Month: April 2022

Latest On Rams DL Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald‘s next contract with the Rams could be more than just a raise. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Donald’s next deal will likely be an extension.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year has three years remaining on his current deal, which he signed in 2018 following a holdout one year earlier. While Donald’s current deal once reset the market, the going rate for top defensive players is now around $28MM. The star defensive tackle is currently making $22.5MM per year, so there’s a bit of a gap to make up between the two sides.

As Fowler notes, the retirement rumblings coming out of Donald’s camp were “real,” and they may have been influenced by his contract. Per the reporter, Donald has a certain “number he will play for,” so the Rams will have to pony up if they want him on the field next season. While contract talks were previously described as “nothing but positive,” Fowler cautions that Donald could still hang up his cleats if his demands aren’t met.

An extension would be an interesting tactic for the Rams to take. By adding extra years to the three remaining three years on Donald’s contract, the Rams would be locking themselves into the player through his mid-30s. However, as Fowler notes, this would be the team’s best path to spread cap space and retain their core.

While Donald wasn’t able to defend his Defensive Player of the Year award in 2021, he still had a standout campaign, earning his seventh-straight first-team All-Pro nod. Donald finished the season with a career-high 84 tackles to go along with 12.5 sacks, 25 QB hits, and four forced fumbles.

Latest On Minkah Fitzpatrick Extension Talks

Don’t expect a Minkah Fitzpatrick extension anytime soon. A source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the Steelers “won’t be rushed into a deal.”

This could ultimately be the difference of a few months, as Fowler estimates that Pittsburgh could start negotiations with their star safety in July. However, if Pittsburgh still follows soon-to-be-retired GM Kevin Colbert’s philosophy of not negotiating in-season, that would give the organization a limited amount of time to discuss a deal. After having his fifth-year option picked up, Fitzpatrick has one year remaining on his contract.

As Fowler notes, the Steelers have been willing to extend their former first-round picks, with T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and David DeCastro all getting new deals before the start of their fifth-year option season. Watt’s extension also set a new precedent, as the Steelers were willing to offer guarantees beyond the signing bonus, something the organization used to shy away from. A new GM could change any front office philosophy, but the organization’s apparent preference for internal candidates (and their continued reliance on Colbert) indicates they want to keep things running as normal.

Fowler estimates that Fitzpatrick will be aiming for a contract in the range of Jamal Adams‘ deal, which reset the market at the position at $17.5MM. The 25-year-old could certainly justify a top salary, as he’s established himself as one of the league’s top safeties since joining the Steelers in 2019. Fitzpatrick earned first-team All-Pro nods in both 2019 and 2020, and while he didn’t earn any accolades in 2021, he still finished with a career-high 124 tackles to go along with seven passes defended and two interceptions.

Chargers Sign DL Morgan Fox

The Chargers have added to their defensive line. According to Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com (on Twitter), the Chargers have signed defensive end Morgan Fox.

Fox went undrafted out of CSU–Pueblo before catching on with the Rams. He ended up spending five seasons with the organization, seeing time in 52 games. After missing the 2018 campaign with a torn ACL, Fox managed to return and appear in each of the Rams’ 32 games over the next two years, including a 2020 season where he collected six sacks. Per ESPN, Fox is the third member of the 2020 Rams defense to join the Chargers this offseason (along with defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and linebacker Troy Reeder).

Fox inked a two-year pact with the Panthers last offseason and ended up getting into all 17 games for his new squad, compiling a career-high 34 tackles, seven QB hits, and 1.5 sacks. He was released by the organization back in March.

The Chargers made a major upgrade to their pass-rushing corps when they acquired edge rusher Khalil Mack from Chicago. Fox should play a secondary role on the depth chart, and the Chargers will likely turn to him for special teams reps.

Titans Considering Derrick Henry Extension?

Derrick Henry is coming off his first significant injury as a pro, having missed nine regular-season games before returning for the Titans’ divisional-round tilt. But the two-time rushing champion had amassed a staggering lead on the rest of the NFL at the time he suffered the foot ailment; he still finished ninth in rushing last season.

The Titans have Henry signed through 2023, by virtue of the four-year, $50MM extension the parties agreed to just before the 2020 franchise tag deadline. But the team is open to doing another deal with its star running back, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes.

Although third running back contracts for notable sums are exceedingly rare in the modern NFL, another Henry-Titans pact would help the team create near-future cap space. Henry would also collect some guaranteed money; the guarantees on his current deal ended after last season. A new deal, however, could tag Tennessee with dead money down the road. As is, Henry is attached to $15MM cap numbers in 2022 and ’23. The Titans are near the bottom of the NFL in cap space, holding barely $3MM.

Since paying Henry two summers ago, the Titans have opted not to extend Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith and A.J. Brown. Henry and Robert Woods‘ nonguaranteed contracts represent the only noteworthy veteran salaries among Titan skill-position players presently. Tennessee’s post-Brown plan will place pressure on first-round pick Treylon Burks, who will essentially replace the traded wide receiver, and for Henry to keep delivering top-shelf backfield work.

Henry is entering his age-28 season. He compiled workhorse carry totals for the past two-plus seasons, but his first three years — when he spent much of that time alongside DeMarco Murray — kept those numbers down. Henry’s per-carry average did drop to 4.3 last season, down from north of five yards per tote in 2019 and ’20, and he is sitting on 1,401 career carries (second-most among projected starting backs, behind only Ezekiel Elliott‘s 1,650). It will be interesting to see what kind of effect Henry’s recent handoff counts (303 in 2019, 378 in 2020 and 219 in an abbreviated ’21) have on his 2022 form.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/18/22

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

Washington Commanders

  • Waived (failed physical): T Drew Himmelman

2022 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

Along with the head coaches being fired, a few NFL teams are looking for new general managers. Listed below are the GM candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status.

