Nov 5, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Za'Darius Smith (99) sacks Arizona Cardinals quarterback Clayton Tune (15) during the fourth quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Browns re-sign edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, DT Mitchell Hurst

Browns edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and defensive lineman Maurice Hurst Jr. plan to re-sign with Cleveland, multiple outlets reported Monday.

Smith plans to sign a two-year, $23.5 million contract and Hurst’s deal is reportedly a one-year, $3.2 million pact, ESPN reported.

Smith, 31, was acquired prior to last season in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings and was second on the team with 5.5 sacks as the starter opposite Myles Garrett.

Hurst, 28, is recovering from a season-ending pectoral injury. He was a critical part of the interior defensive line rotation under first-year coordinator Jim Schwartz last season.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Smith has bounced from the Packers to Minnesota and Cleveland in exchange for a pair of fifth-round picks.

He has 60 career sacks.

–Field Level Media

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith has been worth every pick and penny the front office invested to acquire him from the Chicago Bears. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

LB Roquan Smith restored Ravens’ rough and ready mindset

When paying Roquan Smith on a tier with the richest defenders in the league fell outside the realm of responsible accounting for the rebuilding Chicago Bears, one general manager sprinted to the phone armed with the Baltimore Ravens’ checkbook.

Eric DeCosta sent second- and fifth-round picks, along with linebacker A.J. Klein, to the Bears in the Halloween 2022 trade that has since helped define the rebirth of the Ravens’ defense.

“He brought the Ray Lewis juice back for our generation,” Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said of Smith, the QB of Baltimore’s defense. “The grit, the everything, the leadership, his poise. His aggression. We needed that from our linebacker. Ro, he’s unbelievable. I’m glad we got him. Eric did a great job.”

The No. 8 pick in the 2018 draft, Smith’s stardom wasn’t exactly a secret. A standout at Georgia who regularly played on the national stage, he was the leading tackler in the NFL when the Ravens traded for him. Representing himself in negotiations, Bears general manager Ryan Poles talked Smith out of a holdout in August 2022 but never met the then 25-year-old’s demands for a $100 million deal.

DeCosta did just that.

Smith, who said negotiations with DeCosta were anything but easy, signed a five-year, $100 million deal with $45 million guaranteed to become the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the league just over 12 months ago.

Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t fret whether that deal would lead to a divorce with Jackson, who is the frontrunner for NFL Most Valuable Player after self-represented contract talks with DeCosta resolved a season-long standoff over his own pay. Smith’s leadership, and work ethic, guided what defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald considered an easy decision to hitch the defense to the middle linebacker long-term.

“It’s a secret sauce,” Macdonald said. “There’s a magnetism to it, guys gravitate towards him naturally. He has great energy. … The way he plays, in terms of just getting to the football. If you aren’t playing with him, it pops out on tape, and guys realize that.”

The Ravens were No. 1 in the NFL in scoring defense (16.5 points per game), opposing passer rating, rushing touchdowns allowed and sacks in the regular season.

Cash in hand, Smith continues to star on the field and in the locker room. He was just named All-Pro for the second time and last week racked up seven tackles, with two stops behind the line of scrimmage, in the divisional playoff win over the Houston Texans.

To head coach John Harbaugh, Smith’s success is a billboard for Baltimore and beyond revealing all the work he put in to get to this point.

“He wants to do the things that are required to be a great player and to be a great unit and then to impact your team,” said Harbaugh. “That’s what he’s all about – 100 percent – that’s what I love about him. He’s one of the top guys I’ve ever seen that way, and I think that does always impact everybody as a leader, for sure.”

Smith gets another chance to lead Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs with a Super Bowl trip hanging in the balance. With headlines naturally spotlighting 2023 MVP Patrick Mahomes and Jackson, Smith plans to nudge his way back into the narrative.

“We all know he’s an elite quarterback,” Smith said of the matchup with Mahomes. “He does everything well. I think personally just his ability to read coverages, extend plays. … He’s a great quarterback, we all know that, but so are we on defense.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith shown on the field after the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons fire Arthur Smith after three 7-10 seasons

The Atlanta Falcons fired coach Arthur Smith on Sunday night after finishing a 7-10 season earlier in the day.

The Falcons dismissed Smith after a meeting Sunday night involving owner Arthur Blank and CEO Rich McKay.

“Decisions like this are never easy and they never feel good,” Blank said in a news release. “We have profound respect for Coach Smith and appreciate all the hard work and dedication he has put into the Falcons over the last three years. He has been part of building a good culture in our football team, but the results on the field have not met our expectations.

