Rishard Matthews

WR Notes: Bills, Titans, Gordon, Jeffery

Residing atop the “In the Hunt” section of AFC playoff picture graphics, the Bills will have a tougher time rebounding from their rough road trip to Los Angeles. Kelvin Benjamin isn’t traveling to Kansas City with the team, per the Bills, due to a knee injury. This could be the start of a multi-game absence for the former Panthers wideout, who avoided an ACL tear but did not get off free of lingering knee pain when injured against the Chargers. Benjamin has only played in two of the four Buffalo games since the Bills acquired him at the trade deadline. He has four receptions for 62 yards as a Bill.

Here’s the latest on some wide receiver situations around the league.

  • Speaking of playoff-contending teams, the Titans may be without Rishard Matthews because of a hamstring injury. Matthews did not practice on Friday. Categorizing Matthews as a game-time decision for Sunday’s Colts tilt, Mike Mularkey said the team’s top wide receiver was given a day off for rest. Players who miss Friday workouts generally do not play on Sundays. Tennessee’s leading receiver at 626 yards, Matthews has not missed a game since joining the Titans last year. The Titans activated Harry Douglas from their PUP list on Saturday, adding an additional veteran to the mix.
  • Josh Gordon is at his playing weight of 225 and recently blazed to a 4.35-second 40-yard dash while training at N.U.M.A. Speed this offseason, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Given his condition and Hue Jackson‘s glowing praise, it should be assumed he’s going to play in the Browns‘ Week 13 game against the Chargers. The 26-year-old pass-catcher said learning Jackson’s offense last year helped considerably in this readjustment period. Gordon can still be drug-tested up to 10 times per month.
  • Doug Pederson was quoted as saying the Eagles would love to retain Alshon Jeffery. But the second-year Philadelphia HC stopped short of saying Jeffery was certain to return. “Alshon’s a guy that you’d love to have continue to work with Carson (Wentz) and have around, and I think it’s a good dynamic to have, and have that stability,” Pederson said, via the Chicago Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley. “If things work out and we can retain him, it would be great for the chemistry of the offense, and, obviously, those two guys working together in the future.” As of now, Jeffery and Jarvis Landry look to be the top receivers on the 2018 market.

AFC East Rumors: Dolphins, Jets, Glenn

The Dolphins have invested heavily at wide receiver in recent years, selecting Jarvis Landry in the 2014 second round and DeVante Parker in the 2015 first before authorizing a higher-end contract to re-sign Kenny Stills. But at least some within the organization are missing a former lower-level investment, with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reporting (on Twitter) a common lament among the Dolphins is they wish they’d retained Rishard Matthews — a UFA in 2016. Now an integral component on the Titans, Matthews did not require much to sign. As players like Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Travis Benjamin required at least $6MM per year to sign in 2016, with Jones costing the Lions $8MM annually, Matthews signed a three-year, $15MM deal in Tennessee. (Stills signed for $8MM AAV in 2017.)

A 2012 seventh-round pick, Matthews easily established a new career high with 945 receiving yards last season and is on pace to top that this year, exiting Week 11 with 626. He averaged more than 15 yards per reception in his final year with the Dolphins and is sitting on 15.3 through 10 2017 Titans games. No Dolphin has 500 air yards this season. Stills has 408 through nine games, while Parker’s at 378.

Here’s the latest out of the AFC East.

  • Cordy Glenn will miss Sunday’s Bills-Chargers game with what the team is calling a foot/ankle malady. Glenn has run into rampant injury trouble since signing an extension in 2016. Sunday will mark his fourth missed game of this season. He missed five in 2016 after being absent for none the previous three seasons. Dion Dawkins filled in for Glenn the last time he couldn’t go because of an ankle problem, one that’s dogged him for the past two seasons. Glenn has three seasons remaining on his five-year, $60MM contract authorized by the Doug Whaley regime.
  • Speaking of the Bills, their handling of Tyrod Taylor could make the 2018 draft more complicated. The Bills, who are starting fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman in his place, figure to be in the hunt for a franchise passer in Round 1, and Andy Vasquez of NorthJersey.com writes that will make the Jets‘ search for one more complex. The new Buffalo regime took over after the draft, so Peterman did not arrive on their watch. That would point to the Bills, who almost certainly will be moving on from Taylor after this season, thoroughly examining the 2018 quarterback prospects. Vasquez adds Taylor could be a Jets option as well. There was interest from Gang Green in the now-28-year-old passer had the Bills not reworked his contract this offseason.
  • The Jets could also be in the market for a new head coach despite Todd Bowles‘ unexpected success with this bare-bones roster thus far, with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writing the third-year Jets coach is not secure for 2018. Bowles was viewed as a hot-seat candidate entering this season, one that came after an offseason purge of veterans from the roster, but the Jets sitting at 4-6 when many viewed four wins as a ceiling for the season may put Mike Maccagnan to a decision. Mehta argues it’s hard to judge Bowles based on the talent available presently. He’s 19-23 as Jets coach in just more than 2 1/2 seasons.

