Vontaze Burfict

AFC North Notes: Browns, Haden, Suggs

Josh Gordon‘s long road back the NFL is almost complete as the team is likely to reactivate him later in the week, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Cabot reports that the team has the ability to activate him to the roster today, but it unlikely to do so in order to hold onto a roster spot.

The talented wide receiver is expected to see his first regular season action in two years when the Browns take on the Chargers on Sunday. Gordon has made his mistakes in the past, but has caused no such problem since he returned to practice last week.

With the Browns potentially finishing the year as one of the league’s worst teams ever, being able to see an impact player return is certainly some much needed good news. He’ll likely start alongside fellow wideout Corey Coleman should everything go according to plan throughout the practice week.

  • In other Browns news, head coach Hue Jackson said after practice today that the coaching staff will dicuss whether to replace rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez after his struggles continued in Week 12, reports Cabot in a separate tweet. However, Jackson did note that Gonzalez did well to bounce back and convert two field goals after he missed an attempt from 43 yards earlier in the game. Parting ways with the rookie kicker would represent another draft blunder as Cleveland used a seventh round pick in order to bring in the 22-year-old from Arizona State.
  • The Steelers managed to hold off the scuffling Packers on Sunday night football yesterday, but were still clearly exposed in the secondary by some talented playmakers and a backup quarterback. Part of the reason for the offensive display could be due to the absence of veteran cornerback Joe Haden. While the team does expect the former Brown to return, it’s unlikely that the defensive back will see the field for a few more weeks, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). La Canfora did add that the Week 13 status for rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster remains a little more up in the air at this point.
  • Terrell Suggs is currently playing in his 14th year in the league, though the 35-year-old is still a more than a capable puss rusher coming off the edge. However, while Suggs’ play has kept him as a valuable member of the defense, the veteran knows that his career could be winding down this season, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. Hensley notes that cutting Suggs this summer could give the Ravens an extra $4MM in cap space, but despite the harsh realities of the league Suggs knows that ultimately the NFL is a business. “I would really love to be in one place my whole career. Not many players can say they did that,” Suggs told ESPN before his 207th game for the Ravens. “But I also understand this is a business and that might not happen. I’m pretty much making my peace with it now. I’m preparing myself for it just in case. What will be, will be.” Suggs does still lead the team with 7.5 sacks and has forced three fumbles, so it should be noted that actually getting rid of the veteran edge defender could make the Baltimore defense worse. The team has made a point in drafting three young pass rushers in the last two seasons, including Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. Nevertheless, Suggs can only play well on the field and let the chips fall where they may at this point.
  • The Bengals have avoided a suspension to one of their key defenders in linebacker Vontaze Burfict, according to Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com. The energetic defender was flagged for unnecessary roughness for hitting a defenseless receiver in yesterday’s win over the Browns. Burfict has made a number of boneheaded plays throughout his career, which include him getting ejected for making contact with an official and for his unsportsmanlike penalty against the Steelers earlier in the season. He’ll avoid game punishment here, but a fine is certainly possible.

Extra Points: Jets, Goodell, Burfict, Prosise

The Jets have no plans to bench Josh McCown in favor of youngster Christian Hackenberg, as NJ.com’s Connor Hughes writes. “This isn’t Triple-A,” quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said Tuesday. “We’re going to play the best players that give us an opportunity to win at all positions. That’s our philosophy. Josh is our starter.”

Though just 1.5 games behind Buffalo for the AFC’s last wildcard spot, New York is sitting last in the East with a 4-6 record and might be better served seeing what the team has in Hackenberg or Bryce Petty sooner rather than later with McCown, at 38 and on a one-year deal, obviously not the team’s future at the position.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • League spokesman Joe Lockhart says the impetus for signing commissioner Roger Goodell to a new deal despite having 18 months remaining on his current contract were a series on notable events on the horizon, according to ESPN’s Jim Trotter (Twitter link) Those milestones include the new collective bargaining agreement in 2020 and network TV deals in 2021 and 2022. “Sense that getting an extension beyond those dates was in the best interest of (NFL),” Lockhart said.
  • Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict will not be suspended for making contact with a referee in Sunday’s game vs. Tennessee, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Instead, it will be reviewed using the standard process for a possible fine. Burfict was ejected from the game after picking up a pair of personal-foul penalties on one drive midway through the second quarter.
  • 49ers safety Adrian Colbert could possibly miss the team’s upcoming game with Seattle after breaking his thumb vs. New York, coach Kyle Shanahan tells reporters and ESPN’s Nick Wagoner (Twitter link). The injury, which will require surgery, was sustained early in the first quarter but Colbert managed to play the rest of the way. Should he not be ready for the Seahawks, Antone Exum and Dexter McCoil are potential replacements, according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco (Twitter link).
  • Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson is happy to have left Cleveland and hopes Jacksonville can “hang 40 on them” when the team’s meet up this weekend, writes ESPN’s Michael DiRocco. The veteran defender spent his first four seasons with the Browns before joining the Jags in 2016 and apparently still harbors some ill feelings to the organization, which he also criticized for not drafting Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson.
  • Seahawks running back C.J. Prosise could return in time for the postseason, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters, including Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. The coach said the injury will have Prosise sidelined six weeks, but he must sit out eight games after being placed on IR.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/28/17

