Steven Nelson

AFC Notes: Ramsey, Steelers, Kafka

It looks like Jaguars owner Shad Khan was mistaken. Khan, who has seemingly been overly optimistic about the Jalen Ramsey situation ever since his trade demand became public, said earlier this week that he expected Ramsey to play in Week 6. That was apparently news to Ramsey, and his camp soon put out word that he hadn’t committed to playing this week. Indeed, it “would be a major surprise if he plays this week,” tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Ramsey was limited in practice all week, which is obviously a step in the right direction considering he hadn’t practiced until then since his back injury popped up. All indications are that Ramsey hasn’t wavered from his trade demand, although Khan continues to act like nothing is wrong. The Jaguars owner has also said he intends to give the Florida State product a record-breaking extension. Jacksonville has a tough game against the Saints on Sunday, and it looks like Gardner Minshew will be leading them into the game shorthanded.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Speaking of injured cornerbacks, Steelers corner Steven Nelson won’t be playing this week either. Nelson suffered a groin injury during the team’s Week 5 loss to the Ravens, and the team just announced he’s been ruled out. In his place, Pittsburgh will start 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns. Burns has been labeled a bust by many and the Steelers declined his fifth-year option this past offseason, which shows you how they feel about him. Nelson had been playing pretty well alongside Joe Haden, so this is a big downgrade to the Steelers’ secondary as they prepare to take on the Chargers.
  • Add one more young assistant coach to the list of ones to monitor in the Chiefs’ Mike Kafka. Kafka is “very well respected” and is a possible future head coach, tweets Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL radio. Kafka was a former backup quarterback for the Eagles, and he now works under his former head coach Andy Reid. Kafka is Patrick Mahomes‘ position coach and there’s a long history of former Reid assistants landing head jobs, so it certainly makes sense.
  • In case you missed it, the Jets moved on from quarterback Luke Falk after he started the last two weeks for them.

Contract Details: Smith, James, Wake

The latest details on deals from around the NFL:

Contract Details: Amos, Patterson, Carpenter, Brown

Let’s take a look at the details of a few freshly-signed contracts:

Steelers To Sign CB Steven Nelson

Not usually big spenders in free agency, the Steelers are authorizing a mid-level deal to help their secondary. Pittsburgh agreed to terms with Steven Nelson, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

The four-year Chiefs cornerback will receive a three-year, $25.5MM pact. Nelson figures to be in line to make a strong run at the starting corner job opposite Joe Haden. While this is not a high-end cornerback contract, it is one of the biggest free agent deals the continuity-centric Steelers have ever finalized.

The Steelers’ Artie Burns pick has not gone as the franchise had hoped, with the 2016 first-round selection having been benched last season. Nelson had a much busier season, being picked on often. But the 2015 third-round pick intercepted four passes — the first four of his career — and was a constant in the Chiefs’ secondary.

Nelson, 26, did not play much as a rookie but emerged as Kansas City’s slot defender in 2016. After an injury-delayed 2017, Nelson moved outside and worked in that role last season. Pro Football Focus graded Nelson as the No. 33 corner last year.

He will join Haden in comprising a free agent tandem at corner for the draft-and-develop organization, with undrafted free agent Mike Hilton likely to continue to work in the slot. Haden has one season remaining on his three-year, $27MM contract.

One interesting side effect from this agreement: it may well affect the Steelers’ compensatory pick for Le’Veon Bell. The All-Pro running back’s next deal is not known, but OverTheCap’s Nick Korte projects (via Twitter) that if Bell signs for less than $11MM per year, the Steelers’ compensatory pick for him will drop to a fourth-rounder because of this Nelson deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Gates, Cardinals, Chiefs

Less than a month remains until the Chargers break for training camp, and they have not yet made a move to fill the void Hunter Henry‘s ACL tear created. The Bolts have reached out to Antonio Gates, but the future Hall of Famer remains unattached. However, longtime Gates teammate LaDainian Tomlinson believes the 38-year-old pass-catcher is not interested in overtures from other teams, especially given the Chargers’ current predicament.

I believe the only place Antonio wants to play is the Chargers,” said Tomlinson, who serves as a special assistant to the Chargers’ front office, on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via NFL.com). “I think he has the mind frame of, ‘If I go play, it’s gonna be for the Chargers. If it’s not the Chargers, then I’m good; I won’t play.”

Gates has not been connected to other teams this offseason. The Chargers and Gates have been circling each other for weeks now. A reunion — one Tom Telesco is now open to — may come during camp in the event the Bolts are not pleased with their tight end situation. Virgil Green represents the only proven healthy tight end on the roster at this point.

Shifting to one of the teams that will start camp earlier because of the hiring of a new head coach, here’s what’s new out of the West divisions.

