NFC West Notes: Donald, Hawks, 49ers

Right up until his landmark summer contract agreement, Aaron Donald teased retirement. The all-time great is going into his age-31 season, but during the negotiations with the Rams, Donald said he knows he has at least three more years in the NFL. The Rams had Donald under contract through 2024, via the 2018 extension he signed, but gave the seven-time All-Pro a straight raise in June. He is now signed to a defender-record $31.7MM per year through 2024.

I think myself and the front office, talking with his reps, were really: ‘OK, if Aaron wants to play football, then really it’s on us to figure out a way to get the money right. Aaron shouldn’t retire because of us,'” Rams GM Les Snead said, via the New York Times’ Emmanuel Morgan. “The third part, and I think Aaron did a really nice job, is because he was actually honest and said, ‘Look, I know I got three years.’ Then it’s working creatively to be able to reward Aaron, but also engineer a contract where if he does retire in three years, it doesn’t punish the club for the future.”

Donald, whose deal also includes a no-trade clause, recently connected his future to Sean McVay‘s. This accord came during an offseason in which the Rams also extended Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. The latter’s deal also came with multiple years remaining on his previous contract. Here is more from the NFC West:

  • Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker represents a key part of the team’s backfield equation, one that recently lost Chris Carson to retirement. Walker will not be available for a bit, with Pete Carroll indicating the second-round pick is battling “a little hernia thing” that may sidetrack him for the rest of the preseason. The Seahawks are now targeting Week 1 for Walker’s return, Brady Henderson of notes (Twitter links). Walker has already undergone surgery to address the problem, Ian Rapoport of tweets. Seattle re-signed Rashaad Penny in March, and while the injury-prone back missed time recently because of a groin issue, he returned to practice Tuesday.
  • In addition to Walker being out for the Seahawks’ second preseason game, the team’s quarterback competition will see one of its members down for that contest. Drew Lock contracted COVID-19 and will miss the Seahawks’ Thursday tilt against the Bears. Already behind Geno Smith in vying to succeed Russell Wilson, with Carroll saying Tuesday that Smith remains “the No. 1 guy,” Lock will be shut down by the NFL’s current COVID protocols. Players are no longer required to be moved off the roster for virus reasons, but they must isolate for at least five days after testing positive.
  • Mike McGlinchey played eight snaps in the 49ers’ first preseason game, returning from the torn quadriceps injury he suffered in November. But Kyle Shanahan said the veteran right tackle experienced knee irritation after the preseason action, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. While the sixth-year HC added the PRP procedure McGlinchey underwent is not connected to the surgery had reattaching his quad tendon to the kneecap, it should be something to monitor here. McGlinchey is in a contract year, and the 49ers let his 2021 backup — Tom Compton — sign with the Broncos. Colton McKivitz, who spent most of last year on the team’s practice squad, is in place as McGlinchey’s backup.
  • Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon is on administrative leave stemming from two domestic battery charges, Josh Weinfuss of reports. These charges stem from an alleged May incident in Indianapolis, per Weinfuss, who adds one of the charges is a Level 6 felony for an alleged assault on a woman in front of a child under the age of 16. The Level 6 charge in Indiana comes with a sentence of six months to 2 1/2 years in prison. The other charge is a Class A misdemeanor. Saxon, 56, has been an NFL assistant since 2000 and with the Cardinals since 2019.