AFC Notes: Browns, Bengals, Pats, Titans

After Cleveland fell to 0-12 with a loss to the Giants on Sunday, Browns head coach Hue Jackson had a meeting with his bosses and showed up 40 minutes late to his press conference. Jackson then assured reporters, including Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, that his job is secure. “Let me go on record saying I have full support of Jimmy and Dee (Haslam) and Sashi (Brown) and his crew,” stated Jackson. “We’re not apart or splintered or whatever term you guys want to use. There’s none of that going on.” Jackson, who’s in his first year with the rebuilding Browns, was fighting back tears and said “being 0-12 is probably the hardest thing ever.”

More from the AFC:

  • Jackson’s former employer, the 3-7-1 Bengals, are among the NFL’s biggest disappointments this year after making five straight playoff appearances. Their 2016 struggles are unlikely to cost head coach Marvin Lewis his job, though, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Lewis is under contract through next season, and owner Mike Brown doesn’t like to pay people who don’t work for him, notes Florio. The 58-year-old Lewis is the league’s second-longest-tenured head coach, trailing only New England’s Bill Belichick, yet Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game in his 14-season run.
  • Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski exited Sunday’s 22-17 win against the Jets in the first quarter because of a back injury, but the silver lining is that it doesn’t appear to have the makings of a lingering issue. Gronk is not expected to miss any further time as a result of the injury, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Florio. Various ailments, including a perforated lung, have limited the four-time Pro Bowler to eight appearances this year.
  • By scoring his seventh touchdown of the season in a 27-21 win over the Bears on Sunday, Titans wideout Rishard Matthews earned a $250K incentive, tweets CBS Sports’ Joel Corry. Tennessee included that in the three-year, $15MM deal Matthews signed as a free agent last winter.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Titans Sign Rishard Matthews

THURSDAY, 9:57am: The Titans announced that they have agreed to terms with Matthews, pending a physical. Matthews’ three-year deal will pay him $15MM with a $2.5MM signing bonus, Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets. The wide receiver will earn salaries of $2.5MM, $5MM, and $5MM with an annual $750K stat incentive.

WEDNESDAY, 8:45pm: The cluster of No. 2-level wide receivers populating the free agent market is beginning thin out and bring clarity. Rishard Matthews and the Rishard MatthewsTitans have agreed to terms on a there-year deal, Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com reports.

Matthews follows Marvin Jones and Travis Benjamin among the market’s top-tier wideouts to find new homes on Day 1 of free agency.

The former Dolphins target established himself as a factor in free agency with a strong contract year before going down with a season-ending injury with five games to play. In 11 contests last season, Matthews totaled 662 yards and averaged 15.4 per reception as the Fins’ downfield complement to Jarvis Landry.

Matthews emerged after three uneven seasons and the Dolphins loading up their receiving corps last year. These events caused the former seventh-round pick to request a trade, but Matthews outplayed Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings while keeping DeVante Parker off the field.

In Tennessee, he’ll team with Dorial Green-Beckham and Kendall Wright, who is owed $7.32MM as part of his fifth-year option being exercised.

Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images

Free Agency Rumors: Dolphins, Penn, Bushrod

Before he agreed to terms with Philadelphia, new Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham also received interest from the Browns, Buccaneers and Jaguars, as he tells Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Bradham further stated that his former team, the Bills, backed out of contract talks.

Meanwhile, in addition to having lost out on Bradham, the Browns swung and missed on receiver Rishard Matthews, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Caplan reports that Cleveland was one of several teams in play for Matthews, who agreed to sign with Tennessee on a three-year deal.

