Ryan Smith

Bucs Notes: Winston, Jefferson, Crowell

Throughout his first season as the Buccaneers’ head coach, Bruce Arians was generally non-committal towards former starting QB Jameis Winston. In one memorable sound-bite towards the end of the 2019 campaign, Arians was asked if Tampa could win with a different signal-caller, and he replied, “With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one (Winston), we can definitely win with another one, too.”

Despite that, Arians recently told Rich Eisen of the NFL Network that he is trying to sell other clubs on Winston (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). “I’ve called a couple teams,” Arians told Eisen. “You’re going to get one of the hardest workers you’ve ever had and a great young man.” 

However, none of the teams that Arians spoke with indicated they were interested in Winston as a starter. And indeed, teams that entered the offseason with QB needs have either filled those needs, plan to stay the course with their current group of passers, or are expected to use a high draft pick on a quarterback. So at this point, Winston will just need to get on a roster and hope that an opportunity opens up.

Now for more on the suddenly interesting Bucs:

  • We recently heard that the Buccaneers’ top QB choices were Tom Brady, then Teddy Bridgewater, then Winston, and Arians confirmed as much in the above-referenced interview with Eisen. “[A Winston re-up] didn’t work out for us only because [Brady] was available and we had [Bridgewater] if that wouldn’t have worked out,” Arians said. “We were going full steam ahead back with Jameis.”
  • After entering the offseason with a ton of cap space, the Bucs have only about $14MM left to spend, as Greg Auman of The Athletic observes, and some of that will be needed to sign the club’s draft picks. Auman takes a look at a few veteran FAs still available that could fit the Bucs’ remaining needs. One such player is safety Tony Jefferson, who played for Arians for four years in Arizona and who would represent a quality veteran presence in Tampa’s young defensive backfield.
  • The Bucs could wait until the draft to fill their need for a pass-catching RB, but if they are unable to do so or unwilling to wait, they could look at Isaiah Crowell, per Auman. Crowell does not have a past connection to Arians but did play for DC Todd Bowles when Bowles was the Jets’ head coach in 2018.
  • DB Ryan Smith re-signed with the Buccaneers several days ago, and Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports says Smith’s one-year deal has a max value of $2.25MM (Twitter link).
  • Even though Brady may want him, the Buccaneers have no intention of signing Antonio Brown.

NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers

When Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season earlier this week it seemed to spell trouble for him. Smith’s standing was already in question after the Bucs used multiple early picks on cornerbacks during April’s draft, and the suspension didn’t look good. However, it turns out that at least Tampa wasn’t caught off-guard by the news. “They’ve known about it since before the draft and have already done things knowing it was coming. This is news to us, but not to them,” tweeted Greg Auman of The Athletic.

Auman also added “don’t look for the Bucs to do anything in response to today’s news of Ryan Smith’s suspension.” For now it doesn’t look like Smith’s roster spot is in danger. The 2016 fourth-round pick has played a big role the last two years, starting a combined 16 games. Last year he played around 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, while also playing a huge role on special teams. While the Buccaneers knew it was coming and appears to be standing by him for now, he’s not exactly in the clear. The young guys will be getting more run while he’s out, and there might not be much playing time left for him by the time he returns if they seize the opportunity.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Speaking of the Buccaneers, there were also some interesting nuggets in Auman’s recent roster projection. Notably, Auman projects Alex Cappa to start at guard. A third-round pick last year, Cappa appeared in only six games with no starts as a rookie. Cappa was an upside prospect from D-II Humboldt State, so he was always going to take a while to develop. It’s especially interesting because there have been rumblings that Cappa isn’t progressing like the team was hoping. Jenna Laine of ESPN.com was recently told that Cappa “still isn’t where they’d like him to be yet,” and she floated the potential acquisition of additional interior offensive linemen (Twitter link). Cappa had dominant film in college (look it up, some of it is hilarious), but he was always facing off against weaker competition. It’ll be interesting to see what he looks like when he finally steps on a pro field.
  • We’ve seen a few notable players switch agents recently, including Kenny Stills and Duke Johnson. Add Panthers receiver D.J. Moore to the growing list. Moore is now with NFL super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. Person reports that Moore decided to switch agents after his former agent Damarius Bilbo was suspended for three months back in January. Moore just finished his rookie season so he won’t be eligible for a new contract for a while, but this is still something to keep an eye on. Rosenhaus has a reputation for playing hardball with teams, and this could come back into play in the future. A 2018 first-round pick from Maryland, Moore had a promising rookie season, racking up 788 yards on 55 catches.
  • In case you missed it, Saints rookie Carl Granderson was recently sentenced to six months in jail.

NFL Suspends Buccaneers CB Ryan Smith

Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. Smith will be eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games, but will not begin regular season action until September 30, following the team’s Week 4 game against the Rams. 

We are disappointed that Ryan will be unavailable for the first four games of the season,” GM Jason Licht said in a statement. “We do extensive training and education for our players regarding the league’s polices, but ultimately each individual is responsible for what they put in their bodies.”

The ban could have a major impact on Smith’s future with the club. After earning a proven performance escalator last year, Smith is slated to earn a $2MM base salary in 2019. But, if the Bucs cut him, they’ll be on the hook for just $148K in dead money, resulting from his original rookie signing bonus.

The 2016 fourth-round pick has started 16 games over the last two seasons, but he was on shaky ground even before the suspension. After taking corners in the second and third round of this year’s draft, the Buccaneers could be poised to move on from him and allocate his slated salary elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2019 Proven Performance Escalators

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 cumulatively during that period.

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $2MM in 2019. 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 salary rise in 2019 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

Bears: RB Jordan Howard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Bengals: LB Nick Vigil

Broncos: G Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, S Justin Simmons

Browns: S Derrick Kindred, LB Joe Schobert

Buccaneers: G Caleb Benenoch, DE Carl Nassib, CB Ryan Smith

Chargers: LB Jatavis Brown

Chiefs: CB Kendall Fuller, WR Tyreek Hill, S Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson

Colts: QB Jacoby Brissett, T Joe Haeg

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown, DT Maliek Collins, QB Dak Prescott

Dolphins: RB Kenyan Drake

Eagles: CB Jalen Mills, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, G Wes Schweitzer

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Jets: LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Rashard Robinson, T Brandon Shell

Lions: C Graham Glasgow

Packers: LB Kyler Fackrell, DE Dean Lowry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Antonio Morrison

Patriots: G Joe Thuney, LB Elandon Roberts

Rams: G Austin Blythe, TE Tyler Higbee

Ravens: DE Matt Judon, OL Alex Lewis, CB Tavon Young

Saints: DT David Onyemata

Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave

Texans: DT D.J. Reader

Titans: S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Packers Move Roster To 53

The Packers have trimmed their roster to 53 by making the following transactions:

Waived/Injured:

Placed on suspended list:

Cut:

NFC Notes: Locke, Seahawks, Cardinals, Bucs

A fifth-round pick in 2013, Jeff Locke looks to be set to face some competition to finish out his contract with the Vikings. Minnesota is expected to add rookie punter Taylor Symmank on Monday, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

The Vikings brought in Symmank and Nick O’Toole to compete at their rookie minicamp this weekend, but O’Toole left the Twin Cities on Sunday, while Symmank looks to be staying. Symmank averaged 46 yards per punt last season at Texas Tech. After Locke’s per-punt figure hovered at 44.2 yards in each of his first two seasons, it slunk to an NFL-worst 41.6 in 2015.

Symmank told Tomasson he’s been asked to take a physical with the Vikings, who currently have 89 players on their roster. Locke has a nonguaranteed $721K due this season.

Check out the latest from around the league as teams continue to assemble their 90-man rosters.

  • The Seahawks envision former Notre Dame running back/wide receiver C.J. Prosise becoming a potential replacement for Fred Jackson as the team’s third-down back, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. Seattle initially placed the third-round pick with the running backs to start its rookie minicamp but shuttled him into receiver drills on Sunday. Converted to running back before the 2015 season, Prosise totaled 1,337 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns in 2015. “I’ve never had anyone that was a receiver that went to running back that could do both. You commit one way or the other,” Pete Carroll told media, including Condotta. “… It’s a real prize for us. I don’t really have a guy to compare him to at this point.”
  • Also from Condotta: Rees Odhiambo will compete with Mark Glowinski for the Seahawks‘ starting left guard position, and Carroll plans to use Jarran Reed at both nose tackle and 3-technique. “It’s just such a crucial pick for us,” Carroll said. “Jarran can really jump right in and give us the stout play, he’s just got a great savvy for the running game. He’ll play both spots, for sure.”
  • The Cardinals are planning to replace the still-unsigned Jerraud Powers with Justin Bethel, but given that third-round pick Brandon Williams has only played the position for one season after playing running back from 2011-14, Arizona could use a veteran corner to help lead Patrick Peterson‘s cadre of sidekicks, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic writes. Beyond Bethel and Peterson, no Cardinal cornerback has more than one year of NFL experience. Joining Powers among the top unattached corners right now are fellow former Cardinal Antonio Cromartie, Leon Hall and Phillip Adams.
  • Although Ryan Smith lined up at cornerback in 2015 for North Carolina Central, he’s expected to work at safety for the Buccaneers, Roy Cummings of Today’s Pigskin writes. The Bucs added Vernon Hargreaves III in the first round after signing Brent Grimes in an attempt to fortify a cornerback corps that helped yield 31 touchdown passes last season and allow the second-highest quarterback rating in the league. The 5-foot-11, 198-pound Smith arrived in Tampa as the No. 108 overall pick and will compete with the likes of Chris Conte and Keith Tandy for playing time on the Bucs’ back line. Cummings identifies Bradley McDougald as a starter at either the free or strong safety spots, with his complement undecided. Pro Football Focus graded Conte as the Bucs’ best safety last season and tabbed the now-27-year-old veteran as its No. 32 safety.

Draft Signings: Bucs, Seahawks, Lions

A rundown of the latest draft signings:

  • The Buccaneers have agreed to terms with fourth-round pick Ryan Smith and fifth-round pick Caleb Benenoch, as freelance reporter Jenna Laine tweets. Smith, a defensive back out of North Carolina Central, left college as the program’s all-time leader in solo tackles (168) and kickoff return average (28.1). Even though he played cornerback during his final year at UNCC, the Bucs plan to use him as a safety. Benenoch, an offensive linemen from UCLA, has experience both at tackle and on the interior line and that versatility helped his stock heading into the draft.
  • The Seahawks signed fifth-round running back Alex Collins, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets. As his slot mandates, it’s a four-year, $2.566MM deal with a $184K signing bonus.
  • The Lions signed sixth-round defensive lineman Anthony Zettel, as Wilson tweets.
  • The Dolphins have signed seventh-round quarterback Brandon Doughty, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (on Twitter). The former Western Kentucky signal caller drew interest from scouts in large part because of his pinpoint accuracy.
  • The Lions signed fifth-round offensive lineman Joe Dahl, per Rand Getlin of NFL.com (on Twitter).
  • The Jets announced the signings of cornerback Juston Burris (fourth round) and tackle Brandon Shell (fifth), as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes. Shell, a 6-foot-6, 328-pound tackle, started for four seasons for the South Carolina Gamecocks and is the great nephew of Raiders Hall of Fame tackle and ensuing coach Art Shell.

Draft Updates: Dahl, Ogbah, C. Jones, DeBord

As Greg Gabriel of 670 The Score tweets, Wednesday is the last day NFL teams can bring prospects in for official visits. Beginning on Thursday, clubs can still meet or work out players, but it has to happen at the player’s school or home, rather than the team’s facility.

Still, there’s no shortage of updates today on workouts and/or visits conducted recently by prospects and teams. Here are several of those updates:

  • Rand Getlin of the NFL Network (Twitter link) adds the Falcons, Lions, and Titans to the long list of teams that either worked out Washington State offensive lineman Joe Dahl or hosted him for a visit. Earlier this month, a report indicated that 10 other teams had interest in Dahl, with many of those clubs planning visits or workouts.
  • Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post writes that the Titans and Bengals were among the teams that hosted Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah for pre-draft visits.
  • The Bengals, Ravens, and Seahawks are among the clubs that have hosted Mississippi State defensive lineman Chris Jones for pre-draft visits, tweets Rand Getlin.
  • The list of clubs that Eastern Washington offensive lineman Clay DeBord has worked out for or visited includes the 49ers, Lions, Jets, Falcons, Buccaneers, Titans, and Cardinals, tweets Rand Getlin.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press provides a couple updates on local prospects, tweeting that Michigan State defensive lineman Lawrence Thomas has worked out for the Lions, Patriots, Falcons, and Titans, and adding (via Twitter) that Central Michigan tight end Ben McCord has previously visited the Dolphins. McCord is participating in the Lions’ local workout day, while Thomas isn’t.
  • North Carolina Central defensive back Ryan Smith is making his last pre-draft visit today to Los Angeles to meet with the Rams, a source tells Aaron Wilson.
  • Florida wide receiver Demarcus Robinson visited the Jets today, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link), who suggests keeping an eye on Robinson late in the draft.

Extra Points: Treadwell, Spence, Jets, Giants

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds one more club to the list of teams bringing in Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell for visits, tweeting that Treadwell will meet with the Jets on Wednesday. Eastern Kentucky pass rusher Noah Spence will be visiting Gang Green on Wednesday as well, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, who adds that UCLA receiver Devin Fuller met with New York today (Twitter links).

Here are a few more notes from around the NFL, with a heavy emphasis on draft visits…

  • Carson Wentz isn’t the only North Dakota State prospect making the rounds — fullback/tight end Andrew Bonnet finsihed a visit with the Giants tonight, and has also met with the Panthers, reports Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (Twitter link).
  • San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin is visiting the Rams on Tuesday, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link). Ervin rushed for more than 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2015.
  • Cornerback Ryan Smith has taken visits with the Raiders, Dolphins, and Vikings, the North Carolina Central product tells Alex Marvez on SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link).
  • Offensive lineman Ben Ijalana‘s one-year deal with the Jets is worth $840K, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link), who adds that Ijalana receives $150K guaranteed.
  • The Seahawks will work out running back Giavanni Ruffin tomorrow, tweets Jared Tokarz of WhosNextFootball.com. Ruffin, who hasn’t played football since way back in 2010, posted 692 rushing yards for East Carolina between 2009-10.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.