  • Based on the events of this offseason, Christian Kirk expects the first NFL passes he’ll catch to be from Sam Bradford. Despite the Cardinals easing their injury-plagued acquisition into work, Kirk’s gotten the impression Bradford will be the starter in Week 1. “To be honest, just with what the coaches have said and just the way it’s looking, I’m pretty sure Sam is going to start,” Kirk said during an NFL Total Access appearance (via NFL.com). Bradford’s Vikings run encountered a steep descent after Week 1 of last season, so recent Josh Rosen praise is probably relevant to the Cards’ short-term matters as well as their long-distance future.
  • One of the Cardinals who can expect more work in 2018 will be Ricky Seals-Jones, per Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link). Jurecki sees the second-year UDFA seeing far more targets compared to the 28 he saw last season, even with Jermaine Gresham still on the team. Seals-Jones caught 12 passes for 201 yards and three TDs in 2017.
  • Attempting to piece together a new-look secondary, the Chiefs are trying Steven Nelson as an outside cornerback. Nelson played almost exclusively outside during Kansas City’s offseason program, per Nate Taylor of The Athletic (subscription required). “I’m an outside corner,” he said, via Taylor. “I’ll just say that. It’s up to the coaches. I can play both, I’m versatile. But for this (summer), I’ve been outside.” Nelson previously functioned as K.C.’s slot corner in both 2016 and ’17, but with Kendall Fuller now in line to commandeer that role, the Chiefs are shuttling Nelson to the boundary in advance of his contract year. Nelson served as a full-time corner in 2016 before an injury-plagued 2017, and a Fuller-Nelson-David Amerson setup could be in the works for K.C. post-Marcus Peters. Not much depth exists behind this troika, so this would be the logical top three going into camp.

Chiefs Considered Trading Steven Nelson?

The Chiefs traded away top cornerback Marcus Peters last week, but the club also considered dealing another defensive back in Steven Nelson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link)."<strong

It’s unclear if Kansas City was choosing between a Peters or a Nelson trade, or if a deal involving Nelson could still come to fruition. The Chiefs had been shopping Peters for more than three weeks, tweets Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star, so the club could have been discussing Nelson swaps during that period, as well.

Whether or not Nelson is dealt, the Chiefs’ defensive backfield figures to undergo significant change this offseason. Peters and Darrelle Revis (who was recently released) won’t be back in 2017, while Terrance Mitchell, Phillip Gaines, and Kenneth Acker all are scheduled for unrestricted free agency. It hasn’t been all subtractions for Kansas City’s secondary, however, as the club did acquire cornerback Kendall Fuller as part of the Alex Smith trade and ink ex-Raiders cornerback David Amerson to a one-year deal.

Nelson, 25, has been an above-average corner for the majority of his three-year career. In 2017, Nelson didn’t come off injured reserve until October while dealing with a core muscle ailment, but became a starter immediately upon his activation and graded as the league’s No. 62 corner among 121 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. The year prior, Nelson finished 36th among 84 cornerbacks in Football Outsiders’ success rate.

A third-round pick out of Oregon State in 2015, Nelson has one season left on his rookie contract. Thanks to the NFL’s proven performance escalator program, Nelson will earn a base salary of $1.908MM during the upcoming campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2018 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.Jay Ajayi (Vertical)

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 $1.908MM in 2018. 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 2018 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Trent Brown, T; Eli Harold, LB

Bears: Adrian Amos, S

Bengals: Tyler Kroft, TE; Josh Shaw, DB

Bills: John Miller, G

Broncos: Max Garcia, G; Trevor Siemian, QB

Browns: Duke Johnson, RB

Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, LB

Cardinals: David Johnson, RB; J.J. Nelson, WR

Chargers: Kyle Emanuel, LB

Chiefs: Chris Conley, WR; Steven Nelson, CB

Colts: Henry Anderson, DE; Mark Glowinski, G; Denzelle Good, OL

Dolphins: Bobby McCain, CB

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, RB; Jordan Hicks, LB

Falcons: Grady Jarrett, DT

Jaguars: A.J. Cann, OL

Lions: Quandre Diggs, CB

Packers: Jake Ryan, LB

Panthers: Daryl Williams, T

Patriots: Trey Flowers, DE; Shaq Mason, G

Raiders: Clive Walford, TE

Rams: Jamon Brown, G

Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, LB

Redskins: T.J. Clemmings, OL; Jamison Crowder, WR

Saints: Tyeler Davison, DT

Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR

Steelers: Jesse James, TE

Vikings: Stefon Diggs, WR; Danielle Hunter, DE

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

Chiefs Activate CB Steven Nelson Off IR

The Chiefs announced that they have activated cornerback Steven Nelson off of injured reserve. Kansas City first decided to bring Nelson back last week, but it’s now official. Steven Nelson (vertical)

A core muscle injury sidelined Nelson in the summer, forcing KC to park him on IR for the first two months of the season. Now that he’s served his time, the Chiefs are using one of their two IR-DTR spots to bring him back.

