Tagged in: linebacker

Denver Broncos LB Von Miller ‘at peace’ if this is final year with team

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller reported for his 11th campaign Tuesday, and while he has always hoped to be a “Bronco for life,” he says as he enters the last year of his contract that he wants to play several more years and is “at peace” if that is eventually somewhere else.

“I would like to keep playing. Whether that’s here with the Denver Broncos or somewhere else, I’m totally at peace with that,” Miller stated as the Broncos’ veteran players reported Tuesday for training camp. “I want to play five to seven more years, I think I said that a couple weeks ago.”

Miller, who was the Broncos’ first-round pick in the 2011 draft, is the team’s longest-tenured player. The Broncos engaged his contract option for the 2021 season in March, the last year of the six-year, $114.5 million deal he signed in 2016 several months after he had been named MVP of Super Bowl 50.

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He turned 32 in March, is about to be a father and said he wants to keep playing so his future son will be able to see him play.

But after worrying about his future for most of the summer of 2020, Miller said he’s taking a calmer approach this time around, even as he hopes to finish his career with the Broncos.

“I’m not really thinking about this is the last year of my contract, [or] will I be with the Broncos,” Miller said. “Last year, to be honest, that was really on my soul. I really wanted, I really wanted — of course I want to be here. I want to stay here for the rest of my career, but getting past that is kind of a release for me.”

Miller had powered through a bevy of offseason workouts in 2020 in hopes of leaving his eight-sack season in 2019 behind and helping end the current Broncos playoff drought, but he suffered a season-ending ankle injury days before the season opener and did not play in a game. His eight-sack total in ’19 was the lowest since 2013, when he had five.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio has already predicted Miller is again poised to have a big year in 2021, and general manager George Paton said picking up Miller’s option was an easy decision. “We wanted Von to be a Bronco … he’s going to have a Pro Bowl-type season,” Paton said earlier this year.

“Sitting out last year, it really helped me be at peace,” Miller said Tuesday. “Being at peace and being content, they are two totally different things. I feel like you can be at peace with whatever happens, but you still want to go out there and lead the league in sacks, you still want to get Defensive Player of the Year, still want to get all this crazy stuff, but I’m at peace with whatever happens.”

With 106 sacks in 135 career matches, Miller is the Broncos’ all-time sack leader, and he enters the 2021 season as the league’s active sack leader, five ahead of J.J. Watt.

Since Miller missed the 2020 season and Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb missed most of the 2019 season with a knee injury, Miller has plenty of optimism for what the two may be able to do together in the defense this year. Chubb was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.

And in the 20 games Miller and Chubb have played together, they have combined for 29.5 sacks.

“He looks ready to go, I’m ready to go, this might be the one … I’m excited to see the things me and Bradley can do,” Miller said. “I feel great … I’m still running the same, still lifting the same as those guys. …” Miller added later.

“I’m hoping to play another five to seven years, maybe even more. I don’t want to put a number on it — if it’s less, it’s less. I’m at peace I’ve played in the league long enough. I’ve been in the league 11 years, so every single year after this is just a true blessing. I want to play a long time.”

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Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers agree on 5-year, $95 million extension

The San Francisco 49ers took care of their final piece of big offseason business Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Fred Warner on a contract that will make him the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in NFL history, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Warner and the Niners agreed to a five-year, $95 million deal that contains $40.5 million guaranteed, sources told Schefter. The $19 million average annual value surpasses the previous high of $18 million per year held by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Warner’s $40.5 million is the second-highest guaranteed total for an off-ball linebacker, trailing only the New York Jets’ C.J. Mosley’s $51 million, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

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The deal comes six days before the 49ers are booked to report to training camp and 10 days before they start practice on July 31, which was always viewed as an unofficial deadline for Warner and the team to complete a deal.

Warner, 24, left little doubt that he wanted to get a deal done this past May during organized team activities, when he said he wants “to be a Niner for life.”

A third-round pick in the 2018 draft, Warner ranks seventh in the NFL in tackles (366) and is one of two players with 250-plus solo tackles (252) and 15-plus pass breakups (16) in that time, along with Wagner.

Warner ended last season with 125 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions as he earned his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods along with the Niners’ two most prestigious team awards.

Warner joins tight end George Kittle and left tackle Trent Williams in landing record-setting contracts for their position in the past year.

Kittle re-signed just before last year’s training camp, and Williams agreed to his deal with the Niners in March.