After a busy day around the NFL, we still have a few more rumors related to free agents who signed today, and free agents who are still on the market. Let’s dive in…

  • The Dolphins aren’t looking to invest much money in a backup quarterback, Marvez tweets. Matt Moore is paying a visit to the Cowboys this week, and it seems Moore may not be back in Miami for the 2016 season.
  • The Giants have shown interest in free agent left tackle Donald Penn, according to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com (Twitter link). The reliable Penn has started 16 games in eight straight seasons, including the last two in Oakland.
  • Offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, whom the Bears cut last month, is garnering “ample interest” in spite of recent shoulder surgery, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). He’s planning to visit the Dolphins and Vikings, La Canfora adds.
  • Prior to re-signing with the Bengals, cornerback Adam Jones drew the Vikings’ attention, he told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. On Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, Jones said, “I love Zim. He really treated me well through this, but this is the place where I know.”
  • At least four teams – including the Bears – have expressed interest in return man Marc Mariani, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com reports that the 49ers and Raiders are also among those clubs in the mix for Mariani, who played the last two seasons in Chicago.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

AFC Rumors: Vernon, A. Jones, J. Freeman

Alex Marvex of FOX Sports is “getting strong vibes” from NFL sources that the Dolphins will rescind defensive end Olivier Vernon‘s transition tag at some point (Twitter link). Vernon could be expendable given that Miami signed Mario Williams and plans to keep Cameron Wake.

Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald agrees that the Fins could rescind the tag, and also reports that a league source expects Vernon to sign a long-term deal with another club in the next few days, and the Dolphins aren’t expected to be able to match. However, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk also chimes in, noting that he hears Miami hasn’t made a decision on Vernon yet.

Here’s the latest on the AFC free agent scene:

  • The Jets are no longer in contention for free agent corner Adam Jones, a source tells Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).
  • The Chiefs are “poking around” on free agent linebacker Jerrell Freeman, tweets Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports. Freeman could serve as a potential replacement for Derrick Johnson, who is also a free agent.
  • Elsewhere in Kansas City, it looks like Chiefs corner Sean Smith will hit the open market, per Robinson (Twitter link), and the Raiders could be one potential suitor.
  • Despite receiving interest from other clubs, receiver Travis Benjamin is still in play for the Browns, writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
  • Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com believes the Titans are interested in receiver Rishard Matthews — it’s a little unclear if the ESPN scribe is reporting or speculating, but it sounds like there could be a link.
  • Free agent safety Tavon Wilson will not return to the Patriots, according to Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com. the former second-round pick has been in New England since 2012.

Dolphins Rumors: Miller, Guards, Matthews

With five days left until pending free agents can sign with new teams, and just three days until 2016’s legal tampering period begins, the Dolphins continue to work on re-signing running back Lamar Miller, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. However, according to Jackson, $5MM seems to be a tipping point of sorts in those negotiations.

The question, according to Jackson is whether the Dolphins will concede to paying Miller more than $5MM annually, or if he would settle for $5MM (or slightly less) per year. If the two sides can’t find a middle ground, it seems reasonable to assume that the 24-year-old will see if there’s another team out there next week willing to go higher than $5MM.

Here are a few more Dolphins notes and rumors, via Jackson:

  • The Dolphins have made it clear that they’ll be looking to upgrade the guard position this offseason, making it one of their top three priorities, along with defensive end and cornerback. Jackson suggests the team will try to add at least one veteran guard, and perhaps two, in free agency.
  • While the Dolphins would love to sign Kelechi Osemele, he may end up being out of the club’s price range. Alex Boone and Geoff Schwartz appear to be more realistic targets, according to Jackson, who writes that both players would have interest in Miami. A team source tells Jackson that the Dolphins “held an exploratory conversation” regarding Schwartz and is interested in him, but wants to take a look at some other options as well.
  • Even though they’d like to bring him back, the Dolphins have told people there’s a good chance that wide receiver Rishard Matthews will get a bigger offer in free agency than what they can comfortably put on the table.

FA Rumors: Freeman, Laurinaitis, Matthews

Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio (SoundCloud link), Colts free agent linebacker Jerrell Freeman said he loves Indianapolis and would be open to re-signing with the Colts. However, Freeman also acknowledged the possibility that he might be playing in a different city. The veteran linebacker alluded to the fact that, as an unrestricted free agent, this will be his first real opportunity to have some freedom and flexibility when it comes to signing a contract, since the Colts didn’t appear to seriously pursue a long-term extension with him a year ago when he was a restricted free agent.

“I’d been playing for the league minimum for three years,” Freeman said. “Then I ended up signing the [RFA] tender, which I guess was best for the team…. I’m in free agency now, so I guess I have to do what’s best for me.”

