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The days after the draft are spent signing undrafted rookies with dreams of playing in the NFL.
That optimism is often accompanied by the news that few members of the roster have seen their own dreams take a shot. That’s the case in New Orleans, where three players have been released to make room for the incoming signees.
The Saints announced Monday that they have released safety Marcus Ball, safety Ty Zimmerman and linebacker Kyle Knox. Ball and Knox each played 12 games for the Saints last season with most of the action coming on special teams.
Among the 13 players signed is New Hampshire wide receiver R.J. Harris, who drew visits from a few NFL teams before the draft after catching 100 passes and making the FCS All-American team. The team also signed tight end Harold Spears, who played with Harris in college.
Clemson defensive lineman Tavaris Barnes, Syracust tackle Sean Hickey, Texas A&M wide receiver Malcome Kennedy, Mississippi State defensive lineman Kaleb Eulls, Indiana defensive lineman Bobby Richardson, Notre Dame College guard Doniel Gambrell, Texas-San Antonio defensive lineman Ashaad Mabry, North Texas guard Cyril Lemon, West Texas A&M linebacker Marcus Pierce-Brewster, SMU linebacker Stephon Sanders and North Carolina tight end Jack Tabb round out the group.
The Bills didn’t draft any defensive linemen this year, but they added five players to the group on Monday.
Defensive end Alex Carrington returned to the team as a free agent after spending last season with the Rams and the team added five other defensive linemen as undrafted free agents.
Defensive end Cedric Reed played for the biggest program, but never really established himself at Texas before turning in a good final season that was followed by knee surgery. He’ll need to build on that to earn a spot with the Bills. They also signed Louisiana-Lafayette defensive tackle Justin Hamilton, Utah State defensive end B.J. Larsen and Bethune Cookman defensive end Erik Williams.
The rest of the undrafted aspirants are South Florida wide receiver Andre Davis, Washington linebacker Andrew Hudson, Florida tight end Clay Burton, Illinois State tackle Jermaine Barton, N.C. State tackle Tyson Chandler, Western Kentucky cornerback Cam Thomas, Wake Forest cornerback Merrill Noel, Baylor punter Spencer Roth and Stanford A.J. Tarpley.
After making defensive lineman Arik Armstead their first-round pick on Thursday, 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said that the selection wasn’t made because of the uncertainty about Justin Smith’s status for 2015.
It was made because the 49ers know they are going to need to replace Smith’s production in the near future whatever he decides about this season. They should have an idea just how soon that need will arise in about a month.
Smith told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee that “you’ll know in about three weeks or so” whether he’s going to return for a 15th and likely final NFL season. Barrows reports that Smith is working out regularly and looks good, although Smith cautioned not to read into that because he’d work out regularly even if he wasn’t returning.
Smith also said that he feels good physically, but added that “everybody feels good at this time of the year” so there’s probably not much to read into that as a hint either.
The Bengals drafted a pair of tight ends over the weekend, but it doesn’t look like concerns about Tyler Eifert’s recovery from shoulder and elbow surgeries was the impetus to double down on the position.
Eifert said Monday that he’s waiting to get full clearance to return from his shoulder injury, a torn labrum that he had repaired after dislocating his elbow in the first game of last season. He expects to get that clearance before the start of training camp and is working to rebuild his strength until then.
“It’s just hard when you’re starting over physically,” Eifert said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I lost a lot of weight, a lot of muscle. I couldn’t really do anything there for three or four months. So just getting that back, getting back in the groove of lifting and getting strong, that’s probably been the hardest part. As far as the plays and being in here with the guys, it feels like I never missed a beat. Being out here on the field today, it’s kind of like riding a bike. Once you get back out there its all the same.”
With Eifert on the way back, third-round pick Tyler Kroft and fifth-rounder C.J. Uzomah will likely be part of the competition for the snaps left behind by Jermaine Gresham’s departure. If that approach pans out, the Bengals should be well stocked at tight end in 2015.
Florida State has had 29 players drafted in the last three years, a record in the era of the seven-round selection process. Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett wishes more of his unit’s players would be Patriots.
“I wish they would take all my guys, because they’re about the only damn team that knows what the hell to do with them,” Trickett told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.
Last year, the Patriots got former Florida State center Bryan Stork in round four. This year, they got former FSU guard Tre’ Jackson in round four.
Stork became a starter as a rookie. Jackson now has a chance to do the same thing.
“He’ll do whatever he’s got to do to help them win, and that’s the main thing,” Trickett said of Jackson. “That’s why New England wins. Guys do what the team needs. That’s what I try to raise them on. Don’t worry about the vertical jump, the broad jump, all that stuff.
“It’s more about finding a damn football player. Tre’ is a football player.”
And he’s more than that.
“He is a great guy,” Trickett said of Jackson. “He is a Patriots kind of kid. He is everything they want. He has never missed a meeting, a practice or a game here in four years. He is that kind of guy. He is a great person, has got a great family, and he’ll be a great football player. He’s got an edge on him now. He’s wanting to show people who slipped him down to the fourth round. I think they got a second-round player in the fourth round.”