Getting Warner’s deal done now also helps reset the market for his position, as the Indianapolis Colts’ Darius Leonard and Chicago Bears’ Roquan Smith are also due for lucrative extensions.

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Pittsburgh Steelers shoring up defense with Melvin Ingram addition

The Steelers are signing edge rusher Melvin Ingram, his agent confirmed on social media Monday.

Ingram is signing a one-year deal, according to NFL Network.

The 32-year-old Ingram fills a major hole in the Steelers’ defense left by the free-agency departure of Bud Dupree to the Tennessee Titans.

“I met with Coach [Mike] Tomlin,” Ingram told NFL reporter Josina Anderson. “You can tell he’s very involved and a players’ coach. That’s what stood out to me. He wants to win, and that is what I am on.

“My role is my role. He just told me to come in and be me. Everyone knows how I play.” Ingram, who had interest from other NFL teams and visited the Steelers on Monday, will strive for the spot opposite T.J. Watt that is now occupied by second-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.

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With Dupree’s exit, the depth behind Watt and Highsmith was perilously thin.

NFL journeyman Cassius Marsh and sixth-round draft pick Quincy Roche were anticipated to be the primary backups.

Ingram, a 2012 first-round pick, had spent his nine-year career with the Chargers, racking up 49 sacks — fourth in franchise history — en route to three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2017 to 2019.

He played in just seven matches last season because of a nagging knee injury that landed him on injured reserve twice, and he failed to record a sack for the first time in his career.

The Chargers opted not to re-sign him after his four-year, $64 million deal expired following the 2020 campaign.

Ingram may not be as productive as he was in previous years, but he’s in a defense that will give him tons of easy openings along the defensive line, and a secondary that will force opposing quarterbacks to think twice before throwing. That alone could provide Ingram with a career resurgence, and the Steelers with the cog they need to keep that line firmly established as the NFL’s best.

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Washington LB Thomas Davis Sr. says he’ll retire after 2020 season

Washington Football Team linebacker Thomas Davis Sr. will retire at the end of this campaign, he said in an Instagram post.

Washington (6-9) can extend Davis’ final season by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles to win the NFC East on Sunday.

Davis, 37, has played 16 years in the NFL — the first 14 with Carolina and then the past two with the Los Angeles Chargers and Washington. Davis has served mostly in a backup role with Washington this season. He has played in seven games and received 132 snaps from scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Washington coach Ron Rivera signed him because of Davis’ leadership and his familiarity with what Rivera wanted from his players.

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Rivera trusted Davis because of how he played for him in Carolina, where he made the Pro Bowl three consecutive seasons, from 2015 to 2017. He was a first team All-Pro performer in 2015, the year Carolina reached the Super Bowl. Davis signed a two-year deal with the Chargers in 2019 but was released last offseason.

Davis also endured three torn ACLs.

As a reminder of how he endured, Davis posted pictures of cleats on Instagram that sum up his career. One cleat has written on it “3 ACL Tears. 3 ACL Recoveries.” It also shows how many Pro Bowls he earned. On the other cleat, it reflects him winning the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Carolina drafted Davis with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft; he had played linebacker and free safety at Georgia. He was considered a top safety prospect before that draft, but the Panthers moved him to linebacker.

His speed and athleticism helped him have success in the NFL. In 199 games, Davis recorded 1,151 tackles, 29 sacks, 18 forced fumbles and 13 interceptions.

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Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree believed to have torn left ACL

The Pittsburgh Steelers are feared to have lost another key piece of their vaunted defense.

Outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who appeared to injure his left knee on a noncontact play in the second half of Wednesday’s 19-14 triumph over the Baltimore Ravens, is assumed to have suffered a torn ACL, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, confirming an NFL Network report. The severity of the injury is expected to be confirmed with further testing Thursday.

Dupree, 27, limped off the field following the injury and did not return to the match. “I think it was very quiet, very sad, very low, just because having our fellow teammate going down, Bud, and not knowing what’s going on over there,” wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster stated, describing the Steelers’ locker room after the game.

“But that’s something that, you always pray for everybody to be safe and have a healthy game.”

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Playing on the one-year franchise tag, Dupree will be a free agent after this season.

He followed up his breakout 2019 campaign with another strong effort this season, recording eight sacks and two forced fumbles along with 26 tackles. Along with T.J. Watt, Dupree was a foundational piece of the Steelers’ pass rush.

Substituting Dupree won’t be easy. Rookie Alex Highsmith, the Steelers’ third-round draft pick, is the top candidate to fill his role.

