Za'Darius Smith

Jets Rumors: Lee, Draft, Smith

Jets GM Mike Maccagnan gave a series of non-answers when asked about the future of linebacker Darron Lee. But, as Brian Costello of the New York Post writes, his positive comments may have actually been a not-so-subtle way to advertise Lee’s availability.

I think that will work itself out over time,” Maccagnan said when asked about the fate of the former first-round pick. “Right now, we feel very good about our inside-linebacker position between Darron, Avery [Williamson], C.J. [Mosley], we also signed Neville Hewitt. Quite frankly, Darron’s contract is not a big contract. I think it’s only about $1.7 or [1.8] million. It just gives us a lot of pieces there right now and we’ll figure it out as we go forward.”

Maccagnan drafted Lee in the first round of the 2016 draft, but the club is unlikely to exercise his fifth-year option before the May deadline. The GM dismissed the trade speculation, but the club is reportedly set to shop him during the draft.

Here’s more on Gang Green:

  • The Jets’ No. 3 overall pick is for sale, but they’re unlikely to move up to No. 2 or No. 1 (via Costello). “We’re very open to potentially moving back from three,” Maccagnan said. “I wouldn’t envision us moving up in the draft. I think you can rule that one out. If we end up staying at three and taking a player, we think there are some very good players at three. But we’d definitely be interested if another team came with an offer that we felt was worthy of moving out of the spot. We would definitely consider that. Not to say we’re committed to doing it, but we’d definitely be very intrigued by that.”
  • The draft is still one month away, but Maccagnan indicated that the Jets have already had preliminary trade talks with other clubs about moving down from No. 3 (via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY). “We’ve definitely had conversations,” he said. “People have reached out, put out feelers. Nobody is actively trying to do anything at this point in time. But you have conversations and put out feelers, just like how they’re putting out feelers to us.
  • Maccagnan says the Jets pursued pass rusher Za’Darius Smith in free agency (via Manish Mehta of the Daily News). Ultimately, however, Smith chose the Packers when he flew from the Ravens earlier this month.
  • Also from Costello, Maccagnan indicated that he would be comfortable with Jonotthan Harrison starting at center and Darryl Roberts playing first-string at cornerback. Both positions have been presumed areas of need for the Jets. Outside linebacker may also still be a need, even after re-signing Brandon Copeland.

Contract Details: Smith, James, Wake

The latest details on deals from around the NFL:

Packers To Sign Adrian Amos, Za’Darius Smith

This year, the Packers were serious about making noise in free agency. On Tuesday morning, they agreed to sign safety Adrian Amos, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The club also agreed to terms with former Ravens edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, according to Rapoport (Twitter link). 

Amos is getting a four-year deal worth $37MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapoport notes that it’ll pay him $21MM over the first two years. He was reported to have been seeking between $9-10MM annually, so he got what he wanted.

Amos, 26 in April, enjoyed the best season of his career at the perfect time. Starting in all 16 games, Amos finished out with 73 tackles, two interceptions, nine passes defensed, a fumble recovery, and a sack in 2018. The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus positioned Amos as the eighth-best safety in the NFL last year, though he placed even higher in 2017.

Smith has been an object of the Packers’ affection for some time now. A few years ago, they tried to trade for the former fourth-round pick. Years later, they got him, albeit at a bit of a premium. The 26-year-old (27 in September), also timed his breakout season well. Last year, the edge rusher finished out with 8.5 sacks and 45 tackles despite starting in only eight of his 16 games.

With these two signings, the Packers have managed to close the gap between themselves and the Lions, who spent some serious coin on Monday. They also stole Amos away from the rival Bears, who were hoping to retain him. Thanks to his link to new Broncos coach Vic Fangio, Amos had been heavily linked to Denver, but ultimately it was Green Bay who won the bidding. Amos was a bit unheralded coming out of college, and was a fifth round pick out of Penn State back in 2015. He became a near immediate starter, and this is a big loss for the Bears’ elite defense.

