Lions Sign Anquan Boldin

SATURDAY, 9:35am: Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press has additional info on Boldin’s contract.

In addition to the $750K signing bonus, the veteran will also be earning a $1.55M base salary. The wideout can earn an additional $450K via per-game bonuses, and there’s another $1MM on the table if he somehow makes a Pro Bowl or reaches several statistical bench marks.

When all is said and done, Boldin could earn up to $3.75MM for next season.

THURSDAY, 1:49pm: Boldin’s one-year deal will pay him $2.75MM, plus incentives, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The veteran received a $750K signing bonus as part of the deal. With that type of guarantee, I would think that Boldin is a mortal lock to make the 53-man roster.

8:59am: The Lions officially announced that they have signed wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Anquan Boldin (vertical)

The Lions brought Boldin in for a visit one month ago, but they signed Andre Roberts on the very same day. Apparently, one veteran wide receiver was not enough for Detroit and they have rounded out their receiving corps with a notable name today.

Boldin, 35, has reportedly been working out in South Florida and staying in shape as he waits for the right opportunity. Even though he has enjoyed a long career and even has a Super Bowl ring, the veteran has said that he is not thinking about retirement right now. Last season, Boldin recorded only 69 catches for 789 yards and four touchdowns, so he’s probably looking to go out on a higher note. Boldin’s struggles, in large part, can be attributed to the turmoil surrounding the 49ers and their difficulties at quarterback last year.

After joining the 49ers in 2013, Boldin posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, with 12 total touchdowns in ’13 and ’14. Over the course of his career, Boldin has made three Pro Bowls while racking up 13,195 yards off of 1,009 catches with 74 touchdowns.

The agreement was first reported byAdam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Extend GM Reggie McKenzie

9:20am: Davis confirmed the extension to ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez.

“The results and the job that he’s done show that he deserves it,” Davis said. “He wants to be here, and we want him.

“I’m really happy with where the organization is with Reggie and Jack [Del Rio] at the top of the chain. Reggie has put together a hell of a staff in player personnel, done a great job on the cap where now we can build a team.”

4:29am: The Raiders have signed general manager Reggie McKenzie to a four-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through the end of the 2021 draft, owner Mark Davis announced Friday night. McKenzie is the third GM this week to receive a four-year extension, joining the Seahawks’ John Schneider and the Texans’ Rick Smith.

“Reggie’s contract was up at the end of this year, and we felt was time to reward him for the job that he has done,” said Davis.

Reggie McKenzie

The 53-year-old McKenzie, who was an NFL linebacker (including a stint with the Los Angeles Raiders from 1985-88) before serving as the longtime director of player personnel in Green Bay, took the reins as Oakland’s GM in 2012. While McKenzie inherited a team that finished a respectable 8-8 the previous season, its cap situation was nightmarish and its first draft pick wasn’t until the third round, 95th overall. Thanks in part to those factors, and McKenzie’s ill-advised choice to hire Dennis Allen as the Raiders’ head coach, the club spiraled to 4-12 in the executive’s first season at the helm.

McKenzie then had a full complement of draft picks in 2013, though the 10-player class hasn’t produced any high-impact players aside from sixth-round running back Latavius Murray. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder debuted in 2014 and has combined for 1,490 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, also adding 58 receptions.

McKenzie’s drafts truly began bearing fruit in 2014 and 2015, with both classes coming after bottom-of-the-barrel seasons.

The Raiders landed defensive end Khalil Mack, among the league’s premier players on either side of the ball, with the fifth selection in 2014 before grabbing quarterback Derek Carr (No. 36) and guard Gabe Jackson (No. 81) in the second and third rounds. Mack totaled a whopping 15 sacks, second only to Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, last season. Carr tossed 32 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and now looks like Oakland’s first true solution under center since the Rich Gannon era. Jackson, meanwhile, has started in 28 of 29 appearances and ranked 13th among 81 qualified guards at Pro Football Focus for his work in 2015.

McKenzie added to those three core players in last year’s draft, most notably with first-round receiver Amari Cooper (No. 4 overall). The ex-Alabama star hauled in 72 passes for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, and it appears he and Carr will combine to form one of the league’s most threatening duos through the air for the foreseeable future.