If the injury to his ACL is confirmed, Dupree would be the second Steelers defensive starter to go down with such an injury, after middle linebacker Devin Bush tore his versus the Cleveland Browns.

The torn ACL could cost him much of next campaign after a long, grueling rehab. It will cost him millions.

I think back once more to that Dallas game in 2004. The Steelers won, 24-20, on their way to a 15-1 regular-season record. That hardly seemed to matter on that awful day.

“It’s a pyrrhic victory,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said at the time. This win — even though it came against the Steelers’ most hated rival — had that same stomach-turning feel.

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Seattle Seahawks sign Mychal Kendricks to practice squad

The Seahawks made a modification at safety Wednesday with Lano Hill going to IR, promoting Damarious Randall from the practice squad. They also brought back a familiar face at linebacker. 

Damarious Randall has already been elevated from the practice squad twice to play in the Seahawks’ past two matches, and now the veteran safety has a spot on the 53-man roster, having been signed Wednesday to take the spot of safety Lano Hill, who was placed on injured reserve with a back injury that has kept him out of the past three games.

The Seahawks also added a pair of veteran linebackers to the practice squad, signing Mychal Kendricks, a 14-game starter for Seattle last campaign, and Ray-Ray Armstrong, an eight-year veteran who has appeared in 84 games over his career with the Cowboys, 49ers, Giants, Raiders, Rams and Browns.

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Randall, a 2015 first-round pick with 56 career starts on his resume, signed to Seattle’s practice squad ahead of the Week 4 game at Miami, and was elevated from the practice squad both for that game and the Week 5 victory over Minnesota. Under a new rule this season, practice squad players can be elevated for game weekends without counting towards the 53-man roster limit, but can only do so twice, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll indicated on Monday that this move could be coming with Randall.

“I hope we’ll get to see more of Randall going forward,” Carroll stated. “He’s a good ballplayer and he’s been around us now enough as he’s starting to dig in. So I’m excited about what he can add.”

Carroll’s Monday press conference also hinted that Hill’s move to IR could be coming.

“Lano’s got some issues with his back that haven’t really turned in the right direction,” Carroll said. “We’re looking after him right now. He’s not ready to come back yet.”

Kendricks, a former second-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, started 17 games for the Seahawks over the past two campaigns after signing with the Seahawks late in the 2018 season, both at weakside and strongside linebacker.

Last year Kendricks had 71 tackles, 3.0 sacks and one interception as Seattle’s starting strongside linebacker, but tore his ACL in Week 17, causing him to miss Seattle’s two playoff games. Kendricks is the latest accomplished veteran to join Seattle’s practice squad after Randall and former All-Pro defensive tackle Damon Harrison.

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Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush suffers torn ACL, out for the season

Devin Bush, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting inside linebacker, suffered a torn ACL during Sunday’s victory over the Browns.

The injury will require season-ending surgery, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stated his linebacker sustained a “significant knee injury” following Pittsburgh’s 38-7 win. 

The injury occurred near the end of the first half, with the Steelers enjoying a 24-0 lead. Bush sustained the injury after hitting Browns running back D’Ernest Johnson on an incomplete pass. The Browns scored their first touchdown of the game four plays later. 

Bush, the team’s 2019 first-round pick, played every single defensive snap until his injury, and he was the team’s defensive playcaller. While Bush was in the injury tent, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walked over to Norwig, who was standing just outside.

The two talked for a moment before Roethlisberger walked back to the sideline. Bush emerged a few seconds later and walked to the locker room under his own power with less than two minutes to play in the half.

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“I just want to send my thoughts and prayers to Devin and his family and everything he’s going through right now,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “It makes you sick when a young player like that gets hurt, and I need to send my thoughts and prayers to him.”

Bush was replaced in the lineup by Robert Spillane, a three-year veteran who is the middle of his second campaign with the Steelers.

A significant contributor to Pittsburgh’s special teams units, Spillane had not seen time on defense since getting eight reps during the Steelers’ season-opening triumph over the Giants. 

The No. 10 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Bush has started in 19 of his 20 games with the Steelers. Last year, the former Michigan standout recorded 109 tackles to go with four rumble recoveries, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.

Through four games, Bush has recorded 21 tackles this season while helping Pittsburgh get off to its first 4-0 start since 1979.  Bush wasn’t the only Pittsburgh defender who sustained an injury on Sunday. Mike Hilton, who tallied three sacks during the Steelers’ first four games, also left Sunday’s game after suffering a shoulder injury.

