Via releases, trades and restructures, the Raiders have made several moves over the past week and change to create cap space. They continued to do so Friday.
Las Vegas will restructure two deals from the 2020 free agency period, rearranging some funds in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski‘s deals, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Together, these moves will create more than $7MM in cap space for the Raiders.
This marks the second restructure for Littleton, who initially saw his contract reworked in September of last year. The Raiders initially signed the former Rams linebacker to a three-year, $35.25MM pact. Kwiatkoski signed a three-year, $21MM pact last March, completing an overhaul of the Raiders’ linebacking corps.
Over the past week and change, the Raiders have released Gabe Jackson, Richie Incognito and Lamarcus Joyner to clear up more than $25MM in cap space. They traded Trent Brown to the Patriots, adding another chunk to that total. They have climbed into the top 10 in cap space, now holding more than $30MM.
Earlier Wednesday, the NFL took the Ravens-Steelers rematch off its Thanksgiving schedule. That game is now on tap for 12:15pm CT Sunday. More is emerging on why the Steelers will see another of their games delayed. The Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach for “conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff.” The Ravens are levying the discipline because the unnamed staffer did not report symptoms or consistently wear a mask or a contact tracing device, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). This is believed to have contributed to the Ravens’ outbreak — one that comes nearly two months after a Titans outbreak altered the Steelers’ schedule. Seven Ravens players and at least five staffers have tested positive for COVID. This will not only weaken Baltimore against Pittsburgh but potentially deplete team’s roster for its Week 13 Thursday game against Dallas.
Several teams shuffled their rosters because of COVID on Wednesday. Here is the latest:
49ers left tackle Trent Williams tested positive for COVID-19 last week, per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano (on Twitter). A cancer survivor, Williams has not experienced issues with the virus yet, Graziano tweets. Williams, who landed on the 49ers’ COVID list earlier this month as a high-risk close contact, is on track to miss San Francisco’s Week 12 game in Los Angeles.
Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki tested positive Wednesday, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter). Takitaki played against the Eagles and returned an interception for a touchdown. The Cleveland starting linebacker’s positive test follows Myles Garrett‘s. Neither they nor Denzel Ward (injury) will be available for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. The Browns closed their facility Wednesday, but their Jags game remains on schedule.
The Bengals placed wide receiver Auden Tate and recently acquired offensive lineman B.J. Finney on their reserve/COVID-19 list. Cincinnati has seen staffers test positive, with D-line coach Nick Eason being the most recent. Eason was alerted of his positive test Tuesday. The Bengals now have five players on their reserve/COVID list.
Christian Wilkins is off the Dolphins‘ COVID list. Wilkins was not reported to have tested positive, but the second-year defensive lineman still missed two games after landing on the team’s virus list.
The Raiders activated Cory Littleton from their COVID list. The high-profile free agent addition has been out for two weeks due to a positive coronavirus test. Las Vegas’ defense remains shorthanded due to virus issues, with Clelin Ferrell testing positive last week and Lamarcus Joyner missing Sunday’s Chiefs game because of his status as a close contact.
Dante Fowler also tested positive two weeks ago and missed the Falcons‘ Week 11 game, but the big-ticket free agent addition is off the list now and on course to return to Atlanta’s lineup Sunday.
The Vikings and Chargers also removed players from their respective virus lists Wednesday. Minnesota activated guard Dru Samia; Los Angeles activated cornerback Brandon Facyson.
The Raiders continue to run into issues with the coronavirus. They placed top tackler Cory Littleton on their reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday.
An offseason addition, the former Rams linebacker has registered 48 tackles this season. He joins Trent Brown on the Raiders’ COVID list. While Brown is out for Sunday’s game against the Broncos and is without a firm return timetable, Littleton’s status will come down to when he last came in contact with someone who contracted the virus.
The NFL requires players who land on the reserve/COVID list to isolate for five days, even if they did not test positive. This in-season policy change resulted in the Raiders practicing without their first-string offensive line prior to their Week 7 game against the Buccaneers.
