Travis Benjamin

AFC Notes: Colts, Texans, Pryor, Bolts

Anthony Castonzo will make his Colts debut on Thursday night. He’s active against the Patriots. The eighth-year left tackle has been sidelined for most of the past few months because of a hamstring injury, one he’s twice aggravated. Frank Reich said he did not intend to use an IR spot on Castonzo, and the first-year Colts coach’s confidence in the edge blocker being ready to return soon turned out to be appropriate. Castonzo participated in three limited practices this week.

Here’s the latest from the AFC, going into tonight’s intra-AFC matchup.

  • Indianapolis won’t, however, have the services of its top tackler. Darius Leonard, the NFL’s runaway tackles leader four games into his rookie season, will be out. The Colts tweeted the linebacker is not expected to dress against the Patriots. Both are technically active but are not going to play. An ankle injury is restricting Leonard, who has 54 tackles (seven for loss) and four sacks. He joins T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack and Kenny Moore among Colts who aren’t playing in Foxborough.
  • Seantrel Henderson‘s Texans stay did not produce much work. The one-year, $4MM free agent addition suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 1 against the Pats. The tackle who recently underwent surgery will be a UFA again in March but wants to return to the Texans. “Of course, I would like to be back,” Henderson said, via the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson. “I love it here.” Julie’n Davenport replaced Henderson at right tackle but was benched. Kendall Lamm‘s now playing there.
  • The AFC’s Los Angeles team has seen its wide receivers receive as much publicity as the Rams’ have, but the Chargers contingent’s quite deep in its own right. Although, it will be thinner for a bit going forward. Travis Benjamin is expected to be out for at least two weeks, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Benjamin’s been battling a foot injury this season. The Bolts hope he can return either for their Week 7 Titans game or after their Week 8 bye. L.A. still has Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams, however.
  • Terrelle Pryor only played two snaps against the Jaguars. He’s not happy with his current Jets role. “It’s kind of nerve-racking. I don’t like it,” Pryor said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, about his usage dissatisfaction. “It is what it is, though. You get frustrated, you know? You don’t go out there and make plays. I’ve shown when the ball comes to me, I make plays. I’m a big play waiting to happen.” Noting Jermaine Kearse surpassed Pryor in Gang Green’s wideout pecking order, Mehta adds Pryor suffered a groin injury during practice last week. Pryor’s experienced persistent injury trouble during his Jets and Redskins tenures. He did not live up to expectations in Washington and saw ankle problems recur in New York this offseason. Pryor, however, is averaging 19.8 yards per catch (eight grabs for 158 yards) but has only received one target the past two weeks.

West Notes: 49ers, Cardinals, Chargers

After facing the Patriots on Sunday, the next daunting task for Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be to fix the 49ers, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com writes. It won’t be easy, but plenty of people say he’s up for the task.

He’s an excellent player evaluator, and I think he can evaluate any position,” said Atlanta quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, who has worked on Shanahan’s staff eight of the past nine years in three different cities. “He as a vision for what he wants, and he knows how to find those players to fit exactly what that vision is. He can recognize what players do well and put them in position to be successful. I think that’s one of his best attributes.”

Shanahan will be blocked from taking many of his assistant coaches with him to San Francisco, but Graziano says that a few of his current players could follow. Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub played for Shanahan in Houston and will be a free agent. Same goes for Falcons starting right guard Chris Chester, who played for him in Washington.