With the help of those integral cogs – not to mention McKenzie’s second head coaching hire, Jack Del Rio, and pickups like cornerback David Amerson (waivers), receiver Michael Crabtree (free agency), punter Marquette King (undrafted free agency) and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (second round, 2015) – the McKenzie-built Raiders finally made progress in the win column last season. On the heels of a 7-9 showing, the Raiders’ best since 2011, McKenzie took advantage of a great cap situation and signed guard Kelechi Osemele, linebacker Bruce Irvin, cornerback Sean Smith and safety Reggie Nelson to sizable deals in free agency. He also re-signed stalwart left tackle Donald Penn and picked up seven more players via the draft, with first-round safety Karl Joseph headlining the class.

Thanks to the mix of highly talented youth and established veterans McKenzie has acquired, the Raiders look as if they’ll soon break their lengthy run of futility. Oakland hasn’t posted a winning record in a season since 2002, when it won the AFC, and has gone 13 years without a playoff berth. Although the 18-46 mark the Raiders have produced under McKenzie suggests he didn’t merit an extension, the foundation he has put in place indicates otherwise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears, Willie Young Agree To Extension

Bears linebacker Willie Young will be staying in Chicago for the foreseeable future. According to ESPN’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter), the Bears have signed the 30-year-old to a two-year extension, which would take him through the 2018 season. The terms of the deal have yet to be reported.

Willie Young (vertical)Young originally joined the organization back in 2014, inking a three-year, $9MM deal. Through his first two years in Chicago, the former NC State-standout has certainly lived up to his contract. After having switched from defensive end to linebacker, Young has averaged 35 tackles and more than eight sacks a season since joining the organization. After having ruptured his achilles tendon in 2014, Young bounced back with 6.5 sacks last season. The defender was originally a seventh-round pick by the Lions in 2011, and Young ultimately spent three years in Detroit.

Young placed 24th on ProFootballFocus.com’s (subscription required) ranking of the league’s edge defenders, topping notable names like Jason Pierre-Paul, Greg Hardy, and Sheldon Richardson. Of course, the veteran only played 532 snaps last season, with the majority coming in the passing game.

As RosterResource.com shows, the Bears added a number of linebackers this offseason, including first-round pick Leonard Floyd and veterans Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. As a result, Young figures to compete with Lamarr Houston for back-up linebacker snaps.

Cardinals Sign LB Donald Butler

SATURDAY, 8:25am: The deal also includes a $40K roster bonus, tweets ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss.

FRIDAY, 1:35pm: It’s a one-year, $800K deal for Butler, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets.

WEDNESDAY, 2:08pm: The Cardinals announced that they have signed linebacker Donald Butler. To make room for Butler on the roster, the Cards released inside linebacker Quayshawn NealyDonald Butler

Butler, who has seven career sacks and three interceptions to his credit, played well enough in both 2012 and 2013 to earn a lucrative extension after the 2013 season. However, he struggled in 2014 and 2015, leading to his release earlier this offseason. Brown, 29, was set to enter his contract year before the Bolts cut him, absolving themselves of a $500K roster bonus, plus a $3MM base salary in the fall. By dropping him, they wiped that entire $3.5MM from their cap.

If he makes the roster, Butler will bring experience to Arizona’s inside linebacker corps. Aside from their latest addition, the Cards have Deone BucannonKevin Minter, Alani Fua, Gabe Martin, and rookie Lamar Louis at inside linebacker, as shown on Roster Resource.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers, Joshua Garnett Agree To Deal

The 49ers and first-round guard Joshua Garnett have reached an agreement on a contract, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported earlier Friday that the two sides were nearing a deal (Twitter link). With Garnett under contract, the Chargers’ Joey Bosa is now the last remaining holdout from the first round of this year’s draft.

Joshua Garnett

As the 28th overall pick, Garnett should make upward of $9.3MM on his four-year pact, which includes a signing bonus in the $4.97MM neighborhood and a fifth-year option. Garnett was the second top-round selection the 49ers had this year. They grabbed ex-Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner with the seventh choice before trading back into the first round for Garnett. In order to do that, the 49ers shipped three picks – a second-rounder (No. 37), a fourth-rounder (No. 105) and a sixth-rounder (No. 178) – to the Chiefs for No. 28 and a seventh-rounder (No. 249).

A former Stanford Cardinal, Garnett’s play last year earned him the Outland Trophy, which is given annually to the best interior offensive lineman in the nation, and consensus All-America honors.

