Month: June 2024

Growing Optimism Chiefs Will Re-Sign Chris Jones; L’Jarius Sneed Generating Trade Interest

Chris Jones balked at a Chiefs attempt to extend him on a deal far south of the Aaron Donald salary range. As the perennial All-Pro nears free agency, the team may be coming around to his price point.

Playing last season on his 2020 extension (four years, $80MM), Jones is believed to want a deal in the $30MM-per-year range, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini and Nate Taylor. Although the Chiefs were not prepared to go into that neighborhood to retain their top defender last year, they might be now. Growing optimism exists the sides agree to a deal before free agency, per Russini and Taylor (subscription required).

[RELATED: Chiefs Release WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling]

Jones has said he would like to stay in Kansas City, but it will be interesting — given a few factors — if the 29-year-old standout passes on testing the market. Considering Jones’ 2023 holdout, the developments on the D-tackle market over the past year and the salary cap’s $30MM-plus increase, it would be a slight surprise if the likely Hall of Fame-bound player passed on seeing what was out there. Players get hints of the market at the Combine, however, even though the legal tampering period (11am CT on March 11) represents the first instance communication with other clubs is allowed.

Jones’ holdout reached mid-September, with the eight-year veteran not reporting to the Chiefs until after their Week 1 game — a loss to the Lions. An incentive package ended up covering Jones for the fines incurred during for skipping training camp, penalties that surpassed $2MM. Jones also forfeited a $1.1MM game check by missing Week 1. His absence was noticeable, and the Chiefs brought him back into the fold with an incentive package.

The Chiefs were believed to be offering Jones $24MM per year, an AAV in the range of the Quinnen WilliamsJeffery SimmonsDexter LawrenceDaron Payne quartet that formed the top non-Donald tier at the position last year. Jones, now a five-time All-Pro, wanted Donald-level dough. He made a strong case for it again last season. The Chiefs needed a 49ers special teams miscue to tally a touchdown before overtime in Super Bowl LVIII, and a Jones rush stopped a 49ers OT drive to set up the game-winning score. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes– and Travis Kelce-led offense took a backseat to a top-end pass defense last season, and the Jones-dependent unit led the way to a repeat championship. It is difficult to build more momentum toward a free agency windfall.

Donald was 31 when he threatened retirement and landed a three-year, $95MM Rams deal; Jones will not turn 30 until this summer. With the cap rising to $255.4MM, it would seem Donald’s $31.7MM AAV — which leads the DT market by more than $7MM — would be in reach for Jones.

With Nick Bosa scoring a $34MM-per-year pact from the 49ers, Jones is poised to do remarkably well if he hits the market. A deal that includes more than the $80MM the Steelers guaranteed T.J. Watt could well be in play. The Chiefs, who will need to make more moves (perhaps another Mahomes restructure) to create cap space before the 2024 league year opens March 13, do look to have a plan to help afford a third Jones contract. It involves bidding farewell to their other top free agent defender.

Since the report that indicated the Chiefs were preparing to tag L’Jarius Sneed but were willing to trade him emerged, Russini and Taylor indicate at least six teams have reached out about the ascending cornerback. The expectation is Sneed will end up in a tag-and-trade transaction, Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline notes.

The Chiefs went to this well with Dee Ford in 2019, replacing him with Frank Clark. With most of Kansas City’s free agency budget going to Jones — if the franchise is to succeed in its top offseason mission — no CB replacement is likely en route. Instead, the Chiefs will likely do what they have done for most of Andy Reid‘s tenure: replace a starting corner from within. As the Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson, Kendall Fuller and Charvarius Ward exits show, the Chiefs have an M.O. when it comes to corners. Sneed is looking likely to be the latest Chiefs CB to become a one-contract player for the team.

The Chiefs, who were on the receiving end of tag-and-trade moves involving Matt Cassel (2009) and Clark (2019), are poised to pick up a quality asset for Sneed by using the tag here. And they have established a blueprint in which cornerbacks are replaceable; Jones has proven he is not.

Texans Saquon Barkley’s Preferred Destination?

The Texans are among the teams to watch on the running back front, and a they will have no shortage of options to choose from in free agency. Several accomplished producers at the position are on track to be available, and Houston could be well-positioned for a splashy addition.

After ranking 22nd in the league in rushing (97 yards per game), improvement in that area is an obvious need. The Texans are flush with cap space, so they could benefit from the crop of available rushers set to reach the open market. Houston has been linked to a RB pursuit in general, but one notable name has emerged which would certainly represent a buzz-worthy move.

Saquon Barkley has “targeted the Texans as his top potential destination,” KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson reports. Barkley has also been in communication with reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud, Wilson adds. The Giants made the unsurprising move of franchise-tagging Barkley last offseason, and doing so again is still on the table. Talks on a New York extension are ongoing as well, meaning the former No. 2 pick might not reach free agency.

In the event he did, however, Houston would represent an attractive destination. Stroud’s rookie campaign helped guide the team to the divisional round of the playoffs, and he is surrounded by a relatively young skill-position corps which would allow for a big-money investment on the market. With three 1,000-yard seasons to his name, Barkley would provide a dynamic element to the Texans’ ground game.

Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post confirms the expectation around the league is that general manager Nick Caserio will be a central player in the RB market this offseason. Caserio has a background with the Patriots, a team which has traditionally avoided making sizable investments in veteran backs. A shift in philosophy would thus come as a surprise, although an upgrade at the position would likely go a long way in ensuring the team can repeat its success on offense from 2023.

“What do I think is going to happen?” Caserio said (via Wilson) when speaking about a potential running back addition. “We’re all going to find out. Free agency, it’s what does the market tell you? And then any player, what are you willing to pay that player commensurate with their role?”

Barkley would be far from the only high-profile back the Texans could show interest in. Fellow 2023 franchise tag recipients Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard on set to reach free agency; the same is also true of Derrick Henry and Austin Ekeler. Among the pending free agents at the position is Devin Singletary, who joined the Texans last offseason on a one-year, $2.75MM deal.

Wilson reports there is a mutual interest between team and player for a new Singletary pact to be worked out. Such a development (coupled with the continued presence of 2022 fourth-rounder Dameon Pierce) would likely lessen the chances of a Barkley pursuit. Still, it is notable the latter has his eyes on a Houston arrangement while his Giants future remains in flux.

Falcons Interested In Baker Mayfield?

Linked closely to quarterbacks this offseason, the Falcons may be moving close to landing their next starter. Justin Fields-to-Atlanta buzz is heating up, but the NFC South team also looks to be interested in Baker Mayfield — potentially as a contingency plan.

The Buccaneers have begun talks with Mayfield, who would stand to lose some leverage if the Falcons complete a Fields trade soon. But Atlanta is believed to be in the mix for Mayfield, according to Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline. It would take the Bucs failing to complete a Mayfield deal to bring the Falcons into this equation, however. The Bucs’ exclusive negotiating rights expire at 11am CT on March 11, when the legal tampering period begins.

Last year, the Giants and Seahawks needed to pin down the markets for Daniel Jones and Geno Smith, respectively. Both teams reached deals with their QBs to keep them off the market. The Bucs are in the same situation, and it will require a big raise for them to keep Tom Brady‘s successor in town. Mayfield is expected to draw at least $34MM per year on his next deal, per Pauline, who throws out a $40MM-AAV prospect as a potential ceiling number.

The Giants giving Jones $40MM per annum could conceivably be a factor here, and that contract included $81MM fully guaranteed. Mayfield’s guarantee figure will be one of this offseason’s most interesting numbers, given where his value stood after poor 2021 and ’22 seasons. A team shelling out a Jones-level guarantee would certainly be taking a risk.

The Falcons do have some staffers familiar with Mayfield. New OC Zac Robinson was Mayfield’s position coach during his brief stay with the Rams, with Raheem Morris obviously observing the former waiver claim in that span as well.

Mayfield going from where he was entering last year’s free agency to his present value remains a fascinating process, one that underscores the supply-and-demand issue at quarterback. Other suitors are in on Mayfield, per Pauline, though it is not certain how aggressive the non-Bucs contingent plans to be. It would stand to reason the Raiders, Broncos and perhaps the Vikings — depending on their Kirk Cousins conclusion — are monitoring Mayfield. The Steelers have been linked to Fields, though they have also been connected to a plan of bringing in a veteran to compete with Kenny Pickett. Given where Mayfield’s price might be, he is overqualified for that assignment despite needing to win the Tampa Bay job last summer.

The Bucs likely have Mayfield atop their priority queue, but they also are believed to be readying to use their franchise tag on Antoine Winfield Jr. It would be a bit of a leap for the Bucs to tag Mayfield, as that would cost more than $38MM. Even if Mayfield’s AAV could wind up in this ballpark — a staggering raise from the $4MM base salary he signed for in 2023 — that would be a crippling cap hold for the Bucs to carry into free agency. That said, the team just qualified for the divisional round with Brady’s $35.1MM dead-money sum on the books.

Regarding Fields and the Falcons, a DraftKings Sportsbook update places this as the runaway lead fit by slotting Atlanta as a minus-250 favorite for the Chicago QB. The Bears hope to finalize a Fields decision before free agency, with GM Ryan Poles indicating he wants to do right by the three-year starter. Chicago is on track to draft Caleb Williams with its Carolina-obtained No. 1 pick, and while that is not yet final, Fields is widely expected to be wearing a different uniform in 2024.

If the Falcons do not end up with the Georgia native — whom they passed on in 2021 — a Mayfield push could become intense for a team that has wanted to upgrade on Desmond Ridder since the season ended.

Jags, Trevor Lawrence Begin Extension Talks

Trevor Lawrence‘s ascent encountered some turbulence last season; the Jaguars flopped down the stretch and missed the playoffs. That ending has not changed the organization’s plans with its centerpiece player.

Franchise-caliber quarterbacks often sign extensions before their fourth season. Lawrence is now in that window, becoming extension-eligible in January. Proceeding down that path, GM Trent Baalke confirmed Thursday (via NFL.com’s Cameron Wolfe) the team has begun Lawrence extension talks.

Baalke said earlier this offseason “no doubt” existed the team would extend Lawrence at some point. It may not be a lock that happens this offseason; exercising Lawrence’s fifth-year option will buy the Jags some time. That said, a host of QBs have inked their first extensions before Year 4.

Since Ryan Tannehill‘s Dolphins re-up in 2015, 11 more QBs — Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow — have signed extensions before their fourth seasons. Not having a deal done in this timeframe has been the exception, with the promise of a monster guarantee — rather than playing a fourth year on a rookie salary — factoring in prominently here.

This would be a new chapter for the Jags, who have seen their two other first-round QBs chosen in the slot-system era (Blaine Gabbert, Blake Bortles) not prove worthy of a big-ticket extension.

Lawrence, 24, is the only member of five-first-rounder 2021 QB contingent who is a lock to be the 2024 starter for the team that drafted him. Trey Lance has been traded, while Zach Wilson has been granted permission to find a trade partner. Justin Fields will probably be on the move soon, and Mac Jones‘ future in New England is murky. That said, Lawrence has not yet distinguished himself as a top-tier passer despite generational prospect status back in ’21.

After a late-season Lawrence surge drove the Jaguars to the 2022 playoffs and a historic wild-card comeback, the Clemson product ranked 17th in QBR last season — a 9-8 Jacksonville showing. Lawrence, whose INT count spiked from eight to 14 from 2022-23, did battle through extensive injury trouble last year. Ankle and knee sprains did not end up sidelining the durable QB last season, but a Week 16 AC joint injury — during a woeful performance in Tampa — shelved him in Week 17. The Titans then upset the Jaguars to end their playoff push in Week 18.

The Dolphins waited a year before talking a Tua Tagovailoa extension; those talks are taking place this offseason. Far more significant injury issues clouded Tagovailoa’s future going into last season, whereas Lawrence has missed just one career game. The former national championship-winning QB did effectively go through a lost rookie season, with the Urban Meyer experiment backfiring spectacularly. That could lead to this Jags regime pressing pause. But with talks already beginning, the prospect of a Lawrence contract topping $50MM per year — a price that obviously will change the Jags’ roster-building blueprint — coming to pass this year is in play.

Steelers, QB Mason Rudolph Begin Talks

Mentioned on a few occasions as having a clear path back to Pittsburgh, Mason Rudolph is taking steps toward that conclusion. While he may not be the favorite to be the Steelers’ 2024 starter, the team has the six-year veteran in its plans once again.

The Steelers have begun talks with their veteran backup-turned-playoff starter, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Rudolph began last season as the team’s third-stringer, playing on a one-year deal worth $1.1MM. It will almost definitely take more than that for the Steelers to bring Rudolph back. If completed, this would be a fourth Rudolph Steelers contract.

While Kaboly categorizes these as preliminary talks, Mike Tomlin indicated early this offseason the team would attempt to re-sign the former Ben Roethlisberger backup. A recent report also pegged some in the building as being OK vaulting Rudolph past Kenny Pickett on the depth chart. Tomlin has said Pickett will enter the offseason program as the starter, but his grip on the job is now tenuous. The Steelers, who have also been connected to Justin Fields, want someone to at least compete with the 2022 first-round pick.

I can’t tell when the deal would get done, hopefully with us,” Steelers GM Omar Khan said. “It’s just a process, and I understand it, but we’d like to have [Rudolph] back. … I believe he wants to come back and compete, and he likes it here.”

Inserted into the lineup after Mitch Trubisky‘s struggles replacing Pickett, Rudolph made four starts for the Steelers to close last season. The team went 3-1 in those games, returning to the playoffs and ensuring Tomlin’s .500-or-better streak would reach a 17th season. Rudolph moved the offense effectively when summoned, with the Steelers toppling the Bengals and Seahawks en route to their second postseason berth in three years. Despite Pickett being ready to return, he backed up Rudolph to close out the season. Rudolph, 28, had never previously held QB1 reins without an injury or COVID-19 contraction intervening.

A Rudolph return would be interesting for the Steelers, and the team’s plans with Fields or another veteran would stand to affect his interest in coming back. A Rudolph-Pickett competition would not exactly be the most inspiring of paths for the Steelers, who have not enjoyed steady quarterback play in several years.

Rudolph could conceivably balk at a return if the team acquires a higher-profile veteran, creating an unusual three-way competition for the job. It is unclear if a Rudolph re-signing would stop the Steelers from chasing another starter-caliber veteran, but it would certainly complicate matters. Regarding the Fields tie, the Steelers are not believed to be a true threat here. It appears they are aiming lower.

Rudolph might have other options, but a number of backup- or bridge-level arms are set to be available soon. Ryan Tannehill, the subject of a previous Steelers rumor due to Arthur Smith‘s arrival, joins a deep group that includes Jacoby Brissett, Gardner Minshew, Sam Darnold, Marcus Mariota, Tyrod Taylor, Drew Lock and Joe Flacco. Injuries across the NFL last year may prompt some teams to spend more to fill their QB2 post, but at some point, this group could cannibalize each other on the market.

Seahawks GM Addresses QB Geno Smith’s Future

9:26pm: The Seahawks may be ready to end the trade speculation. Schneider is believed to have informed Smith he will be on the roster on his current contract next season, Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz tweets. Similar assurances in the recent past have led to some course changes; this does come two years after Pete Carroll said at the Combine the intention was not to trade Wilson. That said, the Seahawks appear to be planning for a third season with Smith at the controls.

10:36am: Entering the offseason, questions were raised about the Seahawks’ commitment to quarterback Geno Smith. Despite the veteran’s multi-year extension signed in the wake of his impressive 2022 showing, the team had a path to releasing or trading him with minimal cap penalties.

However, the recent moves made by Seattle point in the direction of Smith being retained for at least one more campaign. His $12.7MM base salary has already become fully guaranteed, and the team agreed to a restructure last week. As a result of that move, Smith’s roster bonus was converted to a signing bonus, saving 2024 cap space and accelerating a payment which was due next month.

Many had pointed to March 18 (the time at which Smith’s roster bonus was due to vest) as a deadline for Seattle to work out a trade sending Smith elsewhere. With that option now off the table, the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year is on track to remain the Seahawks’ starter. New head coach Mike Macdonald declined to offer a firm commitment in that respect before the restructure, but general manager John Schneider‘s remarks downplayed the significance of the financial maneuvering.

“Other people made a bigger deal out of that than we did in the building,” the latter said, via Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic (subscription required). “Is he gonna be here? Is he not gonna be here?’ He was going to be here. It’s a matter of when are we going to tell him we’re doing this with his roster bonus?”

Schneider added that Smith, 33, is atop Seattle’s depth chart “until he’s not.” Backup Drew Lock is a pending free agent, but he is expected to seek out a starting gig on the open market. Part of the Russell Wilson trade package, Lock made only a pair of starts during his Seattle tenure, something which could hinder his market. Schneider is believed to have played a central role in having the former second-rounder included in the Wilson deal, so a re-up could still be in the cards. On the other hand, Seattle taking the draft route is something Schneider also touched on.

The 14-year GM noted that the team’s track record of selecting only two passers in his tenure is “not something that we’re necessarily proud of,” leaving open the door to a draft addition this April. Seattle did homework on the top passers in last year’s class before ultimately selecting cornerback Devon Witherspoon fifth overall. The team still has first-round needs on defense which outweigh the urgency to draft a Smith successor, especially given his current financial situation. While Schneider declined to give the two-time Pro Bowler a full endorsement, his remarks point further toward stability under center for 2024.

Saints Plan To Release S Marcus Maye

Again needing to make several moves to reach cap compliance, the Saints will make a cap-casualty call this year. They are planning to release Marcus Maye.

The team informed the veteran safety he will be cut at the start of the 2024 league year, Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz tweets. Maye has been with the Saints for two seasons, but injuries and a 2023 suspension have kept him off the field for extended stretches.

Cutting the former Jets second-round pick, who has missed 17 games since signing with the Saints in 2022, will save only $1.19MM. It would, then, make more sense for New Orleans to make Maye a post-June 1 cut. Teams can designate two players as such each year, and this genre of cut would save the team $7.2MM. Teams cannot release post-June 1 cuts early, so the delay here points to that type of release transpiring.

The Saints gave Maye a three-year, $22.5MM contract in March 2022. While Maye started 10 games that season, injuries and multiple arrests have impacted his Louisiana stay. Maye’s three-game suspension — levied midway through last season — stemmed from a DUI arrest while the DB was still with the Jets. Maye, however, was also arrested for aggravated assault with a firearm in fall 2022. That charge was later dropped due to insufficient evidence, but Maye’s Saints tenure did not go smoothly.

Maye, who will turn 31 next week, only gave the Saints seven games last season. A shoulder injury prevented him from suiting up for the Saints’ final six games. Maye also endured multiple three-game injury-driven absences in 2022, giving him four such instances of being out for at least three consecutive contests during his Saints tenure.

No guaranteed money remains on Maye’s deal, but the Saints’ penchant for contract restructures will affect another transaction. Three void years are on Maye’s deal stemming from a 2023 restructure, spreading out more than $6MM in dead money. A post-June 1 release will save the team some money this year, but it will ensure the contract remains on the books through 2025. The Saints are inching toward the NFL’s salary ceiling. Prior to the Maye move, they sit just more than $16MM over the cap.

Franchise-tagged by the Jets in 2021, Maye suffered an Achilles tear to end his New York tenure. After grading Maye as the league’s 26th-best safety in 2022, Pro Football Focus slotted him 80th last season. The Saints have Tyrann Mathieu signed through 2024, while rookie Jordan Howden replaced Maye as a starter in seven games. The fifth-round pick played 569 defensive snaps in 2023.

Vikings To Release RB Alexander Mattison

Re-signed during Dalvin Cook‘s extended goodbye last year, Alexander Mattison will join his former teammate in free agency. The Vikings are planning to release Mattison.

The team has informed its primary 2023 starting running back he will be cut, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets. Minnesota gave Mattison a two-year, $7MM deal that came nearly fully guaranteed. As a result, this will bring a bit of dead money for the Vikings.

Mattison has been with the Vikings for five seasons, moving up on the depth chart last year after spending most of his career as Cook’s backup. Minnesota saw some promising signs from Ty Chandler late last season, and the 2022 draftee’s rookie deal runs through 2025. A year after they moved Cook’s pricey extension off their payroll, the Vikings will shed Mattison’s lower-end contract.

Although it was reported at the time that the Vikings fully guaranteed Mattison $6.35MM, they only locked in $3.6MM at signing. A $2.75MM guarantee was set to vest March 15, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling. That means this release will provide the team with $3.35MM in cap savings. Rather than pay Mattison a $3.3MM base salary in 2024, the Vikes will eat $1.25MM in dead money.

Averaging just 3.9 yards per carry in his first extended run as a starter, Mattison did not tally a rushing touchdown last season. He did total 700 rushing yards, adding three receiving TDs. Still, it represented a fairly disappointing run from a player the Vikings hoped would replace Cook at a fraction of the cost. Mattison, 25, had said he did not expect to re-sign with the Vikings. But his path changed when it became clear the team was done with Cook.

Cutting Cook after he had surpassed 1,100 rushing yards in four straight seasons, the Vikings ranked 29th in rushing last year. Granted, Cook struggled in New York, but Minnesota did not fare well on the ground without its longtime starter.

The Vikings traded for Cam Akers in October. After the ex-Rams back began to eat into Mattison’s workload, he suffered a season-ending Achilles tear. A fifth-round pick who played at Tennessee and North Carolina, Chandler finished with 461 rushing yards and a 4.5-yard average. Chandler is also 25, despite entering the league three years after Mattison. Chandler, however, has logged only 108 NFL carries. He should be a bit fresher, though that may not be a primary concern here; Mattison has only totaled 584 career totes. Regardless, the Vikings are moving on from their primary RB1 for a second straight year.

Mattison missed a late-season game due to an ankle sprain and worked as Chandler’s backup in the Vikings’ final three contests; the Boise State alum did well to score the guarantee he did last year. As 2023 showed up until the Jonathan Taylor extension, the market is not pretty for veteran running backs. Mattison now heads to free agency during the same year in which Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, Tony Pollard, Derrick Henry, Devin Singletary, Gus Edwards and D’Andre Swift are set to be available.

LB Azeez Al-Shaair Interested In Joining Texans; Latest On Jonathan Greenard

Two ex-49ers decision-makers moved to the AFC South last year, creating opportunities for unattached San Francisco cogs. Azeez Al-Shaair took one of them, landing with Ran Carthon‘s Titans on a one-year deal. After excelling in 2023, the former 49ers linebacker looks to have a chance at another reunion in the division.

Following a 163-tackle season, Al-Shaair is back on track for free agency. The former Fred WarnerDre Greenlaw sidekick is believed to be interested in rejoining DeMeco Ryans in Houston, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson.

Al-Shaair’s tackle total doubled as the most in a season in Titans history (1999-present). After seeking to be an every-down player, Al-Shaair should see his Tennessee stint generate a better market than he saw in 2023. The Titans nabbed Al-Shaair for just $5MM. With the 49ers extending Greenlaw in 2022, Al-Shaair’s path out of San Francisco seemed clear. But Ryans both coached him during both his seasons as the 49ers’ DC and as San Francisco’s inside linebackers coach in the two years prior.

The Texans used Christian Harris and Blake Cashman as their regular linebackers last season. Whereas Harris was a former third-round pick, Cashman had primarily worked as a special-teamer leading up to last season. The former Jets fifth-rounder enjoyed a productive year under Ryans, totaling 106 tackles, two sacks and an interception. Cashman is expected to generate some interest as a free agent, Wilson adds. Al-Shaair promises to cost more than Cashman in free agency, and the former 49ers UDFA has far more experience under Ryans.

Cash has done a lot of great things for us,” Texans GM Nick Caserio said. “We’ll work through the process. If we have the opportunity to bring him back, I think he’ll have a good role on the team.

With C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson tied to rookie contracts through at least 2025, the Texans have opportunities to bolster their roster. Caserio only has notable payments on the offensive and defensive lines at present, opening the door for payments elsewhere this offseason. Houston holds more than $67MM in cap space, which sits sixth in the NFL as of Thursday.

Jonathan Greenard stands as the Texans’ top free agent, and while both parties are interested in a second contract, the young edge rusher’s expected price tag may impede that. Greenard could draw offers in the $22MM-per-year neighborhood. Teams across the league are monitoring this situation, Wilson adds, noting Greenard’s price — which may well have risen now that the cap has settled at $255.4MM — may override a Texans desire to re-sign him.

Greenard led the team in sacks last season, notching a career-high 12.5. Greenard joins Danielle Hunter and Bryce Huff as top edge players set to be available. The Texans have until 11am CT on March 11, when the legal tampering period begins, to keep him off the market.

Houston also wants to retain kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn, Wilson adds. That contract will not be a particularly expensive one to finalize. The Texans burned through all their IR activations before the regular season ended, using a number of them early. Saving one for Fairbairn, who came off the injured list in December, illustrated the team’s view of its veteran kicker.

The Texans’ kicker since 2017, Fairbairn played out a four-year, $17.65MM deal last season. He made a career-best 96.4% of his field goal tries (27 of 28). Fairbairn’s deal voids on March 13, tagging the Texans with $1.96MM in dead money if they do not re-sign him by then.

Lions, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown To Discuss Extension

The Lions have a number of key members of this year’s run to the NFC title game eligible for an extension. That list includes wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown, who is on the team’s radar for a new deal.

The Lions plan on working out an extension with St. Brown this offseason, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. The sides will meet at this week’s Combine, he adds. No agreement is imminent at this time, but a second contract will no doubt be an expensive endeavor.

St. Brown entered the league with considerably lower expectations than a number of his 2021 draft classmates at the receiver position. In three seasons with Detroit, however, he has posted the most receptions amongst wideouts taken in that year. He ranks second in yards and touchdowns behind only Ja’Marr Chase, and has established himself as an instrumental member of Detroit’s offense.

The former fourth-rounder has improved his production with each passing season, and in 2023 he posted a stellar 119-1,1515-10 statline. Those totals earned him a second Pro Bowl invite and first-team All-Pro honors. With a fifth-year option unavailable due to his being selected outside the first round, St. Brown is on track to reach free agency next offseason. Avoiding that represents an obvious priority for the Lions as they aim to build off this year’s success. St. Brown could join Chase and 2020 draftee Justin Jefferson in securing a monster extension in the near future.

Tyreek Hill currently tops the receiver market at an AAV of $30MM, and three other wideouts currently average at least $25MM per season. Pacts signed this year could send the top of the market to new heights, something St. Brown would be in line to benefit from. The 24-year-old should be expected to remain a major factor in Detroit’s offense even with Jameson Williams in place and tight end Sam LaPorta and running back Jahmyr Gibbs each having delivered impressive rookie seasons in the pass-catching department.

The Lions have a Jared Goff extension to attend to, something which could be hammered out this offseason. That will be a costly re-up, given the success the former No. 1 pick has had in the Motor City. Detroit could also use the coming months to work out second pacts for offensive tackle Penei Sewell and D-lineman Alim McNeill, both of whom are now extension-eligible. St. Brown’s case for a massive raise is strong, though, and it would come as little surprise if the team moved quickly in finalizing one.