“After significant thought and reflection, we have determined the best way forward for our team is new leadership in the head coaching position.”

The Falcons scheduled a press conference for Monday to discuss the firing as well as their upcoming coaching search.

Smith, 41, went 21-30 in three seasons with Atlanta. The team went 7-10 in all three campaigns.

The Falcons said Blank and McKay will lead their coaching search with general manager Terry Fontenot also having input.

Atlanta was mauled 48-17 by the New Orleans Saints on Sunday to conclude the season with four losses in five games.

The Saints tacked on a rushing touchdown with 1:10 left instead of taking a knee. After the game, Smith refused to shake hands with New Orleans coach Dennis Allen and verbally expressed his disapproval with some curse words.

Atlanta will select eighth in the 2024 draft. The Falcons have a run of six consecutive losing seasons since last reaching the playoffs in 2017.

–Field Level Media

Jan 7, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith looks on against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Coaches get heated after Saints pile on late TD, spank Falcons

Testy words were fired before cooler heads prevailed when losing coach Arthur Smith and Saints counterpart Dennis Allen met for the usual postgame salutations moments after New Orleans’ 48-17 win over the Falcons went final on Sunday.

Frustrated by the Saints scoring a touchdown in the final minute with a 24-point lead, Smith gave Allen his blunt assessment of that decision, saying “that’s f—- BS.”

Allen apologized to open his media session after the game, which ended Atlanta’s season with a 7-10 record for the third time in Smith’s three seasons as Falcons head coach.

“You can do whatever you want,” Smith said. “I just gave them my opinion about it.”

Offensive guard Cesar Ruiz took the blame for the decision by the offense not to following instructions and take a knee as the final 60 seconds ticked off the clock. Instead, Ruiz said the offensive line wanted to get running back Jamaal Williams his first rushing touchdown of the season.

“Whatever heat comes with that, put that on the (offensive) line,” he said.

New Orleans (9-8) won to keep its playoff chances alive and tuned in to root for the Green Bay Packers to lose at home to the Chicago Bears in the late afternoon slate of games Sunday.

In Allen’s first statement to reporters after the game was final, he explained the Saints’ players made the decision to get Williams the late score.

“That’s not who we are, not what we’re about,” Allen said.

–Field Level Media

Injured Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) walks to the locker room at halftime of the NFL 16 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023. The Steelers led 24-0 at halftime.

Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase (shoulder) to decide Sunday if he can play

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase said Friday that he plans to inform coach Zac Taylor on Sunday per whether he can play in that day’s road contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Chase is listed as questionable for the game due to a right shoulder injury. The ailment forced him to miss last weekend’s 34-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Chase was limited in practice the past two days and admitted he won’t be healthy on Sunday.

“I’m getting (range of motion) back,” Chase said on Friday. “It’s going to come down to tolerating pain from a hit, for real. If anything, that will be the biggest test. You can’t test that pregame. You’ll hurt yourself before you play. We’ll find out.”

Chase has caught a career-high 93 passes in 14 games this season. He also had 1,156 yards and seven touchdowns.

Cincinnati will get cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (ankle) back from injured reserve after he missed four games.

“He’s been a really quality player for us,” Taylor said of Taylor-Britt. “Brings a lot of energy to the table. So we’re excited to get him back.”

Cornerback Jalen Davis (groin) also is listed as questionable for the Bengals (8-7), who badly need a victory to bolster their playoff hopes.

For Kansas City, receiver Kadarius Toney (hip) and offensive tackle Donovan Smith (neck) have been ruled out for the second straight game.

Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (calf) is listed as questionable after not practicing all week.

Running backs Isiah Pacheco (concussion, shoulder) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (illness) and receiver Mecole Hardman (thumb) are also questionable for Kansas City.

Complicating the running back situation for the Chiefs is that Jerick McKinnon (groin) was placed on injured reserve last Sunday.

Kansas City (9-6) also can use a win after losing five of its last eight games.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith on the field against the Minnesota Vikings at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons noncommittal on Arthur Smith, will ‘let season play out’

Arthur Smith remains head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, but owner Arthur Blank wants to see the season play out after the team lost back-to-back games in a span of eight days.

In an interview with Georgia Public Broadcast, Blank said the Falcons are “committed” to Smith.

He also said the plan as it relates to any decision on retaining his head coach is to “let the season play out and go from there … assess where we are and go from there.”

Atlanta jumped to the top of the NFC South at 6-6 three weeks ago but lost consecutive games to the Buccaneers and last week at Carolina to drop out of the division lead.

