Benardrick McKinney

AFC Rumors: Mack, McKinney, Big Ben

The Raiders are far later in the game with Khalil Mack than they were when they signed Derek Carr to a then-record-breaking extension, with Mack on the verge of his fifth season compared to Carr being midway through the offseason prior to his fourth. Reggie McKenzie addressed the All-Pro defensive end’s status. The seventh-year Raiders GM does not anticipate Mack reporting to camp without an extension, one that’s shown no progress and featured zero dialogue between Mack and Jon Gruden.

Khalil is my guy. … It’s unfortunate that we have to go through this. But his camp decided to do it this way … and Khalil is not the first guy to hold out,” McKenzie said, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). “But we’ll get through this. But there is nothing really to report. He is going to hold out until he gets an extension, and that’s where we are.”

Mack’s already accrued sufficient years for free agency, unlike Aaron Donald. But the two are linked together because of similar pursuits: those of a contract that would raise the bar for defensive players. McKenzie insists the Rams’ impasse has nothing to do with the Raiders. Though, one of these players agreeing to terms would undoubtedly make matters easier for the other team’s negotiations.

No, our waiting game is just with Khalil. Our focus … I will be honest, we are not even thinking about Aaron Donald,” he said. “Aaron Donald could sign tomorrow, and we’re only focused on Khalil. … Setting the market, all that, that is not the case at all.”

Here’s the AFC latest:

  • One difference Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes between Mack and Donald: rumors aren’t circulating about the Rams’ wherewithal to construct a Donald contract. However, some are wondering if the Raiders can give Mack the kind of guarantee he’s seeking, Florio notes. Mack will be requiring his guarantees be north of Von Miller‘s $70MM ($42MM guaranteed at signing), and Mark Davis‘ franchise is on the lower end of the cash spectrum among NFL teams. Mack is due $13.8MM this season. A prospective franchise tag in 2019 would bump that to around $20MM. Florio suggests, if this is truly the case (and if it was, that would certainly qualify as a crisis), then the Raiders should consider trading their superstar defender to a team that can afford to pay him.
  • Benardrick McKinney‘s five-year Texans extension is worth a bit more than originally reported. It’s a $51.1MM deal rather than a $50MM accord, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The inside linebacker received just a $3.75MM signing bonus, with Wilson adding a $5.25MM 2018 roster bonus came McKinney’s way as well. Overall, $21MM is guaranteed in this deal. Wilson notes McKinney will make $6MM in 2019 base salary; that figure is guaranteed. His $6MM base in 2020 is guaranteed for injury but becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster by the fifth day of ’20 league year. McKinney’s cap figures are as follows: $7.7MM (2018), $7.5MM (’19), $7.5MM (’20), $8.5MM (’21), $10.25MM (’22), $10.25MM (’23).
  • Ben Roethlisberger is down approximately 15 pounds at Steelers camp, with Mark Kaboly of The Athletic noting the 15th-year quarterback weighs 250. Big Ben hinted at retirement following the 2016 season but reaffirmed his commitment to the Steelers after last season concluded. He’s now hinted at being interested in signing another Pittsburgh extension, with negotiations likely set for 2019 (his contract year).

Texans Extend LB Benardrick McKinney

Benardrick McKinney is about to be a whole lot richer. Mark Berman of Fox26 in Houston reports (via Twitter) that the Texans have signed the linebacker to a five-year, $50MM deal ($21MM guaranteed). The 25-year-old’s contract was set to expire at the end of the 2018 campaign.

“Bernardrick plays a key role in our defense and has been highly productive, but more importantly he is a core player who has developed into a team leader within our program,” said general manager Brian Gaine (via HoustonTexans.com“We are excited to have him a part of our long term future here at the Texans.”

The 2015 second-round pick out of Mississippi State has emerged as one of the Texans’ top defenders over the past two seasons. Following a solid rookie campaign in 2015, McKinney earned a second-team All-Pro nod in 2016 after compiling 129 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble.

This past season, the linebacker finished with 95 tackles and three sacks, with Pro Football Focus ranking him 24th among qualifying linebackers. For 2018, he’ll presumably start alongside Jadeveon Clowney, Zach Cunningham, and Whitney Mercilus.

