With the tampering period in full swing, here are some of the latest contract details to emerge:
Chargers C Corey Linsley: Five years, $62.5MM. $26MM guaranteed, $13MM signing bonus. Linsley is due $26MM through 2022, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. Linsley’s 2021 base salary ($4MM) is fully guaranteed. His 2022 base salary ($9MM) is guaranteed for injury at signing; it becomes fully guaranteed if he is on the Bolts’ roster on Day 2 of the 2022 league year, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
Jaguars CB Shaquill Griffin: Three years, $40MM. $23.5MM fully guaranteed, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. $12MM signing bonus, base salaries of $1MM, $11.5MM and $11.5MM. Griffin is due a $1MM roster bonus in 2023, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.
After cutting multiple key veteran starters last week, the Chargers will use some of those funds to make a big addition on their offensive line. They are signing longtime Packers center Corey Linsley, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.
The deal, which will reunite Linsley with former Green Bay O-line mate Bryan Bulaga, is expected to make Linsley the NFL’s highest-paid center. Linsley expected to hit the market, and after the Packers prioritized Aaron Jones just before the legal tampering period began, his Wisconsin exit appeared a near-certainty.
It is a five-year, $62.5MM contract, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. That will come in just above Ryan Kelly‘s recently established center-record contract.
Linsley broke through in his contract year, becoming an All-Pro blocker. Pro Football Focus slotted him as far and away the No. 1 overall center. The Bolts have battled issues up front for years, and their investments in Mike Pouncey and Trai Turner did not end up working out especially well. Pouncey retired after missing all of last season, and Turner saw his run of Pro Bowls stop after an injury-plagued 2020. The Chargers cut Turner last week.
This will give Justin Herbert a high-end offensive lineman to work with as well. Linsley and Bulaga were also teammates from 2014-19. The Packers signed Linsley to an extension that ran through 2020 but could not strike a deal to keep him off this year’s market. The 2021 season will be Linsley’s age-30 campaign.
Linsley will represent a key free agency loss for the Packers, who cut 2020 starter Ricky Wagner last month. The Jets were also interested in Linsley, likely joining several other teams, but the Chargers moved quickly to secure his services. Los Angeles still has holes on its offensive front, however, so Linsley might not be their last big upgrade here.
The Jets missed out on Kevin Zeitler and they won’t have an opportunity to speak with Andrew Norwell. However, they have two other interior linemen on their list. The Jets are expected to pursue center Corey Linsley and guard Joe Thuney, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
The Jets were said to be keenly interested in Thuney last week with plans to call him bright and early on Monday morning. The Patriots declined to tag him again, making him an unfettered free agent. A second-team All-Pro in 2019 and a key part of the Patriots’ most recent Super Bowl wins, Thuney is regarded as one of the better guards in the NFL.
Linsley, meanwhile, was a First-Team All-Pro for his work with the Packers last season. It’s expected that he’ll approach or best Ryan Kelly‘s $12.4MM per-year average, so either player would be mighty costly for the Jets. Still, the offensive line is a long-standing need for Gang Green, so they’re willing to spend the big bucks.
The Packers have not dusted off their franchise tag in a while, last using it on nose tackle Ryan Pickett in 2010. They may be on the verge of a change in offseason strategy.
Beginning his fourth offseason as GM, Brian Gutekunst has top-tier free agents Aaron Jones and Corey Linsley barely a week away from being able to negotiate with other teams for the first time. An All-Pro center, Linsley expects to test the market. This would leave Jones in the tag crosshairs.
“We certainly could (tag Jones). I think it’s something we’re working through. Again, it’s not a philosophical thing to avoid it,” Gutekunst said of using the tag, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “I do think there’s usually better ways to go about it, but certainly if I think as we get down the road here over the next week or so, if that becomes what is in the best interest of the Packers, I think we’ll do that. But at this point, we haven’t done that.”
It cost the Titans $10.3MM to tag Derrick Henry last year, though the sides reached an extension agreement on deadline day last July. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s anticipated impact on the 2021 cap, the Packers may have the opportunity to tag Jones at barely $8MM. This would be a difficult scenario for Jones, who saw fellow 2017 draftees Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon cash in — all on deals worth at least $12MM annually — last year. But it would allow the Packers an unusual way to retain one of the best players.