Based on what Stork did last year, there’s no reason to doubt Trickett when it comes to Jackson.
LSU offensive lineman La’El Collins would have been a first-round pick last week, but for his connection to a double-murder investigation.
But his current status goes far beyond anything involving his freefall through the entire 2015 NFL Draft.
Collins met with investigators this morning, and apparently it went well.
According to Jerit Roser of the New Orleans Times Picayune, the Baton Rouge Police Department said Collins “fully cooperated with investigators and is still not considered a suspect.”
While that’s not exactly the same as “cleared,” his attorney has expressed confidence that would be the case.
While an NFL team could sign him at any point, it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll wait until there’s a clearer reading of the situation, before anyone proceeds.
The Bills are back in the Alex Carrington business.
The defensive tackle was a third-round pick of the team in 2010 and spent four years on their defensive line before making the move to the Rams as a free agent last year. The Bills changed coaching staffs during the offseason and Carrington came in for a visit with Rex Ryan’s crew that led to the reunion.
Carrington played defensive end in a three-man front during his last stint with the Bills and could be in the mix for a similar role given Ryan’s past preference for that front. With Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes all back in Buffalo, there are a lot of ways for Buffalo to go on the defensive line. Carrington will also figure into special teams with six blocked kicks highlighting his first tour with the Bills.
Signing Carrington, who was an unrestricted free agent after playing out his contract in St. Louis, before May 12 will work against the Bills in the compensatory pick formula for next year’s draft.
This year’s draft was, in some respects, unpredictably predictable. But there were still surprises, even if one of the biggest surprises came from the lack of surprises.
Not surprisingly, we need a poll question for Monday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN. So today’s question focuses on which surprise was the biggest surprise of the draft.
For that and all other reactions to the 2015 NFL draft, tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN, with Paul Burmeister, Jason Taylor, and Ross Tucker in Connecticut and yours truly in West Virginia.
Few people expected defensive lineman Leonard Williams to be on the board for the fifth pick of the first round last Thursday night and those that did likely thought thought that the Redskins would be happy to add him to their defense.
Washington went a different way, however, and selected offensive lineman Brandon Scherff. Scherff was among those surprised to hear his name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and General Manager Scot McCloughan explained Monday what went into the choice to leave Williams for the Jets with the sixth pick by taking Scherff.
“The thing about Leonard — very good football player,” McCloughan said. “I was hoping to be able to move back there and it didn’t happen. Everyone was talking about trading up, trading up to our spot but it was all for [third overall pick Dante] Fowler. Once Fowler went, then all the talks went off the board. Leonard is a good football player. If for some reason Brandon would have been gone, he probably would have been 1B, 1C right there. We were lucky enough in free agency to do some things on the defensive side. Going into this thing I knew we needed some help up front on the offensive side and it was too good of a bang for the buck to not get Brandon there.”
McCloughan said that he wanted his first pick with the team to be an “impressive person” that the team can build around and said he felt that Scherff qualified as that kind of player. His evaluation of which player best fit that goal may have differed from the popular opinion of what he should have done and it will take a few years to know if that was a sound call, just as it would have been if the Redskins had taken Williams last week.
A football player being charged with misdemeanor vandalism might not sound like that big of a deal, but the circumstances of 49ers fullback Bruce Miller’s arrest will create more questions.
According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, Miller is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon on the charges, which stemmed from an argument with his girlfriend, during which Miller threw her phone against the wall.
“Even relatively minor domestic violence incidents can be the first steps on a path that ends in tragedy,” said Jim Demertzis, who supervises the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Family Violence Unit. “That’s why we take all domestic violence cases seriously.”
The victim originally told police that during an argument in a parking garage, Miller pushed her out of the car and smashed her phone. She refused medical attention, and didn’t have any visible injuries or complaint of pain. Later, she denied there was any physical contact, and their investigation deemed it inconclusive whether Miller pushed her out of the car or not.
Because of the attention recent domestic violence cases have received in the NFL, this one will get plenty of scrutiny, beyond what sounds like an innocuous charge.
It’s more than fair to say that the Bengals were not dissuaded by Whitworth’s words. They drafted Texas A&M tackle Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round and then followed up with Oregon tackle Jake Fisher in the second round, giving themselves a pair of potential successors to the 33-year-old Whitworth as he enters the final year of his contract.
Whitworth responded to the moves at the team’s headquarters on Monday and expressed disappointment that the Bengals neither told him about their plans at tackle nor responded to his request to discuss an extension of his contract.
“I want to be above and beyond and do more than the average guy in this locker room. But it’s hard to do that when the feeling’s not reciprocated. Really, it’s just a one-way street,” Whitworth said, via ESPN.com. “[When the team says] we’d like you to be the leader of our football team, but we’d also like the best situation possible for us to talk to you when we want to, that’s a one-way street and not really top-of-the-line in customer service. But it is what it is. Hopefully one day that conversation will be had and I’ll be here.”