While signing McKinney was surely a priority for the organization, the Texans are still trying to ink at least one of his teammates to a long-term deal. We heard back in April that a long-term deal with Clowney was inevitable but not imminent.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: McKinney, Raiders, Bills

Texans 2015 second-round pick Benardrick McKinney came into his own during his second NFL season. After starting 11 of his 14 games as a rookie, McKinney started all 16 games last season, compiling 129 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble. While the 24-year-old is naturally overshadowed by teammates J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, one AFC college scouting director suggested he’d build his entire defense around McKinney.

“I’d be very comfortable starting my defense with McKinney as my first pick,” the scout told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s an absolute stud. He’s so big and strong, but, at the same time, he runs so well. If you could redo the draft, he’d be a first-rounder, easily. The Texans really hit on this guy. He’s special.”

McKinney inked a four-year, $5.35MM contract (with $3.26MM guaranteed) after getting drafted, and he’ll surely see a raise when he reaches free agency in 2019.

Let’s check out some other notes from around the league…

  • There were reports earlier this week that the Raiders don’t have the cap room to extend defensive end Khalil Mack until next offseason. However, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com questions those claims. The writer cites the NFLPA’s website, which lists the organization’s current cap room at $32.8MM. Even if that number reflected the team’s financial situation before the Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson extensions, Florio is still convinced that the team could have easily fit all three extensions. In the event that it wasn’t financially feasible, the writer notes that the Raiders could simply restructure the contracts for Kelechi Osemele and Bruce Irvin, which would have presumably opened enough space. As a result, Florio doesn’t believe it’s an issue of whether the Raiders can sign Mack right now; rather, Florio believes the issue revolves around whether the organization wants to extend Mack at all.
  • It’s been more than a decade since the Bills have had a “difference-making tight end,” writes Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. The organization did little to improve the unit during the draft or free agency, meaning the team will have to rely on former restricted free agent Charles Clay. The team inked the 28-year-old to a contract prior to the 2015 season, and he’s averaged 54 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns during his two years in Buffalo. Clay counts for $9MM against the cap, which presumably dissuaded the front office from pursuing reinforcement at the position. As a result, Carucci says the team will have to “get by with what they have.”
  • According to Alex Marvez of The Sporting News, the NFLPA has warned players “about the possibility of a financial scam.” The Player’s Association issued an alert on Friday regarding a trio of “tax advisory firms” that were operated by a Chicago-based resident. One NFL player was reportedly charged $500K for the man’s services, and the NFLPA also found a list of fraud claims against the individual that date back to the 1980s.

AFC Notes: Bills, Jets, Texans

On the heels of finishing with the second-fewest sacks (21) in the NFL last season, the Bills spent the 19th overall pick on ex-Clemson edge rusher Shaq Lawson. Unfortunately, Lawson underwent right shoulder surgery after the draft and will be out until October, leaving the Bills without any real pass-rushing upgrades entering the season (plus, Mario Williams is gone). To fill Lawson’s void, the Bills could turn to IK Enemkpali, according to Joe Buscaglia of WKBW. Although the former Jet is known more for breaking quarterback Geno Smith‘s jaw with a punch last summer than anything he has accomplished on the field, Enemkpali impressed head coach Rex Ryan during spring workouts and garnered some first-team reps, per Buscaglia. As a result, the rush-needy Bills could platoon Enempkali and Manny Lawson at linebacker – using the latter on rushing downs – Buscaglia writes.

Notes on a couple other AFC linebackers:

  • The Jets are counting on second-year man Lorenzo Mauldin to evolve into a more complete linebacker this season, writes Brian Costello of the New York. The 2015 third-round pick emerged as a pass-rushing threat in racking up four sacks while playing just 24 percent of the Jets’ defensive snaps as a rookie. On the negative side, the team has concerns about Mauldin’s abilities in coverage and against the run, according to Costello, who nonetheless adds that the 23-year-old is the favorite to start on the weak side for Gang Green.
  • Similarly, the Texans “expect a lot from” sophomore inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney, LBs coach Mike Vrabel told the Houston Chronicle. McKinney, whom the Texans want to use more in pass-rushing and coverage situations, has drawn praise from head coach Bill O’Brien this offseason. “I would say one guy on defense that I haven’t been asked a lot about that I think has really improved during the offseason and was improving at the end of last year is Benardrick McKinney,” said O’Brien. The 43rd pick in last year’s draft, McKinney started in 11 of 14 appearances as a rookie, picked up 63 tackles and a sack, and ranked an outstanding 17th among 97 qualifying linebackers at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
  • In case you missed it, the chances of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady avoiding a four-game suspension this year don’t look good.

