NFL Nation: Lee Smith

Assessing Redskins TE Fred Davis' value

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
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The Washington Redskins have depth at tight end and, because of that, they can think about trading a player that looked to be a part of their future a year ago. Even six months ago.

But Fred Davis isn’t playing and Jordan Reed is now the pass-catcher of the future at tight end. So Davis will be shopped before the NFL’s Oct. 29 trade deadline, according to multiple reports.

That doesn’t mean a trade will happen, of course. One NFC executive -- who studied Davis in the offseason -- said Davis had “minimal” trade value. Yes, the old saying is, it only takes one team.

The problem is Davis himself. Two years ago his season ended with a four-game drug suspension and he’s now one strike away from a year-long one. Last season, his year ended because of an Achilles’ injury and this year he’s been slowed by a sprained ankle. And now he’s been surpassed by Reed. When you watch Reed play, that’s not a damning phrase (also note: the coaches consistently praise how Reed and Logan Paulsen work in practice and in the meeting rooms; read between the lines if you’d like). But it does prevent Davis from showing what he can truly do coming off last year’s injury -- or if he’s even back to being his old self.

Another factor, of course: He’s in the last year of his contract. So what would a team really be willing to trade in return? The executive said he thinks Davis likely would fetch a player instead of a draft pick. But would a team really give up a quality player for Davis at this point? My guess is, any player they receive would be one not in their current team’s future plans.

Only one other team made an offer to Davis last offseason: Buffalo. A league source said at the time that the Bills offered Davis a two-year deal worth $700,000 more than what he received in a one-year contract from Washington. But Davis hoped to turn a productive 2013 season into a bigger offer in the offseason.

The New York Jets showed interest, but backed out when they heard the offers being discussed. Davis’ trip there was canceled.

Would the Bills make an offer? I know there's a lot of talk about Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd and whether or not Davis could be used as a chip to get him. I can't imagine that being doable without some serious draft pick going along with Davis. And, yes, Cleveland is fielding offers for receiver Josh Gordon. But the Browns aren't jumping to make a deal and would a Davis/draft pick package really be all that enticing for them (when they already love their tight end, Jordan Cameron)? Perhaps there's a team out there that would love to get Davis; it'll be tough to get a lot for him.

Here’s what ESPN.com’s Bills reporter Mike Rodak wrote about whether or not a trade would make sense for Buffalo:
For the Bills, it's unlikely Davis would replace Scott Chandler in the starting lineup. He would simply provide another option at the position. Chandler, who is also coming off an Achilles' injury, ranks 19th among NFL tight ends, with 22 receptions for 269 yards and two touchdowns.

Beyond Chandler, the Bills have Lee Smith, a blocking tight end with two receptions this season, and their seventh-round pick, Chris Gragg. The addition of Davis would likely push Gragg, who has played just six offensive snaps this season, to the practice squad.

Although it's a considerable long shot, the other wrinkle to consider here is safety Jairus Byrd. Although they're not actively shopping him, the Bills have said they'll listen to any offers on Byrd. The Redskins need a safety.

While the Redskins would clearly need to give up more than Davis (i.e. a mid-round draft pick or higher) to get Byrd, it would be a swap of two players who have expiring contracts, creating an impetus for both sides to make a deal.

W2W4: Ravens at Bills

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Is this a must-win game for the Buffalo Bills?

It could be. Hosting the Baltimore Ravens in their third home game in four contests, the Bills are trying to avoid a 1-3 record, entering what could be a tough October. After Sunday's game, the Bills travel to Cleveland next Thursday before hosting the 2-1 Bengals, and then traveling to face the 3-0 Dolphins and 3-0 Saints.

[+] Enlarge C.J. Spiller
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesThe Bills need for C.J. Spiller to keep the running game churning in order to help relieve some of the pressure on QB EJ Manuel.
But Buffalo can't afford to look past the Ravens. The defending Super Bowl champions lost several key players this offseason, but have bounced back, winning their past two games. This will be one of the Bills' toughest tests of the season.

