Robert Nkemdiche

Dolphins Sign DT Robert Nkemdiche

The Dolphins announced that they’ve signed free agent defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche to a one-year deal and placed him on the active/physically unable to perform list. The pact is worth $1.19MM, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Nkemdiche, who was selected 29th overall by the Cardinals in 2016, was cut by Arizona in late July. He was quickly linked to the Dolphins, who were reportedly making “preliminary due diligence inquiry calls” on the former first-round pick. Miami left tackle Laremy Tunsil, a teammate of Nkemdiche at Ole Miss, was a “big advocate” for signing the interior defender, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com.

In the midst of a rebuilding phase, the Dolphins can afford to take a chance on Nkemdiche, a player that clearly boasts talent but comes with question marks. Effort issues dogged Nkemdiche during his time in Arizona, and he reportedly showed up to training camp out of shape. Additionally, he’s facing a possible suspension due to a June arrest.

Still recovering from a December torn ACL, Nkemdiche won’t be able to practice with the Dolphins until he’s removed from the active/PUP list. It’s possible that he’ll be placed on the reserve/PUP list once the regular season begins, which would force him to miss the first six weeks of the year. When he is healthy, Nkemdiche will compete with first-round pick Christian Wilkins, Davon Godchaux, Akeem Spence, Vincent Taylor, and others for playing time on Miami’s defensive line.

Nkemdiche, who won’t turn 25 years old until September, appeared in only 27 out of a possible 48 games during his three-year run with the Cardinals, with injuries reducing his chances at playing time. Last season, he played in 10 games (six starts) before tearing his ACL, posting 4.5 sacks on 426 snaps. Among the 130 defensive tackles with at least 20% playtime in 2018, Nkemdiche ranked a lowly 114th in Pro Football Focus’ grades.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Interested In Robert Nkemdiche

The Dolphins are among teams that have made “preliminary due diligence inquiry calls” on Robert Nkemdiche, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (on Twitter) hears. Nkemdiche, a former first round pick of the Cardinals, was released this week and cleared waivers, making him a free agent. 

Nkemdiche is an interesting case. He has loads of potential, but is still recovering from a torn ACL in December. The good news is that he is expected to be ready for action in September and likely wouldn’t cost much for the Dolphins or any other interested club. In the case of the Dolphins, a multi-year deal (or, a deal with a team option for the 2020 season) would make lots of sense, given their ongoing rebuilding efforts.

The 24-year-old defensive lineman (25 in September), had no sacks until last season when he registered 4.5 QB takedowns. Injuries have been a constant for him – the Mississippi product has only appeared in 27 games over three years for Arizona.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: QBs, Cap, Sanders, Nkemdiche

The latest installment of Mike Sando’s annual quarterback tiers emerged recently, via The Athletic (subscription required). While Russell Wilson ascended into Tier 1 for the first time, evaluators are much less bullish on two of his top dual-threat brethren. Both Cam Newton and Dak Prescott come in on Tier 3, with the shoulder injuries the Panthers passer has suffered in recent years dropping him off his previous Tier 2 placement. The anonymous voter panel, comprised of executives and coaches, placed Newton as the league’s No. 15 quarterback and the Cowboys‘ fourth-year pilot at No. 17. In a separate piece, Sando notes no Tier 3 quarterback who has been paid as a top-10 passer, which seems likely for Prescott by Week 1, has taken his team to the playoffs that season. Newton has two years remaining on his Panthers-friendly deal. Tier 2 quarterbacks, per past Sando surveys, were 8-for-29 in guiding teams to the playoffs with top-10 APY figures since 2014.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • One of the topics brought up in this year’s CBA talks: the spending floor. Currently, teams are required to spend 89% of their cap over a four-year period. The NFLPA has proposed forcing teams to spend more, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes. One of the proposals floated would increase that 89% threshold to 95%; another would involve reducing the number of years factored into these spending equations from four to two. There is no policy in place mandating teams spend a certain amount each year, only through four-year windows.
  • One issue that will likely change in the new CBA, per Graziano: the league’s marijuana policy. The NFL has already softened its stance on marijuana, through a 2014 change, and has now formed a committee to study alternative pain-management techniques. This points to more leniency on the weed front.
  • No team was willing to take on Robert Nkemdiche‘s first-round contract the Cardinals just shed. The 2016 first-round pick cleared waivers Monday and is now in free agency. The former No. 1 overall recruit reported to Cardinals camp in less-than-ideal shape and is coming off a season marred by a torn ACL. It may be a long road back for the 24-year-old defensive lineman, who did register 4.5 sacks (the first QB drops of his career) last season.
  • Emmanuel Sanders returned to 11-on-11 work at Broncos camp Monday, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (on Twitter). This marked the first such participation for the 32-year-old wide receiver since before his Achilles tear last December. The Broncos did not stick Sanders on their active/PUP list to start training camp, and with more than five weeks remaining before Week 1, it appears a good bet the 10th-year wideout, barring a setback, will be ready to start the season on time.