Texans Sign Entire Draft Class

The Texans have locked up their entire 2015 draft class in one fell swoop, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who reports (via Twitter) that the club has signed all seven of its draftees. That includes first-round cornerback Kevin Johnson and second-round linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

According to Over The Cap’s draft pool figures, Johnson will be in line for a four-year contract worth more than $10MM, including a signing bonus of about $5.569MM. His deal will include a fifth-year option for 2019 as well. As for McKinney, he’ll earn $5.345MM over his four-year rookie deal, including a $2.147MM signing bonus.

Other Texans players who are now under contract with the team include third-round receiver Jaelen Strong, fifth-round wideout Keith Mumphery, sixth-round outside linebacker Reshard Cliett, sixth-round defensive tackle Christian Covington, and seventh-round running back Kenny Hilliard.

As our draft pick signings tracker shows, Houston is the third team to finish signing its 2015 draft class. The Dolphins and Vikings have also reached agreements with all their draftees.

AFC Notes: Steelers, Ravens, Chargers

Before drafting Mississippi cornerback Senquez Golson with the 56th overall pick, the Steelers tried to move up and take Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams, tweets Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review. The Steelers were unable to pull it off, however, and Williams ended up going 55th to the AFC North rival Ravens, who traded up to get ahead of Pittsburgh. Not surprisingly, that displeased the Steelers, according to Kaboly.

While the Steelers may not have been happy to see their division rivals land Williams, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) doesn’t think they were going to take the tight end themselves in that spot — according to La Canfora, Pittsburgh was “locked in” on Golson at No. 56.

Here are a few more draft-related leftovers from day two, from around the AFC…

  • Speaking of the Ravens, they’re eyeing some of the draft’s remaining cornerbacks, per Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter).
  • The Chargers had discussions with multiple teams about moving down in the second round, but they decided to stay put because they wanted Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. The Bolts took Perryman 48th overall.
  • Broncos general manager John Elway didn’t consider taking a quarterback in the third round, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. The Broncos instead used the 92nd overall pick on Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman.
  • Discussing the teams’ day two draft picks, Texans GM Rick Smith said linebacker Benardrick McKinney was the highest-rated player on the club’s board when the second round began, and added that Jaelen Strong‘s injured wrist was medically cleared by the Texans’ staff prior to the draft (Twitter links via Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Josh Cribbs became expendable for the Colts when the team drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round, and Indianapolis released Cribbs earlier today. According to GM Ryan Grigson, the club wanted to give the veteran returner a chance to find “greener pastures,” tweets Mike Chappell of RTV6.

Texans Acquire 43rd Pick From Browns

The Texans have swung a deal with the Browns, moving up to the 43rd overall pick, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Houston will also receive a seventh-rounder from Cleveland (the 229th pick), while the Browns will get a second-, fourth-, and sixth-rounder (the 51st, 116th and 195th selections), reports Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

With the 43rd pick, the Texans chose Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

King’s Latest: Bucs, Mariota, Cowboys, Pats

Before answering readers’ questions in his weekly mailbag this week, Peter King of TheMMQB.com passed along a number of the latest draft rumors he’s hearing with the first round just one day away. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights….

  • The Buccaneers have yet to receive a trade offer that “would come close” to making them decide to move down from No. 1.
  • The Titans, Buccaneers, and Jaguars have all inquired with teams picking late in the first round about moving up from the second round, says King. The three teams have the first, second, and fourth picks, respectively, in round two.
  • One GM told King that while the Titans still look like the favorites to end up with Marcus Mariota, he wouldn’t be shocked if Cleveland “trades the farm” to land the Oregon quarterback. The thinking is that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is sick of the merry-go-round at the position, and would like to land a “squeaky-clean” signal-caller to lead the franchise.
  • The Cowboys would love to see running back Melvin Gordon fall to them at No. 27, but two other names to watch are linebackers Eric Kendricks (UCLA) and Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State).
  • One team considering drafting a tackle in the first round is debating whether or not LSU’s La’el Collins will be on its draft board on Thursday night. While King acknowledges that this may be unfair, he explains the club’s thinking: “How can you draft a guy who’s being sought in connection with the death of a woman, even if police are saying now he isn’t a suspect? He needs to be exonerated by Thursday.”
  • The Patriots like USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who looks like a logical target for the club if he’s still available at No. 32.
  • With the 21st overall pick, the Bengals are considering Texas A&M tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, who had ACL surgery in January. King views this is a sign that teams are willing to wait on a prospect who wouldn’t be healthy enough to contribute immediately if they think he can be a premier player in the long term.

