyond Week 12.

The league has pushed this game back twice already. A third time would almost certainly mean triggering one of the two contingency plans. A makeup Week 18 window is believed to be the league’s Plan B, with Plan C being the 16-team playoff bracket that would stem from canceled regular-season games. Plan C going into effect would mean the first unbalanced NFL regular season (in terms of games played) since 1935.

Ravens, Tavon Young Rework Contract

Ravens cornerback Tavon Young agreed to a reworked deal, as ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets. Now, $2.514MM of his 2020 base salary will be converted to a signing bonus. Meanwhile, his non-guaranteed $5.5MM base salary in 2021 was reduced to a guaranteed $2.65MM. 

It seems like a reasonable tradeoff for Young, who has been plagued by injuries. The Temple product missed all of last season with a neck injury in 2019. This year, a Week 2 injury forced him out of action. He also missed the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL, so his injury history is now pretty extensive.

Young started eleven games as a rookie in 2016, then played a big role in 2018 again while making six starts. His contributions as the team’s slot corner earned him a three-year, $25.8MM extension in February of 2019. To date, he’s played just two games since inking deal, which runs through the 2022 season.

The Ravens, meanwhile, have picked up some much-needed cap space in the wake of their recent big-money extensions.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/28/20

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Ravens CB Tavon Young Done For The Year

The Ravens picked up a big win over the Texans to move to 2-0 Sunday, but they’ll be without a big piece of their defense moving forward. Cornerback Tavon Young will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, head coach John Harbaugh announced after the game. 

This will be the second year in a row that Young is on the shelf, as the Temple product missed all of last season with a neck injury. He also missed the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL, so his injury history is now pretty extensive. He started 11 games as a rookie in 2016, then played a big role in 2018 again while making six starts.

His contributions as the team’s slot corner earned him a three-year, $25.8MM extension in February of 2019. He’ll now have played just two games since that deal, which runs through the 2022 season.

Young played a big role in Baltimore’s opener, playing around half of the defensive snaps against Houston. Depending on the severity of the latest injury, it’s fair to wonder whether the Ravens will count on him to be in their plans in 2021 and beyond.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Burrow, Ravens

The Browns have not honored David Njoku‘s trade request. The former first-round pick enters his fourth season in Cleveland, and while Kevin Stefanski said he had not spoken with Njoku in several weeks, the first-year Browns coach noted he is eager to work with him.

My stance hasn’t changed. The organization’s stance hasn’t changed in that we believe in David, excited to work with him,” Stefanski said, via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I’ll get to finally be in the same room as him this weekend as he is coming in for physicals and then get out on the field with him Monday.”

Njoku has not lived up to his Round 1 billing yet, leading the Browns to give Austin Hooper a tight end-record contract. While Njoku’s unhappiness was reported to predate the team’s Hooper addition, he tweeted that he “loves Cleveland” while noting the game includes “a lot of complications.” Regardless, Njoku is set to earn $1.76MM this season. The Browns picked up his fifth-year option (worth $6MM) but can cut bait on that cost before the 2021 league year.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic preventing teams from conducting on-field workouts throughout the offseason, the Browns have not changed their plan at tackle. First-round pick Jedrick Wills will begin his career as Cleveland’s starting left tackle, Stefanski adds. The Alabama product will make the interesting transition from college right tackle to NFL left tackle. Recently signed free agent Jack Conklin, a college left tackle, will continue his NFL right tackle work.
  • The Browns hired former Vikings QBs coach Kevin Rogers as a senior offensive assistant. Rogers was with the Vikings from 2006-10, which doubled as Stefanski’s first five years with the franchise, but has not coached since 2016. Rogers, 68, spent decades at the college level. He worked as the offensive coordinator for Syracuse (1991-98), Notre Dame (1999-2001) and Boston College (2011). His most recent gig was at alma mater William & Mary; that four-year stay ended after the 2016 season.
  • The Ravens will use Jimmy Smith in a matchup-based capacity. They are trying their longtime starting cornerback at safety and in the slot, John Harbaugh said. As of now, there is no plan to permanently move the veteran corner to safety. The Ravens are deep at cornerback, with Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey and slot man Tavon Young back in the fold. Young, however, has missed two of the past three full seasons. Harbaugh said the fifth-year corner is back to 100% after a neck injury last summer.
  • Ravens rookie UDFA tight end Jacob Breeland will miss the 2020 season, Harbaugh confirmed. The Oregon product was one of the top contenders for Baltimore’s No. 3 tight end spot, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (subscription required).
  • As expected, Joe Burrow‘s rookie year will consist of on-the-job training. The Bengals will not give one of their more experienced QBs the first snaps as their starter in training camp. Burrow will take them, Zac Taylor said, per Marisa Contipelli of Bengals.com (on Twitter). Cincinnati returns 2019 draftee Ryan Finley and agreed to terms with fifth-year quarterback Brandon Allen, who worked with Taylor in Los Angeles.