Shaq Lawson

AFC Notes: Marrone, Dolphins, Lawson

After the Jaguars ugly 42-20 loss to the Titans, the team fell to 4-7 and reporters asked head coach Doug Marrone if the team would be making any changes at quarterback or defensive coordinator. Marrone remained steadfast that he is not considering changes at either spot, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.

Marrone, currently in his third season as Jacksonville’s official head coach (he served as the interim at the end of 2016), is still looking to replicate the success he found in his first year at the helm. That season the Jaguars had one of the best defensive units in football that carried a team with questionable quarterback play to the AFC Championship Game. Since, the team is 9-18 and recently looks in disarray defensively. On the opposite side of the field, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew showed promise while Nick Foles was out with a broken collarbone. Foles returned last week, but has yet to lead a strong offensive performance.

Here’s some more Sunday notes from the AFC:

  • Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is perfect for the Dolphins situation, according to Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald. Fitzpatrick has helped their offensive unit maintain an acceptable level of competence, but not to a level that could cause the team to win enough games to have their first round pick fall outside the top five in next year’s draft. Salguero also notes that head coach Brian Flores’ choices have made clear that Miami believes that Josh Rosen is not the franchise’s answer under center.
  • The Bills defense dominated the Broncos offense in Sunday’s 20-3 victory. It’s no secret that Buffalo has one of the best defensive units in football, but one player seemed to be playing with a little chip on his shoulder. According to Denver7’s Troy Renck, Bills edge rusher Shaq Lawson, who recorded two sacks on Sunday, looked for Broncos center Connor McGovern after the contest to tell him, “You will remember me now.” Apparently, McGovern said he did not who Lawson was prior to the game and the Clemson alum took note.

Bills To Decline Shaq Lawson’s Option

Shaq Lawson is on track for unrestricted free agency following the 2019 season. The Bills will not pick up the defensive end’s fifth-year option, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

Lawson, a 2016 first-rounder, was a trade/cut candidate last offseason, though he ultimately remained with the club. He performed reasonably well despite the uncertainty, compiling four sacks for the second year in a row across 14 games (six starts). Lawson also set a career-high in defensive snaps, and graded out as an above-average edge defender, per Pro Football Focus, but ultimately didn’t do enough to coax the Bills into picking up his pricey option for 2020.

In the draft, the Bills added top defensive tackle prospect Ed Oliver in the first round to further bolster their front seven. Next year, they could be in the hunt for edge help.

You can keep track of all fifth-year option decisions for 2016 first round picks by going here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Undecided On Shaq Lawson’s Fifth-Year Option

The Bills remain uncertain as to whether they will exercise defensive end Shaq Lawson‘s fifth-year option for 2020, as Joe Buscaglia of WKBW tweets. GM Brandon Beane has until May 2 to make the call.

It is understandably not an easy decision for Beane to make. Lawson, a 2016 first-rounder, was a trade/cut candidate last offseason, though he ultimately remained with the club. He appeared in 14 games (six starts), and he compiled four sacks for the second consecutive season. He actually set a career-high in defensive snaps, and he graded out as an above-average edge defender, per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics.

So while Lawson has some value, he has not exactly lived up to his draft pedigree, and the 2020 option would tie him to a $14MM+ salary. Of course, that salary is guaranteed for injury only, but if Lawson should get hurt, the Bills may be on the hook for that hefty sum.

Buffalo added top DT prospect Ed Oliver with their 2019 first-round pick in an effort to further bolster its front seven.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Foster, Joseph, Mack

Good news for Steelers fans. Left guard Ramon Foster, who was carted off the practice field yesterday, hyperextended his knee but did not suffer any ligament damage and will not require surgery, as Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). Kinkhabwala adds that Foster will miss four to five weeks but is expected to be ready for Week 1.

