T.J. McDonald

Falcons To Meet With Iloka, McDonald

The Falcons will meet with George Iloka and T.J. McDonald for visits on Tuesday, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets. One, or both players, could help solidify the Falcons’ secondary in the wake of Keanu Neal‘s season-ending Achilles tear.

Iloka, who spent 2018 with the Vikings, missed the Cowboys’ final cut. The Cowboys guaranteed the 29-year-old $210K before his release, so he walked away with some spending cash. Since entering the NFL as a Bengals fifth-rounder in 2012, Iloka has started in 79 games.

McDonald, meanwhile, spent the previous two seasons with the Dolphins. Being out of work is not ideal, but on the plus side, he’s no longer with the Dolphins.

The Colts, who will be without Malik Hooker for a while, will begin their safety search by meeting with Marcus Gilchrist.

Latest On Dolphins’ Trades, Strategy

In addition to moving on from numerous veterans this offseason, the Dolphins have now traded two players who were seemingly building blocks in Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick. These moves appear to have tripped the NFL’s alarm.

The Tunsil trade involved numerous Texans offers, with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reporting the steps the AFC teams took to finalizing the trade that sent the left tackle to Houston. The Texans’ offers went from Jadeveon Clowney-for-Tunsil, straight up, to Clowney and a first-rounder for Tunsil to first- and second-rounders for Tunsil. The Dolphins managed to drive the price to two first-rounders and a second-round selection and requested tackle Julie’n Davenport in return, Salguero notes.

Upon seeing the Texans’ deal-closing offer on a board in Chris Grier‘s office, Tunsil told the Dolphins GM, “I would trade me for that too,” Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald adds (via Twitter).

In reshuffling their power structure after last season, the Dolphins were not planning to jettison Tunsil, Fitzpatrick, Kiko Alonso or T.J. McDonald. (The Dolphins dealt Alonso to the Saints and released McDonald.) Brian Flores‘ coaching staff clashed with Alonso, Salguero adds, and asked him to play multiple roles — including edge defender. The Dolphins demoted the highly paid linebacker before trading him.

Fitzpatrick is a Steeler, being dealt after a trade request. The second-year defensive back was not on board with the versatile role the Dolphins asked him to play, and Salguero adds the team never found a sufficient comfort level that would allow Fitzpatrick to settle in at one spot. Both Grier and owner Stephen Ross attempted to help Fitzpatrick and Miami’s coaching staff find common ground.

Myself, Brian, and Steve (Ross) — we had multiple conversations with him, saying we wanted him here and viewed him as a core piece and wanted him here,” Grier said. “The kid just felt it was time for him to move, and we told him what the value was. We told teams we had multiple offers, and we felt that the Pittsburgh one was the one best for the organization.”

Fitzpatrick’s rookie deal was worth $16.447MM over four years. Similar to the deal in which the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen, the Steelers are only on the hook for Fitzpatrick’s base salaries. Pittsburgh has the 2018 No. 11 overall pick under contract through 2021 for $5.48MM, Field Yates of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter).
The Dolphins now hold three 2020 first-round picks. A building suspicion in NFL circles centers on the prospect this Dolphins rebuild may be a stealth effort for Trevor Lawrence in 2021, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. But Salguero adds one of Miami’s three 2020 first-rounders will be used to draft a quarterback — regardless of how Rosen performs in what now may be an extended audition. The Cardinals in 2018-19 and Baltimore Colts in 1982-83 were the most recent franchises to draft first-round passers in consecutive years, so as of now it looks like this oft-labeled tanking strategy is built around Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa (should he enter the 2020 draft).

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Raiders Audition T.J. McDonald, Other DBs

One of the many veterans the Dolphins either traded, released or let walk in free agency this year, T.J. McDonald has drawn interest from another AFC team. The Raiders put McDonald through a Thursday workout, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

McDonald and fellow defensive backs Kentrell Brice, Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Juston Burris participated in the audition. Additionally, Marcus Cooper and Coty Sensabaugh were part of this extensive audition, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter).

The Raiders lost first-round safety Johnathan Abram to a severe shoulder injury, which is expected to end his rookie season after one game, and saw cornerback Gareon Conley stretchered off the field in a scary scene Monday. Conley, however, avoided a serious injury and may have a chance to play in Week 2.