“In our minds, he was the best run-blocking lineman in this draft,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said of the 6-foot-5, 325-pounder.

Garnett, whose father is former NFL nose tackle Scott Garnett (a 49er in 1985), could end up as San Francisco’s Week 1 starter at right guard, as Roster Resource shows. The 49ers’ starter for most of 2015, Jordan Devey, was among Pro Football Focus’ lowest-ranked guards and is now a member of the Chiefs. Of greater concern, the interior of the 49ers’ O-line took a notable pre-draft hit when longtime stalwart Alex Boone signed with the Vikings as a free agent.

Here’s a look at the 49ers’ 11-player draft class:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Lions, Seahawks, Saints

The Bears and receiver Alshon Jeffery didn’t agree to a multiyear contract by the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players, meaning they won’t be able to negotiate a new deal until the end of the season. Despite a report that the Bears aren’t keen on giving big money to Jeffery, general manager Ryan Pace is “optimistic” the two sides will eventually work something out (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com). Jeffery will first have to stay healthy in 2016, though, Pace said. Jeffery accomplished that from 2013-14, appearing in all 32 of the Bears’ games, but he missed six as a rookie and seven last year.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • The four-year, $50.2MM contract extension the Lions and cornerback Darius Slay agreed to Friday is a win for both sides, opines Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. In the 25-year-old Slay, the Lions finally have a shutdown corner, one who has rapidly improved since his rookie season – 2013 – thanks in part to his strong desire to get better, Meinke writes. Further, the Lions didn’t break the bank on Slay, whom Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked as the league’s second-best corner last season. For Slay, the deal provides financial security and pays him like a top seven corner, which is exactly the type of money he was seeking before signing the contract.
  • The Seahawks remain on the lookout for quarterback help, GM John Schneider revealed Friday (per Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk). “Yep, absolutely. And we do that with every position. We’ll have one, two, three guys like on standby.” Schneider also talked up undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin, the current favorite to serve as the No. 2 behind Russell Wilson. “Great athlete, tons of arm strength,” said Schneider, who believes Boykin would’ve been a third- to fifth-round pick if not for off-the-field trouble last season at TCU. Along with Boykin, Seattle has Jake Heaps, an undrafted free agent in 2015. Boykin and Heaps make up a less-than-ideal tandem from at least an experience standpoint, which would explain why the club tried to land Connor Shaw via waivers earlier this month. The top free agent signal-caller available is the recently released Nick Foles, though reports haven’t connected the Seahawks to him.
  • Between auditioning for the Saints in May and signing with them Wednesday, receiver Hakeem Nicks stayed on the team’s radar by texting head coach Sean Payton on a weekly basis, the 28-year-old said Friday (via Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com). Some of those texts included workout videos, according to Nicks, which apparently paid off for the former Giant, Colt and Titan. “We were real familiar with him just because on two different occasions we had him in for workouts. Plus, he wouldn’t stop texting me,” commented Payton, who added that Hicks’ personality “could be infectious and help the room.”
  • The Falcons’ offseason signing of center Alex Mack is their biggest pickup since the drafting of receiver Julio Jones in 2011, contends Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Mack could singlehandedly turn the Falcons’ offensive line from a weakness to a strength, writes Schultz, who notes that Atlanta has struggled since it jettisoned now-retired center Todd McClure after the 2012 season. In regards to joining the Matt Ryan-led Falcons, Mack told Schultz, “It was enticing to come here knowing they had a quarterback.” The 30-year-old spent the first seven seasons of his career with the bottom-feeding Browns, whose quarterback play was consistently woeful. Mack held his own, though, making three Pro Bowl trips before securing a five-year, $47.5MM contract with the Falcons in free agency.

AFC Notes: Brown, Steelers, Geno, Jets, Bills

While all-world receiver Antonio Brown is confident that the Steelers will address his contract before the beginning of the regular season, the team is unlikely to rip it up in favor of a new deal, reports Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The club could instead advance Brown $2MM in salary for the second straight year and then negotiate a new accord with him at season’s end. However, there is precedent for the Steelers giving Brown a new deal with two years left on it, as Fittipaldo notes. Pittsburgh handed Brown a five-year, $41MM contract after the 2011 season, his second in the NFL. Although Brown is underpaid on his current deal relative to his stellar production, Fittipaldo points out that, between what the Steelers signed him to in 2012 and will award him on his next contract, the 28-year-old will earn far more than many other members of the 2010 draft class (Dez Bryant, for instance).