Cardinals Release Robert Nkemdiche

Robert Nkemdiche‘s time with Arizona is officially over. The Cardinals announced they were releasing the former first-round defensive lineman on Saturday night. 

The move is hardly surprising, as the writing has been on the wall for a while now. The Cardinals drafted Nkemdiche 29th overall back in 2016, and he never panned out. Nkemdiche was the top recruit in the nation coming out of high school a handful of years ago, and he didn’t quite live up to the hype at Ole Miss either. Nkemdiche was due a roster bonus this week, so the timing makes sense.

The defensive lineman is coming off an ACL tear, and we heard just yesterday that he showed up to camp out of shape, which was likely the final straw. Nkemdiche’s health will determine how much cap space the Cards will save with this move, as we’ve heard that he could be able to recoup more of his money if he qualifies for the CBA’s injury protection. Making matters even worse for Nkemdiche, he’s facing a possible suspension stemming from a June arrest.

Still, because of his draft pedigree, Nkemdiche will likely resurface somewhere relatively quickly. He’ll be labeled as a bust for now though unless he’s able to reinvent himself elsewhere, as he only appeared in 27 games over three years for Arizona. He made just six starts during his time in the desert, all of which came last year. He finished 2018 with 32 tackles and 4.5 sacks, the first sacks of his NFL career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Thomas, Saints, Elliott, Cowboys, Nkemdiche, Cardinals, Daniels

We heard earlier today that the Saints were close to getting a deal done with receiver Michael Thomas, but it apparently hasn’t been the smoothest process. Saints GM Mickey Loomis has been frustrated with the negotiations, sources told Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). “The Saints have offered to make Thomas the highest paid wideout in the NFL, with a contract that solidly exceeds Odell Beckham Jr. Loomis feels it’s a great offer w/ great structure,” Robinson writes. Loomis seems to feel like an agreement should’ve been reached by now, but Thomas’ camp is clearly still holding out for something more. Meanwhile, Thomas will continue to stay away from training camp as he awaits his new contract.