Here’s more on a handful of free agents and free-agents-to-be:

  • After paying a visit to the Saints, linebacker James Laurinaitis left without a contract, but there still appears to be some mutual interest between the two sides, writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Per Triplett, Laurinaitis has drawn interest from multiple clubs since being cut by the Rams last month.
  • As Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk details, Dolphins free agent wideout Rishard Matthews is aiming to be a No. 2 receiver in 2016, so Matthews figures to prioritize suitors that will give him the best opportunity for playing time.
  • Washington nose tackle Terrance Knighton admitted during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio (SoundCloud link) that he let his emotions get the best of him in free agency a year ago, adding that he heads to the market this year prepared to better recognize the business aspect of the process. According to Knighton, he hasn’t received a strong indication from Washington that the team wants him back, but he’s “not going to stress about” it.
  • After being released by the Bills this week, defensive end Mario Williams figures to garner interest from many teams around the NFL. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post takes a look at the Giants as one possibility for Williams, while D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explores the veteran pass rusher’s potential fit with the Falcons.

Free Agent Rumors: Benjamin, Schwartz, CJ2K

Earlier today, we rounded up the latest updates on several current and pending free agents. With the combine underway in Indianapolis, there’s no shortage of news and rumors on free agency, so we’ve got another set of items to pass along already. Let’s dive in….

  • According to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (via Twitter), word from the combine suggests that the Chargers and Falcons will be in the hunt for wide receiver Travis Benjamin, if and when he reaches free agency. Current Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan used to hold that same position with the Browns, who have reportedly broken off talks with Benjamin for now.
  • The Browns are making an effort to extend the contract of tackle Mitchell Schwartz, but he appears headed for the open market, writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. According to Cabot, Schwartz is believed to be seeking left tackle money, and while the Browns have made an offer, the two sides aren’t close to an agreement.
  • The Dolphins would like to hang onto wide receiver Rishard Matthews, but if his price tag reaches $5MM+, Miami is unlikely to be seriously in the mix, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
  • Cardinals GM Steve Keim said today that the team will talk to Chris Johnson‘s representatives this week at the combine, per James Palmer of the NFL Network (Twitter link). Johnson said on Tuesday that he would like to re-sign with Arizona.
  • The odds of the Eagles getting something done with safety Walter Thurmond prior to the start of free agency next month don’t look great, according to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, who tweets that the team has not yet made an offer.
  • The Cowboys will meet with the agent for linebacker Rolando McClain at the combine this week, per executive VP Stephen Jones (link via Todd Archer of ESPN.com). McClain is eligible for unrestricted free agency in March.

Free Agent Rumors: Matthews, Bradford, Nelson

Last Friday, we heard that the Dolphins had reached out to free agent wide receiver Rishard Matthews about a possible new deal. The news was somewhat surprising, since Matthews had long been considered a lock to leave Miami in search of a team that would give him an opportunity for more playing time.

According to Rand Getlin of the NFL Network (Twitter link), it looks like that’s still the case. Getlin reports that Matthews is “very likely” to reach the open market, adding that the market for the wideout “will be hot.” Matthews set new career highs in 2015 with 43 receptions, 662 yards, and four touchdowns, and while those numbers are relatively modest, they were compiled in just 11 games. Considering how weak this year’s free agent class of receivers is, there may very well be teams that view Matthews as a viable No. 2 option, and Miami almost certainly can’t afford to pay him like a No. 2.

Here are a few more updates on current free agent or free-agent-to-be from around the NFL:

  • Some rival teams are doubtful that Sam Bradford will become an unrestricted free agent on March 9th, believing that he may re-sign with the Eagles before then, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). Cole adds that if Bradford does hit the open market, he might not receive the kind of lucrative long-term offers he’d expect, making a one-year, prove-it deal a possibility. I’m somewhat skeptical about that — I think Bradford’s second-half performance would ensure that at least one or two teams are willing to invest heavily in him.
  • The Cardinals are not interested in bringing Antonio Cromartie back to Arizona, tweets Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. Cromartie spent a season with the team in 2014, earning a Pro Bowl spot, but the Cards were willing to let him walk in free agency, and don’t appear eager to pursue him now that he’s back on the market.
  • Safety Reggie Nelson saw his 2015 season come to an end when he left the Bengals‘ Wild Card loss with a sprained ankle, and he doesn’t want that to be his last play with the team. “Most definitely not,” Nelson said recently, per Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “They know that. Everybody knows that. I would love to be a Bengal.” According to Hobson, the Bengals aren’t expected to strike deals with their free agents at this week’s combine, but the club figures to discuss possible parameters for Nelson and others.