NFC West Notes: Carroll, Murray, Rams

The Cardinals and Seahawks respectively announced Kyler Murray and Pete Carroll tested positive for COVID-19. While coronavirus protocols are absent to start training camp, Tom Pelissero of notes the league in June informed teams anyone who tests positive must isolate for five days (Twitter link). Carroll, 70, is experiencing mild symptoms, according to the Seahawks, who add he will continue to participate in meetings virtually. As for Murray, he will not be required to be moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list. After two years of use, the NFL did away with the virus list this offseason. Murray will remain on the roster but away from the team.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • Murray is no longer contractually obligated to complete a certain number of film-watching hours this season, but the Cards’ issues with their recently extended quarterback’s commitment have surfaced. His off-and-on offseason participation is something the team has certainly noticed, according to’s Albert Breer, who adds questions about the former No. 1 overall pick’s leadership have lingered as well. The Chris Mortensen Super Bowl Sunday report about acrimony between Murray and the Cardinals — one that labeled the 2018 Heisman winner as a “self-centered, immature finger-pointer” — drove Murray’s camp to demand an extension this offseason. As evidenced by the since-scrapped clause, the Cards do want their franchise QB to commit more to the mental side of the game, per Breer. How the team went about ensuring that will remain one of the more notable matters in modern contract history.
  • Former UDFA Coleman Shelton started two games for the Rams last season, the only two starts in his three-year career, but Sean McVay said (via’s Sarah Barshop, on Twitter) he is in the mix to start at right guard this season. Shelton has worked as a first-team guard and center in practice. The Rams lost Austin Corbett in free agency but also used a third-round pick (which means more to the defending champions than most teams, given their perennial first-round absence) on guard Logan Bruss. The Wisconsin alum joins Shelton and 2020 seventh-rounder Tremayne Anchrum (12 career games; zero starts) in competition to replace Corbett.
  • Although it emerged as a point of contention this offseason, Kyle Shanahan said Deebo Samuel‘s usage as a running back did not factor into his 49ers extension talks.

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Offense

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the second reduction in NFL salary cap history last year, the 2022 cap made a record jump. This year’s salary ceiling ($208.2MM) checks in $25.7MM north of the 2021 figure.

While quarterbacks’ salaries will continue to lead the way, a handful of blockers and skill-position players carry sizable cap numbers for 2022. A few of the quarterbacks that lead the way this year may not be tied to those numbers once the regular season begins. The 49ers, Browns and Ravens have made efforts to alter these figures via trades or extensions.

Here are the top 2022 salary cap hits on the offensive side of the ball:

  1. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $38.6MM
  2. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $35.79MM
  3. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $31.42MM
  4. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $31.15MM
  5. Aaron Rodgers, QB (Packers): $28.53MM
  6. Carson Wentz, QB (Commanders): $28.29MM
  7. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $26.95MM
  8. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $24MM
  9. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $23.02MM
  10. Kenny Golladay, WR (Giants): $21.2MM
  11. Garett Bolles, T (Broncos): $21MM
  12. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $19.73MM
  13. Derek Carr, QB (Raiders): $19.38MM
  14. D.J. Humphries, T (Cardinals): $19.33MM
  15. Keenan Allen, WR (Chargers): $19.2MM
  16. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $18.9MM
  17. Sam Darnold, QB (Panthers): 18.89MM
  18. Baker Mayfield, QB (Browns): $18.89MM
  19. Matt Ryan, QB (Colts): $18.7MM
  20. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $18.55MM
  21. Donovan Smith, T (Buccaneers): $18.4MM
  22. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Cowboys): $18.22MM
  23. DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Cardinals): $17.95MM
  24. Cooper Kupp, WR (Rams): $17.8MM
  25. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $17.71MM
  • The Chiefs’ cap sheet looks a bit different this year, with Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu off the roster. But Mahomes’ cap number rockets from $7.4MM in 2021 to the league’s second-largest figure in 2022. This marks the first time Mahomes’ 10-year contract is set to count more than $10MM toward Kansas City’s cap, with the AFC West champs not yet restructuring the deal this year.
  • Tied to a few lucrative extensions since relocating to Minnesota, Cousins’ third Vikings deal dropped his cap number from $45MM. The fifth-year Vikings QB’s cap number is set to climb past $36MM in 2023.
  • Prior to negotiating his landmark extension in March, Rodgers was set to count more than $46MM on the Packers’ payroll.
  • The 49ers are aiming to move Garoppolo’s nonguaranteed money off their payroll. That figure becomes guaranteed in Week 1, providing a key date for the franchise. San Francisco is prepared to let Garoppolo negotiate contract adjustments with other teams to facilitate a trade.
  • Wilson counts $26MM on the Seahawks’ 2022 payroll, due to the dead money the NFC West franchise incurred by trading its 10-year starter in March.
  • Jackson, Darnold and Mayfield are attached to fifth-year option salaries. Jackson’s is higher due to the former MVP having made two Pro Bowls compared to his 2018 first-round peers’ zero. The 2020 CBA separated fifth-year option values by playing time and accomplishments. The Browns and Panthers have engaged in off-and-on negotiations on divvying up Mayfield’s salary for months, while a Jackson extension remains on the radar.
  • Golladay’s cap number jumped from $4.47MM last year to the highest non-quarterback figure among offensive players. The Giants wideout’s four-year deal calls for $21MM-plus cap hits from 2023-24.
  • Prior to being traded to the Colts, who adjusted their new starter’s contract, Ryan was set to carry an NFL-record $48MM cap hit this year. The Falcons are carrying a league-record $40.5MM dead-money charge after dealing their 14-year starter.
  • The Texans restructured Tunsil’s deal in March, dropping his 2022 cap hit from $26.6MM to its present figure. Because of the adjustment, Tunsil’s 2023 cap number resides at $35.2MM

