Rayshawn Jenkins

West Notes: Ray, Rivers, Thomas

Most of the fifth-year option decisions this offseason were no-brainers, but what the Broncos would do with respect to Shane Ray‘s 2019 option was a little tougher to predict. Ultimately, Denver chose to decline the option, which means that Ray will be eligible for free agency following the 2018 campaign, and head coach Vance Joseph believes that the chance to hit the open market will make the Missouri product especially motivated to produce at a high level this year.

Joseph said (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post), “[Ray] is really motivated. He understands it’s business. And he’s ready for a challenge. He wants to be a great player and, in my opinion, before he got hurt last year (early in training camp) he was on his way to having a great year. I am not surprised that he is motivated and engaged. The ball is in his court. He can earn a lot more than what the option offered him if he goes out there and does what we think he can do.”

As O’Halloran notes, however, this could be Ray’s last season with the Broncos regardless of how he performs. If he does well, he could price himself out of Denver’s budget, and if he struggles, the Broncos may not want him back anyway.

Now for more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Joseph is not only impressed with Ray’s effort level this spring; he is also pleased by what he has seen from the Broncos‘ marquee free agent signing, Case Keenum. Joseph said (via the same piece linked above), “[W]atching Case the last couple of weeks on the field, man, he’s a lot better than I remember. It’s definitely a good thing to watch him lead the guys and watch the guys respond to him. It’s refreshing for all of us to be in the presence of a veteran quarterback who has command. I think everyone is loving the fact we have a quarterback in place that can lead this team from spot 1, and that’s good for all of us.” 
  • In response to a reader’s question as to when the Chargers should plan for Philip Rivers‘ retirement, Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com suggests that it won’t be anytime soon, and that Rivers could play for another five years. After all, Rivers, 36, has already indicated he would like to play for a few more seasons, the club has not drafted a QB since 2013, and in addition to his continuing strong performance, he has not lost an ounce of motivation or even mentioned retirement, per quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen. And, as Williams notes, Rivers — who has not missed a start in more than a decade — predicates his game on anticipation and moving within the pocket, so loss of speed is not a huge issue.
  • Rayshawn Jenkins, whom the Chargers selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft, was primarily a special teams contributor in his rookie campaign, but as Williams notes, Los Angeles is giving the Miami product a shot at free safety this offseason. The team is intrigued by his athleticism, speed, and physicality, and the hope is that he can use those qualities to become a consistent presence on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Whether the Seahawks will trade Earl Thomas this offseason has been something of an open question over the past few months, but it sounds as if his next contract — he is eligible for free agency next year — will not come from Seattle. As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets, even though Thomas will command top dollar, the Seahawks could pay him if they wanted to. But in light of Thomas’ age (29), the fact that the team is in something of a retooling phase, and what has happened to some of the Seahawks’ older players over the last few years, Seattle seems unlikely to make the kind of commitment that Thomas is looking for.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/17/17

Today’s draft pick signings:

  • The Ravens have signed third-round defensive lineman Chris Wormley, as Wormley himself indicated on Twitter. Wormley, drafted with the 78th overall selection, would seem to be a ready-made replacement for Timmy Jernigan, whom Baltimore traded to Philadelphia earlier this year. With Wormley now under contract, fellow third-round pick Tim Williams is the only Ravens draft choice who remains unsigned.
  • The Chargers have signed fourth-round safety Rayshawn Jenkins, per a club announcement. After appearing 48 games over four years at Miami, Jenkins appears ticketed for backup and special teams duty during his rookie campaign. Not only does Los Angeles return two starting safeties in Dwight Lowery and Jahleel Addae, but it also added free agent Tre Boston earlier this week.
  • The Bengals announced that they’ve signed signed fourth-round wide receiver Josh Malone. Malone, a Tennessee product, was the second pass-catcher selected by Cincinnati in the draft, following No. 9 overall pick John Ross. While Ross figures to play a large role during his rookie campaign (and perhaps even immediately serve as a starter), Malone will begin the 2017 campaign further down the depth chart. A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Ross, and Tyler Boyd all figure to see ample playing time, so Malone will compete with Cody Core, Alex Erickson, and Jake Kumerow for snaps.
  • The Colts announced that they’ve signed fourth-round running back Marlon Mack. After three years at South Florida, Mack could have an easy ascendance to Indianapolis’ No. 2 running back role behind starter Frank Gore, as his only competition is Robert Turbin and Josh Ferguson. At the very least, Mack should see playing time as a pass-catching back in the Colts’ offense.
  • The Browns have agreed to terms with seventh-round kicker Zane Gonzalez, the club announced today. Gonzalez, an Arizona State product, was widely viewed as the best kicker available in the 2017 draft, although he didn’t come off the board first. That honor went to Memphis placekicker Jake Elliott, who was selected in the fifth round by Cincinnati. Gonzalez made 92% of his field goal attempts in 2016 and also converted 39 of 40 extra points in 2016. Per Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Gonzalez has forced touchbacks on 75% of kickoffs over the past two seasons.