Billy Turner

Whitney Mercilus Designated For Return

The Packers signed Whitney Mercilus in the aftermath of Za’Darius Smith‘s back surgery, but the NFC North champions played without both for the stretch run. A possibility each is back next week now exists.

Green Bay designated Mercilus to return from IR on Thursday, starting his 21-day activation clock. This is a surprise, given Mercilus’ biceps tear occurring in mid-November. DC Joe Barry conceded as much, indicating he was not expecting a return to practice this soon.

Barry’s stance may point to Mercilus being an option ahead of the NFC championship game or Super Bowl LVI — assuming, of course, the Packers’ season extends beyond next weekend — but the conference’s No. 1 seed could look drastically different when it returns to action.

David Bakhtiari missed 16 games this season but returned for the Packers’ Week 18 tilt, while O-line mate Josh Myers played in Detroit as well after being out since Week 6. Smith and Jaire Alexander are also trending toward returning for the divisional round. Ditto Randall Cobb, who must be activated by next week to play again this season. Starting right tackle Billy Turner was also back at practice this week. Turner has not played since suffering a knee injury in Week 14, though the Packers did not place him on IR.

Mercilus coming back would give the Packers a formidable two-deep edge-rushing contingent. The longtime Texans outside linebacker would almost certainly be a rotational rusher behind the likes of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. Mercilus, 31, signed with the Packers after his October Texans release. Used in a part-time capacity by both his 2021 teams, Mercilus has four sacks this season. The former J.J. Watt sidekick has 58 career sacks and has also been productive in the playoffs, having registered seven sacks in eight postseason games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/4/22-1/5/22

Here are Tuesday and Wednesday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: TE Jared Cook, LB Damon Lloyd (remains on IR)

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Packers Renegotiate Contracts With S Adrian Amos, OL Billy Turner

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst continues to open up cap space. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that Green Bay reworked the contract of safety Adrian Amos. Meanwhile, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports (via Twitter) that Packers offensive lineman Billy Turner also reworked his deal.

[RELATED: Packers Rework Preston Smith’s Contract]

Amos was set to have a cap hit north of $10.3MM, and Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com estimates that the reworked deal will save the Packers around $3MM in space. Turner’s renegotiated deal should see the Packers save at least $500K by converting the player’s roster bonus into a signing bonus; that total could go up based on how much of Turner’s $5.525MM salary was converted into a signing bonus (per Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Twitter). After these two transactions and linebacker Preston Smith’s recent pay cut, Silverstein estimates that the front office managed to get under the cap.

Following four seasons with the Bears, Amos joined the Packers on a four-year, $37MM deal in 2019. He’s started all 32 regular season games for Green Bay over the past two years, averaging 66.5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two interceptions per season. Amos also picked off Tom Brady in the Packers’ loss to the Buccaneers in this past year’s NFC Championship Game.

Turner bounced around the NFL a bit before seemingly finding a home with the Packers in 2019. After starting 25 games through his first five seasons in the NFL, Turner has started all 30 of his games for Green Bay over the past two years. The 29-year-old initially signed a four-year, $28MM deal with the Packers in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Bears, Packers, Tomlin, Browns

The Bears became the latest team to work out Jamon Brown, with SI.com’s Albert Breer tweeting the guard was in Chicago for an audition. The free agent guard, a Falcons cut last month, has already worked out for the 49ers. Brown was a full-time Rams starter in 2017, but a 2018 suspension derailed his momentum. The Rams waived him shortly after he returned from that ban, but he ended the ’18 season as a Giants first-stringer. The Bears are returning four starters from last season and have been trying ex-Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi at guard.

Here is the latest from the North divisions:

  • The Steelers will let Mike Tomlin enter a contract year. Signed through 2021, Tomlin will not be extended this year, Art Rooney II said (via The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette, subscription required). The Steelers gave Tomlin his most recent extension last July, and he managed an eight-win season despite the largely Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers ranking 32nd in offensive DVOA. Rooney said he plans to address the contracts of Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert, who just signed a one-year extension, in 2021.
  • One of the league’s healthiest teams last season, the Packers may be down a starter in Week 1. Billy Turner suffered a knee injury during a scrimmage and is uncertain for Green Bay’s opener, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. Turner played guard for the Packers last season but is competing with free agency addition Ricky Wagner at right tackle this year. Lane Taylor, who missed all of last season, is expected to play right guard opposite emerging talent Elgton Jenkins on the left side.
  • For the second time in three weeks, the Browns brought in Cody Parkey for a visit. The veteran was part of a kicker group to work out for the Browns in August, though it was reported at the time the team was organizing a COVID-related emergency kicker list. Parkey briefly kicked for the Titans last season.
  • Bears training camp coaching intern Henry Burris will stay on the team’s staff all season, Matt Nagy announced. Known mostly for his 17-season CFL run, Burris also was a Bears quarterback for a short time in the early 2000s. This will be his first NFL coaching gig.
  • Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith underwent successful open-heart surgery recently, according to the Associated Press. Mike Zimmer said the second-year defender, who landed on Minnesota’s IR list, will remain in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future to recover.

