Month: November 2021

Cardinals C Rodney Hudson Restructures Contract

The Cardinals have done some work today to open extra cap space. Veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer writes that center Rodney Hudson has restructured his contract.

[RELATED: Cardinals LB Jordan Hicks Takes Pay Cut]

Arizona traded for Hudson and his hefty $9.9MM cap charge earlier this month, and it always seemed inevitable that the veteran would work with the organization to reduce that number. Balzer notes that $8.8MM of the lineman’s compensation was converted into a signing bonus, thus reducing Hudson’s salary to $1.1MM. The team also added three voidable years to the contract, meaning the new signing bonus can be prorated over five years. As a result, Hudson’s 2021 cap charge was reduced to $2.86MM.

Hudson also had his 2022 workout bonus converted into base salary, increasing that latter number to $10.85MM. As a result, the lineman’s new cap charge is $12.61MM.

Earlier this month, the Cardinals sent a third-round pick to the Raiders for Hudson and a seventh-rounder. He will now join the likes of D.J. Humphries and Justin Pugh on a talented offensive line in Arizona. Pro Football Focus graded Hudson as its No. 8 overall center last season, and the veteran has three Pro Bowl appearances on his resume.

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Cardinals LB Jordan Hicks Takes Pay Cut

Jordan Hicks has taken a sizable pay cut to stay in Arizona. Veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer writes that the veteran linebacker has restructured the final two years of his contract.

Hicks was set to have a $9MM cap charge via a $5MM base salary, a $1MM roster bonus, and $3MM of his original signing bonus. The 28-year-old will now have a base salary of $2MM, and the team replaced the roster bonus with $1MM in per-game bonuses, thus leading to a reduced cap figure of $6MM.

Hicks also reduced his 2022 compensation — which were identical to his 2021 numbers — to a $4.25MM base salary, a $750K roster bonus, and $1MM in per-game roster bonuses. As Balzer explains, that roster bonus will likely be due at the beginning of the 2022 league year, at which point the Cardinals will have to decide whether they want to keep the veteran around.

The former third-rounder spent the first four seasons of his career with the Eagles before signing a four-year, $36MM deal ($20MM guaranteed) with the Cardinals in 2019. Hicks has started all 32 games for Arizona over the past two years, compiling 268 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Hicks will likely slide back into the starting lineup in 2021, although Isaiah Simmons, Tanner Vallejo, and/or Zeke Turner could push him for playing time.

Broncos, 49ers Showed Interest In QB Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton had multiple suitors before joining the Bears. Both the Broncos and 49ers expressed interest in the veteran quarterback before he signed with Chicago, writes Dan Pompei of The Athletic.

Dalton ultimately inked a one-year, $10MM deal with the Bears, a contract the other reported suitors were unwilling to match. Per Pompei, the Bears also promised the 33-year-old that he’d have the inside track at the starting gig, a commitment that neither the Broncos nor 49ers could offer.

Still, Denver’s interest in Dalton isn’t that surprising, as the organization has seemingly been connected to every available quarterback (except, reportedly, Sam Darnold). The team made an offer for Matthew Stafford, and they were planning to pursue Deshaun Watson before his off-field conduct began to surface. Dalton presumably would have competed with Drew Lock, the league-leader in interceptions this past season, for the starting gig.

The 49ers’ interest is more of a surprise, and it could be a bit telling. San Francisco has since traded for the third-overall pick, and considering the draft capital that they surrendered, they’ll presumably select a rookie quarterback at that spot. The front office has since committed to incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo as their starter in 2021 and their stopgap until the rookie QB is ready to step in, and it sounds like the veteran has yet to hit the trade block. The 49ers’ interest in Dalton could be a sign that the team was indeed considering trades for Garoppolo, as three (somewhat) starting-caliber quarterbacks would have been redundant.

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Patriots Notes: Kraft, Newton, Stidham, Free Agency

The Patriots went 7-9 during the inaugural season of the post-Tom Brady era, making it the first time New England had missed the postseason since 2008 (when the team was forced to rely on Matt Cassel in place of an injured Brady). Robert Kraft and the entire Patriots brass are focused on getting back to the playoffs, and they made that clear when they handed out an NFL-record $165MM in guaranteed money during the early parts of free agency.

“What happened here last year was not something to our liking. We had to make the corrections,” Kraft said (via ESPN’s Mike Reiss). “In all the businesses we’re involved in, we try to take advantage of inefficiencies in the market. We were in a unique cap situation this year and it allowed us to try to [fix] things we missed, to a certain extent, in the draft. So this was our best opportunity.”

While Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office were able to patch some holes by spending in free agency, Kraft also acknowledged that this strategy isn’t a recipe for long-term success.

“In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency. You have to do it through the draft. I don’t feel we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope, and I believe, I’ve seen a different approach this year,” Kraft said.

Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, linebacker Matt Judon, and wideout Nelson Agholor were among the Patriots’ major free agent acquisitions.

Let’s check out some more notes out of New England:

  • Kraft seemed to excuse quarterback Cam Newton‘s uneven play in 2020, noting that the veteran was joining a new team during an abbreviated preseason, had COVID-19, and dealt with an inconsistent receiver corps. “In fairness to Cam, I’m not sure he had the proper weapons around him last year,” Kraft said. “I really do believe Cam getting COVID, and what it did to the team, it changed a lot. Now we’ll get a chance to see…Players on the team, in the locker room, really love the guy. In the end, I trust Coach Belichick’s ability to build a team, and put the right players in the best position to succeed.”
  • While the owner seemed to hint that Newton would be under center next season, he also kept the door open for former fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham, who was expected to receive more playing time during his sophomore season. “I don’t know that Jarrett has ever really gotten a fair shot,” Kraft said. “We have to wait and see what happens, and we still have the draft. … Quarterback is the most important position on the team. One way or the other, we have to get that position solidified.”
  • While the Patriots certainly had the ability to spend on free agents, Reiss writes that Belichick’s “cachet” was a major reason why the Patriots were able to recruit players. “This opportunity couldn’t be passed up because of the prestige, being coached by some of the best coaches in the NFL,” said linebacker Raekwon McMillan. “Coach Belichick told me that he’s been watching my career. For a player, you’re talking to a Hall of Fame coach, that really inspired me.”
  • Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia rejoined the organization this offseason as an assistant, but Reiss notes that the coach’s role has continued to evolve. Patricia has spent recent weeks helping to negotiate and finalize contracts, thus serving “as an added layer of support to Belichick,” per Reiss.

Giants “Not In Any Hurry” To Extend RB Saquon Barkley

The Giants have eagerly dished out cash this offseason, but that doesn’t mean Saquon Barkley will benefit from the spending spree. Speaking to reporters, Giants owner John Mara said an extension for the running back isn’t coming any time soon.

[RELATED: Giants Undecided On Saquon Barkley’s Fifth-Year Option]

“We’re not in any hurry to do that,” Mara said (via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano on Twitter). “We fully expect him to be as good as new. … We hope he’s going to be a Giant for life. At the appropriate time, we’ll start those discussions.”

The former second-overall pick quickly established himself as one of the top running backs in the league, averaging 1,734.5 yards from scrimmage and 11.5 touchdowns per season through his first two years in the NFL. However, after missing a handful of games in 2019, Barkley was limited to only two games in 2020 before suffering a season-ending ACL injury.

The 24-year-old is about to enter the final year of his four-year rookie contract, but he has an affordable fifth-year option that’s valued at only $7.2MM. Barkley is also eligible to sign an extension after having spent three years in the league. Despite the modest fifth-year salary, it isn’t guaranteed that the running back has his option picked up. Earlier this month, GM Dave Gettleman didn’t seem to commit one way or the other, hinting that health could be a concern.

The Giants may be dragging their feet with the fifth-year option (and the subsequent extension), but Mara still made it clear that he wants Barkley to spend the rest of his career in New York. This Giants are likely doing their due diligence before committing to any future deals with the star running back.

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Colts To Re-Sign DL Al-Quadin Muhammad

The Colts are bringing back one of their rotational defensive linemen. They agreed to terms with Al-Quadin Muhammad on a one-year deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Muhammad’s second NFL contract will be worth $3.4MM, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus. He has played with the Colts for the past three seasons, after initially joining the team as a waiver claim in September 2018.

Part of the Saints’ standout 2017 draft haul, Muhammad played one season with New Orleans but has made his mark in Indianapolis. He played a career-high 56% of the Colts’ defensive snaps last season and has recorded five sacks over the past two years.

This move comes after Denico Autry‘s free agency defection to Tennessee. The Colts still have questions on their defensive front, with top edge rusher Justin Houston still unsigned and the team short on proven sack artists, Muhammad has been a key rotational presence throughout defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus‘ tenure.

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Jason McCourty On Giants’ Radar?

The Giants already gave Adoree’ Jackson a lucrative deal to join James Bradberry at cornerback. Joe Judge may be interested in bringing a more familiar cover man to New York as well.

Mutual interest is believed to exist between the Giants and Jason McCourty, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post (on Twitter). McCourty spent the past three seasons with the Patriots; Judge was on New England’s staff for two of those slates.