Saints coach Sean Payton addressed the media after practice today, and said he isn’t worried about the fact Thomas isn’t at camp (Twitter video link). Payton seemed confident that he’ll be back before too long, saying he’s “optimistic it’ll get done soon.” The most recent reporting suggests the Ohio State product will be getting $19-20MM annually. Thomas has established himself as one of the league’s best receivers the past couple of years, and New Orleans’ offense relies on him heavily. Thomas has the most receptions ever for a player through his first three years, and it sounds like it’s only a matter of time before the Saints break the bank for him.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Speaking of players looking to get paid, Ezekiel Elliott is remaining away from the Cowboys as he seeks a new deal. Head coach Jason Garrett had said he expected Elliott to show up on time, but then he didn’t. The good news is the two sides are apparently still talking. The Cowboys “held contract discussions with Elliott’s agent” on Thursday night, a source told Calvin Watkins of The Dallas Morning News. Unfortunately the conversation didn’t lead anywhere, as Watkins reports that “talks remain stale.” Elliott is reportedly looking to eclipse the deal Todd Gurley got from the Rams, and it’s unclear if the Cowboys are going to meet that asking price. Dallas has a lot on their plate with extensions due for several players, and it’ll be interesting to watch how this unfolds.
  • Former first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche doesn’t appear to be making a good impression with the Cardinals’ new coaching staff. The 29th overall pick in the 2016 draft is coming off an ACL tear, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury said the Ole Miss product showed up to camp out of shape, per Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Somers adds that Nkemdiche “apparently neglected his overall physical condition while rehabbing from ACL.” Nkemdiche is already on thin ice, and this certainly isn’t going to help his case. We’ve heard that he’s likely to be cut, and he’s also facing a likely suspension for a June arrest. He’s only started six games in his three years in the league, and is looking like a bust.
  • Mike Daniels signed with the Lions after visiting Detroit and Cleveland, and those were far from the only two teams interested. 13 teams called about the former Packer, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Daniels got a $9.1MM deal from the Lions, and Rapsheet reports that four other teams “were willing to do that deal or better,” but that Daniels wanted to play for Matt Patricia as well as the opportunity to play against Green Bay twice a year. Daniels is still only 30, and could prove to be a nice addition for Detroit’s defense.

NFC Notes: Elliott, Cards, Redskins, Giants

Adding some additional spice to the Ezekiel ElliottCowboys situation, the running back may be making plans to be unavailable when his team convenes for training camp. While it is still uncertain if Elliott will indeed hold out, a source informed Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk the two-time rushing champion plans to leave the country in the coming days. Extension-eligible since January, Elliott is considering staying away from Cowboys camp due to his contract. The coming days were expected to be key for the Cowboys and Elliott, but the running back’s travel plans may affect these proceedings.

The Cowboys have prioritized extensions for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, both entering contract years, and have been rumored to be considering a future without an Elliott extension. The 24-year-old star has until August 6 to report to camp in order to accrue a fourth year toward free agency, so any holdout past that date would be quite bold. But withholding services from a team whose offense revolves around him could be a game plan for Elliott, regardless of the free agency-related date.

Here is the latest out of the NFC:

  • The Cardinals will begin camp without some notable veterans. Robert Nkemdiche, Charles Clay, Brooks Reed, Max Garcia and Brandon Williams on their active/PUP list, the team announced. Clay and Nkemdiche have been battling knee injuries, the latter’s stemming from a December torn ACL. A four-year Broncos guard, Garcia tore his ACL last season as well. Hip and back problems currently limit Reed and Williams, respectively. All players placed on the active/PUP list can return at any point in camp.
  • The Redskins tabbed Reuben Foster to be a three-down linebacker for them, but following his ACL tear, the team does not have a surefire full-time linebacker. While J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington notes Mason Foster will reprise his role as a starter, it is not certain if he will play consistently in nickel sets. Pro Football Focus did not grade Foster as a solid coverage ‘backer last season. However, the Redskins may have a nickel answer in third-year man Josh Harvey-Clemons. The team plans to use the former Louisville safety as a passing-downs linebacker, Finlay adds. A former seventh-round pick, Harvey-Clemons played just 196 snaps last season.
  • Despite the minicamp Darius Slayton buzz, Corey Coleman may still have the inside track on the Giants‘ No. 3 wide receiver job. Coleman’s first-round pedigree and his progress as a Giant gives him the edge over the likes of Slayton, Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes. During games, Coleman has not shown much since early in his rookie year. He caught five passes for 71 yards with the 2018 Giants.