Contract information courtesy of Over The Cap 

NFL Combine Changes Bubble Rules, Boycott Avoided

Crisis averted. The NFL Combine announced that they have changed their bubble policies and will allow prospects outside of restricted areas, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). Per Mike Florio of (on Twitter), the boycott has been avoided.

[RELATED: Latest On The NFL Combine]

“As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we continue to evolve our Combine policies and procedures in consultation with medical experts,” the National Invitational Combine said in a statement (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). “While masks continue to be required for air travel and during medical exams at the Combine (players and medical personnel), wearing a mask at other times while on site is recommended, but not required. We encourage all players to remain within the secure Combine areas at all times for your safety. However, if you would like to leave the secure areas during free time in your schedule, you are now permitted to do so at your own risk.”

This is a sudden change in philosophy, but it’s not particularly surprising following the news from earlier today. Due to the former restrictions, agents who represent more than 150 draft prospects were organizing a boycott of all testing, on-field workouts, and interviews at the Combine. Tony Pauline of tweets that some compromise was likely reached, allowing the event to proceed.

Schefter tweeted a remark from a source earlier today who indicated that agents were not planning a boycott but were simply “advising the players en masse to hold off on workouts until Pro Day.” Either way, it sounds like the threat worked.

Update: Latest On The NFL Combine

7:15pm: True to our suspicions, it turns out a mass boycott of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine is just what the prospects’ agents had in mind. According to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, agents who represent more than 150 draft prospects will organize a boycott of all testing, on-field workouts, and interviews at the Combine. If that number is accurate, it represents nearly half of the Combine’s invited athletes.

Further tweets from Pelissero and Rapoport explain that agents are pushing for players to be allowed access to their full team of coaches, trainers, ATCs, etc. If these demands aren’t met, most top prospects are expected to only perform medical evaluations in Indianapolis.

The ball is now back in the NFL’s court as lines have been drawn in the sand.

6:15pm: Yesterday, the NFL informed college athletes invited to the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine of increased restrictions surrounding the event in the effort to create a “bubble” environment for protection against the spread of COVID-19. We noted yesterday that the extreme measures were not sitting well with prospective employees and that displeasure from the athletes involved could soon be voiced.

Well, less than 24 hours later, the NFL Players Association has stepped into the conversation. In a letter sent out to potential Combine participants’ agents, the NFLPA voiced their “long standing opposition to the NFL Scouting Combine.” A copy of the letter was first tweeted out by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

In the letter, the players’ union called out the “NFL’s proposed ‘bubble'” along with the league’s “antiquated system of every team doctor examining players and having them perform yet again.” The Association calls for “serious modification or elimination” of the current system.

Now, the NFLPA has no involvement in the Combine. Players are not usually introduced to the union until their rookie orientations, with the exception being players who participate in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl all-star game. The letter acknowledges this fact claiming that “while (they) do not represent these players (they) have advocated for their rights to fair treatment.” NFLPA president and current Browns’ starting center J.C. Tretter tweeted out his thoughts saying, “This year’s NFL Combine is an example of what happens when players are not yet represented by a union.”

Players declaring for the NFL Draft are solely represented by their respective agents. Word has it that many agents have been advising their clients not to participate in this year’s combine, opting to display their abilities at their schools’ Pro Days. We noted yesterday that this is a luxury afforded to players who will certainly have many scouts attend their school’s Pro Day. Players at smaller Group of 5 schools and FCS schools may be relying on the Combine to display their talents and, as a result, will have to subject themselves to the overwhelming restrictions enforced by the NFL.

We are nine days away from the scheduled start of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, and more updates on the situation are certainly expected. With the support of the NFLPA’s “long standing opposition,” if a significant number of prospects protest this year’s testing, we may see the end of the NFL Scouting Combine as we know it.