Elsewhere around the AFC…

  • The Jets finally re-signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier this week, leading to questions about fellow signal-caller’s Geno Smith roster status. It turns out that New York does not plan to move on from Smith this summer, general manager Mike Maccagnan said Friday (Twitter link via Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday). Asked if Smith will be on the Jets’ Week 1 roster, Maccagnan stated, “I would assume so. Right now, I know we like Geno Smith… Geno’s in our plans.” In addition to Smith, who has struggled since the Jets chose him in the second round of the 2013 draft, Gang Green has rookie second-rounder Christian Hackenberg and 2015 fourth-rounder Bryce Petty in reserve. With those two around and Smith’s lack of long-term security (he’ll be a free agent after the season), this is likely his final year with the franchise.
  • The Bills are “standing pat” with their quarterbacks, GM Doug Whaley said Friday (Twitter link via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News). Buffalo was reportedly in the hunt for free agent Nick Foles after the Rams released him Thursday, though Carucci quickly shot that down. Behind starter Tyrod Taylor, who’s a candidate for a contract extension, the Bills have EJ Manuel and rookie fourth-rounder Cardale Jones as options. Manuel’s career strongly resembles Smith’s: Both were high picks in 2013 (Manuel went in Round 1) and have since failed to established themselves as starting-caliber NFL QBs. Manuel, like Smith, is in a contract year and could be in his last season with the club that drafted him. The ex-Florida State Seminole appeared in seven games (two starts) in 2015 and went 52 of 84 with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
  • Speaking of Carucci, the insider shared his thoughts on several Bills topics with PFR’s Zach Links on Friday.
  • The Titans added a household name to their receiving corps Friday, agreeing to a deal with Andre Johnson.

Latest On Cowboys’ Rolando McClain

FRIDAY: McClain was not in attendance at camp Friday, leading the Cowboys to place him on the reserve/did not report, per Archer. The Cowboys can now fine McClain up to $30K for each day of camp he misses, though chief operating officer Stephen Jones didn’t reveal Friday whether the team plans to do that. The Cowboys have been in contact with McClain’s agent, Pat Dye, Jones said.

THURSDAY: Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain was not on the team’s Thursday charter flight to Oxnard, Calif., where it holds training camp, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News was among those to report (on Twitter). McClain now has until Friday at 8 a.m. PT or 2 p.m. PT to report to camp, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Those times represent when the Cowboys will hold physicals and when they’ll conduct a team meeting, respectively.

Rolando McClain

McClain’s failure to show up for the team’s flight is the latest check mark against him in a career filled with them. The past month has been especially forgettable for McClain, whom the NFL suspended in June for the first 10 games of the regular season because of a violation of its substance abuse policy. The ban will cost McClain roughly $2.35MM of the $4MM salary he accepted from the Cowboys when he re-signed with them on a one-year deal during the winter. It’s also McClain’s second suspension since last year, when he missed the first four games of the season because of another substance abuse violation. Still, owner Jerry Jones has stuck by the talented 27-year-old.

“There’s a lot of reasons why we don’t cut him: cap, many reasons,” Jones said earlier this month. “But the bottom line is, I’d like to be positive about this and think that we haven’t seen the last of Rolando McClain.” 

Between McClain’s suspensions, his spring decision to skip voluntary team activities (which reportedly infuriated the Cowboys’ coaches), and now his missing-in-action status as camp is set to begin, the five-year veteran hasn’t really given Jones reason to be optimistic. However, considering McClain’s solid output on the field – he graded as Pro Football Focus’ 28th-best linebacker last season – the defensively weak Cowboys aren’t exactly in position to move on from him. But they could decide Friday that McClain’s off-field issues are no longer worth putting up with if he doesn’t report to camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Unlikely To Sign Antonio Cromartie

Multiple reports in recent months have linked the Dolphins to free agent Antonio Cromartie, but it turns out head coach Adam Gase isn’t a fan of the 32-year-old cornerback, a source told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Gase’s aversion to Cromartie stems from the success the former offensive coordinator’s attacks had against the defender in the past, according to Salguero.