While the Titans led the NFL in players placed on a reserve/COVID list, the Raiders have incurred the stiffest punishment for violating coronavirus protocols. The NFL docked the team a sixth-round pick and has levied more than $1MM in fines against the organization this season.
One of the NFL’s top coverage linebackers over the past two seasons, Littleton opted to sign with the Raiders this offseason. Pro Football Focus has not viewed Littleton’s Raiders debut as a success so far, interestingly rating him as one of the league’s worst coverage ‘backers through Las Vegas’ eight games.
September 9th, 2020 at 6:54pm CST by Dallas Robinson
The Raiders have restructured the contract of linebacker Cory Littleton in order to create more than $8MM in cap space, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The move will give Las Vegas, who had been projected to be over the cap, some financial breathing room.
Per Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap, the Raiders appeared to have converted $10.09MM of Littleton’s 2020 base salary into a signing bonus while adding two void years to the end of his contract. In sum, Las Vegas reduced Fitzgerald’s 2020 cap charge by $8.072MM but added $2.018MM in each remaining season of his contract.
Restructures nearly always benefit the player in question. Not only does Littleton get more money up front in the form of a new signing bonus, but he’s now more difficult to release in future years. Indeed, many contracts simply have a restructure clause built in, so the team doesn’t even have to ask the player before making the move. However, it’s rare to see a newly-signed player like Littleton get a restructure before he ever plays a down for his new club.
Littleon, 27, spent four years with the Rams before inking a three-year, $35.25MM pact with Las Vegas earlier this year. An exceptional coverage linebacker, Littleton joined Nick Kwiatkoski as new additions to the Raiders’ linebacking unit.
Jonathan Bostic, (Washington): two-years, $5MM, $1.75MM guaranteed; $1.25MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $960k ($500k guaranteed), 2021: $1.69MM; $500k roster bonus in 2020, $200k in non-guaranteed weekly roster bonuses in 2020, $400k in non-guaranteed weekly roster bonuses in 2021, an additional $800k in annual incentives available as well, according to John Keim of ESPN.
The Raiders are set to sign Cory Littleton, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). When the league year opens on Wednesday, Littleton will ink a three-year deal worth up to $36MM. The deal includes $22MM guaranteed, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com adds (via Twitter).
Littleton, a University of Washington product, went from part-timer to starter in 2018 and wound up earning his first career Pro Bowl nod. Last year, he kept up the good work – in the two seasons combined, he tallied 7.5 sacks, even though much of his attention was focused on coverage. He has graded as one of the league’s best coverage linebackers in each of the past two seasons and will profile as a three-down defender for the Raiders.
Last year, the Raiders opted for low-cost veterans Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall but saw the latter struggle with injury and end up not making the team and the former suspended for most of the season. But in Jon Gruden‘s third year, he’s leaving less to chance at the linebacker spot. Las Vegas has shelled out cash to shore up a position the franchise has not allocated much in the way of resources toward in many years.
The Raiders and Packers “are going to be all over” Cory Littleton this week, Vic Tafur of The Athletic (on Twitter) hears. The legal tampering window opens today and both teams will find even more company if they make an aggressive play for the Rams linebacker.
Littleton, 27 in November, is coming off of a solid season in which he registered 3.5 sacks and 134 total stops. In 2018, he turned in a similarly strong year en route to his first ever Pro Bowl selection.
It’s not clear whether the Packers’ recent addition of Christian Kirksey will impact their pursuit of Littleton. On Monday morning, the Packers agreed to sign the former Browns standout to a two-year, $16MM deal.
The Raiders, meanwhile, are armed with lots of cap room and they should have the ability to outbid the Rams, Packers, or any other club if they want him badly enough. The former UDFA is a proven playmaker and would be a significant upgrade for the Raiders’ D – especially since he offers quality coverage ability for a linebacker.
It’s been a busy 24 months for the Rams, and it’ll all culminate with a crucial 2020 offseason.