NFL Combine Heavily Increasing COVID Protocols

The NFL sent a letter out to prospects invited to the 2022 NFL Combine scheduled for the beginning of March. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweeted out a copy of what was sent to players, showing guidelines for an event dead-set on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The event does not require that the Combine’s participants be vaccinated against COVID-19, but face coverings are recommended for all players and attendees and testing will be available for everyone in attendance. If an attendee tests positive, isolation procedures and medical guidance will also be available.

Because participants are not required to be vaccinated or protected, the event lays out guidelines to seclude each player.

“Players will be restricted to secure Combine venues during their entire time in Indianapolis for their protection,” the letter reads. “Players who violate this policy at any time will be disqualified from further participation and sent home.”

Players will be allowed one guest, provided it is a medical support person. This guest could be a physical therapist, massage therapist, athletic trainer, sport psychologist, or some other professional whose intended purpose is to improve a player’s performance.

Anyone with access to the players, including the medical support, must follow what the letter calls “Tier 1 Combine COVID guidelines,” which requires that the individual be fully vaccinated and boosted, if eligible. They can’t be showing symptoms and must be wearing a face covering when in the presence of players.

In addition to player seclusion, the Combine is taking other extensive measures to ensure reduced exposure to COVID-19 including “fewer days on site, reduced testing schedule…scheduled medical examination, customized meal options/timing, single room accommodations and secure environment.”

The fear is that, with increased restrictions, many draft prospects will elect not to work out in Indianapolis, instead choosing to display their talents at their respective Pro Days.

Unfortunately, the only players that this hurts are those from smaller schools who get to compare their abilities to those of prospects from bigger schools at the Combine. The importance of the Combine and Pro Days for players at larger schools has been minimized over time with scouts relying more on game film than Combine results. Occasionally an elite Combine performance, like D.K. Metcalf‘s, or an extremely poor showing, like Orlando Brown‘s, will sway talent evaluators on borderline players, but, for the most part, minds have been made up by the end of the College Football Playoffs.

Regardless of Metcalf and Brown’s Combine performances, though, they both had plenty of scouts at their Pro Days. The same cannot be said for athletes at FCS and smaller Group of 5 schools. Look for athletes at those smaller schools to make less noise about the increased restrictions, while Power 5 stars of the college football world may be less willing to tolerate the restrictions and more likely to elect for a singular performance at their Pro Day.

In addition to the athletes, Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson has pointed out that prospective employees of the event have voiced discontent with the imposed work rules, including risk of being sent home.

Regardless of who elects to wait for their Pro Day and who is undeterred by the increased restrictions, the 2022 NFL Combine is sure to look extremely different than years past.

NFL COVID-19 Updates: 1/21/22

Here are the COVID-19 updates of the last few days from around the league:

Cincinnati Bengals

Tennessee Titans

  • Placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Greg Mabin


NFL Updates COVID-19 Protocols

Another change has been made to the league’s COVID-19 protocols, which will take place immediately and remain in place for the remainder of the postseason. The NFL has sent a memo detailing the update, which includes removing the distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated players, and an end to the requirement for the latter group to be tested daily (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero).

[Related: NFL, NFLPA Modify COVID Protocols]

As the insider further explains, the changes have been made in conjunction with the NFLPA as more data on the Omicron variant emerges. The most recent changes, implemented in December, have involved targeted testing of symptomatic players and staff members, along with a five-day return rule. Now, tests will only be conducted for players and personnel who have symptoms, or those who are included in random testing.

The memo reads, in part, “This comprehensive, symptom-based approach to testing reflects our recent experience with the Omicron variant and conforms to current public health recommendations and best practices employed in healthcare, and offers the best opportunity for identifying and treating cases promptly and avoiding spread within the facility“.

As Pelissero and others have noted, there are roughly a dozen players on the remaining eight playoff teams, so these changes will directly affect only a small group. Still, even players who have tested positive within the 90 day ‘holiday’ period remain under the same symptom-based testing rules, so the possibility remains for anyone who reports symptoms to miss a playoff game.

NFL Reserve/COVID-19 List Updates: 1/18/22

Here are Tuesday’s reserve/COVID-19 list additions and subtractions:

Buffalo Bills

  • Placed on practice squad reserve/COVID-19 list: DL Eli Ankou

Green Bay Packers

San Francisco 49ers

  • Activated from practice squad reserve/COVID-19 list: FB Josh Hokit