Now let’s get to more notes from around the AFC:

  • Browns owner Jimmy Haslam expressed unwavering support of head coach Hue Jackson during Haslam’s traditional training camp address yesterday. Per Tony Grossi of ESPN 850 WKNR, Haslam said, “I think we will see the real Hue Jackson (this year). He has good quarterbacks, he has some skill players, he has veteran offensive line – now, we have to figure out left tackle – and three really good backs and a good defense. I think this will be the first opportunity Hue will have to do what we know he can do as head coach and as a leader. We are excited to see it.” That certainly sounds to some, like Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, that Jackson is getting a clean slate, which is quite surprising for a head coach who has compiled a 1-31 record over his two seasons with the club. But Grossi suggests that the Haslams could also be subtly putting Jackson on notice that he is out of excuses.
  • Johnathan Joseph, who signed a two-year, $10MM deal to remain with the Texans this offseason, does not plan on calling it quits anytime soon, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. The 34-year-old Joseph is entering the 13th year of his career, but he remains a starting cornerback and stills loves the game and the camaraderie it engenders. Joseph said, “as long as I’m healthy and I’m fine, I’m going to go out there and compete and contribute to the team. I’ll never play this game just to be playing and out there taking checks and stuff like that. So, if I’m able to be out there playing winning football, I’ll always play.”
  • We learned several days ago that Raiders star defensive end Khalil Mack, who is staying away from the team in an effort to land a new contract, has not spoken with head coach Jon Gruden since Gruden was hired in January. That report sent some of Raiders Nation into panic mode, but as Jerry McDonald of the Mercury News opines, there is no cause for alarm. He says Gruden is right to stay out of the negotiations, which is the domain of GM Reggie McKenzie and ownership, and that there should be no issues between Mack and Gruden when the contract situation does get resolved. McKenzie, meanwhile had no updates to offer on the negotiations.
  • In other Raiders news, Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com reports that rookie Kolton Miller will be given every chance to win the starting LT job from Donald Penn, who is currently on the PUP list.
  • Embattled Bills DE Shaq Lawson could be on his way out of Buffalo, but DC Leslie Frazier isn’t casting him aside just yet. Frazier said Lawson’s best football is ahead of him, and that he is much too young to say that 2018 is a make-or-break year (via Joe Buscaglia of WKBW on Twitter). However, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets, Frazier also refers to Trent Murphy as the team’s starting left end, which is further evidence that Lawson has ground to make up if he wants to remain a Bill.

Bills Notes: Lawson, McCarron, Peterman, Benjamin

Although Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson has said “all the right things to the media” this offseason, including saying recently that he knows he’s on the trading block and has to get better, he apparently still isn’t in good standing with the team, according to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Carucci writes that he’s “not buying” Lawson’s supposed turnaround and says that “parting ways with Lawson makes perfect sense” as “he’s not remotely close to being a good fit on Sean McDermott‘s team.”

Lawson, a first round pick in 2016, could find himself out of a roster spot after just two seasons. While Carucci thinks the Bills will try and trade Lawson, he doesn’t think they’ll get much for him, writing the “rest of the NFL recognizes that Lawson is on borrowed time and will likely offer little or simply wait for him to be released.”

Here’s more from Buffalo:

  • While Carucci thinks “Nathan Peterman looked good” during OTAs and minicamp, he doesn’t “fully buy the narrative that he’s soared to the top of the depth chart and is the front-runner to start.” Despite the offseason hype that Peterman has received, Carucci still thinks A.J. McCarron is the favorite to start.
  • Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin could be “setting himself up for a big contract” if he plays well in the final year of his deal, according to Joe Buscaglia of ABC 7 Buffalo. Buscaglia thinks the Bills will want to lock up Benjamin longterm if he can stay healthy, but writes that the team won’t “commit to him until he shows well, if he develops strong chemistry with [Josh] Allen, or a fair bit of both.”
  • Carucci thinks the Bills will look to add a pass-catcher during training camp. The Bills are a bit thin at receiver and Carucci thinks GM Brandon Beane will be aggressive, saying he thinks he will “as he did last August, look to add a receiver or two.”

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Gronk, Bills, Jets

Given what Rob Gronkowski brings to the field, he could make a legitimate case that he has transcended the tight end position and should be compared to game’s best pass catchers, CBSSports.com’s Joel Corry writes. A deal like that is out of the question given that Antonio Brown paces wide receivers with a $17MM/year deal, but it’s still food for thought as Gronk pushes for a revised contract.

Right now, Jimmy Graham is the league’s only $10MM/year tight end and Gronkowski can certainly make a case to earn more than him. And, if Gronk wants to weigh himself against wide receivers, his camp can point to the top of the second tier of the WR market which is in the $13MM/range with roughly $25-$30MM in guarantees.

