Texans Activate CB Gareon Conley

Gareon Conley has passed his physical and is good to go for training camp. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets that the Texans have activated the cornerback from the physically unable to perform list.

The 25-year-old had undergone knee surgery during the offseason, and his recovery forced him to land on PUP late last month. Now, the defensive back can return to the field prior to a crucial season.

Last October, the 2017 first-round pick was traded to the Texans from the Raiders for a third-round pick. Conley played fine for Houston down the stretch; he started six of his eight games for the Texans, compiling 27 tackles and 11 passes defended. He also started both of Houston’s playoff games, collecting 11 tackles and one sack.

However, thanks in part to his underwhelming performance in Oakland, the Texans declined Conley’s fifth-year option back in April. That makes the defensive back an unrestricted free agent following the 2020 campaign, and he could increase his stock following a solid showing with the Texans. It sounds like Conley is excited to prove his worth, as defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver told Wilson that the cornerback is “champing at the bit” to return to the field.

“Gareon, while he did have surgery, he is starting to feel better,” Weaver said. “I know he’s on PUP right now but he’s champing at the bit to get back out there. He’s already coming up to me asking about when we can watch film together so he can know what I’m thinking when I’m making play calls and things of that nature.” 

RB Lamar Miller, Patriots Agree To One-Year Deal

Lamar Miller is heading to New England. The veteran running back is signing with the Patriots pending a physical, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). It’ll be a one-year deal for Miller.

It was just about one year ago that the 29-year-old tore his ACL in a preseason contest while playing for the Texans. As Schefter notes on Twitter, the running back is “said to he fully recovered and ready to play this season.”

Miller had been with the Texans since 2016, and he earned a Pro Bowl nod during his last healthy season. During that 2018 campaign, the veteran rushed for five scores and 973 yards on 210 carries (4.6 yards per carry) while adding 25 receptions for 163 receiving yards and one touchdown. While he only rushed for 18 yards during that season’s playoff loss to the Colts, he did add eight receptions for 63 yards.

Prior to his stint with the Texans, the former fourth-rounder spent the first four seasons of his career with the Dolphins. This included 2014 and 2015 campaigns where he averaged 985.5 rushing yards and eight touchdowns per season.

Miller is joining a very crowded depth chart in New England, and today’s signing makes it even more uncertain. Sony Michel disappointed during his sophomore campaign (and he’s currently sitting on the PUP), but he still managed to finish the 2019 season with 912 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The team is also rostering versatile veterans like James White and Rex Burkhead, and there was some hope that 2019 third-rounder Damien Harris could contribute following a pseudo-redshirt year.

Of course, that running game should also feature plenty of Cam Newton. While Miller’s path to a roster spot is more uncertain than the quarterback’s, the duo could be called on to lead a revamped New England offense in 2020.

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Vikings Waive LB Cameron Smith, Expect Him To Land On IR

In a procedural move, the Vikings announced that they have waived linebacker Cameron Smith. However, this doesn’t mean it’s the end of his tenure with the organization.

As Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press points out (on Twitter), the front office expects Smith to clear waivers and land on their injured reserve. The reporter adds that the player is expected to earn his fully $675K base salary.

The 23-year-old revealed this weekend that he needs to undergo open-heart surgery and will miss the entire 2020 campaign. Fortunately, Smith also revealed that he opted for a procedure that will allow him to continue his NFL career once he’s fully recovered.

“I found out I need open heart surgery to fix a bicuspid aortic valve that I was born with,” Smith posted on Instagram. “Although this will unfortunately end my 2020 season, it is really a blessing that we found this as my heart is severely enlarged and wouldn’t have lasted much longer. I found this out after I tested positive for COVID and had to have further testing done as protocol. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but I could really feel him on this one!

“By no means am I ready to be done playing football, there is still so much more I want to accomplish on the field. I’m going to attack this like everything else I have in life. Already looking forward to the comeback! #SKOL”

The Vikings selected the USC product in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. The linebacker saw time in five games as a rookie, compiling eight tackles.

Jaguars’ Yannick Ngakoue Fires Agent

Yannick Ngakoue has parted ways with his agent (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). The defensive end will now look for a new rep, who will be the third agent of his career. Per league rules, Ngakoue must wait at least five days before hiring a new agent.

Ngakoue is set to play on his one-year, $17.88MM franchise tender. He’s been extremely vocal about his desire to get out of Jacksonville but his market has been depressed by a number of factors. The Jaguars have received multiple trade offers for the defensive end, but none of them have been to their liking. Apparently, Ngakoue feels that a new agent can help bring a deal together.

Regardless of where Ngakoue winds up, he’ll have no choice but to sign and play on the one-year tender. After that, Ngakoue and his team will be formally barred from hammering out an extension until next year.

Although the extension ship has temporarily sailed, there is precedent for a player changing teams in this scenario. Last year, the Seahawks waited until August 31 before shipping Jadeveon Clowney to the Texans. At last check, the Jaguars were seeking a first-round pick – plus more – for Ngakoue. They’ll almost certainly have to scale back their asking price for a deal to come together. Theoretically, a 2021 third-round pick would at least give them something, a slight upgrade over the 2022 third-round compensatory pick they’d get by allowing the youngster to walk.

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Chiefs, Alex Okafor Rework Deal

The Chiefs now have a little bit of extra cap room, thanks to a revised deal with Alex Okafor. The defensive end has agreed to a pay cut that will earn $2MM off of KC’s cap (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). In exchange, Okafor will reach free agency next March, one year earlier than originally planned.