With the signing of Buster Skrine and the expected departure of Bryce Callahan, Chicago’s secondary will look quite a bit different next year. Smith is the latest in a series of departures from the Ravens’ defense, with linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs, along with safety Eric Weddle, all finding new homes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Notes: Flacco, Mosley, Smith, Culley

The Ravens and new general manager Eric DeCosta aren’t expected to make a decision on the fate of quarterback Joe Flacco until March, as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes. The new league year begins in roughly six weeks, and while no trade can be made official until then, Baltimore could agree to deal Flacco to another club before the 2019 league year gets underway. Any pre-June 1 release or trade of Flacco will leave the Ravens with $16MM in dead money; a move after June 1 would put $8MM in dead money on Baltimore’s 2019 books and the same amount on their 2020 cap. In a PFR poll earlier this week, 71% of voters believed the Ravens will be able to find a trade partner for Flacco.

Here’s more from Baltimore:

  • Linebacker C.J. Mosley is perhaps the Ravens’ most important pending free agent, and DeCosta told reporters he “believe[s] in [his] heart” that Mosley will return in 2019, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. Mosley, who has missed only two games during his five-year run in Baltimore, graded as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 22 linebacker in 2019. He’s reportedly begun contract talks with the Ravens, but head coach John Harbaugh admitted there are “limitations with money.” Luke Kuechly currently tops the inside linebacker market with a $12.4MM annual salary, while the second tier of the position sits between $10MM and $10.75MM.
  • DeCosta didn’t sound as positive when discussing the possibility of re-signing edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, tweets Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. “We don’t know what Za’Darius’ market is going to be,” said DeCosta. “He had a really nice year. Typically, the market is usually out of control for those guys, initially out of the gate.” Smith, 26, played the most defensive snaps of his career in 2019, managing 8.5 sacks in the process.
  • The Ravens have hired former Bills quarterbacks coach David Culley as assistant head coach/wide receivers/passing game coordinator, Baltimore announced this week. Culley’s addition will complete the Ravens’ offensive staff overhaul, which began when new offensive coordinator Greg Roman was promoted to take the place of Marty Mornhinweg, who rejected another position inside the organization. Culley, 63, overlapped with Ravens head coach Harbaugh on Andy Reid‘s Eagles staff, serving as Philadelphia’s wide receivers coach while Harbaugh led the club’s special teams and defensive backs

Injury Updates: Redskins, Smith, Ravens, Jefferson, Texans, Reid

Alex Smith to recover from the devastating leg injury he suffered midway through the 2018 season, and Redskins team president Bruce Allen recently provided an update, per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Allen didn’t sound overly confident in Smith’s prospects of being ready for 2019, saying “If anyone can come back, it’s Alex”, but finishing with a “we’ll see.” He also left the door open to drafting a quarterback this April, and sounded as if the team is preparing for being without Smith.

He seemed open to the possibility of Colt McCoy starting, saying “we like Colt a lot.” McCoy initially filled in for Smith but soon went down with his own season ending leg injury. He was then replaced by Josh Johnson who looked a lot better than expected, but Allen didn’t mention Johnson at all in his comments. Smith was recently seen out in public for the first time since his injury, wearing a bulky apparatus on his injured leg.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • Recently extended Ravens coach John Harbaugh spoke to the media today, and provided updates on several injured players, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Harbaugh said guard Alex Lewis, who recently underwent shoulder surgery, should be back by training camp, and that safety Tony Jefferson, linebacker Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Tavon Young would all be out around 4-6 more weeks, putting them on track for OTA’s.
  • Texans rookie safety Justin Reid had a great rookie season, earning very high marks from Pro Football Focus, and he was playing hurt throughout the year. Reid had been dealing with wrist issues, and he will undergo wrist surgery, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. It’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined, but it doesn’t sound like anything major and he should be ready in time for offseason work.
  • In case you missed it, the 49ers hope to have Jimmy Garoppolo throwing by OTA’s.

2018 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Jay Ajayi (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.908MM in 2018. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2018 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Trent Brown, T; Eli Harold, LB