McCourty confirmed he will intend to play a 13th NFL season, according to ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter). Considering twin brother Devin McCourty remains under contract with the Patriots, it would seem to keep them in the mix for the 33-year-old corner. But Jason McCourty, who has also played with the Titans and Browns, may be ready to move elsewhere again.

The 12-year defender is a New York native who played collegiately in New Jersey (Rutgers). He started 11 games for a deep Patriots cornerback corps last season, playing 65% of the Pats’ defensive snaps. The former sixth-round pick has made 137 NFL starts. He would certainly add experience to a Giants corner crew that has given Bradberry an experienced cover man in Jackson.

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Falcons Interested In TE Kyle Pitts At No. 4?

The Falcons have spoken with Kyle Pitts on multiple occasions this offseason, conducting two Zoom meetings with this draft’s top tight end prospect, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Another Falcons Zoom meeting is scheduled as well, Pitts said.

Holding the No. 4 overall pick, the Falcons had key staffers on hand at Pitts’ pro day Wednesday. New HC Arthur Smith attended the ex-Florida Gator weapon’s showcase, and Pitts spoke with Falcons brass at the event.

They were saying that they have interest in me,” Pitts said, via Ledbetter. “After today, we’ll get on another Zoom and they’ll try to learn more about myself. I feel like they are pretty interested.”

The 6-foot-6, 245-pound pass catcher blazed to an unofficial 4.44-second 40-yard dash time Wednesday. While this draft has standout wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes multiple evaluators informed him Wednesday the Florida prospect is the best player available this year (Twitter link). Pitts also boasts the longest wingspan measurement of any wideout or tight end in 20 years. ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Pitts as his No. 2 prospect, behind Trevor Lawrence.

No tight end has been drafted in the top five this century. Only two — Mike Ditka and Riley Odoms, the latter being picked fifth in 1971 — ever have (though, Kellen Winslow Jr. and Vernon Davis came off the 2004 and 2006 boards at No. 6 overall). Pitts broke through in 2020, catching 12 touchdown passes in the COVID-19-shortened college football season and averaging 17.9 yards per catch.

The Falcons have been linked to a possible Matt Ryan heir apparent at No. 4, but with the 49ers trading up for a quarterback, Atlanta is in position to choose this draft’s best non-QB prospect. Prior to Smith’s 2019 promotion to Titans OC, he was a tight ends coach for four seasons. The Falcons have Hayden Hurst signed through 2021, but Pitts would offer a different level of athleticism that might be too enticing to bypass.

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Jaguars Hosting LB Damien Wilson

A starter for each of the past two Super Bowl-qualifying Chiefs teams, Damien Wilson secured a free agency meeting Wednesday. The Jaguars brought in the veteran linebacker, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

Formerly a Cowboys contributor, Wilson played an increased role for the past two Chiefs defenses. Kansas City used Wilson on 64% of its defensive snaps in 2019. Overall, Wilson started every game he played in two Chiefs seasons.

Wilson, 27, posted a career-high 81 tackles for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in 2019. Pro Football Focus graded Wilson better in 2020, when he rated 44th among off-ball ‘backers. The Cowboys used the former fourth-round pick as a part-time starter from 2015-18 but allowed him to leave via free agency two years ago.

The Jaguars have two three-down linebackers already, with Myles Jack one of the last men standing from the team’s high-end defenses of the late 2010s and Joe Schobert agreeing to join the rebuilding team last year. But the team appears on the lookout for a third starter and/or depth at the position. The Jags ranked 31st in both total defense and points allowed last season.

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Bills Sign LB Marquel Lee

After being out of football last season, Marquel Lee will receive another chance. The Bills agreed to terms with the veteran linebacker Wednesday.

A former Raiders fifth-round pick, Lee signed a one-year deal with the Bills. The Raiders waived Lee last August, and he did not catch on elsewhere for what would have been his fourth season. He will have a chance to play that fourth NFL season in Buffalo.

The Raiders used the Wake Forest alum as a starter in 19 games from 2017-19, deploying Lee as a primary first-stringer in 2018, but ankle issues landed him on injured reserve early in the 2019 season. Lee has played in two games since September 2019. In 2018, he made 68 tackles and broke up three passes.

Lee will join Tyrell Adams as offseason fliers at linebacker for a Bills team already fairly deep at the position. Adams, a Texans starter last year, also signed with the Bills on Wednesday. Buffalo re-signed Matt Milano and Tyler Matakevich this offseason and already rosters Tremaine Edmunds and A.J. Klein.

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