Browns Haven’t Ruled Out Sheldon Richardson Return

Sheldon Richardson became the latest high profile cap casualty when the Browns released him last week to save $11MM in space.

While Cleveland wanted to clear a hefty salary off the books to help make room for Jadeveon Clowney‘s contract, it didn’t mean they were unsatisfied with Richardson as a player. In fact, when speaking to the media this week, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski left the door open for Richardson to return, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes.

I hope there’s a scenario,” where Richardson comes back, the second-year head coach said. “Sheldon in particular played really productive football for us. He played through injuries, and he took great pride in getting to the playoffs for the first time in his career. He was a big part of that,” Stefanski raved.

Those are the hard decisions that are made. I really want to point out that Sheldon was such a big part of what we did last year.” Richardson spent the past two seasons with the Browns, never missing a game.

He’s still only 30 and won’t lack for interest on the open market, but it sounds like a reunion is a real possibility if he’s willing to come back at a reduced price.

NFL Sets RFA Tender Prices

Although much of the NFL’s restricted free agent news will be overshadowed in the coming days, teams have until March 17 to tender their RFA crops. The prices for such moves are now set.

Here is how much it will cost for teams to tender RFAs, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter).

  • First-round tender: $4.766MM
  • Second-round tender: $3.384MM
  • Original-round tender: $2.183MM
  • Right of first refusal: $2.133MM

Restricted free agents are players who have three accrued seasons. With draftees’ rookie contracts running four years, this glut of players usually comes from the undrafted ranks. The PFR Glossary has more on this topic.

In the coming days, teams like the Broncos (Phillip Lindsay, Alexander Johnson, Tim Patrick), Chiefs (Charvarius Ward, Andrew Wylie), Patriots (J.C. Jackson) and others will need to make tender decisions. Were the Patriots to place a first-round tender on Jackson, they would be entitled to a first-round pick back if they refused to match an offer sheet. Were they to tender Johnson or Lindsay at the second-round level, they would receive a second-rounder back if they passed on matching an offer.

Restricted free agents can sign offer sheets through April 23 this year.

Raiders Host A.J. Bouye On Visit

A.J. Bouye‘s free agency tour is underway. On Monday, the veteran cornerback traveled to Las Vegas to meet with the Raiders, as Mike Klis of 9News tweets

Between his shoulder injury and PED suspension, Bouye was limited to just seven games last year after coming over from the Jaguars. The cornerback has two games to go on his ban, so he won’t be able to suit up for his next team until Week 3.

Bouye went from a UDFA in 2013 to one of the league’s highest paid defensive backs. After some solid seasons with the Texans, he scored a five-year, $67.5MM deal from the Jaguars in 2017. Unfortunately, Bouye didn’t live up to expectations in the long run — to be fair, most of the Jaguars’ defensive players were lackluster during that stretch. The Broncos agreed to take him on last year, in exchange for a fourth-round pick.

Bouye did impress in his first Jacksonville season, earning second-team All-Pro honors with six interceptions. There’s reason to believe that Bouye could pan out on a low-cost deal, especially since he’s still only 29, but he won’t get that chance in Denver.

Deshaun Watson, Texans Stare Down Could Last “Very, Very Long Time”

It doesn’t sound like the Deshaun Watson drama is going to end any time soon. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Texans do not view the start of free agency as any type of deadline to deal their star quarterback, noting that the stare down could last for a “very, very long time.” In fact, a deal may not even happen before the draft, and some QB-needy teams are skeptical if Watson will end up getting traded at all. Free agency is set to open on March 17, and the first round of the draft is scheduled for April 29.

[RELATED: Deshaun Watson Meets With David Culley; Trade Request Remains]

NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweeted earlier today that the Texans front office “remain unwilling to discuss” Watson trades with other teams, and rival front offices have resorted to leaving voicemails with potential trade offers. SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan passesd along a similar sentiment (on Twitter), with a “high ranking personnel source” revealing that Texans GM Nick Caserio changes the subject when a Watson trade is brought up in conversation.