Packers Eyeing David Bakhtiari Extension

Aaron Rodgers‘ longtime blindside protector, David Bakhtiari, is entering the final year of the four-year extension he signed with the Packers just before the 2016 campaign. He has more than lived up to that contract, earning two Pro Bowl nods and one First Team All-Pro bid over the past four seasons.

He is unquestionably one of the best left tackles in the league, and as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network observes, Green Bay would love to get an extension finalized before Week 1 (Twitter link). After all, the LT market is rapidly heating up, and Bakhtiari’s deal now places him outside of the top-10 in terms of average annual value.

When asked back in June if there were any ongoing negotiations with the Packers, the soon-to-be 29-year-old was tight-lipped. Though he did commit 12 penalties in 2019, including a career-high five false starts, he chalked that up to learning a new offensive system. Indeed, he did not commit any penalties in the final four games of the campaign, and if he turns in a typical performance in 2020, he will have every right to demand a contract similar to the monstrous three-year, $66MM pact ($50MM guaranteed) that Laremy Tunsil recently signed with the Texans.

The Packers certainly would like to get Bakhtiari tethered to something a little more team-friendly, so it stands to reason that they would try to lock him up sooner rather than later. That is especially true in light of the expected salary cap decrease in 2021.

In other OL news for Green Bay, offseason acquisition Ricky Wagner left practice with a left arm injury yesterday, as Tom Silverstein and Jim Owczarski of PackersNews.com write. If Wagner misses an extended period of time, look for the club to line up 2019 right guard Billy Turner at right tackle and Lane Taylor at right guard.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Paradis, Saffold, Jackson, Packers

Following another busy day around the NFL, let’s check out some contract details:

Packers To Sign OL Billy Turner

The Packers’ shopping spree isn’t over yet. On Tuesday morning, the Packers agreed to sign offensive lineman Billy Turner, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (on Twitter). Turner’s deal with Green Bay is for four years and $28MM, with a max value of $29.5MM, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. The contract calls for him to receive $11MM in the first year.

Turner, 27, has spent the last two years and change with the Broncos. He was discussing a new deal with Denver this week, but the addition of Ja’Wuan James probably squeezed him out of Denver. Turner now turns his attention to the Packers, where he can offer help at both tackle and guard.

The former Dolphins third-round pick has 25 career starts to his credit, including 11 last year. After suffering a rash of injuries up front, the Packers can use all the help they can get in protecting Aaron Rodgers.

Of course, Turner’s signing isn’t the real attention grabber in Green Bay. On Tuesday, the Packers also agreed to sign safety Adrian Amos, linebacker Preston Smith, and pass rusher Za’Darius Smith. Given all of the expenditures, it seems unlikely that the Packers will be serious suitors for Le’Veon Bell.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Looking To Re-Sign Matt Paradis

Free agent Matt Paradis is generating some interest on the open market, but a return to Denver still sounds like it’s in the cards.

Mike Klis of 9News in Denver reports (via Twitter) that the Broncos have restarted talks with the veteran center. However, Troy Renck of Denver7 adds that the 29-year-old snapper and the Broncos were not close in their talks earlier Monday evening.

We heard in late February that Denver was going to let Paradis hit the open market, and the Jets have been mentioned as one potential suitor for the 29-year-old. The five-year veteran is generally regarded as the top center on the market. Jason Kelce and Maurkice Pouncey recently increased the top of the center market to $11MM per year, meaning Paradis is in line for a lucrative payday.

As our own Sam Robinson wrote earlier today, given how teams have spent on offensive linemen in recent years, it is not out of the question that Paradis could exceed the deals received by Kelce and Pouncey. Ryan Jensen became the highest-paid center via 2018 free agency accord, and Paradis has a longer track record of success than Jensen. The Bills also made Mitch Morse the new highest-paid center earlier Monday, perhaps further raising Paradis’ asking price.

Having started every game with the Broncos since the start of the 2015 season, Paradis broke his fibula to end his 2018 season. But he is still likely to command a top-market contract, having been one of the NFL’s top centers since the 2016 season.

Klis tweets that the Broncos also restarted talks with offensive lineman Billy Turner today. However, it’s uncertain if the team still has interest in Turner following the signing of offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Brown, Bills, Steelers, Redskins, 49ers, Broncos

The Antonio Brown era with the Bills didn’t last long. Shortly after it was reported that Brown was headed to Buffalo, the report turned out not to be true. It was acknowledged by all parties that there were talks between the Steelers and Bills but we didn’t know many details of what exactly happened, until now. Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News came out with a story that delved into what happened, and talks apparently broke down because of Brown’s contract. Bills brass was going back and forth with Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus, and “discussed a potential renegotiation of the receiver’s contract,” according to Carucci.