Whitworth doesn’t seem to hold any grudges against the new players, both of whom he invited over to his house to watch the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. Ogbuehi had already left town, but Fisher got a chance to spend some time with a locker room leader on his new team.
That kind of invitation is why Whitworth became a team leader, although those qualities only buy you so much time when a team makes it clear that they’re investing in a different future at the position.
The Rams were able to swing a deal while on the clock, gaining extra third- and sixth-rounders from the Panthers because they were willing to move down.
But the amazing part isn’t that General Manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher made a deal, it’s that they were able to keep all their offers straight.
According to Michael Silver of the NFL Network, the Rams were about to take an offensive lineman with the 41st pick, when the phones started ringing like crazy.
The Chiefs were the first of six teams to call in a five-minute span, as the Rams tried to cut the best deal possible.
The Panthers wanted to get to Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess. The Rams ended up taking Wisconsin tackle Rob Havenstein, along with quarterback Sean Mannion and Missouri wide receiver Bud Sasser with the three picks they acquired. They also sandwiched Louisville tackle Jamon Brown in with their own third-round pick, giving them the line depth they wanted at 41.
“People fall in love in the second round,” Snead said. “If you’re not in love, you’re in the driver’s seat. Last year, we fell in love with [defensive back Lamarcus] Joyner, and we gave up a ‘5’ to move up to get him. This year, we were able to go the other way.”
The Panthers had a desperate need to fill at wide receiver, and they clearly loved Funchess. They’d also do it again in the fourth round, trading all the rest of their picks (other than their compensatory choices) to get Oklahoma tackle Daryl Williams.
But because the Rams have a reputation for being willing to deal, their phone’s always going to ring, even if they can’t keep up with them all.
The Colts announced Monday they had reached deals with 15 undrafted free agents, including a quarterback who played at the Senior Bowl.
Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Bryan Bennett, who began his collegiate career at Oregon, is among the UDFAs agreeing to terms with Indianapolis.
Bennett (6-2, 211) threw for 2,357 yards with 18 TDs and eight interceptions in 2014. He also led his team in rushing (669 yards, 15 TDs). However, he completed less than 50 percent of his passes a season ago, and he could be more likely to stick on the Colts’ practice squad than their roster.
The Colts also announced a deal with Yale running back Tyler Varga, another Senior Bowl invitee. Varga (5-11, 222) rushed for 1,423 yards and scored 26 total touchdowns for the Bulldogs as a senior.
The other rookie free agents slated to join the Colts are Auburn wide receiver Quan Bray, Western Michigan cornerback Donald Celiscar, San Diego State linebacker Cody Galea, Cincinnati linebacker Terrell Hartsfield, Harvard linebacker Zachary Hodges, Nebraska cornerback Joshua Mitchell, San Diego State wide receiver Ezell Ruffin, West Chester cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz, Massachusetts tight end Jean Sifrin, Purdue tight end Justin Sinz, Clemson safety Robert Smith, Toledo linebacker Junior Sylvestre and Northwestern center Brandon Vitabile.
The attorney for La’El Collins says he met with police today and is fully cooperating in the investigation of the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
“It went fine; we answered all their questions,” attorney Jim Boren told the Times-Picayune. “La’el is not going to make any comments. I’m not going to have any comments. The investigation is going to continue. La’el is now going to start making an effort to start getting his football career back on track.”
Asked if he thinks Collins will be cleared, Boren replied, “Only the police can answer that question. In my mind he’s been cleared from the very beginning. I think he’s not a suspect. He answered all the questions they had. Every question, we didn’t claim the fifth. We answered every single question. We gave them all the information they asked for. He’s ready to get his life back.”
Collins is under no legal obligation to say anything, but he knows that the only way he’s going to be able to convince an NFL team to sign him is if he can show that he was not involved in the deaths of Brittney Mills and her baby. Collins was expected to be a first-round draft pick until news of Mills’s death surfaced last week. If he’s exonerated he’ll be perhaps the most sought-after undrafted free agent in NFL history.
Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie added a new crop of rookies to the roster in the draft and those arrivals have helped ease one of McKenzie’s first picks in Oakland off the team.
Linebacker Miles Burris took to Instagram on Monday to say farewell to the Raiders and said he got to live his dream by playing for the same team that he rooted for as a kid. Burris was a fourth-round pick of the team in 2012, which made him McKenzie’s second pick (offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom was the first) as the man in charge of personnel in Oakland because the team didn’t have first- or second-round picks that year.
The Raiders haven’t made an official announcement yet, but the addition of linebackers Neiron Ball and Ben Heeney in the draft meant that there was some overcrowding at the position. Burris started every game for the Raiders last year, recording 109 tackles, but signing Curtis Lofton as a free agent was a clear sign the Raiders wanted another answer in the middle of their defense.
The team is also parting ways with wide receiver James Jones as they reset their roster after the draft.