Cory Littleton

COVID-19 Latest: Ravens, Williams, Browns

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.
  • Six players remain on San Francisco’s virus list. The 49ers removed Arik Armstead and center Hroniss Grasu on Wednesday.
  • 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.

Cory Littleton Lands On Raiders’ Reserve/COVID-19 List

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Rework Cory Littleton’s Contract

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Cooper, Hargrave, Littleton

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.

Amari Cooper, (Cowboys): five-years, $100MM deal, $60MM guaranteed; $10MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $10MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $20MM (fully guaranteed), 2022: $20MM (guaranteed for injury until March 2022), 2023: $20MM, 2024: $20MM, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.

Tyeler Davison, (Falcons): three-years, $12MM, $4.55MM guaranteed; $3.64MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $910k (fully guaranteed), 2021: $3.2MM, 2022: $3.45MM; $200k in non-guaranteed weekly roster bonuses in 2020, $250k in non-guaranteed weekly roster bonuses in 2021, $350k in non-guaranteed weekly roster bonuses in 2022, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.

George Fant, (Jets): three-years, $27.3MM, $8.85MM guaranteed; $3MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $4.6MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $8MM, 2022: $9.25MM; $1.25MM guaranteed roster bonus in 2020, $400k non-guaranteed weekly roster bonuses from 2020-2022, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.

Javon Hargrave, (Eagles): three-years, $39MM, $26MM guaranteed; $11.75MM signing bonus; salaries 2020: $1MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $12.75MM (fully guaranteed), 2022: $12.75MM; $250k workout bonus in 2022, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Cory Littleton, (Raiders): three-years, $35.25MM, $22MM guaranteed; salaries 2020: $11MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $5.5MM (fully guaranteed), 2022: $11MM; guaranteed $5.5MM 2021 roster bonus, non-guaranteed $500k weekly roster bonuses in 2020-2022, $250k workout bonus in 2020-2022, $250k annual Pro Bowl incentive, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Levine Toilolo, (Giants): two-years, $6.2MM, $3.25MM guaranteed; salaries 2020: $1.225MM (fully guaranteed), 2021: $2.925MM; guaranteed $2MM 2020 roster bonus, $25k annual workout bonus, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

 

 

 

 

Raiders To Sign LB Cory Littleton

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).

The Rams wanted to keep Littleton, but their budget was stretched. This offseason, the Rams put a greater focus on retaining players like Andrew Whitworth, Austin Blythe, Michael Brockers, and Dante Fowler, leaving little room to retain the 26-year-old (27 in November).

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.

The Raiders have been on the hunt for new linebackers, especially after cutting Tahir Whitehead last week. Now, between Littleton and new addition Nick Kwiatkoski, they’re in pretty good shape.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders, Packers Interested In Cory Littleton

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. 

[RELATED: Raiders Eyeing Early-Round QBs?]

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams HC, GM Discuss Offseason

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 Jared Goff, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and others, leading to only $21MM in cap space this year. The organization also traded their 2020 and 2012 first-rounders for Jalen Ramsey, 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 Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead 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, Aaron Donald 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.'”

On free agent left tackle Andrew Whitworth‘s potential return:

McVay: “We’re pretty confident. He still played a really high level last year. His impact isn’t exclusive to just playing the left tackle position.”

On free agent kicker Greg Zuerlein:

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.”

On potential extensions for receiver Cooper Kupp and safety John Johnson:

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.”

On potentially franchising free agent linebackers Dante Fowler or Cory Littleton:

Snead: “All options are on the table.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Deadline Fallout: Penny, Rams, Adams

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.

Here is the latest deadline fallout:

  • The Dolphins will send the Rams a 2022 seventh-round pick for Aqib Talib, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. With Talib on IR until at least Week 15, the rebuilding team is likely only interested in the fifth-round 2020 choice it acquired. The 33-year-old cornerback looks headed toward free agency for the first time since 2014.
  • 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 Day 3 pick the Cowboys offered the Jets, in addition to the first-round pick included in the proposal, for Jamal Adams was either a fourth- or fifth-rounder, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets. The Jets wanted a first and a pair of seconds for the Pro Bowl safety, one GM Joe Douglas still calls firmly part of the team’s long-term plan, per ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini.

Rams’ Cory Littleton Signs RFA Tender

As the Rams’ OTAs kicked off Monday, they will have their top off-ball linebacker back at work. Cory Littleton signed his RFA tender, according to Pro Football Talk.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Tender LB Cory Littleton, Others

Cory Littleton established himself as a surefire Rams starter last season. He figures to be a key component of Los Angeles’ 2019 defense.

The Rams placed a second-round tender on Littleton. That will come out to a $3.1MM salary for 2019, should no extension be reached before June’s RFA signing deadline.

A fourth-year UDFA, Littleton broke out for a 125-tackle, four-sack season in 2018 — his first as a full-time starter. With so many big contracts on the Rams’ roster, it helps they can get quality production from players with rookie-deal salaries. While the $3.1MM will take Littleton to a slightly higher tax bracket, that is a manageable figure for the Rams.

In addition to Littleton, the Rams made the following moves with other restricted and exclusive-rights free agents:

RFAs tendered at original-round level: DB Blake Countess, RB Malcolm Brown, CB Troy Hill

ERFAs tendered: DE Morgan Fox, CB Dominique Hatfield, WR KhaDarel Hodge, CB Kevin Peterson, WR JoJo Natson