A 28-year-old safety who came into the league with the 2013 Rams, McDonald has started all 75 games in which he’s played. This included 14 starts for the 2018 Dolphins. The Dolphins ate nearly $5MM in dead money by cutting McDonald in August.

The Buccaneers signed Brice in March but cut him earlier this month. Brice started 10 games at safety for the Packers last season. A three-year cornerback veteran, Boddy-Calhoun played in 43 games (22 starts) for the Browns from 2016-18. Burris suited up for 38 with the Jets and Browns from 2016-18. Sensabaugh and Cooper are much older, having begun their careers in 2012 and ’13, respectively. Sensabaugh started in 10 Steelers games last season; Cooper was buried on the Bears’ 2018 depth chart and didn’t see too much action later that season as a Lion.

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Dolphins Release S T.J. McDonald

Surprising news out of Miami, as the Dolphins announced on Twitter that they’re releasing veteran safety T.J. McDonald

The move came as a surprise to most writers covering the team, and they won’t save a ton of money by cutting him. McDonald still had $3.7MM of his $5.1MM salary guaranteed for this season, and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets that they added $4.6MM in dead cap while saving just $1.4MM in cap space. Last we heard, McDonald had been receiving starters’ reps in training camp. It’s been widely speculated that the Dolphins were heading for a split with safety Reshad Jones, although this move might suggest that Jones is safe.

We heard just yesterday that Jones was being shopped in trade talks, but now it’s unclear if that’s still the case. The Dolphins also have been using Bobby McCain at safety, and they have last year’s first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick as well. McDonald originally entered the league as a third round pick of the Rams back in 2013. After spending his first four seasons in with the Rams, the USC product signed with Miami.

He was suspended for eight games prior to his first year with the Dolphins, but he still managed to make a strong impression with the team. Before he ever appeared in a game for them, they gave him a four-year, $24MM extension in September of 2017. The old regime of Adam Gase and Mike Tannebaum was always high on him, but things have clearly changed with Miami’s new leadership. McDonald is still only 28, and he should have no problem finding a new home on the open market. He started 14 games for the Dolphins last year, recording 86 tackles and three interceptions.

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AFC East Notes: Brady, Bills, Dolphins

More information continues to trickle out about Tom Brady‘s contract. The Patriots initially offered Brady another batch of incentives to start this process, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston reports (video link). Given that Brady did not capitalize on any of his 2018 incentives, it was understandable his camp balked at such a proposal. The 20th-year quarterback did not mind a year-to-year setup, and Curran adds the clause preventing the Pats from franchising him next year came about because Brady wanted autonomy for the first time. He has never played into a contract year; he will now.

Through the void years tactic, the Patriots will be tagged with just north of $13MM in dead money if Brady were to leave after 2019, Curran adds (on Twitter). In structuring the deal this way, the Patriots gained $5.5MM in cap space and the opportunity to evaluate Brady’s age-42 season without making a true commitment beyond 2019.

With news surrounding the highest-profile player in the history of the AFC East overshadowing the others, let’s look at what else is coming out of this division on Tuesday evening:

  • The Bills are still deciding between playing second-round pick Cody Ford at tackle or guard, Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The bulk of Buffalo’s offensive line depth resides on the interior, with Russell Bodine, Jon Feliciano and Wyatt Teller (seven starts as a 2018 rookie) on the roster. Ford moving inside could complicate their statuses, but Mitch Morse dealing with another concussion may make the Bills opt for extra insurance on their interior. Feliciano and Teller are likely to be on the 53-man roster, per Buscaglia. Ford started a handful of games at guard in 2016 and ’17, before moving to right tackle last season.
  • T.J. Yeldon joins some of the Bills’ veteran reserve linemen on the roster bubble. The four-year Jaguar is battling special-teamer Senorise Perry for the final running back job, Buscaglia writes, adding that Yeldon appears to be losing this competition. The Bills signed Yeldon to a two-year, $3.2MM deal with $500K guaranteed. The latter figure does not exactly ensure a roster spot. But Yeldon could benefit if the Bills try to trade LeSean McCoy, which has been rumored this summer.
  • Reshad Jones has been spotted in a walking boot and a cast on his right foot, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. He has missed multiple Dolphins practices. The well-paid safety has been a trade candidate for a bit now, and moving a $17.1MM cap figure off the roster would be in line with the rebuilding team’s offseason decisions. Additionally, Jones has been working with Miami’s second-string defense, with Jackson adding that Bobby McCain and T.J. McDonald have seen the bulk of the starter reps in camp. The Dolphins may have a difficult time unloading Jones’ $12MM-AAV contract.
  • A UDFA wideout has caught Xavien Howard‘s attention. The Dolphins’ No. 1 corner tabbed rookie Preston Williams as a potential “No. 1 receiver one day,” per Jackson. A 6-foot-5 receiver out of Colorado State, Williams made an impression in minicamp and has continued to do so in pads. Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant and DeVante Parker are roster locks, Jackson adds, with Williams likely competing with Allen Hurns and Brice Butler for one of the final two slots in a likely six-man receiving corps.

