T.J. Yeldon

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.

Bills To Sign T.J. Yeldon

The Bills are set to sign running back T.J. Yeldon, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). When finalized, it’ll be a two-year deal for the veteran.

The 25-year-old (26 in October) met with the Patriots earlier in the month but wound up signing with a different AFC East team. With Buffalo, Yeldon will serve as a backup behind LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, two talented players who are both on the other side of 30.

Jacksonville scaled back Yeldon’s role over time. After a 182-carry rookie season, the former second-round pick ended his Jaguars stay as the team’s third-string running back behind Leonard Fournette and Carlos Hyde. Still, Yeldon managed a respectable 4.0 yards per carry last season and has hit the 5.0 ypc mark in the past.

And, despite the lack of carries, Yeldon caught a career-high 55 passes for 487 yards and four touchdowns last year. Only two Bills — wideouts Robert Foster and Zay Jones — topped Yeldon’s receiving-yardage total last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Host T.J. Yeldon On Visit

T.J. Yeldon spent Tuesday touring another AFC East team’s facility. After meeting with the Patriots last week, the former Jaguars running back is visiting with the Bills, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The Bills have two All-Decade team-caliber backs in LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, but both are north of 30. Entering what would be his fifth season, Yeldon would obviously represent fresher legs.

Jacksonville, however, diminished Yeldon’s role as his time in north Florida progressed. After a 182-carry rookie season, the one-time second-round pick ended his Jaguars stay as the team’s third-string running back — behind Leonard Fournette and Carlos Hyde. Yeldon has averaged north of 5.0 yards per carry, however, doing so as recently as 2017. He averaged 4.0 yards per handoff last season.

The 25-year-old runner was the Jags’ top pass-catching back for a while, however, and he hauled in a career-high 55 passes for 487 yards and four touchdowns last year. McCoy is obviously one of the best receiving backs of this era, but he is going into his 11th season. Only two Bills — wideouts Robert Foster and Zay Jones — surpassed Yeldon’s receiving-yardage total last season.

In Year 3 of the Brandon Beane/Sean McDermott partnership, the Bills have used free agency revamped their offense considerably. John Brown and Cole Beasley are in place at wide receiver, with Tyler Kroft now at tight end. Several new linemen are now on the roster as well. Yeldon would be a similar step for a Bills team that has changed up most of its McCoy supporting cast.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Host Demaryius Thomas, T.J. Yeldon

The Patriots hosted wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and running back T.J. Yeldon on Wednesday, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

New England would make sense as a potential landing spot for Thomas on a number of levels. The 31-year-old pass-catcher was originally drafted by then-Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, who is now the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. The Pats reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Thomas from Denver before he was dealt to Houston, and New England needs offensive help given the loss of Rob Gronkowski and Cordarrelle Patterson, the potential loss of free agent Chris Hogan, and the uncertain status of Josh Gordon.

While Thomas would give the Patriots another option on their wide receiver depth chart, he’s certainly not the threat he once was. While splitting time between Denver and Houston in 2018, Thomas posted only 59 receptions for 677 yards, his lowest totals since 2011 (before he was a full-time starter).

Thomas tore his Achilles in December, and it’s not clear when he’ll be able to return to the field. Additionally, he was taken into police custody after being involved in a car accident in February. There’s been no new information on Thomas’ legal status recently, but each of these factors will likely make him an affordable potential signing for the Patriots.

Like Thomas, Yeldon hasn’t drawn any other known free agent interest since the market opened in mid-March. After starting for the Jaguars during his first two years in the NFL, Yeldon became a backup after Jacksonville drafted Leonard Fournette in 2017. Yeldon has averaged only four yards per carry since entering the league, but he’s been a consistent weapon in the passing game, averaging about 43 receptions per season. Football Outsiders ranked him among its top-20 most efficient pass-catching running backs in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars Shopping DT Malik Jackson, RB Carlos Hyde

The Jaguars are apparently looking to move on from a pair of veterans. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the organization is trying to trade defensive tackle Malik Jackson and running back Carlos Hyde. The team is hoping to make a move by the start of the league year on March 13th.