Nelson, 24, started for the Chiefs last season and he could slide back into his old job rather quickly. Terrance Mitchell has filled in as a starting corner for Kansas City, but he’s struggled (No. 85 CB per Pro Football Focus), so Nelson would be the obvious choice to take over, provided that he is near 100% healthy.

Last year, Nelson played 90% of Kansas City’s defensive snaps opposite Marcus Peters. In his 15 games (14 starts), he had 64 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and 16 passes defensed.

The 5-2 Chiefs will face the Broncos on Monday night. If they win, they’ll enter a three-way tie with the Patriots and the Steelers for the top record in the AFC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs To Bring CB Steven Nelson Off IR

The Chiefs intend to bring cornerback Steven Nelson off injured reserve, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link), who reports Nelson’s status has been changed to reserve/injured with a designation to return.Steven Nelson (Vertical)

Nelson suffered a core muscle injury during the summer, but the Chiefs placed him on their initial 53-man roster instead of putting him on IR before final cutdowns. That maneuver now allows them to bring Nelson back, and that’s been the plan all along. Nelson, 24, was full-time starter during the 2016 campaign, as he played 90% of Kansas City’s defensive snaps opposite Marcus Peters.

Nelson’s return should buoy a Chiefs defense that ranks just 21st in DVOA and 17th in passing defense DVOA. Terrance Mitchell has filled in as a starting corner for Kansas City, but he’s struggled (No. 81 CB per Pro Football Focus), so it shouldn’t be surprising is Nelson immediately slides back into his old role. Mitchell and Phillip Gaines should be used more sparingly once Nelson returns.

NFL rules now allow clubs to bring two players back from IR, but the Chiefs don’t have any other options at present to designate as return players. Safety Eric Berry, running back Spencer Ware, wide receiver Chris Conley, and defensive back Ashton Lampkin all suffered season-ending injuries that won’t allow them to return in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Bolles, Bucannon, Chiefs, Hawks

Despite the Broncos fearing multiple severe injuries for left tackle Garett Bolles, the rookie suited up for practice on Thursday and has a chance to play against the Bills. Vance Joseph (via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post) said the team thought Bolles’ injury, determined to be a bruise on his lower left leg, was more serious than it ended up being. Joseph said the first-round pick is “getting better fast” but is obviously hesitant about proclaiming him ready to return to the starting lineup. Bolles has fared well in his first two games, prior to being carted off in the third quarter of the Broncos’ Week 2 win.

Bolles said he also “thought it was serious” and will not rush back. Denver’s bye comes in Week 5, so holding Bolles out for two games would make sense. But his return to practice, on a limited basis, so soon bodes well for a possible return against the Bills or Raiders before the week off.

Donald Stephenson initially received the call to replace Bolles at left tackle Sunday, but utility man Allen Barbre ended up seeing more time there. Barbre and Max Garcia were alternating at left guard, but the veteran played tackle with the Eagles at times in recent years and provides versatility if the Broncos aren’t keen on throwing Stephenson — whom they replaced at right tackle in free agency with Menelik Watson — back out there. Bolles represents the fourth left tackle starter in four seasons for the Broncos, who have also seen numerous players line up with the first-stringers on the right edge in that time.

Here’s more from the Western divisions prior to tonight’s NFC West matchup.

  • Deone Bucannon‘s lengthy recovery from an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated just before Week 1, could produce the Cardinals inside linebacker returning to action in Week 3, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes (on Twitter). Bruce Arians said (via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com) Bucannon’s “getting real close” to returning but would be on a snap count if he did so against the Cowboys. The Cards have used Karlos Dansby and first-rounder Haason Reddick as starters while Bucannon’s been out. Bucannon underwent surgery in May.
  • Speaking of injury returns, it sounds like the Chiefs are planning to make cornerback Steven Nelson one of their IR-boomerang players. The third-year corner is eligible to come off IR in Week 9, and Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star notes that return is likely. For the time being, the Chiefs have gotten by with 2016 practice squad promotion Terrance Mitchell operating as Marcus Peters‘ top complement. However, Pro Football Focus rates Mitchell and Phillip Gaines — the former third-round pick whom Mitchell usurped late last season — as its Nos. 96 and 100 full-time cornerbacks through two games. A core muscle injury sidelined Nelson, K.C.’s primary slot defender last season.
  • Do the Seahawks miss Jermaine Kearse? Seattle’s offense has largely sputtered in its first two games, and Doug Baldwin does see a hole where Kearse — traded to the Jets for Sheldon Richardson — departed. “Specifically on the football field, just the intricacies that he did in our offense, guys aren’t used to doing it, they didn’t have to do them, because Jermaine was so willing and able to do it, now guys are being called to do those things and that is another challenge for us,” Baldwin said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Paul Richardson and third-round rookie Amara Darboh are seeing more time, Richardson especially, after Kearse’s exit. Baldwin leads Seattle’s wideout contingent with 107 air yards; no other Hawks pass-catcher has 80.