Robert Blanton

Robert Blanton Visiting Cowboys

The Cowboys have observed defections across their secondary this month after seeing Barry Church, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne sign elsewhere. They are thinner at both cornerback and safety but brought in a player with some experience for a visit today in Robert Blanton, Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets.

Blanton has mostly served as a second-stringer during his five years in the NFL, with his work for the 2014 Vikings being an exception. Blanton started 13 games for the Vikes that year and made 105 tackles. Since, he’s been deployed as a first-unit player in just three games, two with the Bills last season.

But Blanton became part of a revolving Buffalo back-line crew after going on IR in late November. His one-year deal with the Bills produced 28 tackles. Dallas currently has just Jeff Heath and 2016 sixth-rounder Kavon Frazier as safeties alongside Byron Jones.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Activate Sammy Watkins

He’s back. Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) that the Bills have activated wideout Sammy Watkins from the injured reserve. ESPN’s Mike Rodak reports that Watkins is expected to play Sunday against the Jaguars. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News tweets that the team has also released tight end Gerald Christian and placed safety Robert Blanton on the injured reserve. Finally, the Bills have also signed kickoff specialist Jordan Gay.

Sammy Watkins (Vertical)Watkins hasn’t played since Week 2 as he recovered from a lingering foot ailment, and he was placed on the injured reserve in late September. The wideout has been dealing with the foot injury since last May, when he had a screw inserted following a minor fracture. The 23-year-old struggled in his two games this season, hauling in only six catches for 63 yards. Of course, there’s no denying the talent of the former first-rounder, as Watkins finished the 2015 season with 60 catches for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in only 13 games.

The Bills could certainly use some help at receiver, especially with Robert Woods listed as doubtful for this weekend’s game. The Bills rank dead last in receiving yards this season, and while that could partly be attributed to quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the team’s lack of big-play wideouts have certainly limited the offense’s potential.

The team will be welcoming back an offensive weapon, but they’ll be losing some depth on defense. Blanton has played in 10 games this season (two starts), compiling 35 tackles. The 27-year-old injured his foot during last week’s game against the Bengals. Blanton will join fellow Bills safeties Colt Anderson and Aaron Williams on the injured reserve.

Christian, the Mr.Irrelevent of the 2015 draft, made two appearances for the Bills this season. The team signed the 25-year-old to their practice squad during the offseason, and he was promoted to the active roster in early October. Christian has already been released by the Bills once this season, and he subsequently landed on the team’s practice squad. Therefore, it’s easy to assume that the tight end will probably end up sticking with the organization.

Gay served as the Bills kickoff specialist during the 2014 and 2015 season, and he was let go by the team in late September. Dan Carpenter will presumably continue with field goal and extra point opportunities, with Gay strictly contributing during kickoffs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Contract Details: Okung, Penn, Pacman

Here are several of the latest contract details on deals which were agreed upon or signed within the last week. All links are courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle unless otherwise indicated.

AFC West:

  • Russell Okung, T (Broncos): Five years, $53MM. No guaranteed money. Option after year one. $2MM base salary, $1MM workout bonus, and $2MM Week 1 roster bonus for 2016. Up to $3MM in incentives available in 2016 ($1.5MM for 80% of snaps, $3MM for 90% of snaps). Option must be exercised between fifth day after Super Bowl and first day of 2017 league year. If option is exercised, $2MM salary for 2017 and $9.5MM salary for 2018 become fully guaranteed, and an $8MM roster bonus is paid out (links via Pro Football Talk, ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Tom Pelissero of USA Today, and Wilson)
  • Donald Penn, T (Raiders): Two years, $11.9MM, $5.5MM guaranteed. $2MM roster bonus due 20th day of 2016 league year. $300K in annual weigh bonuses (six weigh-ins worth $50K each). Up to $750K in annual playing-time, Pro Bowl, and playoff incentives (Twitter links).
  • Andre Holmes, WR (Raiders): One year, $2MM. $750K guaranteed. $500K signing bonus. $250K of $1.25MM base salary guaranteed. $250K workout bonus. Up to $1MM in catch, yardage incentives (Twitter links).