Expect Tomlin to offer updates on both players during his weekly Tuesday press conference. 

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Houston Texans’ Benardrick Mckinney expected out for season

The Houston Texans inside linebacker corps has taken a hit to its leadership and on-field ability.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Pro Bowl inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney will undergo shoulder surgery, which will keep him out for the rest of 2020. The club is expected to place McKinney on injured reserve.

The former 2015 second-round pick from Mississippi State was unavailable for the Texans’ 30-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5 at NRG Stadium. McKinney was given the questionable designation on the Friday before the AFC South showdown but was unable to play after being a game-time decision.

McKinney’s season presumably ends with four games, all starts, and 37 combined tackles with one tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

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In McKinney’s absence versus the Jaguars, former 2016 undrafted free agent Tyrell Adams opposite Zack Cunningham provided 13 combined tackles, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery in his lone start of the campaign, playing 89% of Houston’s defensive snaps, while inside linebacker Dylan Cole did not play a defensive snap.

“T.A., he stepped in and made some plays,” interim coach Romeo Crennel stated. “So, that’s the name of this business, the next guy up. We tell them that all the time that they have to be ready when their number is called and yesterday the guys whose numbers were called, they performed well.”

McKinney, who had 37 tackles in four games, is playing on a five-year, $50 million contract extension he signed in 2018. McKinney was drafted by the Texans in the second round in 2015. He has 11.5 career sacks, 530 tackles and four forced fumbles.

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Minnesota Vikings sign LB Todd Davis to fill void after Anthony Barr, Troy Dye injuries

The Minnesota Vikings signed veteran linebacker Todd Davis on Thursday after losing linebacker Anthony Barr to injury in their Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Barr, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, was placed on injured reserve earlier this week after he tore his pectoral muscle in the second quarter of the Vikings’ 28-11 loss to the Colts in Week 2.

Barr is estimated to miss the remainder of the campaign. Fourth-round rookie Troy Dye substituted Barr on Sunday before suffering an ankle injury.

The injuries to both Barr and Dye led to Ryan Connelly making his debut two weeks after being claimed by Minnesota.

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Dye was placed on injured reserve Thursday in a corresponding move.

Davis has been a tackling machine over the course of his career. In 2019, the Sacramento State product had 134 tackles for the Broncos.

It’s unlikely that Davis sees many snaps this weekend since he just signed with Minnesota. That means the pressure could be on rookie linebacker Troy Dye to fill in at strongside linebacker.

Davis was released by the Denver Broncos earlier this month after five seasons with the team. He missed most of training camp with a calf injury.

Davis, 28, started at least 14 matches for the Broncos in each of the past four seasons. He played in 82 games for Denver since the team claimed him off of waivers in November 2014.

He had become a productive player for the Broncos as he played in all 16 games on a 2015 team that went on to gain Super Bowl 50. He then had at least 97 tackles in three of the past four seasons, and he topped 100 tackles in both 2018 (114) and 2019 (134).

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Jadeveon Clowney signs with Titans

Jadeveon Clowney made clear for months he wanted to be with a team that can win a Super Bowl, and he’s finally made his choice even if he didn’t get the long-term deal in the process.

The Tennessee Titans announced Sunday they agreed to terms with the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker on a one-year contract. The Titans did not reveal the terms Sunday. But ESPN.com reported the deal could be worth up to $15 million.

The No. 1 overall pick of 2014, Clowney went into free agency looking for a mega-contract that never came calling. The pandemic shut down travel for physicals, and Clowney didn’t visit anybody once the NFL permitted free agents to meet teams in person.

Clowney spent most of his career with the Houston Texans before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks before the 2019 campaign. He hit free agency this past spring and came to an settlement with the Titans nine days before their 2020 season opener.

They play the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football in Week 1.

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Since 2016 according to Sportradar, only Aaron Donald and Chandler Jones have combined for more tackles for loss, forced fumbles and quarterback pressures than Clowney who has 60 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles and 159 total pressures.

Clowney, 27, is rejoining coach Mike Vrabel.

They worked together for three seasons in Houston when Vrabel was the defensive line coach. One of those years, Clowney reached the Pro Bowl after he had 59 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.

Vrabel and the Titans reached the AFC championship game in 2019 and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. In six NFL seasons, Clowney has 236 tackles, 71 tackles for loss and 32 sacks.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection was one of the biggest stars left in the free agent market ahead of the 2020 season openers. He is coming off a core injury that required offseason surgery.

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