If and when other teams decide to make GM changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 5-18-22 (5:03pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Las Vegas Raiders

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Sean Payton To Be Fox Analyst In 2022

Linked as a potential Tom Brady coworker earlier this year, Sean Payton will follow the Buccaneers quarterback to Fox. Though, the two NFL mainstays’ timelines might not overlap at the network.

The 16-year Saints coach agreed to a deal to become a Fox analyst, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who adds Payton was in talks with Amazon as well. Payton indicated a desire to explore broadcasting. For now, that will be the Super Bowl-winning HC’s role.

Brady, of course, signed a 10-year, $375MM deal to be Fox’s lead analyst — whenever his final retirement decision commences. While Brady is ticketed to try his hand in the No. 1 analyst role, Florio notes Payton will work in the studio for Fox. It is conceivable Brady makes his debut for the network this season, depending on the Buccaneers’ performance, but he and Payton might not see their paths cross. Payton, 58, may take the Bill Cowher/Jimmy Johnson route and stay on the broadcasting side for good, but he has consistently been connected to other coaching jobs.

In addition to his perennial Cowboys ties, the ex-Dallas assistant has been linked to the Panthers and Dolphins this offseason. The latter rumor persisted and connected him to Brady, who was to be his quarterback in Miami. The Saints, however, denied the Dolphins permission to speak with Payton, who had recently announced he was leaving his New Orleans gig. During that announcement, Payton said he did not plan to coach in 2022. Just as the Bucs still hold Brady’s rights, the Saints would require compensation for Payton. For now, that is on the back-burner.

Giants Sign Jalyn Holmes, Maurice Canady

Restrained in their approach to bolstering their edge rush for a few years, the Giants certainly changed that strategy this year via their Kayvon Thibodeaux pick. The team added another piece to its Thibodeaux-fronted edge mix Wednesday.

Former Vikings defensive end Jalyn Holmes signed with the Giants, who also added three more defenders. That includes cornerback Maurice Canady, a six-year veteran who spent last season with the Cowboys. Big Blue rounded out the signings by inking cornerback Khalil Dorsey and safety Henry Black.

A fourth-round pick out of Ohio State in 2018, Holmes received his most run as a Danielle Hunter replacement during the 2020 season. Despite starting nine games for that Vikings edition, Holmes did not record a sack. While he did add four quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and two pass deflections that year, his only NFL sack came during his rookie season. Holmes spent last season with the Saints.

The Giants have 2021 second-rounder Azeez Ojulari positioned to play alongside Thibodeaux and still roster 2019 third-rounder Oshane Ximines. Lorenzo Carter joined the Falcons as a free agent. New York also signed pass rusher Jihad Ward this offseason.

Canady, a Ravens sixth-rounder in 2016, has bounced around a bit and has worked mostly as a backup. He has started six games in six years but has extensive experience in new Giants defensive coordinator Don Martindale‘s system. Canady’s third and fourth Ravens seasons overlapped with Martindale’s Baltimore DC run. The soon-to-be 28-year-old defender played eight games for the Cowboys last season.

Black, 25, contributed for the Packers last season, playing 24% of their defensive snaps and intercepting a pass. He joins a safety corps that lost Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers this offseason. Dorsey played six games for Martindale’s Ravens defense in 2020; he was nontendered as an RFA in March.

Browns Submit Offer To TE David Njoku

David Njoku finds himself in an interesting position. The Browns hit the former first-round pick with the franchise tag, despite the veteran tight end’s history of inconsistent production. Njoku now has an offer to consider, but he is also set to play with a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback this season.

This year’s tight end franchise tag came in at $10.9MM, but the Browns’ offer is believed to be beyond $13MM annually, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (ESPN+ link). Considering Njoku’s production history, landing top-five money at his position would be quite the coup. But the guarantee structure is not yet known.

[RELATED: Browns Confident They Will Extend Njoku]

The Browns have been discussing a deal with Njoku’s camp for months, and the five-year veteran said last year he wanted to reach a long-term agreement to stay in Cleveland. This would be a turnaround development for Njoku, who sought a trade at multiple points in 2020. He compiled just 213 receiving yards and two touchdowns that year, when the Browns gave Austin Hooper a $10.5MM-per-year deal. Hooper is now out of the picture, having been cut in March.

Four tight ends — George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews — earn more than $14MM per year. No one else at this position is signed to a contract worth $13MM-plus. Njoku, who has one season with more than 500 receiving yards (2018), would not seem to have a case to join that top tier. But it is clear the Browns value the 2017 first-round pick, who caught 36 passes for 475 yards and four touchdowns last season. He joined Mike Gesicki and Dalton Schultz in receiving the tag, and GM Andrew Berry was with the team when it selected Njoku out of Miami five years ago.

Njoku, 25, has a chance to post career-best numbers with Deshaun Watson at the controls. That said, it is unknown how much of this season Watson will play. That stands to affect Njoku, who would go into a critical year should he opt to play on the tag to push for a bigger payday. The Browns have just one other pass catcher (Amari Cooper) signed to a notable veteran contract and hold the NFL’s most cap space, at more than $27MM. Cleveland has until July 15 to extend Njoku.