The Packers and Jones negotiated extensively last year, and the 25-year-old running back changed agents during the process. An offer that would have paid Jones at least $12MM annually did not result in a deal. That proposal was light on guarantees, however. The team has until March 9 to tag Jones. Green Bay RB2 Jamaal Williams is expected to depart via free agency, which would seemingly elevate 2020 second-round pick A.J. Dillon.
A 2014 fifth-round pick, Linsley agreed on a Packers extension that ran through 2020. Coming off an All-Pro season, Linsley appears poised to approach or surpass Ryan Kelly‘s market-topping contract ($12.4MM AAV, $25MM fully guaranteed). It does not sound like the Packers will extend him to keep him off the market by the time the legal tampering period begins March 15.
“Finding a way to bring him back would be ideal, but at the same time obviously, at the level of compensation that he’s at, he’s earned that,” Gutekunst said. “We certainly would never close the door on someone like Corey Linsley. We’ll see as we get down what’s possible and what’s not.”
Going into the spring tag deadline, the Packers have work to do before being free to tag Jones. They are more than $11MM over the projected salary cap, even after a David Bakhtiari restructure and the releases of Rick Wagner and Christian Kirksey. The Packers are discussing a restructure with Aaron Rodgers, Demovsky adds.
A $6.8MM Rodgers roster bonus could be converted to a signing bonus without the quarterback’s approval, creating $4.5MM in 2021 cap space. And the Packers could also move some of Rodgers’ 2021 base salary ($14.8MM) into a signing bonus to free up more room. This would, of course, complicate matters down the road. But the NFL’s post-2021 future is unlikely to include any further cap reductions, likely making present restructures easier to stomach for teams.
“We’re not closing the door for anything,” Linsley said (via PFT). “Obviously we’d never do that for any team, especially the Packers, but yeah it definitely feels weird. It looks like all signs are pointing towards snapping the ball somewhere else next year.”
Linsley, has spent his entire career in Green Bay since being selected in the fourth-round of the 2014 draft. Fresh off of his first All-Pro nod, he’s now positioned for free agent riches. The Packers, meanwhile, have other matters to address and limited resources to work with. Their own free agent list includes running back Aaron Jones, who could be on track for the franchise tag.
Linsley, 30 in July, has a chance to top Ryan Kelly‘s new high-water salary mark for centers with a deal worth more than $12.4MM per year on average.
The Packers will have their standout center back in action Sunday night. They activated Corey Linsley from IR in advance of their key matchup against the Titans.
Linsley will end up having missed only the minimum three games because of a knee sprain. His return will be a boon to a Green Bay squad that has the inside track to earn the NFC’s lone bye.
When Linsley went down in late November, he was playing at a high level. The longtime Packers center will enter Week 16 as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1-ranked snapper — by a significant margin. In the final weeks of his second Packers contract, Linsley will now have a chance to make a final push for either an extension or a monster free agency payday.
As of last month, no extension talks had transpired between Linsley and the Packers. He joins Aaron Jones as key Packers free agents-to-be. Although the salary cap is expected to decline for only the second time in the cap era, high-level offensive linemen are coveted annually in free agency. Linsley, 29, would have a chance to top Ryan Kelly‘s new high-water salary mark for centers ($12.4MM per year) were he to reach free agency. The Packers recently authorized a record-breaking extension for left tackle David Bakhtiari.
While Corey Linsley required a cart to leave Lambeau Field on Sunday night, he is not believed to be out for the season. That said, the Packers will be without their starting center for some time.
Linsley’s knee sprain prompted the Packers to move him to IR on Saturday. This will be a blow to both the Packers and the contract-year blocker, who has enjoyed a strong age-29 season.
Pro Football Focus slots Linsley on a separate tier from other centers this season, grading the seventh-year Green Bay snapper as by far its No. 1 player at the position. While the Packers have versatile lineman Elgton Jenkins capable of taking over at center, this will be a setback for the team’s top-tier O-line.
Notable extension talks between the Packers and Linsley have not yet come to pass. The team recently made standout left tackle David Bakhtiari the league’s highest-paid left tackle and by far the highest-paid O-lineman in franchise history. As of now, Green Bay is projected to be more than $16MM over the reduced 2021 cap. That will complicate matters for a team that has Linsley and Aaron Jones as UFAs-to-be. Linsley signed his first Packers extension in 2017.
November 30th, 2020 at 1:45pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
We’ve got a batch of next-morning injury updates to pass along. Starting in Denver, where Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan went down with a foot injury. Unfortunately, that injury will sideline him for a “significant” amount of time, head coach Vic Fangio said Monday, via Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link). Fangio said it was too early to tell if it would knock him out for the rest of the season, but that certainly sounds possible.
It’s a big blow for a Broncos team that has already been besieged by injuries. Callahan is an every down guy and one of their best players on defense. He’s in the second year of a three-year, $21MM deal he signed in March of 2019. He missed all of last season with a foot injury, although this new issue thankfully appears to be unrelated.
Here are some more health updates from around the league:
We heard last night that Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was feared to have a significant hamstring injury that could cause him to miss some time, but it sounds like things aren’t quite as bad as they seemed. Jones avoided major injury and has an “outside shot” at playing this Sunday, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). It appears it won’t be anything long-term, although Colt McCoy still seems like the favorite to be under center this coming weekend against the Seahawks. Every game is pivotal for Big Blue as they jockey for position in the pitiful NFC East.
Packers center Corey Linsley had to be carted off with a knee injury during the team’s win over the Bears last night, and fortunately it looks like a worst case scenario was avoided. That being said he’s not entirely out of the woods, as a source told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that Linsley will miss some time with a knee sprain (Twitter link). Matt LaFleur told reporters he hopes Linsley can make it back for some of the regular season, but it sounds like he should at least be ready for the playoffs. Linsley has been the guy snapping balls to Aaron Rodgers for every game of the last four seasons, so this is a big loss.
The Jaguars fell to 1-10 yesterday, and the hits keep on coming. Rookie defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton had to be carted off against the Browns and while head coach Doug Marrone said today it wasn’t as bad as was initially thought, he’ll still be going to injured reserve with a knee issue, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Hamilton was the 73rd overall pick of April’s draft. The Ohio State product had been playing a big role in his first pro season, starting the last six games and playing around 60 percent of the defensive snaps.
When the Packers gave left tackle David Bakhtiari a record-setting extension last week, GM Brian Gutekunst said that he would like to extend another of his pending free agents, as Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal writes. But there are a handful of key players on expiring contracts, and though the structure of Bakhtiari’s deal could help facilitate another sizable extension, it’s unclear if Green Bay will be able to pull that off.
After all, the salary cap is expected to drop considerably in 2021, and players like RB Aaron Jones, RB Jamaal Williams, CB Kevin King, and C Corey Linsley will all be eligible for unrestricted free agency. The Packers and Jones have been discussing a new deal for some time, but nothing has come together just yet, and there have been no reports concerning extensions for Williams, King, or Linsley.
Given King’s injury history and Williams’ status as the Packers’ RB2, it would seem like Linsley would be either the team’s top priority for an extension, or else the second priority behind Jones. He is arguably the best center in football, and while he has yet to make a Pro Bowl in his career, that could certainly change this year.
The 29-year-old has a strong case to top the center market, which would mean a contract paying him around $13MM per season. Thus far, however, it doesn’t sound like any progress has been made on that front.
“I’ve had a wonderful experience, and if it continues, that’s awesome,” Linsley said. “If it doesn’t, that’s the nature of the game. There’s 31 other teams out there, so hopefully it’ll happen here or happen somewhere else. I don’t know. How I’m looking at it is, I’m just playing ball.”
Linsley and his family make their full-time home in Green Bay, and his wife, Anna, has already begun to wonder about what a move to another city will look like, as Wilde writes. While it might be too early to order a moving van, it is certainly possible that Linsley will be suiting up for a different club in 2021.