NFC Notes: Newton, Cardinals, Giants

The Panthers got off to a hot start last year, racing out to a 6-2 record. They appeared destined for a playoff berth, and then Cam Newton‘s shoulder fell apart. Within a couple of weeks Newton could barely get the ball downfield, and the Panthers collapsed. They shut Newton down with a couple of weeks left, and ended up losing seven of their last eight games. Newton had another surgery on his shoulder this offseason, and obviously his recovery will determine how Carolina does in 2019. To help avoid further issues on his troublesome shoulder, Newton changed his throwing motion, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.

Florio doesn’t sound too high on the changes, writing that it’s a “funky new throwing motion, which has Cam pulling the ball over the top of his shoulder, almost pressing it up against his head.” Florio also questions if it’ll last, wondering if “Newton will instinctively revert to his old ways” once bullets start flying in the regular season. This upcoming season is a huge one for the Panthers, as Ron Rivera will be on the hot seat if they don’t make it back to the playoffs. Newton is on the wrong side of 30 now, and needs to prove his shoulder isn’t going to turn into an Andrew Luck situation. Hopefully he’s back to full strength when training camp opens next month.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Recently, we heard that the Cardinals were likely to cut former first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche. Former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry tweeted that the Cardinals could save $1.522MM if they cut him before the fifth day of training camp when he’s due a roster bonus, but he also noted that it’s more likely to be $961K in cap savings if Nkemdiche qualifies for the CBA’s injury protection. In a separate tweet, Corry explains that “since there’s remaining time on Robert Nkemdichie’s contract & he was injured last season where he may not be able to play this season, he has a potential injury protection claim for 50% of his 2019 base salary.” Nkemdiche tore his ACL toward the end of last season, and is unlikely to be able to pass a physical by the start of training camp. The 29th overall pick of the 2016 draft is also likely facing a suspension from the league for his arrest earlier this month.
  • Linebacker Tae Davis was an undrafted rookie last year, but he ended up playing a meaningful role for the Giants. This year, that role might get even larger. Davis “spent plenty of time in the spring working with the first team,” and will be competing with B.J. Goodson for a starting spot in training camp, per Paul Schwartz of the NY Post. Scwhartz notes that Goodson started 13 games last year, but he thinks he’s vulnerable. Davis showed well in limited action, and the unheralded Chattanooga product seems to be impressing the coaching staff. Further helping his cause is the fact that Goodson was a draft pick of the previous power structure in New York that has since been swept out.
  • In case you missed it, Redskins owner Dan Snyder will apparently be involved in the decision on whether or not to start Dwayne Haskins.

NFC Notes: Leftwich, Nkemdiche, Seahawks

Not long after the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians as their head coach in January, we learned that Arians’ new OC, Byron Leftwich, would be calling the team’s offensive plays and that Arians considered Leftwich a rising star in the coaching ranks. And as Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports, Arians’ confidence in Leftwich is such that Arians himself is not even in Jameis Winston‘s quarterbacks meeting rooms — despite Arians’ reputation as a quarterback whisperer — and Leftwich is running those meetings. This is a critical campaign for Winston, who is playing under his fifth-year option, and therefore something of a crossroads for the franchise itself. Leftwich has a lot on his plate for a young coach, but Arians clearly believes he is up to the task.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic believes that the Cardinals will cut Robert Nkemdiche before he plays another snap for the club. The former first-round pick was recently arrested for driving on a suspended license, and police found a credit card case that had a white powdery residue consistent with cocaine inside. Somers says that police decided not to test the case and elected to simply destroy it instead, but it’s still not a good look for Nkemdiche. The fact that the defensive lineman is still recovering from a knee injury and is due a $400K roster bonus if he is still on the club on the fifth day of training camp could complicate matters, but Somers still expects Nkemdiche to be gone sooner rather than later.
  • Seahawks OT Jamarco Jones, a fifth-round draft choice in 2018, did not see any regular season action during his rookie campaign, as he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener that put him on the shelf for the whole year. Still, he flashed potential last training camp, and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times expects him to make the club as a backup tackle. And, with George Fant and Germain Ifedi eligible for free agency in 2020, Jones could position himself nicely for a starting role next year.
  • Condotta also expects the Seahawks to continue exploring pass rush options and secondary help.
  • We heard earlier today that the Lions are exploring a deal with free agent DT Domata Peko.

NFC West Notes: Gurley, Gaines, Cardinals

Todd Gurley‘s limited offseason (and the Rams‘ cryptic remarks on their All-Pro running back’s injured knee) has created some uncertainty about how the fifth-year player will be used this season and if he will be as healthy as he looked to start last season. A March report indicated Gurley is dealing with arthritis in his knee, and while Gurley nor the Rams confirmed that, his trainer did. But Travelle Gaines does not believe Gurley’s limitations now, which have induced an individualized workout plan, should point to the 24-year-old runner being on a pitch count when the Rams’ playoff push ensues.

Everybody knew when Todd came out of Georgia that there would be some kind of arthritic component to his knee, which is part of every surgery whether it’s a shoulder, a knee, an ankle,” said Gaines, via CBS Sports, about his client, who underwent knee surgery in 2014. “He’s now at the year-five mark; all we’re doing is managing that. If we can pound him less in the offseason while keeping his weight down, working on his strength, working on his agility in short areas, that’s going to give him a better chance to be healthy Weeks 14 through 17 when they really count.”

Gurley missed Weeks 16 and 17 but bounced back to blaze for 115 yards on 16 carries in the divisional round. However, he gained just 45 yards the rest of the way, leading to speculation about the severity of his injury. He and the team have insisted the knee problem isn’t a major concern, but it will be hard to know for sure until the regular season begins. Here is the latest news coming out of the NFC West:

  • Considering the changes made to their coaching staff and quarterback room, the Cardinals may be this offseason’s most overhauled team. Steve Keim also is open to more changes before training camp. “We had a lot of success in the past when we have had late-summer signings,” Arizona’s GM said (via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com) to the rest of the front office in the trailer for the latest Flight Plan, which is chronicling the team’s offseason. “There are players out there that we can find that will make this football team better.” The Cardinals have added talent late in the offseason, from John Abraham to Tre Boston, in recent years. They ranked 32nd in both yards and points last season, so further offensive augmentation wouldn’t be uncalled for.
  • One of Keim’s top defensive investments ran into off-field trouble recently. Robert Nkemdiche was arrested for speeding and driving on a suspended license on June 6, Clayton Klapper of ABC 15 reports. The former first-round defensive lineman told police he was on his way to a Cardinals OTA workout that morning. Police also found a “white powdery substance consistent with cocaine” in a credit card case in the vehicle, Klapper adds. However, police did not and will not test the substance. The Cardinals, who did not pick up Nkemdiche’s fifth-year option in May, alerted the NFL in regards to the personal conduct policy.
  • Moving back to the Rams, their defensive line will have a new starter — after Ndamukong Suh‘s free agency departure — and one of their rookies may be tabbed for the job. Fourth-round defensive tackle Greg Gaines may be the frontrunner to start at Los Angeles’ nose spot, Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic writes (subscription required). The 300-plus-pound Gaines played alongside Vita Vea at Washington in 2017 and in 2018 recorded a career-high 4.5 sacks.

Cardinals Decline Nkemdiche’s Option

The Cardinals are declining defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche’s fifth-year option, a source tells Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). The option would have been worth $7.690MM and guaranteed for injury only, but the Cardinals did not feel comfortable enough to pull the trigger. 

Nkemdiche is coming off of the best season of his career after notching 45 sacks in ten games (six starts). While he showed some promise, Nkemdiche has struggled to stay healthy since being selected with the No. 29 overall pick in 2016. He suited up for just 15 games in his first two seasons and last year’s campaign ended with a torn ACL in December. But, given his physical tools, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Nkemdiche having a bounce back year in 2019 and setting himself up for a huge payday next March.

The deadline for fifth-year option decisions isn’t until tomorrow, but we more or less know the outcome for every 2016 first-round pick already.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.