[RELATED: 2020 NFL Cap Space, By Team]

The new deal will pay Okafor a maximum of $4.96MM, with $860K coming by way of per-game roster bonuses and $2MM in incentives. After that, he’ll hit the open market. Originally, this was slated to be the sandwich year in Okafor’s three-year, $18MM deal, inked last year.

Okafor’s first year with the Chiefs ended on injured reserve. Before that, he was playing fairly well. In ten games (nine starts), he racked up five sacks.

The talent-loaded Chiefs have made a handful of moves this offseason to make the numbers work. Previously, they restructured Frank Clark‘s deal and re-signed Sammy Watkins to a new contract that came with a sizable pay cut. All in all, the Chiefs are now left with about $15MM to spend.

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Patriots Meet With TE Jordan Leggett, DT Darius Kilgo

The Patriots are on the verge of adding some reinforcements. Tight end Jordan Leggett and defensive tackle Darius Kilgo will meet with the Pats on Monday and, if everything checks out, they’ll sign on (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).

[RELATED: Ravens, Patriots Interested In Delanie Walker]

Leggett, a 2017 fifth-round pick of the Jets, was originally set to serve as their top tight end in his rookie year. Instead, a knee injury wiped out his would-be first season. Leggett was only targeted occasionally when he finally debuted in 2018 and the Jets moved on from him in the following offseason. The Bucs scooped him up and mostly kept him on the practice squad in 2019. Then, late last month, they released him outright.

If signed, Leggett would provide the Pats with some extra insurance for their young tight end group. After Matt LaCosse‘s opt out, they’re left with a group headlined by third-round rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene, plus the relatively inexperienced Ryan Izzo. The Pats are also said to have interest in veteran tight end Delanie Walker.

Kilgo, a 2016 sixth-round pick of the Broncos, has spent some time with the Patriots in the past, though he has never appeared in a game for them. For his career, Kilgo has appeared in 29 games for the Broncos and Titans.

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Latest On Colts, T.Y. Hilton

Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton says he is almost healed from a hamstring injury and days away from being able to return to the field. Hilton also told reporters that there hasn’t been much momentum in his contract talks as he enters his walk year (Twitter link via Stephen Holder of The Athletic). 

As it stands, Hilton has one year to go on his deal, which carries a $14.5MM cap hit. An extension would give Hilton extra security on what he says will be his last NFL contract, regardless of length. Still, teams have been reluctant to fork over guaranteed dollars, and Hilton’s age complicates matters further. As it stands, his deal ranks 16th among wide receivers in per-year average.

Hilton has performed as one of the league’s most dangerous deep threats when healthy – from 2013 through 2018, he’s averaged 16 yards per grab. Last year, his calf limited him to just ten games, leaving him with a final stat line of 45 catches, 501 yards, and five touchdowns. This year, he’ll look to get back to his old form as he builds a rapport with new quarterback Philip Rivers. He may have a stronger case for a new deal next year if he can reprise his 2018 showing. In that season, Hilton finished out with 76 catches for 1,270 yards and six TDs.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 8/10/20

We’ll keep track of the latest minor moves here:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Waived: FB Bronson Rechsteiner

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Miami Dolphins

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ravens To Sign Kenjon Barner

The Ravens are set to sign running back Kenjon Barner, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The well-traveled veteran is expected to feature in Baltimore’s return game now that speedster De’Anthony Thomas has opted out of the 2020 season. 

Barner spent 2019 with the Falcons, where he averaged 7.6 yards per punt return, 23.9 yards per kick return, and took one 78-yard return to the house. On the flipside, Barner muffed four punts and turned the ball over once on a fumble. The 31-year-old’s best path to the field might be as a kick returner, since sixth-round pick James Proche is expected to handle punts.

Barner, 31, has also performed well as a running back in limited spurts. In four years with the Eagles, Barner averaged 4.4 yards per carry, though that came on a grand total of 71 attempts. Obviously, the Ravens are pretty well set in the backfield with Mark Ingram, rookie J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill leading the way.

The Ravens still have lots of work ahead of them as they work towards September’s roster max. They also plan on carrying three quarterbacks – likely Robert Griffin and Trace McSorely behind star Lamar Jackson – which will make the numbers crunch extra tricky.

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Jaguars Sign Tramaine Brock

The Jaguars signed cornerback Tramaine Brock following his visit on Sunday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The eleventh-year pro has been brought in to fill the void left by Rashaan Melvin‘s opt-out. 

[RELATED: Jaguars’ Rashaan Melvin Opts Out]

Brock, long regarded as one of the league’s better slot corners, joined the Cardinals in April of last year. The deal reunited the veteran with Vance Joseph, who set out to build an experienced CB unit for 2019. The Cardinals dropped him in December – even though he was having a solid year – leading him to the Titans for their home stretch. With the Cardinals, Brock tallied 37 stops, two tackles for a loss, and three passes defensed across ten games. With the Titans, he made four regular season starts plus three starts in their memorable postseason run.

Brock was slowed somewhat by a hamstring injury last year, but he’s believed to be fully healed at this stage. In theory, he could be an upgrade over Melvin, who hasn’t truly shined since his 2017 season with the Colts. Brock will feature in Jacksonville’s new look secondary, a unit without Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. He’ll join D.J. Hayden and promising first-round pick C.J. Henderson in the revamped group.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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