AFC North:

  • Adam Jones, CB (Bengals): Three years, $22MM. $6MM guaranteed. $2MM signing bonus. $4MM roster bonus due March 18. $500K in annual per-game active roster bonuses. $500K playing-time escalator for 2017. $750K playing-time escalator for 2018. $200K punt return average incentive for 2018. 2018 option to be exercised by last day of 2017 league year. (Twitter links).
  • Demario Davis, LB (Browns): Two years, $8MM. $4.1MM guaranteed. $2MM signing bonus. Annual $100K workout bonus (Twitter link).
  • Ryan Harris, T (Steelers): Two years, $3.9MM. $675K signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Pat Sims, DT (Bengals): Two years, $2.3MM. $250K guaranteed roster bonus due March 18. $200K in annual playing-time incentives. $200K playing-time escalator for 2017 (Twitter links via Wilson and Pelissero).

AFC East:

  • Andre Branch, DE (Dolphins): One year, $2.75MM. $2.5MM guaranteed base salary. $250K in per-game active roster bonuses. Up to $250K in incentives (Twitter link).
  • Nate Ebner, S (Patriots): Two years, $2.4MM. $500K guaranteed. $125K in annual per-game roster bonuses. $250K first-day camp reporting bonus. Up to $500K in playing-time, Pro Bowl incentives (Twitter links via Wilson and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com).
  • Frank Kearse, DT (Patriots): One year, minimum salary benefit. $30K signing bonus. $30K first-day camp reporting bonus. $20K in per-game active roster bonuses (Twitter link).
  • Robert Blanton, S (Bills): One year, minimum salary benefit. $80K signing bonus (Twitter link via Pelissero).

AFC South:

  • Antwon Blake, CB (Titans): One year, $1.5MM. $200K signing bonus. Up to $750K in playing-time incentives (Twitter link).

Bills Sign Robert Blanton

After hosting free agent safety Robert Blanton for a visit today, the Bills didn’t let him leave without a new deal. According to agent Jason Bernstein (via Twitter), Blanton signed a contract with Buffalo.Robert Blanton

Blanton, a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft, spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Vikings. Although he primarily served as a special-teamer and the first safety off the bench during his time in Minnesota, Blanton did start 13 games in 2014, racking up 105 tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery.

For the Bills, Blanton projects as the third safety on the depth chart, replacing Bacarri Rambo, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets. Rodak notes that the signing probably isn’t great news for players like Duke Williams or Jonathan Meeks, who may find themselves on the roster bubble in Buffalo.

Financial terms of the deal aren’t yet known, but it’s a one-year pact, per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: N. Robinson, Blanton, Bills, 49ers

Veteran NBA guard Nate Robinson raised some eyebrows last week when he suggested that he intended to try his hand at earning a spot on an NFL roster. It seemed that Robinson’s NFL dream may have fallen by the wayside several days later, when he signed to play basketball in Israel, but apparently the 31-year-old hasn’t given up quite yet on the idea of making a move to football.

“After I get back from playing [in Israel], I’m going to go get ready to train, and get ready to go to the NFL,” Robinson told basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link).

Despite the fact that Robinson originally attended the University of Washington on a football scholarship, his age and his lack of football experience over the past decade makes him a long shot to realize his NFL dream, but it could be a fun story to follow if he commits to making it happen.