Pauline On Gurley, Bengals, McKinney, RBs

After his citation for marijuana possession, the expectation is that Missouri linebacker Shane Ray could fall out of the first round and that’s an opinion shared by many in his camp, Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net writes. Earlier today, we learned that teams that wouldn’t have had a chance to land Ray before are now inquiring on him, with both GMs and owners doing their homework. Here’s Pauline’s latest:

  • The Dolphins are hoping that Todd Gurley doesn’t get selected in the top 10. If the running back is still on the board, Miami will happily snag him at No. 14, per Pauline.
  • As of now, there’s a very good chance the Bengals take an offensive tackle in round one and they’re said to be looking at Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi, among others.
  • Linebacker Benardrick McKinney spent an extensive amount of time the past few days talking with the Broncos and Cowboys. If Kevin Johnson is unavailable when the Cowboys are on the clock in round one, they will strongly consider either McKinney or Eric Kendricks, Pauline hears.
  • There’s a good possibility that Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is still available when the third round begins. While teams like his film and cover skills, his knee injury from last December has some clubs concerned. Recently, PFR’s Rob DiRe wrote that he expected Ekpre-Olomu to experience a dropoff in draft stock from last year to this year, but not this severe. Had he gone pro last season, the Oregon notable may have had a chance to be a first-round pick.
  • There are a number of running back-needy teams who might wait until the fourth round before drafting at the position, due to the quality and depth available this year. David Cobb and Buck Allen have been brought to Pauline’s attention as fourth round types that can contribute off the bat and Miami junior Duke Johnson is also getting buzz.
  • Alonzo Highsmith, senior personnel director for the Packers, is pushing hard for Denzel Perryman at the bottom of round one. If Green Bay takes the Miami notable, the team would then push Clay Matthews to the outside. The belief is Green Bay still values a cornerback with that first pick and Eric Rowe continues to be in the mix, but Perryman is also a possibility.
  • Don’t be surprised if tight end Wes Saxton is drafted much earlier than presently predicted, as teams are high on his speed and athleticism. Saxton, a South Alabama product, could go as high as the fourth round. Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack is also getting additional attention.

East Notes: Jennings, Eagles, Cowboys

When Greg Jennings reached a contract agreement with the Dolphins earlier this week, we learned almost immediately that it was a two-year, $8MM pact. Now, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports has a breakdown of the specifics. Per Marvez (Twitter link), the wideout’s deal features a $3MM signing bonus, base salaries of $900K (2015) and $3.9MM (2016), and annual workout bonuses of $100K. That means Jennings’ cap hit for this season should be $2.5MM before jumping to $5.5MM in ’15.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (via Twitter), before the Vikings released Jennings, they offered him a pay cut to $4MM, plus $3MM in incentives. However, that offer didn’t include any guarantees, so it makes sense that the veteran would elect to hit the open market instead.

Here are a few more Friday morning items out of the NFL’s East divisions:

  • UConn cornerback Byron Jones, who has already visited the Eagles and has been cited as a potential target for the club, is working out for Philadelphia’s brain trust this morning, tweets Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net. According to Pauline, Huskies wideout Geremy Davis and defensive tackle B.J. McBryde are also participating in the Eagles’ workout.
  • The Cowboys are working out Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney today, per Pauline, who notes (via Twitter) that the club is sending a defensive line coach to attend the workout.
  • Even if they expect Greg Hardy to have to serve his full 10-game suspension, the Cowboys aren’t likely to elevate pass rusher above running back or cornerback when it comes to their draft needs, writes David Moore of the Dallas Morning News.
  • Washington is sending its defensive staff to Macon, Georgia to meet with University of Kentucky edge rusher Bud Dupree on Monday, a source tells Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post (Twitter link).
  • Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (on Twitter) that the Giants called him Thursday night to chat as a part of their pre-draft process. The Giants pick at No. 9, but Fowler could very well be gone by that point.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Field Yates identifies five general managers who need a strong draft in 2015, lest they find themselves in hot water after the season. Bills GM Doug Whaley tops Yates’ list.

Zach Links contributed to this post.