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • To make room on the roster for Vontaze Burfict‘s activation from a three-game suspension, the Bengals waived linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr. The son of the former All-Pro linebacker, Nickerson signed with the Bengals in May as a UDFA. He made the team out of training camp and played in each of Cincinnati’s first three games this season.
  • The Raiders signed linebacker Boseko Lokombo to their practice squad and released defensive lineman Max Valles from that unit.

North Notes: Burfict, Bears, Packers, Decker

Vontaze Burfict‘s Bengals contract calls for a $2MM roster bonus if he’s on the team by March 31 of next year, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The Bengals protected themselves heavily with the Burfict extension, one that could pay out $33.234MM through 2020, since the deal comes with just $3.3MM guaranteed. Speaking publicly about the extension for the first time, Burfict didn’t elaborate much about his decision to bypass free agency for a largely non-guaranteed deal. Although, he did say he appreciates the Bengals’ support in agreeing to take him on long-term given his suspension history. “I hope so,” Burfict said (via Owczarski) of the feeling of support. “I give my blood, sweat and tears out on the field. It’s vice versa. I appreciate everything they do for me and my family and like I said, let’s go get a win on Sunday. Now we’re in for four more years, so we’re past it now. So now obviously just win some games.”

The Bengals reinstated Burfict on Thursday.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions on a night when their most storied rivalry takes center stage.

  • The BearsTarik Cohen pursuit began when Ryan Pace‘s top southeastern scout declared the then-North Carolina A&T running back was his favorite player to watch, over all of the SEC prospects he observed, and the Chicago GM soon became enamored as well, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). The Bears selected several small-school talents this year, with second-round tight end Adam Shaheen being the first, but Cohen — a fourth-rounder — has played an impact role from the start.
  • While Cohen will receive his first chance to display the elusiveness that enticed the Bears to a national audience, the Packers will be down several key players. Both starting tackles — David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga — are out, and Mike Daniels will miss the Week 4 tilt as well. The Packers are already down would-be backup options in Don Barclay, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy — each on IR — so Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets a four-guard lineup could be on tap. Justin McCray, who started at tackle for Bakhtiari in Week 2, and fellow rookie Adam Pankey join second-year player Lucas Patrick in the mix to protect Aaron Rodgers on Thursday. Each of those players entered the league as a UDFA. The Packers played without both starting tackles against the Falcons, with Murphy and McCray receiving the replacement starts.
  • The Bears aren’t judging Mike Glennon in their impending quarterback swap but rather are monitoring Mitch Trubisky to determine when the rookie will be ready to take over, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. Glennon has struggled during his first three starts, and Biggs categorizes the season’s plan — once based around Trubisky redshirting as a rookie — as a week-to-week arrangement.
  • Ka’Deem Carey‘s Bears injury settlement was worth $273,529, Biggs reports. The Bears placed the backup running back on IR just before the season, and the settlement came shortly after.
  • Not known for particularly expansive pressers, Jim Caldwell succinctly assessed Taylor Decker‘s status. The fourth-year Lions coach said Decker is “progressing towards” a midseason return, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. The left tackle was given a four- to six-month timetable upon a labrum tear in June. Midseason would fall in that range. Greg Robinson currently mans the left edge for the Lions.
  • Tests done on Danny Shelton‘s injured calf don’t look to reveal a serious malady, Rapoport tweets. The Browns defensive tackle injured the calf in practice Wednesday. He has not missed a game in his three-year career.

Saints, Bengals Get Roster Exemptions For Willie Snead, Vontaze Burfict

The Saints and Bengals have been given roster exemptions for wide receiver Willie Snead and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, respectively, as they return from suspension, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Both exemptions expire on Thursday, so New Orleans and Cincinnati will each need to clear a roster spot by that time.Willie Snead (Vertical)

Snead, 24, was suspended three games following an offseason DUI arrest. A former undrafted free agent, Snead has been a revelation for the Saints since entering the league out of Ball State in 2015. In two seasons in New Orleans, Snead has averaged 70 receptions for 940 yards and four touchdowns. An exclusive rights free agent in 2017, Snead could potentially be in line for a new contract.

New Orleans is 1-2 after a win against the division rival Panthers on Sunday, but the club’s problems haven’t come on offense. Instead, it’s the Saints’ defense (31st in DVOA heading into Week 3) that’s been the team’s Achilles heel. However, Snead will give New Orleans another dimension on offense as the team seeks to replace the production void left by Brandin Cooks, who was traded to the Patriots in the spring.

Burfict, meanwhile, was originally handed a five-game ban for an illegal preseason hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman, but that suspension was originally reduced to just three contests. In the meantime, the Bengals extended Burfict through the 2020 campaign on a three-year, $33.234MM deal. However, the specifics of that contract aren’t nearly as impressive as initial reports suggested.

Like Snead with the Saints, Burfict’s return won’t help the Bengals’ true woes, which have mostly occurred on the offensive side of the ball. But Burfict — whom Pro Football Focus graded as the NFL’s No. 6 linebacker a season ago — will give Cincinnati another playmaker on defense, and allow the club to push Vincent Rey back into a reserve role.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Browns, Bengals, Redskins

Kevin Hogan will serve as the Browns‘ backup quarterback on Sunday instead of Cody Kessler, as head coach Hue Jackson explained to reporters, including Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. While the shifting of reserve signal-caller duties isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news on its own, Kessler’s demotion could potentially have after-effects. If Hogan shows well as Cleveland’s No. 2 quarterback, Kessler would theoretically make for a relatively attractive trade candidate. Only 24 years old, Kessler started eight games and completed 65.6% of his passes as a rookie. The Browns, clearly, haven’t been afraid of dealing current assets for future picks.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • While Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict‘s extension was announced as a three-year, $38.68MM deal, the specifics of the pact aren’t as impressive, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The only fully guaranteed portion of the contract is Burfict’s $3.3MM signing bonus, while $2.25MM annually is tied to gameday active roster bonuses, an especially hefty total given Burfict’s injury history. And while Burfict’s 2017 base salary will now increase from $3.95MM to $7.936MM, Burfict’s impending three-game suspension will ensure that he loses $1.4MM of that new total.
  • As part of the extension that will keep him with the Redskins through 2019, running back Chris Thompson has agreed to rework his 2017 salary, according to Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Originally scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.746MM, Thompson will now take home ~$2.5MM in total compensation for the upcoming season, but will also bring in a signing bonus of $3MM. Additionally, Thompson can earn $250K in roster bonuses in 2018-19, while $1.125MM is available in annual incentives during that same period.
  • Offensive lineman Byron Bell earned his third and final $150K bonus of the offseason by making weight prior to the start of the Cowboys‘ regular season, reports Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Bell scored the same weight bonus (for tipping the scales at fewer than 320 pounds) when minicamp and training camp, respectively, got underway. Signed to a one-year deal in March, Bell will also earn a $1MM base salary, a $250K signing bonus, and $300K in per-game roster bonuses. The 28-year-old will serve as the top reserve lineman on one of the league’s best front fives.
  • Free agent punter Brock Miller worked out for the 49ers on Thursday, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link), but it doesn’t appear that San Francisco will be signing Miller at this time. Instead, the left-footed Miller was brought in to help the 49ers’ special teams unit prepare for Panthers punter Michael Palardy (another lefty). The 49ers will go forward with punter Bradley Pinion, while Miller — who inked a futures deal with San Francisco in January — will continue to hit the workout circuit.

Bengals Sign Vontaze Burfict To Extension

This developed fast. The Bengals and Vontaze Burfict agreed to a three-year extension worth $38.68MM, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Word of an extension for the polarizing linebacker surfaced this afternoon, and it looks like the longtime Bengals second-level standout will be staying in Cincinnati for a while.

This deal will make Burfict the highest-paid 4-3 outside linebacker in the game on a per-year basis. It tops Jamie Collins‘ Browns pact, which is worth $12.5MM per year. The 26-year-old Burfict’s deal will be for $12.89MM AAV.

And despite Burfict set to serve a three-game suspension to start another season, he will see an additional $7MM in 2017, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). A $3.3MM signing bonus will come Burfict’s way as well, per Rapoport.

A starter since coming into the league in 2012 as a UDFA, Burfict has been a key part of Cincinnati’s defense and run of playoff appearances. Burfict, who rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 linebacker last season, has started 58 games — of a possible 80 — in his career. But he will be under Bengals control for the remainder of the decade. Burfict was set to be a UFA after this season, so this re-up will tie him to Cincinnati through the 2020 campaign.

The former Arizona State linebacker has obviously brought a swarm of negative attention to the franchise, and he won’t begin his sixth NFL season until October after being suspended for a preseason hit, but it’s clear now the Bengals continue to view him as a cornerstone talent.

Only three 4-3 outside ‘backers even earn eight figures annually, so the Bengals are paying a premium for a player who continually tests the NFL’s boundaries on in-game violence. Burfict will miss the first three games of a season for the second straight year. Nevertheless, he becomes only the sixth non-rush linebacker to enter the $10MM-per-year club. A one-time Pro Bowler, Burfict will also earn more than three-time first-team All-Pro Luke Kuechly annually.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals, Vontaze Burfict Discussing Extension

The Bengals and linebacker Vontaze Burfict are discussing an extension, ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson hears (on Twitter). Burfict is currently scheduled to reach free agency after the 2017 season. Vontaze Burfict (vertical)

Burfict’s talent is undeniable but his playing style has long been a source of controversy. His latest questionable tackle on Anthony Sherman in the preseason will have him shelved for the first three games of the 2017 season, down from an initial five-game ban. Burfict has only played in 58 of a possible 80 regular-season contests in his five-year career due to suspension and injury.

Burfict was Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 ranked linebacker in 2017, putting him behind only Jerrell Freeman, Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner, Paul Posluszny, and Sean Lee. In his suspension-shortened season, Burfict’s had 101 tackles and two sacks across eleven games.

The linebacker will celebrate his 27th birthday on Sept. 24, so the Bengals could be looking to control him for at least four extra years. Burfict would be sacrificing prime seasons in such an extension, but he also wouldn’t have to worry about what could be a tepid market for his services. One has to imagine that at least a few teams will shy away from Burfict given his track record.

The Bengals will be without Burfict when they take on the Ravens, Texans, and Packers in the first few weeks of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Bills, Steelers, Bengals

The Bills sent big-money defensive tackle Marcell Dareus home before their preseason game against the Ravens last week after he violated a team rule, leaving general manager Brandon Beane unsure if the two-time Pro Bowler is part of the solution. Asked this week if Dareus is on board with what the team is trying to build, Beane told Joe Buscaglia of WKBW (via Mark Inabinett of AL.com): “I don’t know. Time will tell. It was disappointing, as I said, after that game. He was contrite yesterday and said the right things. Actions speak louder than words. Time will tell. Hopefully, he is. We hope he’ll play to his potential. We know what kind of player he can be. We hope to see that on the field.” Even if the Bills are fed up with Dareus, who has multiple suspensions on his resume, moving on from the cornerstone defender in the near future would be extremely difficult because of the structure of his contract. The Bills inked Dareus to a six-year, $91.5MM extension in September 2015.

More from two other AFC cities:

  • The Steelers expect the NFL to fully reinstate wide receiver Martavis Bryant in advance of Week 1, GM Kevin Colbert told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette (Twitter link). The league suspended Bryant for all of last season for repeated violations of its substance abuse policy, conditionally reinstated the 25-year-old in April and gave him clearance to participate in the preseason three weeks ago. He hasn’t appeared in a meaningful game since a playoff loss to the Broncos on Jan. 17, 2016.
  • Cornerback Joe Haden‘s $5.75MM signing bonus is the only guaranteed portion of the three-year, $27MM contract the Steelers gave him Wednesday, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. The pact includes base salaries of $1.25MM, $9MM and $10MM, and it comes with a $1MM roster bonus that’s due in March 2018.
  • Linebacker Vontaze Burfict‘s suspensions call his future with the Bengals into question, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com observes. Burfict is set to serve a three-game ban for the second straight campaign, and he has only played 58 of a possible 80 regular-season contests in his five-year career. Cincinnati’s going to have to consider Burfict’s lack of availability when deciding whether to re-sign him by next winter, then. The same goes for tight end Tyler Eifert, whom injuries have limited to 37 of a possible 64 games during his four seasons. Both players make the Bengals better when they’re on the field, which Terrell notes will make for tough decisions in each case.

Vontaze Burfict’s Suspension Reduced

Vontaze Burfict‘s suspension has been reduced to three games, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets. The Bengals linebacker was slated for a five-game ban before his appeal hearing. Vontaze Burfict (vertical)

Burfict found himself in hot water for his hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman earlier in the preseason. The linebacker tackled Sherman roughly four or five yards from the line of scrimmage and nailed him in the head/neck area. Sherman did not have the ball, nor was he the targeted receiver on the play. Whether intentional or not, the hit provoked the ire of the league office because it came in well above the jersey numbers.

I hit harder than most of the other linebackers,” Burfict explained earlier this week (via Jim Owczarski of The Enquirer). “He kind of crunched up. I lowered my target, hit him straight in the chest. I talked to him the next series to see if he was alright and he said yeah, that’s a legal hit. You’ve got to keep your head on a swivel when you come across the middle and everybody knows that.”

Of course, Burfict has run afoul of league safety rules before. Over his five-year career, Burfict has racked up nearly $800K in fines and been flagged 16 times for unnecessary roughness, personal fouls or roughing the passer.

Burfict’s 2016 season was also shortened by a suspension. He finished out the year with 101 tackles and two sacks across eleven games.

The Bengals will be without Burfict for games against the Ravens, Texans, and Packers, but they’ll now have him in uniform for contests against the Browns and Bills.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.