Here’s more from around the NFL as free agency continues:

  • Free agent safety Robert Blanton is paying a visit to the Bills on Friday, marking the first time this month that Buffalo has hosted a defensive free agent, the team announced in a press release. Although Blanton made 13 starts for the Vikings in 2014, he has primarily been a special-teamer and a part-time defensive player during his four NFL seasons.
  • Before he agreed to re-sign with the Packers, running back James Starks drew interest from the Dolphins, tweets Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. According to Jackson, the team and Starks’ agent had “multiple conversations” in recent days. Having also missed out on Lamar Miller, C.J. Anderson, and Chris Johnson, the Dolphins continue to search for running back help.
  • Free agent cornerback Antwon Blake ultimately agreed to sign with the Titans, but he had no shortage of potential suitors when he was on the market. Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com tweets that Blake garnered interest from the Steelers, Patriots, Jets, Lions, and Giants.
  • Head coach Chip Kelly is perfectly fine with the 49ers not venturing much into free agency this offseason, suggesting that the team doesn’t want to pay solid players like superstars. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle has the details and the quotes from Kelly.

Extra Points: Eagles, Jeff Allen, Keenan Allen

Here’s the latest from around the NFL as we draw closer to free agency:

  • The Eagles, who desperately need help at guard, are targeting Chiefs pending free agent Jeff Allen, reports Les Bowen of Philly.com. Given Allen’s connection to new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who was previously Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, this news comes as no surprise.
  • The Packers’ James Jones, set to be part of the upcoming class of free agent receivers, is confused that he isn’t generating much buzz after totaling 50 catches, averaging a tremendous 17.8 yards per reception, and amassing eight touchdowns last season. “I’m hearing a lot of these receivers names being called and people are trying to brush over my name, and I had one of the best seasons out of all these guys that are free agents,” the 31-year-old said. On re-signing with Green Bay, he added, “I was hoping it would go be back to Green Bay, but I don’t know what’s going to happen” (link via Conor Orr of NFL.com).
  • Once free agency and the draft are out of the way, the Chargers will initiate extension talks with contract-year wideout Keenan Allen, according to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Even if the the Chargers drag their feet on giving Allen a new deal, he has no intention of holding out, per Gehlken. The soon-to-be 24-year-old racked up a whopping 67 catches in just eight games last season. That followed back-to-back 70-reception seasons in his first two years.
  • First-year Titans general manager Jon Robinson said Friday that his offseason focus lies with improving the team’s offensive line, acquiring offensive playmakers, and adding “players who can help us get off the field on third down on defense,’’ per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com.
  • The chances of pending free agent defensive backs Josh Robinson and Robert Blanton returning to the Vikings are “not good,” according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Robinson played in five games last season and wasn’t a factor. Blanton suited up for all 16 games, but appeared in just 21.5% of the Vikings’ defensive snaps.

2015 Proven Performance Escalator Raises

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time in said snaps for the duration of his first three years in the league. If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s restricted free agent qualifying offer — that figure was $1.431MM last year, and will inflate commensurate with the salary cap increase. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their 2015 salary rise due to the PPE, courtesy of Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap.

Bengals: George Iloka, S; Mohamed Sanu, WR

Bills: Nigel Bradham, LB

Broncos: Malik Jackson, DL; Danny Trevathan, LB;

Browns: Billy Winn, DL

Cardinals: Bobby Massie, T

Chargers: Johnnie Troutman, G

Colts: Dwayne Allen, TE; T.Y. Hilton, WR

Dolphins: Lamar Miller, RB; Olivier Vernon, DE

Eagles: Brandon Boykin, CB; Nick Foles; QB

Falcons: Lamar Holmes, T

Jets: Demario Davis, LB; Antonio Allen, DB

Packers: Mike Daniels, DL

Panthers: Josh Norman, CB

Patriots: Alfonzo Dennard, CB

Raiders: Miles Burris, LB

Rams: Chris Givens, WR; Trumaine Johnson, CB

Ravens: Gino Gradkowski, C

Saints: Akiem Hicks, DT; Corey White, CB

Seahawks: J.R. Sweezy, G; Russell Wilson, QB

Steelers: Kelvin Beachum, T

Texans: Brandon Brooks, G; Jared Crick, DL; Ben Jones, G

Titans: Coty Sensabaugh, CB

Vikings: Robert Blanton, S: Rhett Ellison, TE; Josh Robinson, CB; Jarius Wright, WR

Washington: Alfred Morris, RB