We learned earlier today that Watson had recently spoke with new head coach Dave Culley, but the quarterback reiterated his trade demand. Rapoport clarifies that Watson solely attended the meeting out of respect for Culley, while Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes that Watson repeated his “extremely firm stance” during the brief talk. According to Wilson, Watson told the head coach that “I don’t want to be here.”

Watson’s massive $156MM deal (with $111MM guaranteed) would appear to diminish any of his leverage, but Wilson writes that the three-time Pro Bowler had stated that he won’t play another snap with the organization. Despite this situation closing in on the two-month mark, it sounds like we won’t be getting any type of resolution any time soon.

Franchise Tag Candidate: Bears WR Allen Robinson

Allen Robinson has been the Bears’No. 1 chain-mover since 2018. Now, the Pro Bowler could be weeks away from free agency. Of course, it’s not a given that he’ll get there. The Bears could keep Robinson from the market with a pricey multi-year extension. Or, they could cuff him for another year with the franchise tag. So far, the two sides haven’t much progress on Scenario 1.

[RELATED: Bears Did Not Make Offer For Wentz]

My personal opinion, if something could possibly work? Yes,” Robinson said (via Tyler Dunne of Go Long). “I’m not opposed to being back in Chicago by any means. I’ve even expressed that over the last couple of years — wanting to be the all-time leading receiver in Chicago which, I believe, I’m under 2,000 yards away from that. With all that being said, unfortunately we’ve come to what seems to be a fork in the road. But not even a fork. We haven’t even been given a viable option to be able to do those things that we want to do without sacrificing a ridiculous amount pretty much for the rest of my career.

Robinson, 28 in August, is coming off of his best season as a Bear. In 2020, he finished out with 102 catches for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns, in spite of the Bears’ overall inconsistency.

The franchise tag would kick the can down the road, but Robinson doesn’t want to get tagged. Also, the Bears are facing a cap crunch, so even a one-year, ~$17MM deal could be too rich for Chicago’s blood. Robinson, meanwhile, wants pre-pandemic top-WR money — that means $20MM+ per year, on average. It’s also worth noting that he views himself as the market’s top wide receiver, ahead of Buccaneers standout Chris Godwin.

The Bears have not used the franchise tag since 2016, when they kept Alshon Jeffery from reaching the open market. That tender did not lead to a new deal — Jeffery played out the year and joined up with the Eagles the following year. This time around, many view the tag as likely, but this could wind up being a tag-and-trade situation. The Bears’ offense can’t really afford to be without Robinson’s athleticism, but they also have a number of other needs to consider, including the quarterback situation.

Jets Shopping Quinnen Williams?

The Jets are shopping defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (on Twitter). However, other Jets beat writers — like Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (Twitter link) — say that “shopping” is a strong word. But, at minimum, they may be keeping an open ear to inquiries.

For the lowly Jets, it may be a matter of semantics. With a record of 0-7 and a limited budget for 2020, the Jets are clearly in need of a revamp. Trading Williams, of course, would signal an overhaul. Williams, 23 in December, was drafted third overall just last year. The former Crimson Tide standout has been a starter ever since, and he has the talent to be a cornerstone for years to come.

The Jets, according to Mehta, would want more than a second-round pick for Williams. That’s a fair ask, given his draft status and his own personal improvement in the face of the Jets’ general disarray. Through seven games, Williams has five tackles for loss and ranks as one of the league’s very best run-stoppers on the interior, according to Pro Football Focus.

It’s worth noting that Williams was the final first-round choice of the Mike Maccagnan era. New GM Joe Douglas — who took over months later — might not share the same affection

NFC East Notes: Ertz, Giants, Cowboys

Zach Ertz‘s high ankle sprain may well have prevented a big trade. Prior to Ertz’s injury, the Eagles were willing to part with the eighth-year tight end before the Nov. 3 deadline, multiple NFL executives informed ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (video link). The Eagles view Dallas Goedert as a long-term cornerstone, a position Ertz previously held in Philly, and the older of the team’s two prominent tight ends became embroiled in a contract dispute with the team during camp. Ertz sought a deal in the George KittleTravis Kelce neighborhood ($14MM-plus per year) and openly questioned whether the Eagles wanted him around. Ertz’s current contract — a four-year, $42MM pact — expires after the 2021 season. He will be on IR beyond the trade deadline.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Although Joe Judge was interestingly noncommittal about Andrew Thomas‘ status earlier this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that the No. 4 overall pick is in good standing with the Giants and will start at left tackle Thursday night. The Giants used third-round rookie Matt Peart as their left tackle starter against Washington, making the change because Thomas violated a team rule. Thomas played just 22 snaps in Big Blue’s win. Through six games, Pro Football Focus slots Thomas 61st among tackles — behind three tackles that were taken after him in this year’s first round.
  • The Eagles will continue to incorporate Jalen Hurts into their offense. Doug Pederson said this week using Hurts in a Wildcat-type capacity is something the Eagles are “definitely going to continue to explore each week,” via Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP. The second-round rookie has played 19 snaps this season, including a career-high seven last week. Hurts has completed one pass but is averaging 7.0 yards per carry on seven attempts.
  • It is quite possible the Washington Football Team‘s mascot-less existence will continue into 2021. “There’s a pretty good chance we will be the Washington Football Team next season,” team president Jason Wright said (via John Keim of ESPN.com). The franchise made the change in mid-July.
  • Key defensive personnel could return for the Cowboys this week. Sean Lee and Chidobe Awuzie returned to practice and could be activated ahead of Saturday’s deadline. Both players went on IR after Week 1. Lee’s return from a sports hernia issue would follow Leighton Vander Esch into Dallas’ lineup, giving the embattled defense its full set of first-string linebackers. Awuzie is attempting to come back from a hamstring malady.
  • The Giants worked out a familiar player Thursday. They brought former first-round pick Corey Coleman back for an audition/checkup. The Giants re-signed Coleman in March but cut him ahead of the regular season. Coleman tore an ACL during the team’s 2019 training camp and has not played since.

AFC West Notes: Bolts, Broncos, Incognito

Tyrod Taylor could be on the verge of being benched in September for a second time in three seasons. A chest injury he was battling caused Justin Herbert to be called upon Sunday, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo report Taylor received a pregame injection to the area (Twitter link). Complications ensued, prompting Chargers HC Anthony Lynn to call on Herbert. While the No. 6 overall pick fared better than could be expected, given the lack of offseason prep time, Lynn has not named him the Chargers’ Week 3 starter. The fourth-year coach said he will turn back to Taylor when he is “100%” recovered from the chest setback.

Whether “100%” will be how the Bolts justify keeping Herbert in the lineup or not, it would seem difficult for the team to give the job back to its bridge starter. The Chargers drafted a quarterback in the first four rounds for the first time since 2006 and saw him throw for 311 yards in an overtime loss, making it entirely possible Taylor is benched again. The Browns sidelined Taylor after three starts in 2017.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • Von Miller has not given up on returning this season. The Broncos‘ future Hall of Fame linebacker has been studying how some non-NFL athletes returned in three months from the injury he suffered — as opposed to the four- to six-month timetable he was given after suffering a dislocated peroneal tendon — and has told teammates he could return in mid-December, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. However, since this report surfaced, the Broncos lost Drew Lock for perhaps more than a month and Courtland Sutton for the season. They are already down A.J. Bouye and Phillip Lindsay for the foreseeable future, making a playoff run more difficult to envision. As for Miller’s long-term future, the 31-year-old pass rusher has told teammates he is eyeing five or six more seasons, per La Canfora. This tracks with previous Miller plans.
  • Speaking of Lindsay, the Pro Bowl running back will almost certainly miss Week 3 and may be out longer. Rather than turf toe, Lindsay is dealing with a toe sprain, Rapoport notes. This represents a tough break for the UDFA success story, who was discussing an extension shortly after last season’s conclusion. However, the Broncos instead opted to sign Melvin Gordon to a two-year, $8MM deal. Lindsay is set for restricted free agency in 2021.
  • Brandon McManus‘ four-year, $17MM Broncos extension will guarantee the Denver kicker $4MM in 2021, but Mike Klis of 9News notes the deal’s final three seasons are not guaranteed (Twitter link). McManus is due to earn base salaries of $3MM (2022), $3.75MM (’23) and $3.95MM (’24) over the course of the deal, which also came with a $2.5MM signing bonus. The Broncos have used McManus as their kicker since 2014 but are not committed to him beyond 2021.
  • Richie Incognito left Monday night’s Raiders win with an Achilles issue, but the veteran guard may not miss any time. Incognito aggravated a previous injury but did not suffer a tear, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The Raiders were already down right tackle Trent Brown, due to a reportedly not serious calf injury, and backup tackle Sam Young against the Saints.

Chiefs To Sign Andy Reid, Brett Veach To Six-Year Deals

The Chiefs are nearing new six-year deals with head coach Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Once finalized, the Chiefs will have their chief architects under contract through the 2025 season. 

[RELATED: Chiefs’ Mike Pennel Suspended 2 Games]

The Chiefs dazzled the league last year en route to capturing the championship trophy. Reid and Veach have been laying the groundwork ever since they joined the organization in 2013. Reid has led to the Chiefs to the postseason in six of his seven seasons on the sideline and Veach has been a key part of the front office for that entire stretch. Starting out as a scout, Veach climbed the ranks to GM in 2017.

There’s no guarantee that Reid, 62, will finish out his new contract, though he says that he has no immediate plans to retire. He’s gone 77-35 across seven seasons with the Chiefs and another seven wins this season would move him past Paul Brown for sixth on the all-time wins list. Reid is currently the NFL’s fifth-oldest active HC — behind Pete Carroll, Bill BelichickBruce Arians and Mike Zimmer. This will be Reid’s 22nd season as a head coach, and it won’t be his last.

AFC West Rumors: Raiders, Simmons, Jones

From Cliff Branch to James Jett to Darrius Heyward-Bey (to name a few of many), the Raiders have been known for their speed affinity for decades. They surprised many by making Henry Ruggs the first wide receiver pick in this draft. Their owner was eyeing the Alabama deep threat for months leading up to the draft. Citing a lack of team speed for the past several years, Mark Davis said he pegged Ruggs as the first-rounder he wanted for six months going into this year’s draft, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). Chosen before Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Ruggs did not eclipse 800 yards in a college season. And he spent time this offseason rehabbing a thigh injury he sustained two months ago while helping a friend move. However, Ruggs said Wednesday he is 100%, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area (on Twitter), as Raiders rookies prepare for the team’s strength and conditioning period.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • For the first time in five negotiations with franchise-tagged players, Broncos GM John Elway did not close a deal. Justin Simmons will play this season on the safety tag. Elway said discussions never came close to a deal, but the 10th-year GM believed his offer was “very, very fair.” The offer was believed to place Simmons among the five or six highest-paid safeties. Guaranteed money was an issue, however, with Elway noting the pandemic induced the Broncos to limit the guaranteed dollars in their proposal to Simmons (Twitter links via 9News’ Mike Klis). Elway, who said late last season Simmons would be a priority, still wants to extend the standout defensive back next year.
  • The Raiders are beginning their first season in Las Vegas, but the prospects of the NFL moving to Nevada surfaced in January 2016. Davis adds that Vegas was after the Raiders “for years” before those talks began. “We got our ass kicked in L.A., and we went back to Oakland with our tails between our legs. And then (Coliseum Authority executive director Scott) McKibben backtracked and tripled our lease, and it was total disrespect. It was like, how are we going to work with these people?” Davis said. “Vegas had been after us for years, but I told them I will only talk to you if Oakland and Los Angeles don’t happen.” The NFL in 2016 voted to send the Rams to Los Angeles and placed the Chargers ahead of the Raiders in the pecking order. The Raiders then spent three years as a lame-duck team in Oakland.
  • Chris Jones‘ contract trails both Fletcher Cox‘s 2016 extension ($17.1MM per year) and Grady Jarrett‘s pact in 2019 ($17MM AAV) in terms of two-year payouts, leading Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap to label it a Chiefs-friendly deal. Jones’ four-year, $80MM extension is essentially a two-year deal. The Chiefs, who did this deal without including a signing bonus, would incur no dead money by moving Jones in 2022. Through those two years, Jones will see $37.6MM — which is also well behind Aaron Donald‘s $60MM two-year total.