Christian Kirksey

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/25-12/26/21

We’ve compiled a list of players who were placed on or activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Christmas and today. In some instances, players activated from the list remain on IR:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Placed on practice squad/COVID-19 list: WR Steven Sims

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/4/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/2/21

Here are Thursday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day:

Dallas Cowboys

Houston Texans

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers

Washington Football Team

Texans Activate QB Tyrod Taylor

Tyrod Taylor is officially back. The Texans activated the quarterback from injured reserve today, per ESPN’s Sarah Barshop (via Twitter). To make room on the roster, the team placed linebacker Christian Kirksey on injured reserve.

Taylor returned to practice in late October, and head coach David Culley made it clear that the veteran would start once he was healthy. The 32-year-old started the Texans first two games this season, completing 70.5 percent of his passes for 416 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He added another 55 yards and one touchdown on five carries. Taylor landed on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury during Week 2.

Davis Mills has been serving as the starter ever since, but the results haven’t been great. His best performance came against the Patriots as he completed 21 of 29 passes for 312 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. The Pats went on to win 25-22 and the Texans went on to drop their next two games to the Colts and Cardinals.

Taylor hasn’t started more than three games since the 2017 season. While his return should provide a small spark to a struggling Texans offense, it’s unlikely the veteran will be able to guide Houston out of the cellar.

Kirksey suffered a fractured thumb and ligament damage during Sunday’s loss to the Rams, and now he’ll be sidelined for at least the next three games. The 29-year-old joined the Texans this offseason, and he’s collected a team-leading 56 tackles in eight starts.

Deshaun Watson Would Not Be Placed On Exempt List If Traded

Multiple teams are still interested in trading for Texans QB Deshaun Watson, as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports (video link). Critically, Rapoport says Watson would not be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list if he were to be dealt.

Of course, Watson has no interest in playing for the Texans, and the Texans have no interest in trying to force their best trade asset to suit up. So he has effectively been on paid leave all season, but we have heard all along that if another club were to trade for the three-time Pro Bowler, the league could step in and park him on the exempt list until his legal situation is resolved, thereby making a trade difficult to consummate.

Rapoport, citing the provision of the NFL’s personal conduct policy that states that a player can be placed on the exempt list if he has been charged with a felony or violent crime, says Watson — who has not been criminally charged at this point — should be eligible to play for any team that acquires him. And, RapSheet hears that a deal is expected to be completed prior to the November 2 deadline.

A recent report indicated that the Panthers and Eagles were no longer involved in the Watson sweepstakes and that the Dolphins were the only team left standing. However, Rapoport says the Dolphins are not alone in their pursuit, and that in addition to Carolina, Philadelphia, and the Broncos, there are other clubs sniffing around.

That report could have been leaked by the Texans in an effort to get Miami to increase its offer. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that no team has been as motivated as the Dolphins to get a deal done, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that the Texans have told another club that they have to beat Miami’s offer (via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald on Twitter). Plus, it’s unclear if Watson will waive his no-trade clause for any team other than the Dolphins.

In addition to Watson, there are other Texans players that could be on the move in the next week or so. La Canfora hears that LT Laremy Tunsil could have been a trade candidate if he had not suffered a serious thumb injury earlier this month, and other players that GM Nick Caserio might seek to trade include QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Phillip Lindsay, LB Christian Kirksey, and CB Desmond King.

Texans To Sign Christian Kirksey

The Texans have added Christian Kirksey to their front seven. The former Browns and Packers linebacker will join on a one-year deal with maximum value of $4.5MM (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). 

The Packers released Kirksey and Rick Wagner earlier this month to free up $10MM+ in cap room. Kirksey was cut with a failed-physical designation, but the Texans saw this as a value opportunity. It’s not clear what Kirksey is dealing with, but the Texans are aware of it and willing to take a small gamble given the reasonable cost of his contract.

Kirksey, a third-round pick of the Browns in 2014, began his career as a high-end cog on bad Cleveland teams. His early work prompted the Browns to give him a deal worth north of $10MM. However, Kirksey struggled with injuries in 2018 and ’19. Ditto for 2020, though his 11-game campaign saw 77 tackles and two sacks It was his most extensive work sample in years, a dual showcase of his ability and fragility. Now, in advance of his 29th birthday, he’ll have a chance to shine on a largely remodeled Texans defense.

Packers Cut Christian Kirksey, Rick Wagner

The Packers turned to street free agents Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner to plug lineup holes last March. A year later, both are out of the picture.

Both veterans received notice they are being released. The Packers announced the cuts Friday. They released Kirksey with a failed-physical designation, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).

Green Bay will create just more than $10MM in cap space by making these moves. Wagner is considering retirement, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

This is familiar territory for both. The Browns dropped Kirksey after six seasons in 2020; this move came around the same time the Lions cut Wagner after three seasons. The Packers scooped both up and turned to them as regular first-stringers. Wagner started nine games; Kirksey started 11.

The Packers recently created $8MM in cap space by restructuring David Bakhtiari‘s contract. They are now close to $20MM in savings over the past week, which should lead to speculation they are eyeing a certain Wisconsin native. J.J. Watt remains a free agent and has been connected to the Bills and Browns thus far. But the Packers make sense as a Watt landing spot, given the superstar defensive end’s ties to the area and Green Bay having qualified for the past two NFC championship games.

Pro Football Focus graded Wagner well last season, slotting him as the No. 23 overall tackle. While he struggled against Shaquil Barrett in the latter’s three-sack NFC title game, Wagner should draw interest — if, in fact, he chooses to play in 2021. Wagner has played eight NFL seasons, doing so after being a fifth-round Ravens draftee in 2013. With Wagner gone and Bakhtiari suffering an Achilles tear on New Year’s Eve, the Packers have a major need at tackle.

The Browns acquired Kirksey in the 2014 third round. He began his career as a high-end cog on bad Cleveland teams, but his early work prompted the Browns to give him a deal worth north of $10MM annually. However, Kirksey struggled with injuries in 2018 and ’19. His 11-game 2020 season, which featured 77 tackles and two sacks, continued the injury theme to the latter part of his career but also doubled as his most extensive work sample in years. Kirksey will turn 29 just ahead of the 2021 season.

Packers Activate Christian Kirksey From IR

Christian Kirksey will be back in uniform on Sunday. The Packers are activating the veteran linebacker from IR after a lengthy stay without one of their starters.

Green Bay parked the former Cleveland standout on IR because of a September shoulder injury. The offseason addition has been out since Week 3. His return will stand to help a Packers defense that has struggled this season.

After a strong start to his career led to the Browns signing off on an eight-figure-per-year extension, Kirksey has not shown he can stay healthy consistently in recent years. He missed 23 games during his final two Browns seasons and became a 2020 cap casualty. Kirksey still received considerable interest as a street free agent this offseason and signed a two-year, $13MM deal with the Packers. Green Bay guaranteed Kirksey $4MM but can drop him after 2020 and save $6MM, making the second half of this season key for the seventh-year vet.

The Packers also promoted wide receiver Juwann Winfree from their practice squad. The team did not activate Allen Lazard from IR, despite their No. 2 wideout making the trip to San Francisco in Week 9. In order for Lazard to return this season, he must be activated ahead of the Packers’ Week 11 game. The Packers are also elevating cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell and Stanford Samuels and safety Henry Black.

Packers Place Christian Kirksey On IR

Packers inside linebacker Christian Kirksey sustained a shoulder injury during the team’s Sunday night victory over the Saints, and Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reported earlier this week that Kirksey would miss at least one game as a result. Unfortunately, the Packers placed the 28-year-old ‘backer on IR today, sidelining him for at least three games.

It’s a tough break for Kirksey, who was released by the Browns in March following two injury-marred seasons. An assortment of ailments limited him to just seven games in 2018, and he missed all but two games of the 2019 campaign due to a broken collarbone. He still managed to find a nice payday in free agency, landing a two-year, $13MM contract from Green Bay after generating a significant amount of interest on the open market.

He played in all of the Packers’ defensives snaps over the first two games of the season, recording 12 total tackles in each contest. He also served as the defensive signal-caller. 2019 seventh-rounder Ty Summers filled in for Kirksey and wore the speaker helmet, and the team reported no communication issues.

Still, if Kirksey is out for an extended period, Green Bay could look to sign a veteran, especially since the club is also starting UDFA rookie Krys Barnes at the other inside linebacker spot. Players like Wesley Woodyard and old friend Jake Ryan currently headline the available ILBs.

Extra Points: Stanley, Tate, Broncos, TV

The Ravens and Ronnie Stanley began discussing an extension in February, but after taking a long break prior to an August negotiation resumption, the sides remain without a deal. An understandable reason may be holding up the talks. Buzz has emerged that Stanley is seeking a contract that pays him north of Laremy Tunsil‘s market-reshaping $22MM-per-year pact, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (Insider link). Stanley has been diplomatic about the talks, but he is poised to cash in soon. Tunsil, of course, carried unique leverage after the Texans dealt two first-round picks to land him. Stanley, however, is Baltimore’s top lineman and became a top-tier tackle ahead of his contract year. The Ravens will have the option of a pricey franchise tag, in a year when the cap could plummet by a record margin, if they cannot extend Stanley by the March tag deadline.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • In another AFC North matter, one of the Bengals‘ wide receivers may be unhappy. And it is not A.J. Green. The Bengals made Auden Tate a healthy scratch Thursday night, and his agent floated the prospect of a trade. While Deiric Jackson stopped short of saying his client has requested one, it is clear Team Tate is not content. “He was healthy and ready to go,” Jackson said, via CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin. “If they don’t know how to use him, I’m sure there are plenty of other teams that would love to have a weapon like that offensively.” Tate played 15 snaps in Cincinnati’s opener. The Bengals used the 6-foot-5 target frequently last season — when he caught 40 passes for 575 yards — but now have Green back and second-rounder Tee Higgins in the fold. Two seasons remain on Tate’s seventh-round contract.
  • The Broncos have put off major investments at inside linebacker since Brandon Marshall‘s 2016 extension, but Mike Klis of 9News notes the team considered both signing street free agent Christian Kirksey and using its first-round pick on Patrick Queen this year. This is not the first time the Broncos were linked to a first-round likebacker under Vic Fangio. Had they not executed a trade-down for Noah Fant in the 2019 first round, they would have chosen Devin Bush 10th overall. Denver, which cut longtime starter Todd Davis this month, used 2019 breakout player Alexander Johnson and 2018 draftee Josey Jewell as its three-down ‘backers Monday.
  • Phillip Lindsay will not be available for the Broncos against the Steelers. The talented running back is battling turf toe, leaving Royce Freeman as Melvin Gordon‘s top Week 2 backup.
  • Blake Bortles remains a free agent, but the former Jaguars starter and Rams backup is waiting on the right situation to open up, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. After starting for five seasons, Bortles threw just two passes in 2019.
  • NFL owners are confident they will have “groundbreaking” TV deals in place by early 2021, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports. The league was making progress during its negotiations with networks prior to the pandemic, and La Canfora adds that the contracts would likely have been finalized were it not for COVID-19. The next round of TV contracts were expected to be a game-changer for the NFL; projections of a $260MM-plus salary cap within a few years surfaced this past winter. While fanless stadiums amid the pandemic will cut into that short-term growth, teams authorizing big extensions in recent weeks points to confidence in long-term financial stability. The NFL’s ESPN contract expires after the 2021 season; its deals with the other networks are not up until the end of 2022.