Carucci noted that the more new money the Bills gave Brown, the less compensation they were willing to give the Steelers in a trade and vice versa. Carucci shot down reports that Brown was mortally opposed to playing in Buffalo, writing that the Bills were confident that “if they met his financial demand and were able to make the trade, Brown would have happily joined them.” In the end, renegotiating Brown’s contract proved too difficult and is what ultimately led to the breakdown in talks.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of Brown, the Bills weren’t the only team to withdraw over Brown’s contract. Another team pursuing Brown walked away because “it was communicated to them” that Brown wanted a new contract that would make him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL with any new team, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. It was previously thought that the Steelers’ demands for a first round pick might’ve been delaying this process, but it sounds like Brown’s contract is the biggest hurdle at the moment.
  • While Brown still hasn’t been traded, Case Keenum has. Keenum was dealt to the Redskins yesterday in a surprising trade, and fans weren’t the only ones caught off guard by the move. Keenum apparently didn’t know it was coming either, and neither he nor his camp were involved in finding Washington as a landing spot, according to Ryan O’Halloran of The Denver Post (Twitter link). Alex Smith is very likely to miss at least the entire 2019 season, and as of right now Keenum is likely to be the team’s starting quarterback next season.
  • 49ers punter Bradley Pinion “has been telling those around him that he does not expect to be back” next year, Matt Barrows of The Athletic hears. Barrows points out that Pinion ranked 24th in net average and had 22 punts inside of the 20-yard line, putting him somewhere in the middle of the pack. He also handled kickoffs, so the Niners will have to find someone new to cover both roles assuming they move on. Pinion was a fifth round pick of San Francisco back in 2015, and is about to enter unrestricted free agency.
  • Broncos offensive tackle Billy Turner had been discussing an extension with the team, but those talks have “broken off”, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapoport writes that Turner will now hit the open market, and that the Broncos will now be a “prime” candidate to sign a right tackle in free agency. Turner started 11 games for the Broncos last season, earning average marks from Pro Football Focus.

Broncos Rumors: Murray, Paradis, Keenum

Although the Broncos agreed to acquire Joe Flacco, they will still be linked to this year’s top rookie quarterbacks — as they were last year. If Kyler Murray is available at No. 10, they may serve as a spot for teams looking to trade up. John Elway does not appear to believe the shorter passer would be a fit for an offense that will use plenty of under-center looks under new OC Rich Scangarello, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). The Broncos passed on Josh Allen and Josh Rosen last year and have been connected to Drew Lock. If Denver sticks at No. 10 and chooses a non-quarterback, the team will have had back-to-back top-10 picks without addressing its long-term QB need with one of them. The 2020 draft is expected to have high-profile passers, but it’s obviously no lock the Broncos will be in position to draft or trade up for one.

Here is the latest from Denver (via Indianapolis):

  • Despite the Flacco deal, Elway’s preference is to keep Case Keenum. It would take a restructured deal, though, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. Keenum is attached an untenable $21MM cap number. With Flacco set to bring an $18.5MM figure to Denver, it is hard to see Keenum staying due to the pay cut it would require. The 30-year-old incumbent has not requested a trade, Elway said (per the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran, on Twitter), adding the Broncos would allow him to seek one.
  • Matt Paradis probably looms as the Broncos’ top free agent priority. Elway has spoken with the Broncos’ center of the past four years and informed him they would like him back, Jhabvala tweets. But Paradis’ injury and price point will be a factor. The 29-year-old snapper has been expected to reach free agency, where a new market-setting deal may well await him — considering teams’ need for higher-end linemen. However, multiple executives predicted (via O’Halloran, Twitter link) Paradis will end up back in Denver on a one-year deal because of the broken fibula that ended his season last November.
  • The Broncos’ need for a cornerback is as great as it has been in five years, and Elway acknowledged (via Klis, on Twitter) the team needs to find a No. 2 corner to team with All-Pro Chris Harris. This would seem to point to Bradley Roby departing, which has been the expectation. Vic Fangio said (via Jhabvala) the Broncos will let Roby test free agency, a good sign he will not be back in 2019.
  • As for Harris, Elway said the team has not considered an extension yet and whether or not the Broncos do go in this direction will depend on their free agency period, per Troy Renck of Denver7 (on Twitter). However, Renck added earlier (Twitter link) the expectation is the Broncos will meet with Harris’ agent at the Combine. The 29-year-old corner has been one of Denver’s cornerstone players this decade, and with Roby likely to leave and Aqib Talib having been traded, Harris represents the Broncos’ only surefire option at corner. Denver is also set to let Tramaine Brock walk.
  • On its offensive line, Denver will bring back Ronald Leary, Elway confirmed (via Jhabvala, on Twitter). Leary has more than $5MM in injury guarantees due if he cannot pass a physical by March 17. It’s been previously reported the veteran guard will be unable to pass said physical by then. Leary has seen both of his Denver seasons end early because of injury. Also on the Broncos’ O-line: Elway said (per Renck, on Twitter) the team would like to re-sign right tackle starter Jared Veldheer and utility blocker Billy Turner. If Veldheer departs, the Broncos would have a sixth Week 1 right tackle starter in six years.