They’ve handed out a number of high-priced extensions to quarterback JaredGoff, defensive lineman AaronDonald, and others, leading to only $21MM in cap space this year. The organization also traded their 2020 and 2012 first-rounders for JalenRamsey, leaving the team with reduced draft capital.
Plus, the organization is staring at a long list of impending unrestricted free agents. In other words, the Rams could look a bit different next season.
Head coach SeanMcVay and general manager LesSnead spoke to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry about some of their critical offseason decisions. The entire article is worth a read, but we snagged some of the notable soundbites below:
On if the front office has engaged in any trade talks:
McVay: “Usually,AaronDonald is off the table. I think, to answer your question, I think you kind of know who are the guys that there’s not something that would be worth it, but those are ongoing conversations and I think we’re always open to being able to explore things that can upgrade us as a team.
“What we have done a nice job of is identifying those foundational pieces to try to build around.”
Snead: “This time of year, it is interesting. You get calls on a lot of players. There’s a new era, in that somebody may call and ask about your best player, which in the past, I don’t know that phone call would be made. … But usually the answer is ‘No.'”
McVay: “He’s done so many things and he’s a great kicker and I think those established veterans are so important, especially when every time he takes the field, there’s points at stake, unless he’s kicking off. But we want to make sure we’re evaluating the guys in the draft and then we’re going to have free agency.”
Snead: “The goal would be, let’s say guys like those two, if we do want them to get back, it would be great to have that box checked. What we have to do now is, because we have, I call it more urgent guys whose contracts actually expire, get through that process first and then move on to — I don’t want to call them less urgent — but less urgent than the players whose contracts are expiring.”
Since using a first-round pick on Rashaad Penny last year, the Seahawks have not given him a lead backfield role. They preferred Chris Carson and Mike Davis leading the ball-carrying group last season and have Carson entrenched atop the depth chart this year. As such, the Lions expressed interest in Penny prior to Tuesday afternoon’s trade deadline, John Clayton of ESPN 710 AM Seattle notes. Seattle sought a second-round pick for Penny, though it doesn’t sound like the team was shopping the second-year back. Penny can be under Seahawks control through 2022. The Lions have run into trouble in their backfield, losing starter Kerryon Johnson. They were interested in Kenyan Drake, but the Cardinals ended up making a deal with the Dolphins. Ty Johnson, Tra Carson and ex-Seahawk J.D. McKissic represent the Lions’ primary running back options for the stretch run.
As for the Rams, they want to use some of the savings from this move to re-sign emerging linebacker Cory Littleton, Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Littleton is one of a few key Rams on expiring contracts, joining Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler in that group. Playing on a second-round RFA tender, Littleton has operated as Los Angeles’ top linebacker this year and would stand to attract considerable interest as a 2020 UFA. With a high-end Jalen Ramsey re-up coming, the Rams will be tight on cap space, however, and may have to bid farewell to a few role players — like they did this offseason.
Chris Harris has stuck to his guns about testing free agency this time around. He signed a five-year, $42.5MM extension with the Broncos in late 2014, and that deal became one of the most team-friendly pacts in the league in the latter part of the 2010s. The 30-year-old cornerback does not plan to sign a Broncos extension before reaching the market, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes. However, Harris has said he wants to finish his career in Denver. He and the Broncos were not close on terms this offseason, but Renck added a that third Broncos contract could be in play for the four-time Pro Bowler.
The Rams placed a second-round tender on Littleton. If an extension is not reached, his 2019 salary will be $3.095MM.
A fourth-year UDFA, Littleton broke out for a 125-tackle, four-sack season in 2018 — his first as a full-time starter. Littleton also made the Pro Bowl and intercepted Tom Brady during Super Bowl LIII. He stands to be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, though the Rams have exclusive negotiating rights until the new league year begins.
The Rams did not address their inside ‘backer position this offseason until the seventh round of the draft. Texas Tech’s Dakota Allen represents the top outside investment the team made at inside linebacker. The Rams also released Mark Barron, placing more importance on Littleton’s return.