Alex Mack

NFC Notes: Rams, Donald, Falcons

No surprise here, but Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is expected to miss Sunday’s season opener against Indianapolis as he continues his holdout, Adam Schefter of tweets. Donald is presently at home with his family on the east coast and the two sides are not close to an agreement.

Holdouts typically do not drag into the regular season, but Donald has less to lose by staying home than other players fighting for a better contract. Le’Veon Bell, in theory, could have tried to drum up leverage by taking his holdout into mid-September, but that would have meant forfeiting game checks on a $12.12MM salary. Donald, meanwhile, is slated to earn only a fraction of that – $3.225MM – in 2017.

While we wait to see how things shake out between Donald and the Rams, let’s take a look at more news from the NFC:

  • The Falcons converted $1MM of center Alex Mack‘s $6.75MM base salary into a signing bonus, Field Yates of tweets. The move creates $750K of cap space for the current season. The Falcons are near the bottom of the league in terms of cap space this year, so every bit of flexibility will help them.
  • Cardinals punter Andy Lee‘s new contract calls for base salaries of $1MM per year in 2017 and 2018, Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM tweets. Arizona is hoping that Lee, 35, will help to turn around one of the league’s poorest punting units from 2016.
  • The Bears auditioned eight players on Wednesday, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune: wide receivers Mario Alford, Montay Crockett, Frankie Hammond, and Darreus Rogers were joined by defensive backs Dante Blackmon, Alex Carter, Brian Dixon, and Damian Swann. While Hammond and Dixon have played in the most NFL games, Carter might the most notable name on the list. A third-round pick of Detroit only two years ago, Carter has been limited by injuries and poor play and has only appeared in one pro contest.
  • The Cardinals worked out running back Darius Victor on Wednesday, according to Herbie Teope of the Times-Picayune (Twitter link), who reports Victor has another audition on Monday for an unidentified team. Victor, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Towson, spent a month on New Orleans’ roster earlier this summer but was waived during final cutdowns. He’s likely a candidate for Arizona’s practice squad.

Sam Robinson contributed to this post.

Julio Jones May Need Offseason Surgery; Latest On Alex Mack

Falcons star receiver Julio Jones may need toe surgery this offseason, according to Ian Rapoport of However, even though recovery from such a surgery would take months, it would not be expected to delay his 2017 season.

Julio Jones

Of course, Jones has been battling a toe injury all year, and he missed two games during the regular season as a result. But he still managed to put up 1,409 receiving yards, the second-best total in the league, and six scores. The injury is not expected to impact offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan‘s play-calling in any way during Super Bowl LI.

Per Rapoport, Jones will receive a full evaluation after the Super Bowl, and depending on the source, surgery is either likely or possible. The procedure would fix torn ligaments associated with turf toe.

Jones has dealt with foot injuries in the past, but the present injury is unrelated to his prior ailments. He is also battling a sprained ankle, although that will not require surgery. He has admitted that he is in pain, but he has done his best to downplay it, calling himself “full go” for the Super Bowl even though he was officially listed as a limited participant in practice.

Perhaps even more troubling for the Falcons’ immediate prospects is the fact that starting center Alex Mack will play Super Bowl LI with a fracture in his left fibula that he suffered in the NFC Championship Game. Adam Schefter of reports that, if this were the regular season, Mack could miss six to eight weeks, and while the Falcons are confident Mack will hold up in pass-blocking, they are uncertain whether he will be effective on downfield blocks or whether his leg will even hold up for a full four quarters.

The fracture occurred above the plate that Mack had inserted in his left leg after he broke his fibula in 2014, though Schefter does not mention what the offseason holds for Mack. Mack will join an impressive list of players who played in the Super Bowl despite a similar injury. Jack Youngblood played in Super Bowl XIV with a broken fibula; Charles Woodson played in Super Bowl XXVII after having surgery for a crack in his right fibula a month earlier; and Terrell Owens played in Super Bowl XXXIX with a fractured fibula and torn ligament in his right ankle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Notes: Jones, Ryan, Mack, Shanahan

Contrary to some megadeals for one player, the 2011 Julio Jones trade ended up benefiting the team that sacrificed draft picks instead of the franchise that acquired them. And this might come up during Super Bowl LI on Sunday since Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff made the trade against the urging of former boss Bill Belichick.

Bill was very open about it. He felt it was something he would not do. He said, ‘Thomas, are you sure you want to do this? You’re gonna be tied to this for the rest of your career,'” Dimitroff said, via Michael Silver of “We talked for 30 or 40 minutes. I remember coming back around at the end, saying, ‘All due respect — if and when you see we’re gonna pull the trigger on this tonight, your words didn’t fall on deaf ears.’ And in my mind I was thinking, [Forget] it: We’re doing this. It was surreal. Here’s a Hall of Fame coach and team-builder telling me not to do it, and I’m doing this anyway!