Dolphins Notes: Gase, McDonald, Fitzpatrick

On Thursday, Dolphins coach Adam Gase did a Q&A with local reporters. Here’s a look at the highlights, via Chris Perkins of the Sun Sentinel:

  • Don’t expect the Dolphins to make a major splash in the late stages of free agency. “It feels right for us right now,” Gase said of the roster. “I feel like we’re in a good place. It feels like we’ve got the type of people all working in the same direction and working toward the same goal.
  • The Dolphins stood pat at No. 11 in the draft and did not select a quarterback in the first round, even though some expected them to consider a signal caller. Gase says that has to do with the team’s confidence in Ryan Tannehill‘s knee as well as the potential of backups Brock Osweiler and David Fales. “We felt like those guys were going to go before 11,” Gase said of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, and UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who were all selected within the top 10. “And we knew that was probably going to be the case, and we felt good about what we had as far as Ryan starting and Brock and Fales competing for No. 2.”
  • The Dolphins, of course, used that No. 11 selection on Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The addition of Fitzpatrick will not result in T.J. McDonald moving to linebacker, Gase says. McDonald will instead serve as the first safety off of the bench, behind Fitzpatrick and strong safety Reshad Jones.

East Rumors: Mayfield, Dolphins, Eagles

While multiple reports have indicated the Jets‘ goal for their No. 3 pick was Sam Darnold, their new heir apparent, Baker Mayfield‘s agent said the team was effusive in its praise for his client when he visited Gang Green headquarters in April.

When he visited the Jets, they pretty much said ‘You’re our guy if you’re there,'” Mayfield’s agent Jack Mills said on “The Business of Sport with Andrew Brandt” podcast (via Newsday). “(The Browns) didn’t say you’re our guy. I don’t know what they said. They liked him and (John) Dorsey never contacted us.”

It’s since come out the Browns had several executives independently declare Mayfield was the draft’s top quarterback, but for weeks, the Jets/Mayfield noise increased. However, this may well have been contingent on Darnold not getting past Cleveland.

Here’s the latest from the East divisions, continuing with a Dolphins draft what-if.

  • Here’s a nice chain reaction from the fourth round: the Ravens appear to have sought Miami running back Mark Walton with their fourth-round pick, but the Bengals took him at No. 112. This led to Baltimore selecting Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett at No. 118. This, in turn, depressed some in the Dolphins‘ war room. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears the Dolphins sought Averett with their fourth-rounder (No. 122), but they ended up drafting Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe. This came after Miami already took Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki in Round 2.
  • The Dolphins have T.J. McDonald signed through 2020, but they may be considering moving him to linebacker, per Jackson. Miami extended McDonald last September and deployed him as a starting safety in eight games after his eight-game suspension ended. He graded as a middle-of-the-pack safety in the view of Pro Football Focus, but the analytics site rated McDonald as an upper-echelon run defender. Set to have Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan start at two of their three linebacker spots, the Dolphins may have an interest in stationing McDonald at one of their outside positions. Although, they did draft former McMillan Ohio State teammate Jerome Baker in the third round.
  • Darren Sproles will make $1.015MM in base salary this season with the Eagles, per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. It’s uncertain what bonuses and incentives are in the 34-year-old running back’s contract, but Sproles is already on the books for this salary.
  • The Eagles are highly unlikely to pick up Nick Foles‘ mutual option in 2019, Parks notes. That figure is worth $20.6MM as a result of the renegotiated deal the Eagles and Foles agreed upon earlier this year. Foles faced a somewhat similar circumstance in 2016, when the Chiefs did not pick up an eight-figure option and sent him back into free agency. Shorr-Parks writes the Eagles understandably would be more willing to work out a long-term deal with their backup quarterback than have him stick around on that price.

Dolphins To Place RT Ja’Wuan James On IR

The Dolphins will be without a key member of their offensive line for the rest of the season. According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (via Twitter), the team has placed right tackle Ja’Wuan James on the injured reserve. Head coach Adam Gase told reporters yesterday that James could be shelved due to a hamstring injury. The Dolphins have activated safety T.J. McDonald off the reserve/suspended list to take his spot on the roster.

Ja'Wuan James (Vertical)James, a 2014 first-round pick out of Tennessee, started all eight games this season. Pro Football Focus was particularly fond of his performance in 2017, ranking him 10th among 78 eligible tackle candidates. The lineman has been a mainstay on the Dolphins over the past four years, having started all 16 games in 2014 and 2016 (he missed nine games in 2015 due to a toe injury). The Dolphins had picked up James’ fifth-year option back in May, which is only guaranteed for injury. In other words, the lineman would have to pass a physical if the team wanted out of the $9.341MM obligation.

With only around $1MM in cap space, the Dolphins will be hard pressed to add reinforcement via free agency. Jesse Davis, who previously started a pair of games at offensive guard, will fill in for James at right tackle. James will join Anthony Steen and Eric Smith on the injured reserve, although Ted Larsen is expected to return from his biceps injury.

Shortly after signing a one-year deal with the Dolphins, McDonald was suspended eight games by the NFL. Following an impressive preseason, the 26-year-old ultimately signed a four-year extension with the organization. McDonald started 16 games for the Rams last season, compiling 64 tackles and six passes defended. He’ll look to displace Reshad Jones or Michael Thomas atop the depth chart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Broncos, Ward, Dorsett

The Broncos did not discuss a pay cut with safety T.J. Ward before releasing him on Saturday, Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post tweets. “It was a football decision,” a team source tells her, adding that the motivation was to give more playing time to Justin Simmons and Will Parks. Meanwhile, Broncos players are upset about losing Ward and his locker room presence, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets.

While Ward searches for a new home, here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Colts had offers for Phillip Dorsett from other teams, but those proposed swaps involved draft choices instead of netting a young player at a positional need, Mike Lombardi of The Ringer tweets. Lombardi doesn’t name teams, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link) says the 49ers, Jets and Cardinals were among the teams that showed preliminary interest in him.
  • The Jets are expected to be interested in running back Travaris Cadet now that he has been released by New Orleans, Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets. The Jets showed interest in Cadet during free agency but ultimately lost out.
  • T.J. McDonald‘s new deal with the Dolphins has built in protections for the team that will override his guarantees if he has another suspension issue, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald tweets. The pact includes $10MM in “guarantees,” but McDonald can’t slip up if he wants to collect on all of it.
  • Wide receiver Victor Cruz says that he got a “clean bill of health” on his MRI this week, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets. He’s now a free agent after being released by Chicago.
  • Chiefs GM Brett Veach says veteran running back C.J. Spiller could still end up on the Chiefs’ roster (Twitter link via BJ Kissel of Chiefs.com). Spiller was among the Chiefs’ mass cuts on Saturday as they trimmed down to 53.

Dolphins, T.J. McDonald Agree To Extension

The Dolphins and safety T.J. McDonald have agreed to a four-year, $24MM extension, as James Walker of ESPN.com tweets. The deal includes $10MM in guaranteed money. "<strong

The Dolphins won’t get to see McDonald in live action for a while thanks to his eight-game suspension, but they have been floored by his performance thus far in the summer. He originally came to Miami on a low-risk, one-year deal, but the Fins have seen enough to warrant giving him a multi-year deal at a starter’s salary.

McDonald was a longtime starter for the Rams, but L.A. showed little interest in retaining him. His suspension didn’t come down until the end of March, but it seems that the Rams had some sense of the punishment that was coming his way for the DUI arrest and drug charges.

In 2016, McDonald had 62 total tackles, two interceptions, one sack, and six passes defensed. He graded out as as Pro Football Focus’ 58th best safety in the NFL last season. The Fins clearly disagree with the advanced metrics and see him as a much stronger player.

When McDonald is in uniform, the Dolphins will have a strong safety combo between him and Reshad Jones. In the interim, Jones will be paired with Nate Allen.

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