Willie Snead

AFC North Notes: Conner, Ravens, Browns

No notable extension talks between the Steelers and James Conner transpired ahead of his contract year, which doubled as a brutally ineffective season for Pittsburgh’s ground game. The team is not expected to re-sign Conner, Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com notes. Considering the Pittsburgh native’s history of nagging injuries and the Steelers’ salary cap issues, this should not be especially surprising. Conner has played well in spurts, initially starting the Steelers’ post-Le’Veon Bell era so strong he made the Pro Bowl as an original invitee. However, an injury slowed Conner late in that 2018 season. He battled maladies in 2019 and ’20 as well; the cancer survivor also contracted COVID-19 last year. This will create a clear need at running back in Pittsburgh, even with the likes of Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland still under contract.

Conner may need to accept a one-year deal in order to re-establish his value, perhaps putting him in the same boat as fellow 2017 draftee Marlon Mack. These two will join Chris Carson and Kenyan Drake, barring extensions commencing before March 17, in free agency. The Packers have four days to use their franchise tag on Aaron Jones.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Financial issues likely contributed to the Steelers not adding J.J. Watt to their stable of Watts. Although the Steelers have standout defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, they were in the mix for the eldest Watt until the end, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The Steelers were one of the teams mentioned as a landing spot hours after the Texans released Watt. The five-time All-Pro would have welcomed the opportunity to join his brothers, per Fowler, despite the Steelers being stacked at his position. But the former Texans superstar signed with the Cardinals, who took a clear lead in the final few days of this process.
  • Ravens GM Eric DeCosta did not seem to view the addition of a No. 1-type wide receiver as critical this offseason, and Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com adds that the team is not expected to spring for one. The Ravens have young players Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin under contract, but Hensley notes the team is unlikely to bring back Willie Snead. Signing a second-tier wideout does not sound out of the question, with several intriguing names available and more potentially coming via the cap-casualty route soon. But Baltimore’s run-oriented offense will make going the free agency route at this position more complicated. The team ranked last in wide receiver receptions (137) last season.
  • The Browns are not planning to use an RFA tender on backup defensive back and key special-teamer Tavierre Thomas, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. With the cap going down, teams may be stingier with their tender offers. Thomas could be brought back at a lower rate than what the low-end tender will cost (roughly $2.1MM), but the fourth-year player may hit the market.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/10/20

Here are Thursday’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: RB A.J. Dillon; Dillon had been on the Packers’ virus list since testing positive Nov. 2

Indianapolis Colts

Los Angeles Rams

  • Promoted: K Austin MacGinnis

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Conner, Steelers

We learned that Ravens tight end Mark Andrews was the latest member of Baltimore’s organization to test positive for COVID-19 in yesterday’s round, and there apparently were more this morning. There were multiple player/staff positives in Sunday’s round of testing, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. At least one of those positives was receiver Willie Snead, Jamison Hensley of The Athletic tweets. As he notes, Snead is the seventh offensive starter to test positive, and there have now been eight consecutive days with a positive test within the team.

Florio writes that it’s believed the league will opine these positives are a result of the “tail end” of the outbreak, and that Tuesday’s game against the Steelers is still on for now. Meanwhile the Ravens are planning on convening at their facility tonight in order to condition and then have a walkthrough tomorrow, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports tweets. He notes that all work will be done on outdoor fields and players won’t be allowed inside the locker room.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • While the Ravens have obviously had it worse, the Steelers have also had their fair share of COVID-19 issues as they approach Tuesday night. Pittsburgh will be without both special teams coordinator Danny Smith and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada due to illnesses, Brooke Pryor of ESPN tweets. Canada plays a pretty large role in the offensive game-planning, so that’s a significant loss.
  • Pivoting away from COVID news for a moment, the Steelers have some big question marks to address this offseason. One of those is what to do with running back James Conner, who is set to be a free agent. His production has declined since his breakout 2018 campaign, and he’s also dealt with frequent nagging injuries. With those issues, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic writes that he “can’t imagine” Conner getting brought back on anything more than a one-year, prove-it deal. Kaboly thinks the team is grooming Benny Snell to potentially take over for Conner. The Pittsburgh product recently tested positive for COVID-19 himself, which obviously won’t help with his next contract. He’s shown flashes of being a potential featured back, and it’ll be very interesting to see what the market for him looks like. It’s very possible he’s not back with the Steelers in 2021.

Ravens, Willie Snead Agree To Extension

The Ravens will sign Willie Snead to a one-year, $6MM extension, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The sum of the pact is fully-guaranteed, so it represents a solid payday for the wide receiver.

The 2014 undrafted free agent out of Ball State bounced between the Browns and Panthers before landing with the Saints. The wideout turned into one of Drew Brees‘ top targets, compiling 141 receptions, 1,879 yards, and seven touchdowns between the 2016 and 2017 seasons. However, he fell off a bit during his final season in New Orleans, and the Ravens landed Snead as a restricted free agent in 2018.

The 27-year-old was dependable during his first year in Baltimore, hauling in 62 receptions for 651 yards. In seven games this season, Snead has 15 catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns.

Snead was set to his unrestricted free agency this summer. The wideout would have joined a relatively deep free agent pool that includes the likes of Amari Cooper, A.J. GreenEmmanuel Sanders, Robby Anderson, and Nelson Agholor. As Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic tweets, this transaction could also clear up some cap space for a trade addition.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Patriots, Harry, Dolphins, Mills, Ravens, Snead

There was a lot of talk this offseason about how the Patriots’ receiving corp was looking a little thin. Chris Hogan left in free agency and Rob Gronkowski retired, so Tom Brady‘s group of pass-catchers was a bit depleted. New England moved swiftly to address the issue, taking N’Keal Harry out of Arizona State in the first round of last month’s draft. They nabbed Harry at 32nd overall, but they apparently would’ve been willing to take him much higher.

Bill Belichick told Todd Graham, one of Harry’s former college coaches, that the team “had him graded a lot higher than where he was taken in the first round,” per Jeff Howe of The Athletic. Graham spoke to Belichick the night of the draft, and the Patriots coach told him they “were so fortunate that he was still there.” It’s the first time in Belichick’s 19 years at the helm in New England that they’ve taken a receiver in the first round, so they clearly had to be very high on him.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Dolphins are rebuilding, whether they want to admit it or not. We still don’t know whether Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick will win the starting quarterback job, but we do have a bit more clarity as to who will be one of their starting tackles. Jordan Mills “has come on in the past week and the job is clearly his to lose,” at right tackle, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The Dolphins let Ja’Wuan James walk in free agency, meaning they need a new starter opposite Laremy Tunsil, and it looks like Mills is going to be the guy. Mills started all 16 games each of the last three seasons for the Bills, but Buffalo didn’t have much interest in retaining him. He had a poor season last year, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 70th-best tackle. He signed a one-year, $3MM deal with Miami just a few weeks ago.
  • The Ravens’ receiving corp is going to look a lot different in 2019, as they made a lot of changes in preparation for Lamar Jackson‘s first full season as the starter. They let John Brown and Michael Crabtree walk in free agency, and drafted two new receivers in the first three rounds last month. They’ll need some veterans to provide some stability with all the young guys around, and one of the vets they’re reportedly counting on to step up this year is Willie Snead. Unfortunately Snead hasn’t been able to be a full-go this offseason, as he had surgery on his finger after the season ended, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link). Zrebiec writes that the Ravens are “taking it easy with him.” Snead had a productive year last season, finishing with 62 catches for 651 yards and a touchdown.

Willie Snead To Join Ravens

Willie Snead is officially a member of the Ravens. The Saints informed the wide receiver on Monday morning that they will not be matching his offer sheet (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). 

The Saints used the low level tender on Snead this offseason, which tagged him with only a one-year, $1.907MM placeholder. The move came as something of a surprise, but the Saints did not want to pay him upwards of $2.9MM via the second round tender after a forgettable 2017.

Right at the deadline for restricted free agents, the Ravens inked Snead to a two-year, $7MM offer sheet with another $3.4MM in incentives. After the Saints signed an RFA wide receiver of their own in Cameron Meredith, there was no real scenario in which they would have matched.

The Ravens upgraded their wide receiver stable by adding Michael Crabtree and John Brown in March. They were expected to target a WR3 type in the draft this weekend, but the addition of Snead will allow them to prioritize other areas of need.

Snead virtually disappeared from the Saints’ offense last year, but he averaged 70 catches for 940 yards and four touchdowns between 2015 and 2016. He won’t turn 26 until October, so the Ravens see serious potential in the former UDFA.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Not Planning To Match Ravens’ Willie Snead Offer Sheet

After four years in New Orleans, Willie Snead looks like he will head north. The Saints are not planning to match the Ravens’ offer sheet, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link), which will send the RFA wide receiver to Baltimore.

The Ravens only submitted this two-year offer sheet on Friday, but as of Saturday, it doesn’t look like the Saints are planning to retain Snead. This could have been expected after the Saints signed Cameron Meredith to a two-year, $9.6MM RFA offer sheet and agreed to bring back Brandon Coleman. This seemingly locks in a 2018 top four of Michael Thomas/Ted Ginn/Meredith/Coleman and left Snead without a surefire role.

He figures to have one with the Ravens, who continue to overhaul their receiving corps. The 25-year-old pass-catcher joins Michael Crabtree and John Brown as new Raven receivers, and this could well affect the franchise’s potential pursuit of Dez Bryant. Thus far, they’ve been the only team to express interest in the former Cowboys Pro Bowler.

Although, this two-year, $7MM deal, with some incentives, would have been a major discount based on Snead’s 2015 and ’16 seasons. But after a vast production dip in 2017 (eight receptions, 92 yards), Snead will earn a raise nonetheless. This through-2019 contract could double as an audition for Snead, who was negotiating with the Saints for a new deal last offseason. But he’ll be departing the league’s most consistent passing attack for one that hasn’t enjoyed as much success in recent years, so it will be interesting to see how Baltimore pieces together its new-look aerial group.

The former UDFA’s best work came during his age-23 and age-24 seasons, when he totaled 141 receptions for 1,895 yards and seven touchdowns between them. The Ravens are obviously hoping he can move closer to that form instead of the one that relegated him to a surprising afterthought in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Sign WR Willie Snead To Offer Sheet

Saints restricted free agent wide receiver Willie Snead is signing an offer sheet with the Ravens, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. It’s a two-year, $7MM offer sheet with another $3.4MM in incentives. The deal also includes a $2MM signing bonus. Per league rules, the Saints have five days to match. 

This week, Snead reported to the Saints even though he did not have a deal in place with the team. Some took this as a sign that his market in restricted free agency hadn’t drawn much in the way of interest but, apparently, he did draw a sizable offer sheet from at least one team. Friday marks the deadline for RFAs to sign offer sheets and the Ravens have put the squeeze on the Saints at the buzzer.

Snead was tendered at the lowest level this offseason, giving the Saints the right to match any offer sheet. However, they will not receive any draft compensation in that event. Snead now stands to earn a significant bump over his one-year, $1.907MM placeholder, regardless of what the Saints do over the next five days.

The Saints will probably take their time in making a call on Snead, but it would be a surprise to see them match. After inking another RFA in former Bear Cameron Meredith, New Orleans will probably allow Snead to walk.

Meanwhile, for the Ravens, the move is an indication that they will not be signing Dez Bryant. The Ravens were among the clubs with interest, but they may have sensed that Bryant is on the verge of signing elsewhere.

Snead, 26 in October, was not a major contributor in the Saints™ offense last year. However, he averaged 70 catches for 940 yards and four touchdowns over the previous two seasons. Last year, as an exclusive rights free agent, he pushed for a better deal and didn’€™t get it. Now, based off of past performance and potential, he’ll be moving up a level.

The Ravens have upgraded their wide receiver stable by adding Michael Crabtree and John Brown in March. Neither Chris Moore nor Breshad Perriman did a whole lot last season, so the Ravens are looking to provide Joe Flacco with another weapon. The addition of Snead would give the Ravens a formidable trio at receiver and allow them to focus on other areas in the draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Willie Snead Reports To Saints

Willie Snead‘s status for 2018 remains uncertain, but he is proceeding as though he’ll be with the Saints in 2018. On Monday, the wide receiver reported to the team for workouts, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Snead was tendered by New Orleans at the lowest level this offseason, giving the Saints the right to match any offer sheet he signs (but no draft compensation). The wide receiver auditioned for the Ravens recently, but did not sign a deal with them. For now, he remains in limbo, but he could be getting close to signing his one-year, $1.907MM placeholder with the Saints.

Snead, 26 in October, was hardly a factor in the Saints™ offense last year. However, he averaged 70 catches for 940 yards and four touchdowns over the previous two seasons. Last year, as an exclusive rights free agent, he pushed for an improved contract and didn’€™t get it. He’s a long way from that big-money contract he wanted, but he could restore his value this year and look for a better payday next March.

The Saints added Cameron Meredith to their receiver group this offseason, meaning that Snead will have to fight for targets behind Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Meredith, and Tommylee Lewis. On the plus side, quarterback Drew Brees tends to spread the ball around and the Saints did not land the high-end receiving threat they were seeking at tight end.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Work Out WR Willie Snead

The Ravens auditioned wide receiver Willie Snead on Friday, Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Snead participated in the same workout as fellow wideout Michael Floyd

Snead is a restricted free agent of the Saints at the lowest level tender, meaning that New Orleans has the option to match any offer sheet he signs. If the offer sheet is not matched, the team will not have to forfeit any draft compensation.

Snead, 26 in October, didn’t do much last season. However, in the previous two campaigns, he averaged 70 catches for 940 yards and four touchdowns. The Saints’ decision to not use a second-round tender on Snead may be an indication that they won’t go far to retain him.

Last year, as an exclusive rights free agent, he pushed for an an new big money contract and didn’t get it. Snead is unlikely to hit the jackpot this time around, but he could position himself for a bigger payday if he does well on a one-year deal elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.