Cory Littleton

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

West Notes: Thomas, Chiefs, Rams

More noise is coming out of the Earl Thomas trade front. The Seahawks‘ status as a rebuilding team — one that’s lost core defenders Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor — should make them come back to the Cowboys about the Thomas trade the teams discussed on draft weekend, Brian Broaddus of the Cowboys’ website said during an interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

The Cowboys have to look at their situation at safety and figure out is this going to be good enough? Are we able to compete for a division? To get in the playoffs? Could Earl Thomas be a guy, could he be a difference-maker?” Broaddus said, (via the Dallas Morning News). “I feel like that the Earl Thomas situation still is in play. It’s just a matter of where Seattle is going to be. I don’t believe Earl Thomas is going to sit out games for Seattle. I really, really don’t. You’re talking about a guy that makes over $10 million. Players just don’t leave those checks on the field just for principle, for that reason. I think that Seattle is going to have to figure out something. The Cowboys are going to have to figure out something. And maybe they do work something out there.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Seahawks-Cowboys connection potentially resurfacing regarding an employer change for the All-Pro safety. Thomas skipped minicamp and has one year left on his deal, but the Cowboys are thin at safety to the point it’s logical the sides will revisit these talks.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions as we near training camps opening.

  • Kendall Fuller will not only be expected to be the Chiefs‘ slot cornerback after coming to Kansas City via offseason trade; he’ll be counted on now to be their No. 1 corner, Adam Teicher of ESPN.com writes. This would mean a starting role as an outside cover man and shifts into the slot on passing downs. The 5-foot-11 Fuller would have big shoes to fill in replacing historically productive ball hawk Marcus Peters. The Chiefs, though, do not have an obvious Peters replacement lined up. They signed David Amerson, but that amounts to more of a flier-type deal. This position may be K.C.’s biggest concern heading into the season.
  • The Chiefs also authorized a surprising amount of money ($16MM AAV) for Sammy Watkins, who, on the surface, would figure to be the team’s nominal No. 2 wide receiver behind Tyreek Hill. In an offense that funnels through All-Pro Travis Kelce and now has reigning rushing champ Kareem Hunt, Watkins could be deemed as a superfluous cog on a team that needed much more help on defense. However, Teicher notes the Chiefs want Watkins to be more than a No. 2 wideout and writes that the team’s offense will function best if Kelce, Hill and Watkins post similar receiving numbers. That has not been the case in K.C. for years, with the franchise largely eschewing the complementary receiver spots. Watkins represented a major deviation from that philosophy.
  • Heading into camp, the Rams are planning to use third-year UDFA Cory Littleton as Alec Ogletree‘s replacement, Lindsay Thiry of ESPN.com notes. Littleton started four games and made 31 tackles last season. Rams LBs coach Joe Barry serves as an important advocate for Littleton, indicating he wanted the undrafted ‘backer in Washington when he was a Redskins assistant two years ago. Now, Littleton will be tasked with a key second-level job on a star-studded defense. “When we were in Washington we loved him,” Barry said, via Thiry. “I was on the table the entire third day of the draft to draft him.”

NFC Notes: Carson, Falcons, Barr, Rams

The Seahawks have struggled not just to replace offensive linemen from the Marshawn Lynch era but to replace Lynch himself. Last season, they went through several running backs but saw none emerge as a surefire answer. Five backs — Eddie Lacy, Mike Davis, Thomas Rawls, Chris Carson, J.D. McKissic — received more than 45 carries, but none surpassed 70 in a strange season. Now, the team is hoping one of these players in particular will be the leader in 2018. Carson’s been the clear No. 1 back throughout the offseason, and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times expects him to be the starter in Week 1, should he stay healthy. Carson averaged 4.2 yards per carry prior to breaking his ankle early in the season. The Seahawks also added Rashaad Penny in the draft, but at this point, Carson is running ahead of the San Diego State alumnus few expected to be a first-round pick. Condotta also expects Prosise and McKissic to vie for the third-down back role, mentioning Prosise — should he stay healthy after an injury-prone career thus far — as a threat to factor into the starter conversation.

Here’s the latest from the NFC, pivoting to one of the Seahawks’ top rivals.

  • Although the Rams drafted three linebackers and have emerging backup Matt Longacre due back from injury, the team that devoted substantial offseason resources to restocking its defensive line and secondary doesn’t have much in the way of certainty on its second level. The Rams traded Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree, shedding salary but creating lineup vacancies. The team is counting on Longacre, 2017 fourth-rounder Samson Ebukam and third-year UDFA Cory Littleton to be first-string presences, Joe Curley of USA Today notes. Los Angeles drafted edges Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Trevon Young in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, and brought in ILB Micah Kiser with a fifth-round pick. However, Curley adds that ex-Chief inside ‘backer Ramik Wilson could be called upon as a possible starter as well in this still-muddled situation.
  • Desmond Trufant may have a new sidekick at some point this season. The Falcons used second-round pick Isaiah Oliver at right cornerback throughout the offseason, and D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution notes Dan Quinn would like to have a bigger presence at that position (Robert Alford is 5-foot-10; Oliver is 6-1). While predicting Oliver will begin his career as a special-teamer, Ledbetter writes that Alford would be an option as the Falcons’ slot corner if Oliver moves into the starting lineup. The Falcons extended Alford in 2016 and are set to pay him over $9MM in each of the next three seasons, though they can get out of that contract relatively easily after 2018.
  • Anthony Barr‘s effort level may be one of the factors involved in the Vikings‘ line of thinking regarding an extension for the fifth-year linebacker, Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. A Barr extension would probably require for him to either top or come quite close to exceeding Jamie Collins‘ OLB-high $12.5MM-AAV contract, and the Vikings already have a host of recently constructed extensions on their books. Barr’s been one of the best 4-3 outside ‘backers in the game for several years, but Mike Zimmer has questioned his effort in the past. The Vikings, who have already extended Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter this year, have begun re-up conversations with Barr.

Rams Sign 19 Undrafted Free Agents

After including a handful of their 2016 draft picks in the trade package that allowed them to move up to No. 1 to snag California quarterback Jared Goff, the Rams only drafted six players last week, with all of them but Goff coming off the board on Day 3. However, Los Angeles has supplemented its draft class by adding 19 undrafted free agents to its roster.

Here’s the complete list of new Rams from Myles Simmons of TheRams.com: