Willie Colon

Big Ben Was Serious About Retirement

When Ben Roethlisberger announced in April that he would be returning for another season, the news was met with eye rolls by some. Apparently, however, the Steelers quarterback was giving real thought to retirement. Ben Roethlisberger

I got to sit down and talk to him and one thing he told me is he did take it seriously,” retired offensive lineman Willie Colon told Mike Florio of PFT. “He’s dealt with a lot of injuries.”

Because the 35-year-old was giving real thought to calling it quits this spring, it seems very possible that he could be in the same position next offseason. Roethlisberger has taken tons of big hits over the years and he might prefer to spare his body in order to get the most out of his post-football life. Colon personally believes that Roethlisberger can be coaxed into at least one additional season if the Pittsburgh offensive line can protect the pocket.

Roethlisberger has missed six games over the last two seasons, but he’s still producing at a high level. In 2016, he earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl selection as he completed 64.4% of his passes for 3,819 yards and 29 TDs against 13 picks. The Steelers went 10-4 in games with Big Ben as the starter.

In a league where it’s hard to find a good quarterback, the Steelers hope that Roethlisberger will want to play in 2018 and beyond. For now, they’re grateful to have him back for at least one more year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jordan, Gilmore, Jets, Colon

Will Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore show for training camp as he pushes for a new contract? Gilmore said he’ll get there “whenever I get there,” (Twitter link via Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News). When asked if that means he could miss the start, he said, “We’ll see.” If Gilmore does skip out on camp, he’ll be docked $40K per day.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Omar Kelly of The Sun Sentinel wonders if the Dolphins should balk at paying Dion Jordan‘s ~$1.7MM bonus. Word has it that the Dolphins are open to giving Jordan another chance, but sources tell Kelly that the team was curious about the timing of Jordan’s bid for reinstatement. The former No. 3 overall pick was eligible to apply for reinstatement in late April but he didn’t kickstart the process until June. Jordan is due his hefty roster bonus on the fifth day of training camp and the Dolphins might not be inclined to pay it if Jordan isn’t truly committed to football. Kelly suggests that Miami could push Jordan to re-work the contract and have the roster bonus moved or even eliminated since he would be unlikely to command that same kind of money on the open market.
  • Much of the Jets‘ quarterback shuffle will hinge on second-year quarterback Bryce Petty, Brian Costello of the New York Post writes. If Ryan Fitzpatrick returns, there is a belief in NFL circles that the Jets could keep all four quarterbacks – Fitzpatrick, Smith, Petty,and rookie Christian Hackenberg – on the roster. However, if Petty proves he can be the No. 2 QB, the team could cut Smith. Or, if Petty struggles mightily, the Jets could drop him and just keep Smith and Hackenberg as the backups. If the team does not sign Fitzpatrick, then Petty must prove his worth or the team might have to look into signing a veteran signal caller.
  • No surprise here, but Jets offensive lineman Willie Colon says that if he does play football in 2016, it will be his last season in the NFL. “If I do go back on the field, it’s going to be my last year. I just know it is,” Colon told Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday. “But the ego and the [guts] I have, if I do get back, I want to go out like Clint Eastwood — I want to go out firing and shooting. If it doesn’t happen, I’m going to move on and get a recorder just like you.” The 33-year-old guard suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2015 and only saw time in six games.
  • The Bills have a kicking battle worth keeping an eye on, Joe Buscaglia of WKBW writes. The Bills have been pitting veteran kicker Dan Carpenter against UDFA Marshall Morgan. Morgan boasts a big leg while Carpenter has made his name on accuracy. Meanwhile, kickoff specialist/punter Jordan Gay is also in camp and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be given an opportunity to kick field goals. If he isn’t given that chance, then he faces an uphill climb to make the cut.

AFC East Notes: Hoyer, Colon, Patriots

The Texans’ decision to move on from Brian Hoyer after one season not only marks the third straight offseason the team has jettisoned its primary starter from the previous season, but it adds a layer of intrigue to the quarterback market.

A key fixture in last year’s tepid quarterback class, Hoyer has drawn interest from the Jets, according to Albert Breer of NFL.com (on Twitter). In addition to Gang Green’s interest in Hoyer, something which the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson corroborates (Twitter link), the Steelers also could be in on the 30-year-old as Ben Roethlisberger insurance.

Pittsburgh’s interest in Hoyer is interesting since the Cleveland-area native will be targeted for starting positions, with the Jets and Broncos having expressed interest. But Roethlisberger’s injuries harpooned the Steelers’ offense last season, with Big Ben missing four games and five starts in 2015. Neither Michael Vick nor Landry Jones proved to be up to the job of keeping Pittsburgh’s attack in high gear.