Of course, the Pats still hold the cards as remains under contract through 2019 with base salaries of $8MM and $9MM in each of the next two seasons. Unless Gronk wants to start up the retirement talk again, or try to force his way out via trade, it seems unlikely that his next contract will be in line with the T.Y. Hiltons of the world.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson has gotten the sense that he could be traded this year if he does not step his game up. “Shoot, I’ve been on the trading block I feel like,” Lawson said (via Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic). “I’ve just been seeing it. Yeah, it’s been a wake-up call. I’ve been hearing trade rumors and then I kind of realized, ‘I’m a first-round pick, third-year now. It’s time to wake up.’ I know I’m a good player. I just have to put it all together and be not just a talented player but a talented player who works hard and works on his craft and skill all together.” Lawson probably has good reason to worry about his security in Buffalo. This offseason, the Bills signed Trent Murphy, who will likely squeeze him out of the starting lineup when he and Jerry Hughes are healthy. Meanwhile, the Bills have already shipped out a number of players from the Doug Whaley era, including Marcell DareusSammy Watkins, Ronald Darby, Reggie Ragland, and Cardale Jones.
  • The CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos have added former Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg to their negotiating list, according to Justin Dunk of 3DownNation.com. It’s unclear whether the former second-round pick is willing to play in Canada, but it’s also unclear as to whether he’ll get another NFL opportunity this year. The Raiders released Hackenberg shortly after acquiring him from the Jets and a recent visit with the Patriots did not result in a deal.

Bills Intend To Keep Jerry Hughes

Despite Jerry Hughes being set to take up $10.4MM of the Bills’ 2018 cap and the team having agreed to terms with Trent Murphy, it doesn’t look like Hughes is going anywhere.

Buffalo will not be cutting or trading Hughes, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News tweets.

Despite the Doug Whaley regime green-lighting Hughes’ five-year deal in 2015, the team wants to keep as much defensive end depth as it can. Shaq Lawson isn’t in danger of being moved, either, per Carucci (on Twitter), despite also arriving under Whaley.

The Bills have traded a few Whaley-era standouts recently, but Hughes and Lawson are in line to work alongside Murphy as the team’s defensive ends next season. Hughes will turn 30 during training camp and has not matched the back-to-back 10-sack seasons that occurred prior to his re-signing. But he still enjoyed a strong season, grading as a top-10 run defender (among edge players) last season, in Pro Football Focus’ view.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Place Matthews, Lawson On IR

The Bills are shutting down two of their starters for the rest of their seasons. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews and defensive end Shaq Lawson have been placed on injured reserve. Jordan Matthews (vertical)To fill their spots, the Bills have promoted defensive end Cap Capi and wide receiver Brandon Reilly to the active roster.

Matthews was the Eagles’ leading receiver in 2016, but Philly spent much of the offseason looking to unload him. In August, they found a taker in the Bills, who shipped Sammy Watkins to the Rams on the same day. Buffalo gave up cornerback Ronald Darby to receive Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick.

Unfortunately, injuries have held Matthews back all year long. Matthews recovered from a broken thumb and fractured sternum, but he has been dealing with a knee issue in recent weeks.

In ten games, the wide receiver had just 25 catches for 282 yards and one touchdown. That pales in comparison to the 73 catches for 804 yards and three touchdowns he had in 2016 and the career-high numbers (85 grabs, 997 yards, eight touchdowns) he put up in the previous year. Matthews is scheduled for free agency in March and he was hoping for a much better platform when he arrived in Buffalo.

Lawson, meanwhile, sprained his ankle last Sunday and had to be carted off of the field. The No. 19 overall pick in the 2016 draft has appeared in just 21 games in his first two NFL seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Browns, Santos, Bills, Ravens

Barely a month after Danny Shelton sustained a knee injury, the Browns defensive tackle suffered a calf malady during practice Wednesday. The team acknowledged it could be serious, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter), but also maintains hope the setback could also be minor. Hue Jackson referred to the occurrence as “unfortunate.” This came on a non-contact play, and Cabot notes (via Twitter) Shelton already underwent an MRI. Shelton encountered knee trouble during training camp but returned in time for the regular season. The 2015 first-round pick became a breakout player for the Browns last season. The former Washington defensive tackle has not missed a game during his NFL career. Rookie third-rounder Larry Ogunjobi would be in line to see more time if Shelton ended up missing action.