Bears: Adrian Amos, S

Bengals: Tyler Kroft, TE; Josh Shaw, DB

Bills: John Miller, G

Broncos: Max Garcia, G; Trevor Siemian, QB

Browns: Duke Johnson, RB

Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, LB

Cardinals: David Johnson, RB; J.J. Nelson, WR

Chargers: Kyle Emanuel, LB

Chiefs: Chris Conley, WR; Steven Nelson, CB

Colts: Henry Anderson, DE; Mark Glowinski, G; Denzelle Good, OL

Dolphins: Bobby McCain, CB

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, RB; Jordan Hicks, LB

Falcons: Grady Jarrett, DT

Jaguars: A.J. Cann, OL

Lions: Quandre Diggs, CB

Packers: Jake Ryan, LB

Panthers: Daryl Williams, T

Patriots: Trey Flowers, DE; Shaq Mason, G

Raiders: Clive Walford, TE

Rams: Jamon Brown, G

Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, LB

Redskins: T.J. Clemmings, OL; Jamison Crowder, WR

Saints: Tyeler Davison, DT

Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR

Steelers: Jesse James, TE

Vikings: Stefon Diggs, WR; Danielle Hunter, DE

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Extra Points: Saints, Fins, Cowboys, Ravens

The Saints have too many linebackers and not enough spots, which could lead to the ouster of either Manti Te’o or Stephone Anthony, writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Te’o hasn’t even played a down yet for the Saints, who signed him in May, but his two-year, $5MM deal includes just $600K in guarantees. With that in mind, the former Charger will be easy to jettison if he doesn’t impress Saints coaches in the coming weeks. Anthony’s contract, on the other hand, isn’t so team friendly. Cutting him wouldn’t save the Saints any money this year, yet it would leave them with $2.1MM-plus in dead money. While the 24-year-old was a first-round pick of the Saints not long ago, in 2015, he’s coming off a subpar second season that ended after 10 games on account of a knee injury.

More from around the NFL:

  • As of late June, the expectation was that Dolphins center Mike Pouncey would be ready for Week 1. That remains the case, it seems, as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Pouncey hasn’t had any setbacks during his recovery from the hip injury that kept him out of 11 games last year. As a result, both Pouncey and the Dolphins are “confident” a forthcoming hip exam will yield positive results. Still, for precautionary reasons, the Dolphins will limit Pouncey in practice throughout the year in hopes of having him for all 16 regular-season games (and potential playoff contests), relays Salguero.
  • Cowboys defensive end David Irving was a no-show for the team’s first day of camp on Friday, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. It’s unclear why Irving was absent, but he’s now subject to a $40K fine for missing reporting day. Irving’s already set to serve a four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
  • With training camp approaching, Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun projects the Ravens’ season-opening roster. Veterans whose roster spots are in danger include tight end Maxx Williams, fullback Lorenzo Taliaferro, defensive ends Brent Urban and Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Brandon Boykin, writes Zrebiec. Urban is the only member of the group who appeared in every Ravens game last season, when he picked up two sacks on 150 snaps. Smith, a participant in over 47 percent of Baltimore’s defensive snaps and a starter in 13 appearances, played the biggest role of the five in 2016. But Smith only made a marginal impact statistically (20 tackles, sack, forced fumble), and his performance ranked a less-than-stellar 92nd among Pro Football Focus’ 106 qualified edge defenders.
  • Bears center Hroniss Grasu missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in August, and now it’s up in the air whether he’ll play another down for the team, suggests JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago. Grasu’s old starting job now belongs to Cody Whitehair, who more than held his own as a rookie after shifting from guard to center in the wake of Grasu’s injury. So, if the Bears only keep eight offensive lineman this year, it may lead to Grasu’s demise. The 25-year-old was a third-round pick in 2015, when he started in all of his appearances, though a neck injury limited him to eight games that season.

Extra Points: Baldwin, Ravens, Saints

Doug Baldwin had the best season of his career in 2015, finishing with 78 catches for 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns (all career-highs). Despite the breakout season, the 27-year-old will be playing on only a $4MM base salary in 2016, the final year of his three-year, $13MM deal signed in 2014.

However, the wideout isn’t stressing an extension. In fact, he has faith in general manager John Schneider and the Seahawks front office to get a deal done in a timely manner. If it doesn’t? Baldwin’s still ready to perform.

“If I continue to work hard, if I continue to strive to get better and not focus on things money oriented, it’s eventually going to come,” he told ESPN.com’s Jim Trotter. “And even if it doesn’t, I’m fine with that, too, because at the end of the day, I’m controlling what I can control. That’s all God gave me, was the tools to control what I can control. If it doesn’t work out the way that I want it to work out, that to me is just God telling me that He has a better plan.”

Of course, Baldwin hinted that a deal could be coming soon.