The Falcons held the No. 27 selection after joining the Patriots as 2010 No. 1 seeds ousted in the divisional round. They surrendered four picks to the Browns for the No. 6 selection. Dimitroff authorized two first-round selections to go to Cleveland in the deal. No players remain on the Browns from that exchange.

Here’s more coming out of the NFC champions’ headquarters on the eve of their first Super Bowl in 18 years.

  • Newly crowned NFL MVP Matt Ryan will become the highest-paid player in football if he signs an extension this coming offseason — regardless of Sunday’s result, Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweets. The first Falcon to earn MVP acclaim, the 31-year-old Ryan has two more seasons remaining on his current deal, one that pays him the 11th-most money on average for QBs. But Falcons owner Arthur Blank said this week Ryan “will be” compensated well. He’s playing on the five-year, $103.75MM deal signed in 2013. That deal made Ryan the second-highest-paid player in football at the time. No player presently surpasses the $25MM-AAV mark, and Ryan — on the heels of a dominant regular season and amid a dynamic playoffs — could get there. Walk-year quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr could push for that distinction as well, but Corry believes Ryan’s deal will be the new standard. Andrew Luck‘s $24.59MM per year represents the current high-water mark.
  • Alex Mack looks set to play on Sunday after turning heads in practice this week,’s Tiffany Blackmon reports (on Twitter). The standout center’s fibula injury “concernedDan Quinn this week, with Mack being a key presence in Atlanta’s ground game. Ben Garland serves as the Falcons’ backup center but saw Mack start in each of the NFC champions’ 18 games this season.
  • The seminal Jones trade serves as only one of the reasons the Browns helped the Falcons reach this stage. Cleveland bypassing the opportunity to select Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr with its No. 23 pick instead of Johnny Manziel in 2014 likely irked then-Browns OC Kyle Shanahan, per Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal, helping lead to his one-year tenure in northeast Ohio. Shanahan soon joined the Falcons after asking to be released from his contract.
  • Devonta Freeman is seeking “elite” money on his second contract. The Falcons’ starting running back becomes extension-eligible after the Super Bowl.

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 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 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 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.

NFC Contract Details: Vernon, Jenkins, Mack

Here are some of the latest details on many recent agreed-upon and signed contracts from out of the NFC (all links via Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post unless otherwise indicated)…

NFC East:

  • Olivier Vernon, DE (Giants): Five years, $85MM. $52.5MM guaranteed. $20MM signing bonus. $7MM roster bonus due on fifth day of 2016 league year (Twitter links).
  • Janoris Jenkins, CB (Giants): Five years, $62.5MM. $28.8MM guaranteed. $10MM signing bonus. $1.4MM base salary in 2016 (Twitter link).
  • Brandon Brooks, G (Eagles): Five years, $40MM. $21MM guaranteed. $11MM signing bonus. $1MM base salary in 2016 and $5MM base salary in 2017 fully guaranteed (Twitter link).
  • Chase Daniel, QB (Eagles): Three years, $21MM base value. $36MM max value. $3MM signing bonus. $3MM roster bonus due on March 14. $3MM base escalators in 2017 and 2018 (Twitter link).
  • Colt McCoy, QB (Washington): Three years, $9MM base value. Third year can be voided based on playing time. $1.8MM signing bonus. $1MM annually in playing-time incentives (Twitter link).
  • Ron Brooks, CB (Eagles): Three years, $5.5MM. $1.55MM guaranteed. $750K signing bonus (Twitter link).

NFC South:

NFC North:

  • Marvin Jones, WR (Lions): Five years, $40MM. $20MM guaranteed. $8MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Alex Boone, G (Vikings): Four years, $26.8MM. $10MM guaranteed. Annual $100K workout bonus (Twitter link).
  • Danny Trevathan, LB (Bears): Four years, $24.5MM. $12MM guaranteed. $5MM signing bonus. $3.5MM roster bonus due on March 14 (Twitter link).
  • Michael Griffin, S (Vikings): One year, $2.5MM. $250K signing bonus. $500K of $1.65MM base salary guaranteed. Up to $500K in playing-time incentives (Twitter links).
  • Tavon Wilson, S (Lions): Two years, $2.2MM. $500K signing bonus. Up to $500K in annual playing-time incentives (Twitter link).

NFC West:

  • Mark Barron, OLB (Rams): Five years, $45MM. $20MM guaranteed. $5MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • William Hayes, DE (Rams): Three years, $17.5MM. $10MM guaranteed. $4MM roster bonus due on March 13 (Twitter link).
  • Tyvon Branch, S (Cardinals): Two years, $8MM. $1MM signing bonus. $1.75MM roster bonus in 2016, $1MM roster bonus in 2017 (Twitter link).
  • Tim Barnes, C (Rams): Two years, $5.6MM. $2.5MM guaranteed. $1.25MM roster bonus due in four days. $750K roster bonus due on third day of 2017 league year guaranteed for injury, skill; becomes fully guaranteed if on roster June 17. Up to $1MM in annual playing-time incentives. $250K annual Pro Bowl incentive (all Twitter links).
  • Brian Quick, WR (Rams): One year, $1.75MM. $1.5MM guaranteed ($1.25MM bas salary, $250K roster bonus due on March 15). $2MM stats incentive (Twitter link).

Falcons Sign Alex Mack

3:21pm: The Falcons officially announced the signing.

We knew we needed to add an established presence along our offensive line,” said general manager Thomas Dimitroff. “Alex is a three-time pro bowler and is an ideal scheme fit for our offense. We understand the importance of solidifying the center position and we have been able to do that today. We are pleased to be able to add Alex to our roster and believe he will be an anchor to our line.

12;26pm: Mack has agreed to sign with the Falcons on a five-year deal, per Ian Rapoport of (on Twitter).

12:20pm: If he signs, Mack’s deal with the Falcons would pay him an average of $9.5MM, per Peter King of SI (on Twitter). Mack could have made $500K more per season with Cleveland, but he is leaning towards the Falcons because of a few factors, including the presence of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

11:33am: The Falcons are closing in on an agreement for Mack, according to Adam Schefter of, who cautions (via Twitter) that nothing is done yet.

9:48am: The Falcons are the frontrunners for center Alex Mack, Michael Silver of NFL Network tweets. The Browns, he adds, could make a late push to keep him. Earlier this week it was reported that Atlanta had “extensive interest” in Mack. Alex Mack (vertical)

Mack voided the final three years on his contract with the Browns earlier this month. Still, he indicated that he would be open to a Cleveland return. Mack stands as the top center on the free agent market and will aim to exceed $10MM+ per year on a new deal.

Mack, 30, has been one of the NFL’s most reliable centers since he entered the league in 2009. The veteran lineman has been Cleveland’s full-time starter since joining the team, starting all 16 regular-season games for the franchise in all but one of his seven NFL seasons. He has also earned three Pro Bowl nods.

Two years ago, when Mack first became eligible for free agency, the Browns used their transition tag on the center, who then signed a five-year, $42MM offer sheet with the Jaguars. Cleveland ultimately took advantage of the right of first refusal and matched the offer, but since the language of the contract included an opt-out for this winter, it was essentially a two-year deal rather than a five-year pact. This time around, the Jags reportedly do not plan on making a play for Mack.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: Massie, Mack, Vikings

The latest free agent rumors:

  • Cardinals free agent tackle Bobby Massie is deciding between three teams and he could remain in Arizona, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets.
  • Ian Rapoport of (on Twitter) says that Alex Mack got a quality deal from the Falcons because multiple teams including the Browns and the Chargers were “in strong” for his services. Meanwhile, Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego (on Twitter) says that even though the Chargers reached out, they did not “develop into a major contender.”
  • The Vikings are looking at free agent wide receiver Andre Holmes, Ben Goessling of tweets. Holmes, who was with Minnesota as a UDFA in 2011, would give Minnesota a big target.
  • The Eagles never had formal contract discussions with Walter Thurmond prior to Monday, Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fanatic tweets. Thurmond is now on the open market and, one way or another, the Eagles need to add depth at the cornerback position.
  • Keenan Robinson appears to have posted a farewell message to Washington fans on Instagram. After re-signing Mason Foster, it seems like Washington will be moving on from their other free agent inside linebacker.

Free Agent Rumors: Wisniewski, Browns, Pacman

The Browns have expressed interest in Jaguars free agent center Stefen Wisniewski, a league source tells Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer (on Twitter). The Browns are in danger of losing three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack to free agency and they could turn to the 26-year-old as a replacement. Hue Jackson was the coach in Oakland when the Raiders used their 2011 second round draft choice on Wisniewski.

The latest free agent rumors from around the NFL:

  • The Browns have expressed interest in free agent cornerback Adam Jones, a league source tells Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer (on Twitter). Jones, a Bengals free agent, has been heavily linked to Miami in recent weeks thanks to his connection with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
  • The Vikings and Matt Asiata are far apart on a possible contract, Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter) hears from a source. Several other teams expressed an interest in the running back on Monday, he adds. Asiata has previously stated that he would like to return to Minnesota.
  • 49ers free agent Alex Boone and Cardinals free agent Bobby Massie are two offensive linemen who could get north of $8MM per season, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (on Twitter) hears.
  • The Vikings have reached out to the representative of Bengals free agent linebacker Vincent Rey, per Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter). The Vikings are in need of a linebacker and Mike Zimmer is familiar with Rey from their previous time together.
  • Backup quarterback Drew Stanton is unlikely to return to the Cardinals, an NFL source tells Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic (on Twitter).
  • The Eagles had significant interest in signing wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey before he re-upped with the Steelers, as Jason La Canfora of tweets.

Cole’s Latest: Harrison, Vernon, Mack, Ayers

With the NFL’s legal tampering period underway for 2016, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report has passed along several noteworthy free agent rumors. Let’s round up the highlights…

  • While plenty of teams will have interest, the Titans appear to be the club most willing to meet Damon Harrison‘s asking price, according to Cole (video link). The Jets would love to retain their standout nose tackle, but given all the suitors expected to be in play, the price will be high. That may be an issue for the Jets, who have already committed $15MM+ to Muhammad Wilkerson.
  • The Dolphins may ultimately decide to pull the transition tag they placed on defensive end Olivier Vernon last week, says Cole (video link). As Cole explains, if the Dolphins decide not to match an offer sheet for Vernon, the pass rusher wouldn’t factor into the compensatory pick formula for 2017, since only departing unrestricted free agents can earn teams extra picks. So if Miami senses the bidding on Vernon will be too high, the team may surrender its right to match an offer, in order to regain the $12MM+ in cap room and line itself up for a mid-round 2017 comp pick.
  • Free agent center Alex Mack has generated “extensive interest” from the Falcons, per Cole (video link). Cole says the Jaguars, who signed Mack to an offer sheet in 2014, don’t have as much interest this time around, and adds that the Rams have expressed some interest, but aren’t expected to be serious contenders.
  • The “rumor late last week” was that defensive end Robert Ayers was looking for $10MM per year from the Giants, tweets Cole. While it’s possible that was Ayers’ starting point in negotiations, it seems extremely unlikely that he’d actually land that kind of salary. Ayers had a strong year in 2015, but it’s the first time he had more than 5.5 sacks in a season, and he’ll be turning 31 this year.
  • Cole confirms (video link) that the Raiders and 49ers will both be in the mix for the top cornerbacks on the free agent market, including Sean Smith and Janoris Jenkins.

AFC Notes: Brady, Browns, Howard, Bolts

Here’s the latest coming out of the AFC as the legal tampering period looms.

  • Observing how the 2nd Circuit Court’s three-judge panel aimed its scrutiny in today’s Deflategate appeal in Manhattan, Tom Brady should be bracing for a setback in his efforts to put this 14-month-old matter behind him, Michael McCann of writes. McCann expects a 2-1 decision going in favor of the NFL. That doesn’t mean Brady will automatically miss the Patriots‘ first four games in 2016, with further appeals possible if the NFLPA loses this time, but it would bring this issue back to the forefront after a dormant several months that occurred following judge Richard Berman’s ruling in favor of Brady. The decision could take months, per McCann.
  • Hue Jackson wants the Browns to come away with two or three starters during free agency, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (on Twitter). The first-year Cleveland coach acknowledges, however, attracting the top targets will be difficult. Of course, the Browns could lose two top UFAs if Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz exit. Jackson “would love” to have Mack back and told media, including Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (Twitter link), “You can put [a center’s value] right up there with the QB when you have a guy like that.”
  • Jackson will have the final say when it comes to which quarterback the Browns select at No. 2, if they opt to go quarterback with their top pick, according to Jeff Schudel of the Lorain Morning Journal. Sashi Brown‘s executive VP title won’t supersede Jackson’s offensive experience when it comes to making this choice, Schudel notes.
  • The Browns hired Joe Kim as an assistant,’s Field Yates tweets. His title is assistant strength and skill development coach. Kim served in the same capacity for the Bears in 2014 and Washington last season. This will be the third stint for Kim in Cleveland. A Northeast Ohio native whose served as a consultant for several NFL teams since 2001, Kim is a former national taekwando champion who’s gone on to consult defenders on pass-rush techniques.
  • After the Chiefs applied the franchise tag to Eric Berry, they still have six current or former Kansas City starters entering the free agent market, including improving defensive end Jaye Howard. In a radio appearance with Fox Sports’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link), Howard said his status in Kansas City was “up in the air.” The Chiefs also feature Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Sean Smith as players who started for their No. 7-ranked defense last season whose contracts have expired. Howard, however, is younger than the other Chiefs’ key UFA defenders in entering his age-27 season. He was Pro Football Focus’ No. 24 interior defender, a grouping that includes 3-4 defensive ends, along with all defensive tackles.
  • The Chargers have until March 24 to qualify a stadium measure for the crucial November ballot which will contain an item regarding the use of public funds to finance a downtown stadium. The team’s expected to release a stadium financing plan at that time, Eric Williams of reports.