Here’s the latest from the AFC, continuing with some better news out of northeast Ohio.

  • Myles Garrett returned to Browns practice Thursday, working out with the team for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain just before the season’s outset. Jackson said on Wednesday the No. 1 overall pick might not see a full starter’s workload even if he is ready to play Sunday. The Browns are exercising caution with their top offseason investment, a player who’s struggled with ankle trouble since his junior year at Texas A&M. “He’s a huge piece of our organization, our future, so we want to be cautious but smart as we go through it,” the second-year coach said, via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com.
  • The Chiefs will consider making Cairo Santos one of their IR-boomerang players, Andy Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). Santos ventured to IR earlier this week after injuring his right groin during warmups Sunday in Los Angeles. Kansas City signed rookie Harrison Butker off the Panthers’ practice squad. A Santos re-emergence could get tricky, however. The Chiefs are likely planning to bring slot corner Steven Nelson off IR by Week 9, and teams can only pull two players off the injury list in a season. So it’s not certain Santos will get to continue kicking until next season.
  • Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson also ran into trouble during practice this week, suffering a groin injury Thursday, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports. A starter after missing most of his rookie season due to injury, Lawson has two sacks thus far. The recently signed Ryan Davis may be Buffalo’s top option if Lawson can’t play in Week 4.
  • Brent Urban‘s season-ending Lisfranc injury could conclude his time with the Ravens, with Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun writing the team will want to see if recent third-round picks Chris Wormley and Bronson Kaufusi are going to be worthy contributors. (Neither has played an NFL down.) However, Zreibec also notes Urban’s injury history — by the end of this season the former fourth-round pick will have played just 25 of 64 possible regular-season games with the Ravens — could make him a candidate to stay and rebuild his free agent stock. Urban started all three Ravens games this season, the first three starts of his career.

AFC Notes: Steelers, Jackson, Bills

Le’Veon Bell has recovered from offseason groin surgery. The Steelers running back has been playing pickup basketball in Los Angeles while his representatives discuss what would be a landmark extension, one that almost certainly would make Bell the NFL’s highest-paid running back. The fifth-year runner didn’t elaborate much on the process, though.

I’m good with everything, just taking it day to day for real,” Bell said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.

Attached to a $12.1MM franchise tag, Bell is the only player given the tag who did not sign his tender or agree to a long-term extension this offseason. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com noted this week the proposition of a Bell/Steelers pact “could go either way.” LeSean McCoy‘s $8MM-per-year salary is the current running back ceiling, but the 25-year-old Bell’s likely aiming to exceed that by quite a bit.

Here’s the latest from around the league.

  • One of Bell’s Steelers teammates did not have a good end to the work week. Miami Beach police arrested Artie Burns for driving with a suspended license Thursday night, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports. Burns was unable to provide a driver’s license and had back tickets totaling approximately $1,000, Fowler reports (Facebook link). The cornerback was released from custody on Friday. The Steelers have not commented on the incident.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap (Twitter links) is a bit surprised by the size of Gabe Jackson‘s deal with the Raiders. Even with growing salaries for guards, Fitzgerald did not expect Jackson to fetch a five-year, $56MM extension with $26MM in guarantees. It could be a sign of things to come in Oakland and Fitzgerald believes that linebacker Khalil Mack will wind up as the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL by a healthy margin when that deal gets done. As we learned Thursday, Mack will probably have to wait until next year to get his extension.
  • The Bills‘ move back to a 4-3 look will benefit its personnel more than Rex Ryan‘s 3-4 did, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News writes. In addition to Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams moving back to their natural spots inside, the Bills should have a better chance of seeing what they have in Shaq Lawson. Carucci notes Lawson never felt comfortable as a 3-4 outside linebacker — a position he’d never before played — and is a much better fit as a 4-3 end. Meanwhile, the Bills should be able to coax more from Jerry Hughes now that he’s back at end, with Carucci pointing out Ryan’s schemes at times called for the natural pass rusher to execute pass-coverage assignments. Hughes totaled 10 sacks apiece as a 4-3 end during the 2013 and ’14 seasons but combined for just 11 over the past two years.

Zach Links contributed to this report.