Jackson hasn’t missed a game with the Jaguars since he inked a massive six-year, $85.5MM contract ($31.5MM guaranteed) back in 2016. He started all 32 of his games during his first two seasons in Jacksonville, and he earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2017. However, he took a bit of a step back in 2018, and he was ultimately benched for Taven Bryan down the stretch. He finished the season with 32 tackles and 3.5 sacks, with Pro Football Focus ranking him 85th among 112 interior defenders.

Jackson is owed more than $13MM in each of the next three seasons, and his cap hit exceeds $15MM in 2019 and 2020. If a team were to acquire Jackson, they’d surely be looking for him to take a significant pay cut. The Jaguars could also choose to cut the 29-year-old, although they’d be left with $4MM in dead cap in 2019 and $2MM in dead cap in 2020.

Hyde joined the Jaguars in a midseason trade with the Browns, and he proceeded to run for 189 yards and zero touchdowns in eight games (two starts). Hyde has two more years remaining on his deal, but Jacksonville does have the ability to get out of the contract this offseason. With T.J. Yeldon hitting free agency, the team could also decide to retain Hyde as Leonard Fournette insurance.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Jets, Johnson, Jaguars, Yeldon, Fournette, Blount, Lions

We heard yesterday he was being fired, and the Todd Bowles era ended in very disappointing fashion today. The Jets were destroyed by the Patriots by a final score of 38-3. The defense was shredded by Tom Brady, and the unit was without one of their top players in Trumaine Johnson. Johnson was a healthy scratch, and it was because he was a no show for meetings and practice this week, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN (Twitter link).

Johnson said after the game that he overslept and was late to practice on Wednesday, and that that’s why he was benched, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com. Johnson was signed away from the Rams this offseason with a massive contract, and has mostly been a disappointment. He’s played pretty well overall, but not at the level to deserve the five-year $72MM contract New York handed him. While GM Mike Maccagnan likely wishes he had that one back, his contract makes it impossible to move on until 2020 at the earliest, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com thinks the Jets might be “trying to set the stage” for a suspension of some sorts that could void guaranteed money in his contract. Any such actions would surely draw a stiff challenge from the player’s union.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Jaguars running backs T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette were caught by TV cameras sitting on the bench for nearly the entire game today instead of standing on the sideline, and head of football operations Tom Coughlin ripped their actions after the game, per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. “I am disappointed in the behavior today from T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette. They were disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player,” Coughlin said. While Fournette is locked into Jacksonville’s future with his fully guaranteed contract, Yeldon is set to be a free agent at the end of the year and is highly unlikely to be brought back.
  • LeGarrette Blount didn’t seem to have much left in the tank this year with the Lions, but the 32 year old bruising runner wants to play in 2019. Blount only averaged 2.71 yards per carry this year and was an afterthought in the offense when Kerryon Johnson was healthy, so Blount might not be able to find a team willing to bring him in this offseason. He had a very quiet market this past spring before Detroit eventually decided to give him a one year deal.
  • In case you missed it, Matthew Stafford isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Trade Rumors: Megatron, Bryant, Staley

We heard earlier today that the Seahawks are still trying to trade for a veteran left tackle, and they are willing to part with TE Jimmy Graham in order to facilitate such a deal. With the league’s trade deadline just two days away, let’s take a look at more trade rumors from around the league:

  • Two teams have called the Lions to discuss acquiring the rights to retired WR Calvin Johnson, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, and Detroit told those clubs to go ahead and reach out to the future Hall-of-Famer. However, Johnson has been noncommittal at best, so it does not seem as if he will change his decision to remain retired, which he reiterated just two months ago.
  • We learned yesterday that the Lions are shopping TE Eric Ebron, and according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Detroit is receiving inquiries from multiple teams about Ebron. Per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link), Ebron has admitted that he could be dealt.
  • The Steelers are ignoring Martavis Bryant‘s trade request and plan to continue ignoring it, according to Albert Breer of SI.com, which makes it sound as if Pittsburgh is going to try and make things work with its disgruntled but talented wideout. However, that has not stopped contending teams from inquiring on Bryant, according to Rapoport (video link), who suggests that the Steelers are willing to at least listen to offers. The Patriots are one potential landing spot, as they discussed trading for Bryant prior to the draft.
  • The Eagles are another club looking for offensive line help at the deadline, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, who names the 49ers‘ Joe Staley as one possibility. Indeed, La Canfora writes in a separate pice that the 49ers are open to trading veterans like Staley, Carlos Hyde, and Eric Reid, but other teams say that the new regime in San Francisco values such players more highly than the market dictates, thereby making a deal unlikely.
  • Despite the fact that the Bills have jumped out to a surprisingly strong start, La Canfora says the team is still willing to move some of its veteran pieces. However, it has already been reported that Cordy Glenn and Anquan Boldin are available, and La Canfora does not add any other names to the list of Bills who could be on the move.
  • Per Schefter (via Twitter), the Colts are receiving inquiries on CB Vontae Davis, and they have been in talks with at least two clubs about the Illinois product.
  • John Reid of the Florida Times-Union says the Jaguars could look to trade RB T.J. Yeldon, but it is unclear whether there has been any movement on that front.
  • Because of the playing time that Chris Smith has received with the Bengals this season, the Jaguars will get a 2018 seventh-round pick from Cincinnati per the conditions of the trade the two clubs completed in April, as Mike Kaye of First Coast News tweets.

Breer’s Latest: Fitzpatrick, Cowboys, L.A.

Within his latest Inside the NFL Notebook piece, Albert Breer of the NFL Network takes a deep dive into Washington‘s season, examining the type of player the team has targeted under head coach Jay Gruden and new GM Scot McCloughan. Washington’s first major draft pick (No. 5 overall selection Brandon Scherff) and long-term signee (Ryan Kerrigan) in 2015 checked all the boxes the club was looking for in terms of intangibles.

“If you’re gonna spend some money, you want talent, but you also want strong leadership, guys you don’t have to worry about Friday night or Thursday night,” Gruden said. “Guys that are gonna be here, and be in the weight room and lead the way for younger guys. Sometimes, to have these guys in here for a number of years, they pave the way for younger players, and that’s just as important as production.”

Here are a few other topics covered by Breer in his latest column:

  • There’s no rush for the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick to finalize a deal that keeps the quarterback in New York beyond 2015, since the team has other players it may need to focus on first. But Breer suggests that each side knows where the other stands, and there’s a good chance they can work something out between the end of the season and the start of the 2016 league year.
  • With DeMarco Murray leaving in the offseason, the Cowboys targeted T.J. Yeldon as a potential second-round pick, and would’ve had a hard time deciding between him and Randy Gregory in the second round, says Breer. However, it turned out to be a moot point, since Yeldon came off the board early in the second round to the Jaguars. Dallas also liked Todd Gurley in the first round, but as his stock increased leading up to the draft, it became clear there would be no chance for the club to land him with the 27th overall pick.
  • According to Breer, despite the turnover at the running back position in Dallas this season, the Cowboys aren’t expressing any regrets about letting Murray go. One team source offered the following comment on the Eagles running back: “The guy is a pro in his preparation and toughness and competitiveness. But he’s also entitled, selfish and condescending. He’s a great ‘team’ guy when he’s the guy.”
  • Citing team sources, Breer says that Rams owner Stan Kroenke views St. Louis’s stadium proposal as falling short of what he’d want to keep the franchise in the city, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts if his Inglewood plan doesn’t get approved. As Breer observes, all parties involved in potential Los Angeles relocation had hoped that the league would have found “an elegant solution” and would be nearing some sort of agreement with the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders at this point. Instead, the January owners’ meeting is drawing closer without a clear sense of what will happen regarding L.A.

Jaguars Sign T.J. Yeldon

The Jaguars have moved a step closer to locking up their entire 2015 draft class, agreeing to terms with running back T.J. Yeldon on his rookie contract. The team tweeted out a photo of Yeldon signing his deal today, following this morning’s practice session.

The 36th overall pick in this year’s draft, Yeldon was the third running back to come off the board, behind first-rounders Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. In Jacksonville, the Alabama product will join a young Jags offense that features 2014 draftees Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee, and Allen Robinson, along with free agent addition Julius Thomas.

Per Over The Cap, Yeldon will be in line for a four-year contract worth about $5.914MM. Because he fell just outside the first round, Yeldon won’t have a fifth-year option on his contract, but he’ll get a signing bonus worth approximately $2.561MM.

With Yeldon locked up, the Jaguars have signed seven of their eight draftees. Only third-round offensive lineman A.J. Cann remains unsigned.

Extra Points: Texans, Jaguars, Bucs, Kraft

Let’s run down some bits and pieces from the league from Saturday.

  • The Lions acquired Haloti Ngata via trade to plug one of their defensive tackle holes vacated by the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, and CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora notes (on Twitter) Detroit could make a similar play to find more help on its defensive interior. Detroit picked Gabe Wright in Round 4 and signed Tyrunn Walker, he of one career start, from the Saints, so a need obviously remains.
  • Blake Bortles‘ offseason development choice was working with the same motion analysis specialists Tom Brady has in the past, Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union writes. The columnist reports Bortles, who rushed for 345 yards as a rookie with the Jaguars, dropped from 250 pounds to 238.
  • Jags remaining unsigned draft choices T.J. Yeldon and A.J. Cann should agree to terms this week during OTAs, Ryan O’Halloran of the Times-Union notes.
  • The Texans are the favorites to be this year’s featured team on HBO’s Hard Knocks, reports ESPN.com’s Tania Ganguli (on Twitter).
  • Johnthan Banks figures to present a tough challenge for veteran Mike Jenkins to reclaim his starting cornerback job alongside Alterraun Verner with the Buccaneers, writes ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinkas. Although Pro Football Focus doesn’t rate Banks, a starter for most of his two NFL slates, as a particularly good cover man (93rd among corners last year; subscription required), the third-year player did intercept four passes and deflect 10. A Pro Bowler with the Cowboys in 2009, Jenkins is entering his age-30 season. Although only on a one-year contract after not being tendered as a restricted free agent by Dallas, Sterling Moore should be in this conversation as well after his breakout 2014.
  • Yasinkas also expects Charles Sims to give the suddenly mediocre Doug Martin a stiff challenge for the Bucs’ top ball-carrying job. Sims averaged just 2.8 yards per tote as a rookie in limited duty, while Martin averaged 3.7 per carry on 134 carries.
  • Justin Smith‘s retirement didn’t exactly catch the 49ers in an experience sinkhole like Suh and Fairley’s did for the Lions, with Darnell Dockett and Glenn Dorsey (234 starts between them) fronting the competition. But other candidates loom in what could be more of a committee-type arrangement, writes the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch. First-round pick Arik Armstead and Tank Carradine are among those potentially able to supply depth after the loss of the unit’s leader. Dorsey rated ahead of the departed Ray McDonald — via PFF during his last healthy season in 2013, but both McDonald and Smith boasted top-flight marks last season.
  • The Boston Globe’s Christopher L. Gasper argued Patriots owner Robert Kraft put his own legacy ahead of his team’s immediate future in withdrawing from a potential battle with commissioner Roger Goodell over the team’s Deflategate penalties. The Pats boss backed Goodell on the Saints’ Bountygate punishment and his initial ruling in the Ray Rice domestic-abuse incident before objecting to sanctions against his own team.