Antonio Cromartie

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Cromartie, a 10-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, has been on the open market since the Jets released him in February. That was the end of Cromartie’s second stint with New York, which lasted only one season. It’s worth noting that his first, from 2010-13, began via trade when Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum was Gang Green’s general manager. Given Gase’s opinion of Cromartie, though, it seems as if Cromartie’s connection to Tannenbaum won’t be enough to make a reunion in Miami possible.

Aside from Byron Maxwell, the Dolphins are lacking proven options at corner, as their depth chart shows, but Salguero reported Thursday that they’re “pretty comfortable” with their current group. With second-round rookie Xavien Howard on the sidelines after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in June, the Dolphins are down to Tony Lippett as the starter opposite Maxwell. Lippett didn’t play much as a fifth-round rookie last year, however, and was a receiver at Michigan State. Gase has expressed confidence that Howard will be back in time for Week 1, but that would mean missing all of camp and the preseason, placing the first-year man behind the 8-ball immediately.

Thanks to their paucity of high-end corners, it seems the Dolphins could use more help at the position – especially after their 2015 pass defense finished 29th in DVOA and 27th in both YPA and quarterback rating against (7.8 and 97.4, respectively). That aid won’t come from Cromartie, it appears, and even if Gase did want him, it’s debatable how much he’s capable of contributing at this point. Cromartie is coming off a poor season, one in which Pro Football Focus ranked his performance 87th among 111 qualified corners, and reportedly has a hip issue that could threaten his career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Extend GM Rick Smith

The Texans have announced a four-year contract extension for executive vice president and general manager Rick Smith. Financial terms are not yet available, but the deal is set to keep Smith in Houston through the 2020 season.

“Rick is an important part of our organization. We really think that we’ve got all of the pieces together and we want to keep them that way,” Texans owner Bob McNair said in a statement. “So one of the things that we needed to do was to go ahead and extend Rick, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Bill O'Brien

Smith is just the second GM in Texans history since their inception in 1999, having taken the reins from Charley Casserly in June 2006. Smith, who previously served as Denver’s director of pro personnel, has since overseen seven teams that have gone .500 or better. Three, including last year’s AFC South-winning club, have made the playoffs.

Under Smith, the Texans have drafted such notable NFLers as left tackle Duane Brown (first round, 2008); linebacker Brian Cushing (first round, 2009); linebacker Connor Barwin (second round, 2009); safety Glover Quin (fourth round, 2009); cornerback Kareem Jackson (first round, 2010); defensive end J.J. Watt (first round, 2011); linebacker Whitney Mercilus (first round, 2012); guard Brandon Brooks (third round, 2012); receiver DeAndre Hopkins (first round, 2013) and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (first round, 2014), among several others.

Watt, who has already won the Defensive Player of the Year Award three times, and Hopkins stand out as the top picks of Smith’s reign. Both are bona fide superstars who have been hugely instrumental in the Texans’ recent success. The jury is out on Clowney, who went No. 1 overall and has only shown flashes of his high-end potential in two seasons.

Joining Watt, Hopkins, Clowney and the rest of the Texans this year as they look to improve on back-to-back nine-win campaigns will be high-profile offseason acquisitions Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller – both of whom Smith signed to significant contracts in free agency.

Smith hopes the big, cannon-armed Osweiler, Peyton Manning‘s former backup in Denver, will give the Texans their best production at quarterback since an in-his-prime Matt Schaub – whom Smith acquired from Atlanta in 2007 for two second-round picks. The Texans rolled the dice on Osweiler when they signed him to a four-year, $72MM deal that features $37MM in guarantees during the winter.

Miller, to whom the Texans handed a four-year, $26MM deal ($14MM guaranteed), is coming off two terrific seasons in a row with Miami and will take over for four-time Pro Bowler Arian Foster. The Texans released Foster after injuries to his groin and Achilles tendon cost him most of last season, but as an undrafted free agent in 2009, he’ll clearly go down as one of the premier pickups during Smith’s tenure.

Notably, Smith’s one head coaching hire – Bill O’Brien – has produced positive results, having led the Texans to an 18-14 record. With a roster that Smith has helped put in place, O’Brien will try to hit the double-digit-win mark this year and guide the Texans to another division crown.

Mark Berman of FOX 26 first reported the agreement. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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