Smith remains unsettled with his quarterback situation, returning Desmond Ridder to a backup role this week after a 9-7 loss to the Panthers and elevating journeyman Taylor Heinicke to the No. 1 spot to face the Colts on Sunday.

“I think through this part of the season, it’s been mixed, quite honestly, that’s what I think,” Blank said. “And that’s what the coach would say. Arthur (Smith) is very honest, he looks at himself very critically. So he comes from a beautiful family that has great values and he reflects those values in his leadership the best he can. So we’ll see how the season plays out and go from there.”

The Falcons posted 7-10 records in Smith’s first two seasons in 2021 and 2022.

–Field Level Media

Dec 17, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA;  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) looks to pass in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons coach still weighing QB options for Week 16

Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith is still checking his list to find out which quarterback will start on Christmas Eve.

Smith told reporters Monday that either Desmond Ridder or Taylor Heinicke will be under center when the Falcons (6-8) host the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) on Sunday. He said the team will not bring in another quarterback and won’t start third-stringer Logan Woodside.

“Not final, but obviously still working through that,” Smith said. “Just met with the quarterbacks a minute ago before coming in here, and I’ll circle back with those guys because there’s some stuff we need to still work through.”

The Falcons suffered a 9-7 loss at lowly Carolina on Sunday for their second straight defeat, dropping them a game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.

Ridder completed 12 of 20 passes for 152 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Panthers. The second-year signal-caller is 6-6 as the starter, completing 63.3 percent of his throws for 2,528 yards with 10 TDs and 10 picks.

Heinicke played in three games (0-2 as a starter) when Ridder was in concussion protocol. He has completed 55.4 percent of his passes for 498 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

–Field Level Media

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) rushes the ball Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Colts rule out RB Jonathan Taylor (thumb) for Sunday

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor will miss his second straight game Sunday due to a thumb injury.

Starting right tackle Braden Smith was also ruled out Friday for the Week 14 game at Cincinnati due to a knee injury sustained in last Sunday’s win at Tennessee.

Taylor was injured during a Nov. 26 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and underwent surgery three days later.

After missing the first four games of the season due to a contract standoff and an ankle injury, Taylor ranks second on the Colts (7-5) with 414 rushing yards and four touchdowns in seven games (five starts) this season. He also has 16 catches for 137 yards and one score.

The 2021 NFL rushing champion has gained 5,194 yards from scrimmage and scored 41 touchdowns in 50 games (46 starts) since the Colts drafted him in the second round in 2020.

Smith, 27, has started eight games this season and 78 of his 80 games since the Colts drafted him in the second round in 2018.

–Field Level Media

NFL Kansas City Chiefs offensive line Wanya Morris

Chiefs rookie LT Wanya Morris likely to start vs. Bills

Chiefs rookie left tackle Wanya Morris worked with the first-team offense on Wednesday.

He’s in line to start for Sunday when the Buffalo Bills (6-6) come to Kansas City after a bye last week.

Head coach Andy Reid said Morris, a third-round pick in 2023, was solid last Sunday night when forced to log a season-high 42 snaps in a loss to the Green Bay Packers. He played eight snaps at left tackle in the first 11 games combined.

Starting left tackle Donovan Smith (neck stinger) could miss the matchup with the Bills, and a one-on-one confrontation with Buffalo pass rusher Leonard Floyd. Floyd leads Buffalo with 9.5 sacks this season.

At Green Bay, Morris allowed one sack and four pressures of quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“Yeah, he’s played well. He’s done a great job in the run and the pass game,” Mahomes said Wednesday. “Now it’s just trying to get him prepared to face a great defensive line with all the games they do and the stunts.”

Reid said running back Isiah Pacheco (shoulder contusion) did not practice Wednesday. He rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against Green Bay.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) looks to pass against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks optimistic QB Geno Smith (elbow) can go Thursday

Geno Smith should be ready when the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers face off in primetime on Thanksgiving night.

Seattle lost 17-16 to the Los Angeles Rams Sunday but Smith avoided a long-term injury, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

“He’ll make it back,” Carroll said in a radio interview Monday.

Smith has a contusion on the tendon at the base of his right triceps closer to his elbow, the result of a solid hit from Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Carroll said “I would think so” when asked if Smith would be able to play in the NFC West division game. Smith sat out multiple drives at Los Angeles on Sunday.

Running back Kenneth Walker III (oblique) isn’t likely to be ready on a short week, Carroll said.

Zach Charbonnet filled in Sunday and Carroll said the team was glad to have him “because he’s such an all-around player. He can do everything. … He does everything really well.”

–Field Level Media