“John pretty much told me that the offer was going to come after the draft,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t come, I’m not worried about it. Why not? Because there are other things I value in life. I don’t value worrying about that.”

Let’s check out some more notes from around the league on this Monday evening…

  • The NFL will investigate the Ravens use of full pads at a recent rookie minicamp, reports ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley. While one team official said they were unaware of the reports, they did note that rookies used pads for a “non-contact punt protection drill,” which would seemingly contradict the collective bargaining agreement. However, the team official said the organization believed those rookie minicamp rules did not apply to OTAs.
  • Ravens star Terrell Suggs‘ pre-trial conference for his March one-car accident in Arizona was held today, tweets Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.
  • Ravens outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith will now be represented by SportsTrust Advisors, according to Liz Mullen of SBJ (on Twitter).
  • Undrafted Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams is likely on his way to the CFL, as John Keim of ESPN.com writes. “I could be like a Warren Moon or Doug Flutie,” he said of former NFL quarterbacks who played in the CFL. “All I need is a chance. … If they can stop looking at my height and give me a chance they’d get a teammate with a lot of energy and a great leader.” Adams’ rights are owned by the B.C. Lions.
  • The Saints asked linebacker Chris Weatherd to participate in the team’s veteran’s minicamp in June, tweets Evan Woodbery of NOLA.com. The Tennessee product participated in the organization’s rookie minicamp this past weekend.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Draft Signings: Bears, Ravens, Pats, Giants

A number of mid- to late-round draft picks have agreed to terms with their respective teams so far today. Here’s the list of draftees who have been locked up by their teams, along with four-year contract information, via Over The Cap:

  • Baltimore Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, DE/OLB (fourth round). $2.763MM, including signing bonus of $483K (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun).
  • Carolina Panthers: Cameron Artis-Payne, RB (fifth round). $2.446MM, including signing bonus of $166K (Twitter link via David Newton of ESPN.com).
  • Chicago Bears: Hroniss Grasu, OL (third round). $3.042MM, including signing bonus of $762K (Twitter link via Bears’ official account)
  • New England Patriots: Tre’ Jackson, G (fourth round). $2.724MM, including a signing bonus of $444K (Twitter link via Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal).
  • New York Giants: Owa Odighizuwa, DE (third round). $3.021MM, including signing bonus of $741K (Twitter link via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post).
  • Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Murphy, S (seventh round). $2.333MM, including signing bonus of $53K (Twitter link via agent Adam Snyder)
  • Washington: Jamison Crowder, WR (fourth round). $2.826MM, including signing bonus of $546K (Twitter link via John Keim of ESPN.com).
  • Washington: Tevin Mitchell, CB (sixth round). $2.413MM, including signing bonus of $133K (Twitter link via Keim).

Extra Points: Brees, Saints, Bucs, Collins

Saints GM Mickey Loomis says he may take a quarterback in this year’s draft, but he doesn’t see the end of the line for Drew Brees anytime soon either, ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett writes. “That’s a good question,” Loomis said. “I think you’re always looking to get a young quarterback in the program. We’ve got one in Ryan Griffin that we like. And if an opportunity presents itself, hey, we may take another one here. But I don’t see the end for Drew Brees on the short-term horizon. At least I certainly hope not. But it does take time for these quarterbacks to develop. And we’re conscious of that. We evaluate the quarterbacks. And obviously if an opportunity presents itself to take one at the right time, we’re not afraid to do that.” More on that and other news from the NFL..

  • If the Saints draft Bryce Petty, it’ll be a clear indication that Jeff Ireland is already calling the shots there, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports tweets.
  • Ed Werder of ESPN (via Rob Demovsky on Twitter) says the Buccaneers may be looking to move up into the bottom of the first round. The Bucs currently pick at No. 34 and Demovsky wonders if the Packers at No. 30 could be a match.
  • Multiple teams have removed LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins from their draft boards, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Bills GM Doug Whaley called Kentucky defensive end Za’Darius Smith a “perfect fit” for the type of scheme they run, Joe Buscaglia of WKBW tweets.
  • Army running back Raymond Maples has been granted administrative leave to attend team activities if he’s drafted or signed, Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • With so few quality safeties available, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that James Sample (Louisville) and Damarious Randall (ASU) will go higher than most people think.