Here's what to watch for:

1. Can Spiller get going? Bills CEO Russ Brandon told WGR 550 this week that the Bills "need" to get their running game cranking. That begins with C.J. Spiller, who gained just nine yards on 10 carries against the Jets. He is probable for Sunday's game and should play. If he can get into a rhythm, it will take pressure off rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. But it won't be easy: the Ravens allow just 74.7 rushing yards per game, fourth in the NFL, and have some big bodies in Haloti Ngata (340 pounds) and Arthur Jones (315 pounds) for the Bills' offensive line to move.

2. Do Bills help their tackles? The Ravens have a pair of the NFL's best pass-rushers in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, who have combined for five sacks already this season. The Bills may opt to use their '12' package -- one running back and two tight ends -- more than usual on Sunday, allowing tight end Lee Smith to help out the offensive tackles with Suggs and Dumervil. So far this season, left tackle Cordy Glenn and right tackle Erik Pears have held up well, but an eight-sack performance by the Jets may be enough to give offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett pause about leaving his tackles without help on the edge.

3. Will Rice play? Ravens running back Ray Rice has been dealing with a hip injury that kept him out of last week's win against the Houston Texans. Rice said Friday he hopes to play, and if he does, Rice presents another challenge for the Bills. Their run defense ranks 31st in the NFL, allowing 155 yards per game. The positive for Buffalo is that their trio of defensive linemen who were dealing with injuries this week -- Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, and Mario Williams -- are all probable for Sunday. Their presence will help, but the Bills will need a complete defensive effort against the Ravens.

4. Will Hackett slow things down? One hot topic this week was the Bills' offensive pace, which is the fastest in the NFL, even ahead of Chip Kelly's attack in Philadelphia. The results haven't been there for Buffalo just yet, though. They are struggling to convert third downs, leaving their defense on the field for over 35 minutes a game, second-most in the NFL. It will be worth watching Sunday if Hackett dials things back, especially if the running game, led by Spiller and Fred Jackson, starts to gain some momentum. The better bet, though, is that Hackett will stick to his up-tempo philosophy.

Lots of little moves as rosters in flux

September, 4, 2011
9/04/11
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Catching up with various moves around the edges of NFC West rosters Sunday:
Teams are also assembling practice squads. The 49ers announced adding seven players to theirs, all released by the team on the reduction to 53 players. I'll round up those additions once they become official.
Check here for a complete list of the New England Patriots‘ roster moves.

Surprise move: There was plenty of speculation about safety Brandon Meriweather's future after he played into the fourth quarter with the second unit in Thursday’s exhibition finale against the New York Giants, but it was still a surprise when the Patriots outright released the former first-round pick (24th overall in the 2007 draft) on Saturday. After releasing veteran James Sanders as part of the previous cutdowns, the Patriots further turned over that position, waving goodbye to a player who’s been to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons.

The team also raised some eyebrows by releasing defensive end Eric Moore, a starter at season’s end last year, but the additions of veterans such as Mark Anderson and Shaun Ellis on the defensive line made him expendable. Wide receiver Brandon Tate, who was the team’s primary kick returner and No. 3 receiver last year, got edged by more versatile bodies, and veteran running back Sammy Morris was a victim of an influx of young talent at running back.

No-brainers: First-year players like offensive lineman Thomas Austin, running back Eric Kettani, and defensive back Ross Ventrone, as well as rookies linebacker Markell Carter, defensive lineman Aaron Lavarias, defensive end Alex Silvestro, tight end Lee Smith and tight end Will Yeatman were longer shots to make the roster. The release of two young tight ends (Smith and Yeatman) is a bit surprising given New England’s love of three tight-end sets and no pure fullback. (Could veteran Alge Crumpler be on the radar?)

What’s next: The Patriots are certainly in the market for safety help, and with backup guard Rich Ohrnberger placed on season-ending injured reserve, the team is thin on the interior line. Remember that this team rarely sits idle after cutdowns. Expect the Patriots to tweak their roster further based on what becomes available from cutdowns across the league.

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