Here’s more out of the West divisions:

  • Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington “anticipates the team wanting him back,” a source tells Joe Pequeno of CBS5 (on Twitter). Furthermore, Washington expects to be reinstated in March. This item should be taken with a kosher grain of salt since Arizona’s level of interest is unknown. Washington’s own assessment of his reinstatement process also doesn’t mean a great deal. The former Pro Bowler hasn’t played since Week 17 of the 2013 season thanks to a substance abuse ban that has yet to be lifted.
  • Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last week, a source tells Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Benjamin was dealing with a grade-2 PCL sprain for several weeks last season. There’s no mention of Benjamin potentially missing an extended period of time, so he should be good to go this summer.
  • The Chargers officially terminated their lease with City of San Diego today, paying a $12.575MM termination fee in the process, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets. It remains to be seen whether SD might redirect those funds towards an effort to lure the Raiders to town. As the Raiders’ planned move to Las Vegas hit some roadblocks this week, mayor Kevin Faulconer reached out to see if the Raiders might be willing to move ~500 miles south.

Contract Details: Harrison, Benjamin, Massie

Here are some of the latest details on recently agreed-upon or signed contracts from around the NFL. All Twitter links are courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle unless otherwise indicated…

NFC:

  • Damon Harrison, DT (Giants): Five years, $46.25MM. $24MM guaranteed. $8MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Bobby Massie, T (Bears): Three years, $18MM. $6.5MM guaranteed. $1.5MM signing bonus. $2MM roster bonus due on March 14 (Twitter links).
  • Thad Lewis, QB (49ers): One year, $760K. Minimum salary benefit. $25K playing-time incentive. $428K split salary (Twitter link).

AFC:

  • Travis Benjamin, WR (Chargers): Four years, $24MM. $13MM guaranteed. $5MM signing bonus. $2.75MM salary for 2016 and $4.25MM salary for 2017 fully guaranteed (Twitter link).
  • Antonio Gates, TE (Chargers): Two years, $11MM. $6MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Ramon Humber, LB (Patriots): One year, $885K. Minimum salary benefit. $25K signing bonus. $30K in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link via Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald).

Chargers Sign Travis Benjamin

3:55pm: The Chargers have officially announced the deal on the team’s website.

“We are very happy to add Travis Benjamin to our football team,” said general manager Tom Telesco. “We think he has the potential to help our offense and special teams in many different ways.”

2:57pm: It’s a four-year deal worth $24MM, per Rapoport (Twitter link). $13MM is guaranteed, and Benjamin will earn $18MM during the first three years.

7:25am: The Chargers are set to add a complement to Keenan Allen at wide receiver, according to Rand Getlin of the NFL Network, who reports (via Twitter) that Browns free agent Travis Benjamin intends to sign with San Diego when the new league year begins. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) first reported that the Chargers had emerged as “the team to beat” for Benjamin.Travis Benjamin (vertical)

After catching just 41 passes in his first three seasons, Benjamin broke out in 2015, with 68 receptions, 966 yards, and five touchdowns. The multi-purpose weapon also continued to handle punt returns for the Browns, averaging 11.6 yards per return and returning one for a touchdown. While he may not be the sort of prototypical, big-bodied receiver that some teams may prefer, he looks like one of the top options in this year’s class of free agent wideouts.

The Texans displayed interest in Benjamin, but the bidding got too expensive for their liking, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, who tweets that the free agent wideout was seeking $6MM+ per year. The Falcons were also among the teams cited as suitors for Benjamin, whom the Browns had reportedly wanted to re-sign.

Despite the fact that Allen missed nearly half the season for the Chargers in 2015, no other wide receiver on the team came close to matching his 67 receptions. Steve Johnson ranked second among the club’s wideouts with 45 catches, so it makes sense that the team would have wanted to fortify the position this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Vernon, A. Jones, J. Freeman

Alex Marvex of FOX Sports is “getting strong vibes” from NFL sources that the Dolphins will rescind defensive end Olivier Vernon‘s transition tag at some point (Twitter link). Vernon could be expendable given that Miami signed Mario Williams and plans to keep Cameron Wake.

Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald agrees that the Fins could rescind the tag, and also reports that a league source expects Vernon to sign a long-term deal with another club in the next few days, and the Dolphins aren’t expected to be able to match. However, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk also chimes in, noting that he hears Miami hasn’t made a decision on Vernon yet.

Here’s the latest on the AFC free agent scene:

  • The Jets are no longer in contention for free agent corner Adam Jones, a source tells Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).
  • The Chiefs are “poking around” on free agent linebacker Jerrell Freeman, tweets Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports. Freeman could serve as a potential replacement for Derrick Johnson, who is also a free agent.
  • Elsewhere in Kansas City, it looks like Chiefs corner Sean Smith will hit the open market, per Robinson (Twitter link), and the Raiders could be one potential suitor.
  • Despite receiving interest from other clubs, receiver Travis Benjamin is still in play for the Browns, writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
  • Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com believes the Titans are interested in receiver Rishard Matthews — it’s a little unclear if the ESPN scribe is reporting or speculating, but it sounds like there could be a link.
  • Free agent safety Tavon Wilson will not return to the Patriots, according to Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com. the former second-round pick has been in New England since 2012.

Free Agent Rumors: Benjamin, Falcons, Hali

The Falcons have inquired about free agent receiver Travis Benjamin, a source tells Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Benjamin played under Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland during the 2014 season. Benjamin also worked with current Minnesota OC Norv Turner in Cleveland, but per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link), the Vikings have not show any interest in Benjamin.

Here are the latest free agent rumors:

  • Linebacker Tamba Hali was choosing between the Falcons and Kansas City before signing a three-year deal with the Chiefs, Kelsey Conway of AtlantaFalcons.com tweets.
  • The Patriots were interested in signing Michael Hoomanawanui before he re-signed with the Saints on Tuesdsay, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets.
  • The Texans are interested in re-signing safety Quintin Demps, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle writes. This past season, Demps started a career-high 13 games and recorded 61 tackles, one interception, six passes defended, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. The 30-year-old free agent is also drawing interest from other teams, however.
  • The Buccaneers may not tender free agent defensive end Olatunji Fatinikun, but they still could sign him later in summer, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The DE is coming off of ACL surgery.

Free Agent Rumors: RBs, Trevathan, Giants

The Titans reached an agreement on a trade to acquire DeMarco Murray on Monday, and before the week is out, their division rivals in Houston may have a new running back of their own. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), the Texans are among the teams with “strong interest” in free agent back Lamar Miller. Rapoport adds that the market for the top running backs available, including Miller, Doug Martin, and Chris Ivory, could heat up today.

Here’s more from around the NFL on free agents:

  • The Bears and Titans are among the teams that will make it challenging for the Broncos to re-sign free agent linebacker Danny Trevathan, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Trevathan previously said that he expected to receive interest from his old head coach John Fox in Chicago.
  • The Giants have been making a push in recent days to re-sign defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and are continuing to talk to him, writes Jordan Raanan of NJ.com. There is plenty of competition though, per Raanan, who notes that the market has been “aggressive,” with a handful of suitors in play.
  • While the Giants remain in the hunt for JPP, it doesn’t appear they’re in the mix for defensive end Mario Williams at this time, per Raanan, who adds that Big Blue has inquired on free agent defensive end William Hayes.
  • Free agent wide receiver Travis Benjamin has “piqued the interest” of the Texans and a few other NFL teams, sources tell Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Falcons Rumors: Trevathan, WRs, Schaub

Although teams are ostensibly at the scouting combine to evaluate prospects for the draft, and aren’t supposed to engage in any talks with agents regarding outside free agents, plenty of free agent chatter typically takes place in Indianapolis. After spending some time at the combine, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com passes along several tidbits related to the Falcons, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan is “high on the Falcons’ radar,” writes McClure. Richard Smith, who formerly served as the linebackers coach in Denver, is now the Falcons’ defensive coordinator, and Atlanta has a hole at inside linebacker. McClure hears that the Falcons are willing to pay in the ballpark of $5-6MM per year for a free agent linebacker, which may not be quite enough to land Trevathan.
  • Atlanta is expected to target Mohamed Sanu as the team searches for help at wide receiver to complement Julio Jones. However, McClure notes that the Falcons would like a No. 2 wideout capable of returning kicks, which might make Travis Benjamin a more logical fit.
  • There’s a “strong possibility” that Matt Schaub could return to Atlanta, according to McClure, who points out that the Falcons were interested in signing Schaub as Matt Ryan‘s backup last year.
  • Bengals safety Reggie Nelson is on the Falcons’ list of secondary targets, though not necessarily at the very top of the club’s list of potential safeties.
  • The Falcons’ level of interest in Seahawks outside linebacker Bruce Irvin is still unclear, per McClure.

South Rumors: Foster, Falcons, Martin, Jags

Texans running back Arian Foster, entering the final year of his contract, is set to make a $6.5MM base salary, with an overall cap hit of nearly $9MM. Those figures make him a potential release candidate, but if general manager Rick Smith says Houston won’t cut the veteran back because of his salary.

“As it relates to all the free agent conversations, I’m never really going to tell you one way or the other what we are doing, but I will tell you this: his salary is not a reason why we would cut Arian,” Smith said.

That doesn’t necessarily close the door on the Texans releasing Foster, since the team could have concerns about his health or his production. But if they’re comfortable paying a healthy Foster $6.5MM, it increases the odds that he’ll be back in Houston for the 2016 season.

Let’s check in on a few other items from around the NFL’s South divisions….

  • Head coach Dan Quinn and the Falcons will be monitoring wide receivers closely in both free agency and the draft, writes Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. According to McClure, the Falcons have “done their homework” on this year’s pending free agent wideouts, including Travis Benjamin, Mohamed Sanu, Jermaine Kearse, and Nate Washington.
  • Buccaneers GM Jason Licht confirmed that he met with Brian Murphy, the agent for Doug Martin, on Wednesday at the scouting combine. However, as Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets, no agreement between the two sides will be reached in Indianapolis.
  • The Jaguars will head into the free agent period armed with a ton of cap space, according to GM David Caldwell, who suggests that estimates of $75MM “might be a little low,” per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. In a separate piece, O’Halloran also passed along a few notable comments made by Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley during his media availability.
  • Craig Stevens‘ new one-year contract with the Titans features a $1.15MM base salary, a $250K workout bonus, and per-game roster bonuses worth up to $500K, says Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. A report last week indicated that the tight end’s deal could be worth up to $2.6MM via incentives.

Browns Rumors: Gordon, Mack, Benjamin

While new Browns head coach Hue Jackson took to the podium on Wednesday at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, it was new executive VP Sashi Brown who spoke to reporters on Thursday morning. Brown didn’t want to talk about quarterback Johnny Manziel, but he did address several other topics of interest. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • According to Brown, there’s a spot on the roster for Josh Gordon as long as he’s doing the right things. Brown doesn’t expect to have clarity on Gordon’s status before free agency begins on March 9th, but he thinks the signs are pointing to the wide receiver being reinstated from his suspension (Twitter links via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com and Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal).
  • Center Alex Mack, who can opt out of his contract anytime before March 4th, came in last week to discuss a possible contract extension, according to Brown, who believes that if Mack is going to remain in Cleveland, the two sides will probably have to work something out before that opt-out deadline (Twitter links via Cabot).
  • Brown doesn’t expect the Browns to use the franchise or transition tag. If the team does use one or the other, safety Tashaun Gipson would be the top candidate, but Brown is hoping for a long-term deal with Gipson (Twitter link via Ulrich).
  • The Browns met with Travis Benjamin‘s agent at the combine last night, according to Brown, who says talks between the two sides haven’t broken down (Twitter links via Cabot and Ulrich). Agent Ron Butler said earlier this week that he expects his client will reach the open market.
  • Brown said today that the club apologized to pending free agents for taking a little extra time to open negotiations, since the organization spent the first part of the offseason wrapped up in a searches for coaches and front office additions (Twitter link via Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram).