Robert Griffin III

AFC Notes: Smith, Tyrod, Cutler, Steelers

Already under police investigation for an alleged domestic violence incident that took place last Saturday, Raiders pass rusher Aldon Smith is now on the NFL’s radar, writes Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “We are looking in to the matter,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told McDonald in an email Tuesday. Smith has been serving a substance abuse suspension since November 2015 and has a chance to gain reinstatement in March, but the league could push back its decision or even hand him an indefinite ban as a result of his latest off-field issue, per McDonald.

Elsewhere in the AFC…

  • If the Bills move on from quarterback Tyrod Taylor, they should sign soon-to-be released Bears signal-caller Jay Cutler to replace him, opines Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com in a piece focusing on potential offseason moves in the AFC East. Tony Romo or Jimmy Garoppolo are more appealing choices, Barnwell acknowledges, but he doesn’t expect the former to sign in Buffalo (if the Cowboys cut him) or the Patriots to trade the latter within the division. If those two are unattainable, the draft could be an option, though Barnwell argues that the Bills shouldn’t reach for a QB with the 10th overall pick. That would leave Cutler as the most logical solution. Not only would he come on a short-term deal, but he’d reunite with new Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Cutler played under Dennison in Denver and has spoken highly of him in the past.
  • Speaking of Taylor, the Browns’ hiring of his former quarterbacks coach, David Lee, increased the passer’s odds of ending up in Cleveland, contends Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Taylor, who’s on the Browns’ “radar,” played under Lee in Buffalo the past two seasons and fared respectably in his first 29 games as a starter. The former Baltimore backup would replace Robert Griffin III, whom Cabot expects the Browns to release before his roster bonus is due March 11.
  • The Steelers’ contract talks with wide receiver Antonio Brown and linebacker Lawrence Timmons don’t figure to move quickly, tweets CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, who expects running back Le’Veon Bell to be their biggest priority. Unlike Brown, who has another year on his deal, both Timmons and Bell could become free agents next month. Bell is clearly the more valuable of the two, of course, and the Steelers will place the franchise tag on the runner if they’re unable to re-sign him.

Browns Notes: Pryor, RG3, McCown, Erving

Contract-year wide receiver Terrelle Pryor made it clear multiple times earlier this season that he wants to remain with the Browns going forward. However, with free agency looming, Pryor acknowledged Thursday that he could on the cusp of playing his final game with the team. “I love to play for [Hue Jackson] and I enjoy playing for him this year and I’d love to play for him longer,” Pryor told Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “But at the end of the day, it’s got to come down to what my agents think is right for me.” Those agents, Drew and Jason Rosenhaus, have tabled extension talks with the Browns until after the season and likely want their client to test the market off a breakout campaign, per Cabot. The 27-year-old Pryor, a former quarterback, leads the Browns in targets (129), receptions (70), yards (913) and touchdowns (four).

More from Cleveland, which is no longer in danger of enduring a winless season as Week 17 nears:

  • Quarterback Robert Griffin III cleared concussion protocol after suffering a head injury last week and is on track to start Sunday in Pittsburgh, writes Cabot. Health has been a problem throughout the season for Griffin, who has not revived his career since signing a two-year deal with Cleveland last winter and could end up on the chopping block this offseason. In four appearances this year, Griffin has completed a meager 54.2 of his 107 passes and hasn’t thrown a touchdown. Moving on from the former Redskin would free up $7.5MM in spending space for the Browns, who would incur $1.75MM in dead cap.
  • Fellow signal-caller Josh McCown hinted at retirement last week, but the 37-year-old declared Thursday that he aims to return in 2017. “My plan is to play,” he said (via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com). “I have another year left on my deal. So right now, that’s the plan.” It’s unclear whether McCown will be open to continuing his career if the Browns release him, which looks like a distinct possibility. By cutting McCown, Cleveland would save $4.375MM on its cap against roughly $667K in dead money next year. If McCown’s playing career does conclude, he could have a place on Jackson’s staff next year. “I told him already if he ever wanted to coach, he could coach for me anytime he wants,” said Jackson.
  • Jackson revealed nearly two months ago that the Browns would try second-year man Cameron Erving at tackle if his play didn’t turn around at center. Erving was then Pro Football Focus’ worst-rated center, which hasn’t changed. As a result, the Browns will try the 2015 first-rounder at right tackle Sunday, per Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com. Erving hasn’t fared well along the interior in the NFL, though he was an accomplished left tackle at Florida State and is eager to serve as a bookend again. “It’s definitely a little exciting, just to be able to potentially have that opportunity to go out and play tackle again,” Erving said.

AFC Notes: Bouye, RG3, Green, Jets, Nelson

Entering this season as a relative unknown, Texans fourth-year corner A.J. Bouye may have moved himself in position to sign a lucrative NFL contract for the first time. A UDFA in 2013 that started just eight games total before 2016, Bouye has stood out on a team that made far bigger investments at corner. A deal for Bouye could cost a team as much as $8MM-per-year in 2017, the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson notes.

Wilson describes a growing buzz around the physical defender, who could join Trumaine Johnson, Prince Amukamara, Stephon Gilmore and Darius Butler among the list of cornerbacks who stand tot be UFAs. Bouye rates behind only Chris Harris, Malcolm Butler and Aqib Talib among corners this season, according to Pro Football Focus, and will have the chance to stand out on a national stage in a home playoff game.

The Texans have two corners who stand to make more than $7MM next season in Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph. Separating from Jackson would be more difficult financially than Joseph if Houston wished to retain Bouye since $4.5MM in dead money would match the amount the team could save by making that move. Houston stands to have $17MM-plus in cap space prior to making any offseason moves.

PFR’s Dallas Robinson ranked Bouye ninth among all players on his free agent power rankings.

Here’s more from the AFC.

  • Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a concussion on Saturday, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. His status for Week 17 is not immediately clear. RG3 missed most of this season with a shoulder injury but did become the only Browns QB to start in a win. However, the Browns gave Cody Kessler — the expected Week 17 starter, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal — several starts this season and have a decision to make on Griffin. He’s due a relatively small $750K roster bonus in March and would count $9.25MM against Cleveland’s 2017 cap. The Browns could afford that, but Griffin didn’t give them much reason to trust him in 2016.
  • Andy Dalton confirmed a Saturday report that ownership made the decision to yank A.J. Green from the Bengals‘ Week 16 game plan, sending the wideout home for Christmas at his request, Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. “He felt like he was in position [to help the team with a return] and the ownership made a decision,” Dalton said. “Would I have loved to have him out there? Absolutely. But the decision was made.”
  • Bryce Petty also is uncertain for Week 17 after hearing a pop in his shoulder during the Jets‘ loss to the Patriots. The second-year passer left the stadium with his shoulder in a sling and will undergo a Christmas Day MRI, Daryl Slater of NJ.com reports. Ryan Fitzpatrick could be called on to make one more start for Gang Green in the event the team holds Petty out against the Bills. Todd Bowles didn’t dismiss a Christian Hackenberg start, but the rookie has not played in a game this season.
  • By intercepting his fifth pass of the season today, Raiders safety Reggie Nelson earned a $250K incentive bonus, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. In the first season of a two-year contract with Oakland, Nelson made the Pro Bowl for a second straight year and now has 13 INTs in the past two seasons.

Zach Links contributed to this report

AFC Notes: Bills, McCoy, Browns, Pryor, RG3

Bills running back LeSean McCoy turns 29 in July, but he believes that he can continue to play at a high level, as The Associated Press writes. The veteran is under contract for three more years at a reasonable rate and it sounds like he has every intention of playing out that deal. “I feel young,” McCoy said. “I feel good. I’m not like other backs that only take a pounding. So I’m not really concerned about time.” In 13 games this year, McCoy has rushed for 1,129 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Shady’s hamstring has bothered him a bit this year, but all in all, he hasn’t really shown signs of slowing down. Here’s more from the AFC:

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/9/2016

Today’s minor moves:

  • Having already signaled that he would start this weekend, the Browns announced that they’ve officially activated quarterback Robert Griffin III from injured reserve and waived offensive lineman Matt McCants.
  • As expected, the Saints have officially placed tight end Josh Hill on injured reserve, according to Joel Erickson of the Advocate (Twitter link). The move will clear a roster spot for recently-signed linebacker Travis Feeney.
  • The Seahawks have waived linebacker Jordan Tripp from injured reserve with an injury settlement, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets. Seattle had just placed Tripp, who appeared in seven games this year (one start), on IR last week to make room for fellow linebacker Mike Morgan.
  • The Panthers announced that they’ve signed linebacker Ben Jacobs, who takes the roster spot vacated by cornerback Robert McClain this morning. Jacobs, 28, has experience with Carolina, as he appeared in 32 games with the club over from 2014-15, acting as a special teamer.

RG3 To Start This Week For Browns

The Browns announced that quarterback Robert Griffin III will start this week. He’ll lead his 0-12 team against the Bengals as they look to avoid the embarrassment of a winless season. Robert Griffin III (Vertical)

Griffin, who was named the team’s starter during training camp, suffered a shoulder injury in the season opener. Thanks to the new IR-DTR rules, the Browns were able to bring Griffin back for the final month of the regular season. Now, as the Browns try and figure out where to go from here, RG3 will have an opportunity to show that he should he the team’s starter heading into 2017. The Browns signed Griffin to a two-year, $15MM deal in the offseason. Both Hue Jackson and top exec Sashi Brown have said that Griffin was not signed as a short-term solution, but nothing will be guaranteed for the QB if he can’t perform over these next four games.

During Griffin’s absence, rookie Cody Kessler and veteran Josh McCown split starting duties. They’ll both serve as backups for Griffin on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Robert Griffin III Could Start This Week

After being cleared for contact last week, there’s a “real chance” Robert Griffin III starts at quarterback for the Browns when they face the the Bengals this weekend, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson, however, says it’s “too soon” to determine if RG3 will be under center on Sunday, tweets Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.Robert Griffin III (vertical)

[RELATED: Cleveland Browns Depth Chart]

If Griffin is able to take hold of the Browns’ starting job, there’s a great likelihood that he’ll hold the position for the remainder of the season so that Cleveland management can get a better view of him, as Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reported last week. RG3 signed a two-year deal with the Browns over the offseason, but was injured in the club’s first game of the season and has been on injured reserve ever since.

But given that the Browns reportedly don’t view Griffin as simply a short-term investment (a sentiment with which RG3 concurs, as Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal writes), the final four games of the 2016 campaign could give the club’s brass an insight as to whether Griffin will be worth his 2017 cap charge of $9.25MM. Cleveland’s other options at quarterback include Josh McCown, who has started the Browns’ past two games, and rookie Cody Kessler, whom the club is considering shutting down following a recent concussion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Robert Griffin III Cleared For Contact

The Browns could soon turn to quarterback Robert Griffin III, as the embattled signal-caller is now fully cleared for contact, tweets Ed Werder of ESPN.com. Per Werder, Cleveland will let RG3, Josh McCown, and Cody Kessler compete for the starting quarterback job, but Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (video link) that once Griffin takes hold of the No. 1 job, he’s likely to hang onto it for the remainder of the season.Robert Griffin III (Vertical)

[RELATED: Browns Place John Greco On IR]

That the Browns are eager to see what Griffin can offer as the 2016 campaign concludes comes as no surprise, especially given that the winless club is squarely focused on the future. Griffin is signed through the 2017 season, during which he’s set to earn a base salary of $7MM, and Browns exec Sashi Brown said earlier this year (notably, before RG3 suffered a shoulder injury) that Cleveland doesn’t view Griffin as simply a short-term investment.

“To be fair to Robert, he’s young in his career in terms of his development as a quarterback,” Brown said in September. “We will develop him over time. He’s under contract here two years, but we don’t look at it as certainly just a two-year venture or a week-to-week venture. This is something we’re going to have to stick by him, put the right pieces around him and help him learn how to play that position as well. So it’s not a short-term kind of look at him.”

Griffin is still only 26 years old, and though injuries have slowed his once-promising career, the Browns likely feel that enough upside remains that it makes sense to take another look at RG3 before making their decision on his 2017 fate. Still, that probably won’t stop Cleveland from investing more resources at the quarterback position next year, and the club has already been rumored to have shown interest in UNC QB Mitch Trubisky.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Notes: Greco, RG3, McCown

Browns right guard John Greco injured his foot during the third quarter of today’s loss to the Giants. The 31-year-old was taken to the locker room and didn’t return to the contest. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com tweets that Greco was spotted leaving the stadium accompanied by crutches and a right boot.

If Greco is forced to miss time, it’d be another hit to an injury-riddled Browns offensive line. The team is already without guard Joel Bitonio and center Austin Reiter, while Cameron Erving has also missed time with an injury.

Let’s take a look at some other notes out of Cleveland…

  • The Browns want to see what they have in Robert Griffin III. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport noted on NFL GameDay Morning that the organization wants to see several more starts from the signal-caller (via Conor Orr of NFL.com). Of course, that all depends on whether rookie quarterback Cody Kessler is unable to return from his concussion. Griffin was placed on the injured reserve following the Browns’ season-opener, and the quarterback ended up returning to practice earlier this week.
  • ESPN.com’s Tony Grossi wonders if quarterback Josh McCown may have made his final start with the Browns today. The 37-year-old is now 1-10 as a starter over the past two seasons, including today’s loss to the Giants. The veteran is owed $3.625MM next season, and he’s due a $750K roster bonus in March.
  • If the Patriots were willing to part with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Cabot believes he’d be a great addition to the Browns. Of course, that wouldn’t necessarily prevent the organization from taking a quarterback in the draft. Cabot says the team could still target North Carolina signal-caller Mitch Trubisky regardless of whether they acquire a quarterback via trade or free agency.

Browns’ RG3 To Practice Today

The Browns will get Robert Griffin III back on the practice field today. The team announced that RG3 is their player designated for return, kickstarting their three week window to place him on the active roster. Robert Griffin III (vertical)

Griffin’s season ended just as it started when he suffered a fractured coracoid bone in his left shoulder in the season opener. After the injury, it was unclear whether he would be able to suit up again in 2016. He now looks to return to the team at a time when they are winless through eleven games and desperately seeking a W.

The quarterback will be eligible to play in Sunday’s showdown with the Giants in Cleveland. If the Browns can’t win against the G-Men, they’ll have to win against the Bengals, Bills, Chargers, or Steelers in order to avoid matching the 2008 Lions.

Griffin, a fifth-year pro, set NFL rookie records for passer rating (102.4), interception percentage (1.27), and rushing yards by a quarterback (815) en route to being named the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. Starting 13 games in 2013, Griffin recorded a career-high 3,203 passing yards and became the fifth quarterback in NFL history to record 3,000 passing yards in each of his first two seasons. He was hoping to be reignited by a change of scenery in Cleveland, but his Week 1 injury has pushed the pause button on that pursuit.

Thanks to injuries and a bizarre final season in Washington, Griffin has appeared in just 10 games since the end of the 2013 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.