Hoyer didn’t enjoy a standout season but would be an upgrade over what the Jets and Broncos currently have among their respective quarterback contingents, although New York remains in prolonged talks with 2015 starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, whom the Texans acquired to replace Matt Schaub before trading him after a semi-productive 2014 showing in Houston. Houston traded Schaub to the Raiders during the previous offseason.

A two-year starter with the Browns, Hoyer threw 19 touchdown passes compared to seven interceptions in an injury-plagued 2015 season. The 19 touchdown tosses, in just nine starts, represented a career high for Hoyer, surpassing his 2014 mark (14 TD passes) compiled in 13 starts.

Hoyer’s release saves the Texans $5.015MM this year and moves Houston to $11.451MM under the cap, Wilson tweets.

Here’s some more from the AFC East.

  • Willie Colon is debating whether or not to return for an 11th season, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reports. The veteran lineman played the past three seasons with the Jets, starting 38 games, but remains an unrestricted free agent. The 33-year-old guard attended D’Brickashaw Ferguson‘s retirement ceremony at the Jets’ facility but isn’t sure he’s ready to commit to another year after missing 10 games in 2015 with a season-ending knee injury. “I’m getting in shape, trying to figure it out,” Colon told Cimini. “If my knee doesn’t respond, I’m just going to hang it up. Right now, it’s about me just getting in the best shape I can and see how it goes.” The former Steelers blocker graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 68 guard during his six games last season, and replacement Brian Winters — a former third-round pick now entering his fourth season — came in at No. 58.
  • The Patriots cutting Dominique Easley also could be signalling a move away from traditional 3-technique tackles, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports. New England also waiving Chris Jones, who also profiled as a better fit in a 4-3 scheme represents a philosophical shift back toward bigger nose tackle-type players, a source tells Reiss. The Pats’ signing of Terrance Knighton falls in line with this rejiggering of sorts. Jabaal Sheard‘s ability to rush from an inside position on passing downs contributes to the team’s thinking here, per Reiss.

FA Rumors: Jets, Carter, Thurmond, Colon

Although they re-signed Erin Henderson earlier this month, the Jets lost Demario Davis in free agency and remain in the market for help at the linebacker position. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), the team’s search for reinforcements at linebacker will result in a visit for veteran free agent Bruce Carter.

Having played both inside and outside in 4-3 schemes, Carter would project as an inside linebacker for the Jets. Gang Green currently has David Harris and Henderson penciled in as potential starters, but if he were to sign with the club, Carter could push for playing time.

Here are a few more free agent updates and notes from around the NFL:

Extra Points: NFLPA, Colon, Vikings, Lions

After reporting earlier today that the NFL Players Association was considering a vote on whether to reduce agent fees from a maximum of 3% to a max of 2%, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk hears from multiple sources that the union discussed a possible reduction, but won’t make any changes.

Two sources tell Florio that a small group of players, including Richard Sherman and Rashad Jennings, were in favor of a fee reduction, but the discussion ended up focusing instead on educating players on their right to negotiate a fee lower than 3%.

The conversation comes at an interesting time, in the wake of Russell Okung negotiating his new contract without an agent of his own. While Okung was able to get something done without having to give up a 3% fee, his deal arguably wasn’t as player-friendly as the majority of the other contracts signed this month, as I discussed earlier today. Agents could point to Okung’s lack of guaranteed money as a reason why they’re worth that 3% cut.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NFL:

  • Veteran guard Willie Colon, who is currently a free agent after spending the last three years with the Jets, said during an appearance on ESPN New York 98.7 FM that he’s contemplating retirement. “I’m on the fence. I still haven’t decided if I’m gonna go or not go,” Colon said, adding that he doesn’t want to rush his decision.
  • As Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune details, new Vikings tackle Andre Smith couldn’t pin down just one reason why he decided to sign in Minnesota as a free agent, citing Mike Zimmer‘s presence, the opportunity to join a winner, and the chance to compete for a starting job.
  • In his latest mailbag, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com praises some of the Lions‘ free agency decisions, but says the team didn’t significantly upgrade any position, adding that there are a few “concerning places” on the roster.
  • Mike Klis of 9NEWS sets the stage for next week’s NFL owners meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, suggesting that Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers, and the Broncos will receive plenty of attention, even if nothing major happens with the Kaepernick trade talks.

AFC Mailbags: Jaguars, Patriots, Jets

It’s Saturday morning, and that means ESPN.com’s NFL writers are opening their mailbags and answering questions from the readers. Let’s take a look at some interesting notes from the AFC…

  • The Jaguars have two main needs to address this offseason, according to Mike DiRocco: pass rush and free safety. As a result, the writer believes the team should pursue Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali, or Giants defensive end Robert Ayers. Among defensive backs, DiRocco points to Chargers safety Eric Weddle or Chiefs safety Eric Berry.
  • A reunion between the Patriots and running back Stevan Ridley is unlikely, but Mike Reiss doesn’t completely count it out. After all, safety Patrick Chung returned after leaving New England, and since the Patriots need a running back, Ridley could be a logical choice.
  • Of the seven offensive linemen to start a game for the Jets last season, Rich Cimini believes Willie Colon will be the only player to not return. As a result, the writer can’t envision the organization drafting an offensive lineman with their first-round pick or pursuing a big name in free agency.

AFC East Notes: Incognito, Miller, Jets

With the NFL offseason now underway for every AFC East team except the Patriots, let’s check in on those three non-playoff teams from out of the division…

  • Bills guard Richie Incognito, who signed a one-year deal with the team last February, called himself “a Buffalo guy,” and says he hopes to remain with the Bills in 2016 and beyond. However, as Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News details, Incognito confirmed there have been no negotiations yet between the team and agent David Dunn.
  • Potential free agent running back Lamar Miller told reporters today that he would like to remain with the Dolphins next season, but scheme and fit will be important for him. According to James Walker of ESPN.com (Twitter links), it sounds like Miller wants to end up somewhere where he’ll get more consistent carries than he did in 2015.
  • Insiders tell Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (Twitter link) that the Jets are expected to target a quarterback in the first two rounds of this year’s draft. New York traded up in the fourth round to snag Bryce Petty in 2015, so it’ll be interesting to see if the team decides to add another young QB this year.
  • Veteran guard Willie Colon said he wants to keep playing in 2016, but admits that’s his mind talking, and his body might have other ideas, tweets Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. Colon’s contract with the Jets is expiring, so he’ll have to sign a new one with New York or another club to continue his career.
  • Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday takes a look at the future of the Jets‘ defensive line, with Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison both eligible for free agency this winter.

Jets Activate Dee Milliner; Willie Colon To IR

The Jets announced today that one of their starting offensive linemen will be sidelined for the rest of the season, confirming in a press release that right guard Willie Colon has been placed on injured reserve. With the newly-opened roster spot, the team activated cornerback Dee Milliner from IR-DTR.

Colon, who started all 32 of the Jets’ regular season games at right guard in 2013 and 2014, made six starts this year, but is currently on the shelf with a knee injury. It didn’t initially appear as though the injury was significant enough to be a season-ender, but by placing Colon on IR, the club made the decision to move on to backup Brian Winters for the second half.

Having signed a one-year deal with the Jets in March, Colon will now be eligible for free agency again this winter. That doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be back with the team though — the veteran lineman has now played on three consecutive one-year contracts with New York.

As for Milliner, the former first-round pick returns to the Jets’ active roster after having recovered from a wrist injury. Even with Antonio Cromartie banged up and questionable to play Thursday, Milliner isn’t expected to receive a ton of playing time upon his return, with Buster Skrine or Marcus Williams likely to start opposite Darrelle Revis at cornerback.

AFC Notes: Texans, Richardson, Bowe

With Randy Bullock looking shaky, the Texans will audition a number of kickers this week, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Houston will take a look at Nick Novak, Connor Barth, Kai Forbath, Chris Boswell, and Giorgio Tavecchio as potential replacements, though it’s not a lock that they’ll sign one of those players.

Here’s more from the AFC..

  • The Jets haven’t heard from the league about more possible discipline for Sheldon Richardson and as of right now, coach Todd Bowles is operating under the assumption that he’ll be back on Monday, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Despite the fact that he has yet to make his mark in Cleveland, Browns coach Mike Pettine says the team has not discussed cutting wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer tweets.  Bowe had a $9MM guarantee on his deal and the team expects him to play this season.
  • Jets guard Willie Colon suffered a sprained knee on Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.  Colon will likely be out this week and may miss more time beyond that.
  • Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth told reporterss, including Coley Harvey of ESPN.com, that length wasn’t the most important factor for him when it came to his extension. Whitworth only wanted to be in Cincinnati again and the length of the deal was apparently secondary.  He admitted that his family and other factors could influence decisions on future deals.  “I want Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Adam Jones and all these guys to know what it’s like to win a Super Bowl,” Whitworth said (link).

Jets Re-Sign Willie Colon

After bringing in a new interior offensive lineman earlier this week when they signed James Carpenter, the Jets have also decided to bring back one of their free agent starters from 2014. According to Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday (via Twitter), the club has re-signed veteran guard Willie Colon to a one-year contract.

Colon, who turns 32 in April, has started all 32 contests at right guard for the Jets over the last two seasons, and can be probably penciled in atop the depth chart again heading into the 2015 season. While players like Brian Winters and Oday Aboushi should compete for a starting role, Colon figures to have the inside track based on his experience.

While Colon was a solid pass blocker for the Jets last year, Pro Football Focus’ grades (subscription required) suggest he struggled as a run blocker. He also took too many penalties, and ultimately recorded a -16.3 PFF grade in over 1,100 snaps, placing him 66th out of 78 qualified guards. He was much better in 2013, ranking 35th.