Shane Ray

Broncos Bench Two Players Ahead Of Pivotal Game

The Broncos are playing a game they must win to keep their playoff hopes alive in a couple of hours, and are making a major change ahead of the game. 

Outside linebacker Shane Ray and safety Su’a Cravens will be benched and be healthy scratches for the game against the Browns, a source told Mike Klis of Denver 9 News. Klis writes that the moves are “strictly a coach’s decision”, meaning embattled head coach Vance Joseph made the call. Ray was a first round pick of the Broncos back in 2015, and has mostly been a disappointment after a promising first two years. He’s battled various injuries and has just one sack this year, and the team declined his fifth-year team option earlier this year. He’ll be a free agent after the season, so it’s quite possible he’s played his last down in a Broncos uniform.

Cravens is in his first year with the Broncos after spending his first two years in the league with Washington. Cravens was a second round pick of the Redskins in 2016, but quickly had a falling out with the organization. The Broncos traded a couple of draft picks to acquire Cravens this past March, and he’s been a major disappointment. He missed most of the year with a knee injury, and Klis notes that he’s “struggled in coverage” since returning.

Both of the players had been seeing significant snaps on defense, so it’s a major shakeup. It feels like a last gasp for Joseph, as he seems almost certain to lose his job if the team misses the playoffs. There have been whispers in the past about Joseph losing the locker room, so it will be very interesting to see how these moves go over.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Carr, Raiders, Peterson, Taylor

We learned earlier this morning that Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson has requested a trade, though the team wants to keep him. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Jackson, on his way to the team bus this morning, declined to comment on the report.

With the trade deadline two days away, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league (Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who says many GMs expect there to be three to five “impactful” deals over the next 48 hours, offers a helpful primer, which includes a list of some of the most-discussed players on the market):

  • Albert Breer of TheMMQB says that the Raiders may not be done dealing just yet, though he does not expect the team to move Derek Carr (indeed, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported this morning that the Raiders have told Carr that he is the quarterback of the present and future). However, Oakland is open to moving Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley, though the Raiders are driving a “hard bargain” with teams interested in Conley.
  • Breer names a number of other players whose names we have not heard in recent rumblings but who could nonetheless be on the move: the PackersHa Ha Clinton-Dix, the 49ersPierre Garcon and Jimmie Ward, the CardinalsChandler Jones, and the BroncosShane Ray and Brandon Marshall. Breers adds that San Francisco would need to get something “significant” to deal Ward. He also says that, while teams are certainly interested in Denver corners Bradley Roby and Chris Harris, he thinks it would be difficult for the team to trade either.
  • If they had elected to trade Patrick Peterson, La Canfora writes that the Cardinals could have received a bounty for him, and may have even landed multiple first-round picks (in fact, several teams were already prepared to offer a first- and second-rounder). JLC reports that Peterson was considered the “crown jewel” of the deadline, and given his attractive contract status, he may be the subject of renewed trade rumors during the offseason.
  • Breer also writes that the Browns are open to trading Tyrod Taylor, whose contract structure could make a deal feasible. Meanwhile, Tony Grossi of ESPN.com suggests that Cleveland GM John Dorsey may be trying to acquire wide receiver help (Twitter link).
  • The Bills remain unlikely to trade LeSean McCoy, per Schefter.
  • Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has demonstrated a proclivity for making trades, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says Maccagnan has been doing his due diligence on everyone, including big-name players. But while there is a sense that New York could swing a deal, the fact that the team is in a no-man’s land between buyer and seller, and the fact that the roster does not have many tradeable pieces, could make a trade difficult to pull off.

Injury Updates: Fins, Peters, Wright, Jets

Although Brock Osweiler and some pivotal run-after-catch action from his receivers came through to help the Dolphins to key win over the Bears, Ryan Tannehill has obviously been the better quarterback since these two began their careers six years ago. But Tannehill’s dealing with another injury, a shoulder malady, after two years of knee trouble. Adam Gase did not do much to squash the notion his starter’s dealing with a long-term malady, but Miami’s third-year coach said he has “complete confidence” Tannehill will play again this season (Twitter links via the Miami Herald’s Adam Beasley). Despite being listed as one of the longest-odds Super Bowl teams coming into the season, the Dolphins are 4-2 and in early contention for a playoff berth. They host the Lions on Sunday, and Osweiler may have to prepare for another week as the starter.

Here’s the latest from injury news cycles:

  • Jason Peters is dealing with a partially torn biceps muscle but may not have to miss any games because of it. Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland (via Jeff McLane of Philly.com, on Twitter) does not expect his left tackle to miss time. The 15th-year veteran was already afflicted with quadriceps injury, missed most of the Eagles’ Super Bowl run last season and is now in his age-36 season. But Peters has started all six games for this year’s Philadelphia squad.
  • The Jets will be without their leading receiver for some time. Quincy Enunwa suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweets. He’s likely going to miss at least three games, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Enunwa missed all of last season because of a neck injury. In a contract year, Enunwa returned to be Sam Darnold‘s top target thus far. He’s hauled in 22 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown. The Jets have turned to Terrelle Pryor more over the past two games, with the former Browns and Redskins wideout catching a touchdown pass in each, and he’ll be relied upon more in the immediate future.
  • Pete Carroll had hoped his top outside linebacker would be ready to start his season sometime in September, despite undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery just before the season. But K.J. Wright‘s missed six games. the Seahawks coach revealed Tuesday (Twitter link via the Seattle Times’ Percy Allen) Wright encountered a setback during Week 3 practice to delay his recovery. But he’s back on track now. The Seahawks have their bye this weekend and may be ready to finally see Wright in action in Week 8. The second half of the season will be critical for the 29-year-old linebacker, who is in a contract year.
  • Shane Ray‘s also in a contract campaign and looks to be auditioning for other teams after the Broncos didn’t pick up his fifth-year option following their first-round selection of Bradley Chubb. Ray’s now run into more injury trouble, suffering a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, per Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). The likely free agent-to-be seems certain to miss Denver’s Thursday game in Arizona, if not more time.
  • The Bengals are now down to their third-string tight end, C.J. Uzomah, as the starter after losing both Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft. However, Marvin Lewis does expect Kroft — out because of a broken bone in his foot — to return this season. Kroft, too, is in a contract year.

Broncos Notes: Henderson, Brown, Ray, Lynch

The Broncos’ receiving room looks a lot different than it did last year. While Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas will return from last year’s group, there’s several new faces. The team drafted Courtland Sutton in the third round and Daesean Hamilton in the fourth and both have reportedly shown well in practices and are being groomed to take over for Sanders and Thomas in the future.

Lost amid all the excitement surrounding Sutton and Hamilton has been last year’s third round pick Carlos Henderson. Henderson started training camp on the reserve/did not report list, as he is reportedly dealing with a personal issue. Troy Renck of Denver 7 took a stab at predicting the Broncos’ 53-man roster, and left Henderson off it. Renck thinks the Broncos will ultimately be forced to cut Henderson due to the depth at the position.

Henderson missed all of last season with a thumb injury. If Renck is right, the 82nd overall pick of the 2017 draft could end up never playing a single snap for the Broncos.

Here’s more from Denver:

  • Speaking of Henderson, Mike Klis of 9 News thinks the recently signed Corey “Philly” Brown could slide in and replace Henderson on the roster. Brown spent all of 2017 out of the league, but was a productive player before that, notably hauling in a team high 80-yards in Super Bowl 50.
  • Linebacker Shane Ray was reportedly “pretty shocked” when he was told by a doctor that he wouldn’t require surgery after all (Twitter link via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post). Initially thought to be out for the beginning of the regular season, Ray is now practicing with “no restrictions on his participation” according to Jeff Legwold of ESPN.
  • Renck thinks the Broncos could look to add a veteran backup quarterback if Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly “don’t impress in the first few [preseason] games.” If Lynch can’t separate himself and win the backup job this summer, it could be the end of the road for the 2016 first round pick in Denver.

No Surgery For Broncos’ Shane Ray

Good news for Shane Ray. Despite a diagnosis to the contrary earlier this summer, the Broncos linebacker will not need an additional surgery on his wrist, Ian Rapoport and James Palmer of NFL.com hear (Twitter link). Ray is not expected to miss any games, Mike Klis of 9News hears (on Twitter), and he may even be cleared for the start of training camp.

While awaiting surgery, Ray stuck to his rehab plan, so his timetable for return looks like it will come up quicker than anticipated. That’s excellent news for the Broncos and also for Ray, who is scheduled for free agency in 2019 after the Broncos declined his fifth-year option.

The 2015 first-rounder had a disappointing season in 2017, compiling only 16 tackles and one sack in eight games (seven starts). In 2016, however, he tallied eight sacks on 58% playing time. Ray is far from a lost cause and now that he’s healthy, he could have a chance to secure his future in Denver, or a better payday elsewhere.

The Broncos fortified their edge rushing corps by drafting Bradley Chubb with the No. 5 pick earlier this year, adding additional depth to a unit that already includes All-Pro Von Miller and Shaquil Barrett. This year, Ray will earn a base salary of ~$1.7MM before hitting the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Notes: Ware, Ray, Lynch

DeMarcus Ware will return to Denver and work with some of his former teammates. After months of trying, the Broncos hired the future Hall of Famer as a part-time coach, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Ware will work with the Broncos around 40 or 50 days this year, Mike Klis of 9News reports (Twitter link). Klis adds that Ware will work with the defensive assistants, some of whom were around during his final Broncos seasons. Ware received interest from the Cowboys for a similar consulting-type role but opted for the Denver job.

I wish I could help out both teams, but with the league, you can’t do that,” Ware said, via Klis (on Twitter). “You’ve just got to choose your battles and this right here was my choice.”

Jhabvala notes Ware will work with Broncos outside linebackers and defensive ends, with Bradley Chubb likely his chief assignment, and will be at various practices and spend time in meetings with coaches.

It’s great for Von (Miller),” Vance Joseph said, via Jhabvala. “D-Ware is the guy that Von followed. He became a great player under D-Ware’s watch, along with the coaches also obviously. But it’s great to have him here for all of our guys — for (Derek) Wolfe, for (Domata) Peko, for Von, for all of those guys. Rushing the passer in this league is a premium. You have to rush the passer, and our scheme is built around rushing the passer.”

Here’s the latest out of Denver, moving to one of Ware’s charges.

  • Shane Ray‘s wrist surgery will involve bone fusion, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post tweets. Ray said Wednesday he’s still hoping to be on the field for Week 1. The former first-round pick began last season on IR because of a wrist injury, and after extensive medical counsel, he will undergo another wrist procedure. Ray was available during the Broncos’ 2017 offseason before suffering an injury during training camp. But he wasn’t the same upon return, failing to live up to his 2016 standards. The Broncos are better equipped to handle a Ray absence this year, with Chubb in the fold alongside Shaquil Barrett.
  • Ray’s surgery might open the door for UDFA Jeff Holland. The Auburn product left school early only to go undrafted, but DC Joe Woods lavished high praise upon the rookie Wednesday. “We record all of the positive that guys make, and right now he’s blowing people away,” Woods said, via O’Halloran (Twitter link). Holland could be in line to make the Broncos as a backup outside linebacker. During their return to a 3-4 look, the Broncos have usually kept four outside linebackers — peaking with a Miller/Ware/Barrett/Ray setup in 2015-16. But with Ray sidelined, it’s possible Holland could forge a path to the 53-man roster — possibly as a fifth outside ‘backer due to the unique circumstances Denver’s dealing with at this spot.
  • Paxton Lynch has looked like a more dedicated player this offseason, Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press writes. However, the third-year quarterback has yet to consistently wow observers on the practice field. Joseph attempted to shed additional light on why the franchise stuck with Lynch rather than using a draft pick on competition. “I think Paxton is really motivated to show everyone that he can be a No. 1 quarterback in this league, and watching him work this entire offseason he is different because I’ve seen him a lot more up in the halls here,” Joseph said, adding the Broncos having three offensive coordinators in three years has stunted the young passer’s progress. “And that takes time to find your comfort zone with coaches, with your organization.”

Extra Points: AAF, Dolphins, Ray, Broncos

The Alliance of American Football is set to debut this winter. While the league is expected to provide an alternative for NFL fans, founder Charlie Ebersol said they aren’t intending to put their counterpart out of business.

“It’s a positive relationship,” Ebersol told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. “One of the reasons that we made the contract the way we do for the players where they have an out to go to back to the NFL is because we recognize the fact just like the MLS recognizes the fact that the Premier League is ultimately gonna pay players more and put them on a bigger stage than the MLS will. They support that. We support the same concepts. I think that it’s a foolish to try to pick a fight with a $150 billion business when you’re starting up and when you’re also not competing. I mean none of my content touches any of their content. Ultimately, it’s a complementary, positive relationship.”

Ebersol touched on several additional points during the interview, including the ability for players to switch to the NFL should they receive an offer.

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFL…

  • Dolphins second-round tight end Mike Gesicki has yet to impress during the media portions of practices. While the Penn State product clearly has some work to do, it sounds like Miami’s coaching staff is optimistic about the prospect’s future in the NFL. “Mike is a little bit unique,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains told Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald. “[Durham Smythe] is a ‘Y’ and Mike G is more of a … We’ve got to find out exactly what he can and can’t do and what he can and can’t handle early. As the season goes and the offseason goes and training camp, his package will expand and his routes will expand as we found out what he can and can’t do.” To start the season, Gesicki is expected to backup A.J. Derby.
  • Beasley writes that filling Ndamukong Suh‘s role is easier said than done. However, several Dolphins players could be ready for the challenge, and the writer specifically points to 2017 third-rounder Vincent Taylor. “It’s hard losing a guy like Suh just knowing what he’s capable of doing; but at the end of the day, it’s a business decision,” Taylor said. “I know all of the things when I was coming in, what he taught me, so I learned some of the things that he taught me.”
  • The Broncos declined to pick up Shane Ray‘s fifth-year option. As a result, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post believes the injured linebacker should take as long as he needs to recover from wrist surgery. The writer explains that returning early and re-aggravating the injury could hurt Ray’s market value. However, if the linebacker is productive and healthy in a lesser playing sample, he still might be able to secure a lucrative contract. The 2015 first-rounder had a disappointing season in 2017, compiling only 16 tackles and one sack in eight games (seven starts).
  • O’Halloran also observes that Broncos tight end Jake Butt has been an offensive standout during practices. “It’s our responsibility as tight ends and slot (receivers) to win one-on-one match-ups on the inside,” he said. “We’ve got to make plays when our number is called to take a little bit of pressure off those guys (Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders) on the outside.” Butt could end up with the starting gig in Denver, but he’ll have to compete with a grouping that includes Jeff Heuerman and Troy Fumagalli.

Shane Ray To Undergo Wrist Surgery

Broncos edge rusher Shane Ray will undergo wrist surgery which is expected to sideline him for three months, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Given his recovery timeline, Ray may not be available for the start of the 2018 regular season.

The operation was fully expected, as Mike Klis of 9 News recently reported that Ray — who missed eight games with a wrist ailment in 2017 — appeared set for another surgery. For Ray, it’s yet another disappointment in what has already been a discouraging offseason. Denver declined its 2019 fifth-year option on Ray in May, withholding the chance for the 25-year-old to collect north of $5MM in his fifth NFL campaign.

Ray, whom the Broncos selected 23rd overall in 2015, has steadily seen his playing time increase over three pro seasons, and had seen action on nearly three-quarters of Denver’s defensive snaps a year ago before going down with injury. With his wrist hampering him, Ray graded as a bottom-10 edge defender, per Pro Football Focus, and wasn’t able to match or exceed his 2016 production (eight sacks on 58% playing time).

Denver fortified its edge rushing corps by drafting Bradley Chubb with the No. 5 pick earlier this year, and he’ll add depth to a unit that already includes All-Pro Von Miller and Shaquil Barrett. Still, without Ray in tow, it’s possible the Broncos turn to the free agent market in search of another option. Given that they’d likely be looking for players with 3-4 experience, the Broncos might theoretically look at Erik Walden, Willie Young, Ahmad Brooks, Junior Galette, or Connor Barwin.

Ray had been speculatively viewed as a trade candidate given Denver’s depth along the edge, but any deal won’t occur now that Ray is sidelined. Instead, he’s now — depending on how his operation and recovery goes — an (admittedly remote) candidate for the physically unable to perform list. Ray will earn a base salary of ~$1.7MM before hitting the open market next spring.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Shane Ray To Get Another Wrist Surgery?

Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray has been dealing with wrist issues for around a year now, and may now require a new surgery that could jeopardize his 2018 season, according to Mike Klis of 9News. Ray, the Broncos’ first-round pick in 2015, played in just eight games last year while dealing with the injury. Klis says that Ray and the team are seeking a second opinion but that “as of now, it appears he’s headed for surgery.”

Ray showed promise in 2016, racking up eight sacks in just a rotational role. Injuries and a lack of consistent play derailed his 2017 season, and caused the Broncos to decline his fifth-year option last month. With his option declined, Ray is now set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and continued medical red flags will certainly hurt his value on the open market.

According to Klis, Ray seems likely to miss at least some of the regular season and likely all of what was supposed to be a crucial offseason for him. The Broncos might now be forced to pursue a veteran pass-rusher to complement a unit that already had its fair share of question marks outside of Von Miller.

As Klis points out, it’s the second recent linebacker injury for the Broncos after Deiontrez Mount was lost for the season with a torn achilles just last week. Klis notes that the injuries to Ray and Mount could “increase the chances of undrafted rookie Jeff Holland making the 53-man roster.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Ray, Rivers, Thomas

Most of the fifth-year option decisions this offseason were no-brainers, but what the Broncos would do with respect to Shane Ray‘s 2019 option was a little tougher to predict. Ultimately, Denver chose to decline the option, which means that Ray will be eligible for free agency following the 2018 campaign, and head coach Vance Joseph believes that the chance to hit the open market will make the Missouri product especially motivated to produce at a high level this year.

Joseph said (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post), “[Ray] is really motivated. He understands it’s business. And he’s ready for a challenge. He wants to be a great player and, in my opinion, before he got hurt last year (early in training camp) he was on his way to having a great year. I am not surprised that he is motivated and engaged. The ball is in his court. He can earn a lot more than what the option offered him if he goes out there and does what we think he can do.”

As O’Halloran notes, however, this could be Ray’s last season with the Broncos regardless of how he performs. If he does well, he could price himself out of Denver’s budget, and if he struggles, the Broncos may not want him back anyway.

Now for more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Joseph is not only impressed with Ray’s effort level this spring; he is also pleased by what he has seen from the Broncos‘ marquee free agent signing, Case Keenum. Joseph said (via the same piece linked above), “[W]atching Case the last couple of weeks on the field, man, he’s a lot better than I remember. It’s definitely a good thing to watch him lead the guys and watch the guys respond to him. It’s refreshing for all of us to be in the presence of a veteran quarterback who has command. I think everyone is loving the fact we have a quarterback in place that can lead this team from spot 1, and that’s good for all of us.” 
  • In response to a reader’s question as to when the Chargers should plan for Philip Rivers‘ retirement, Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com suggests that it won’t be anytime soon, and that Rivers could play for another five years. After all, Rivers, 36, has already indicated he would like to play for a few more seasons, the club has not drafted a QB since 2013, and in addition to his continuing strong performance, he has not lost an ounce of motivation or even mentioned retirement, per quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen. And, as Williams notes, Rivers — who has not missed a start in more than a decade — predicates his game on anticipation and moving within the pocket, so loss of speed is not a huge issue.
  • Rayshawn Jenkins, whom the Chargers selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft, was primarily a special teams contributor in his rookie campaign, but as Williams notes, Los Angeles is giving the Miami product a shot at free safety this offseason. The team is intrigued by his athleticism, speed, and physicality, and the hope is that he can use those qualities to become a consistent presence on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Whether the Seahawks will trade Earl Thomas this offseason has been something of an open question over the past few months, but it sounds as if his next contract — he is eligible for free agency next year — will not come from Seattle. As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets, even though Thomas will command top dollar, the Seahawks could pay him if they wanted to. But in light of Thomas’ age (29), the fact that the team is in something of a retooling phase, and what has happened to some of the Seahawks’ older players over the last few years, Seattle seems unlikely to make the kind of commitment that Thomas is looking for.