Darius Slay

Extra Points: Texans, Patriots, Packers

The big story of the day has been the drama surrounding Patriots exec Nick Caserio. The Texans announced earlier today that they’d be backing down from their pursuit of Caserio, and the Patriots in turn agreed to drop tampering charges. The Texans’ statement from owner Cal McNair indicated there was a provision in Caserio’s contract they were unaware of, and now we have some clarity. It was initially thought he would be allowed to interview since the Texans’ job is a clear promotion, but Caserio apparently has language in his contract that specifically forbids him from interviewing with any other team.

Caserio’s contract ends right after the 2020 draft, sources told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). Pelissero floats the possibility that the Texans could wait until then to hire a GM and then go after Caserio, which is in line with another recent report that indicated the Texans might go without a GM for the rest of the season. In a follow-up tweet Pelissero writes that “the call between Cal McNair and Robert Kraft was very cordial,” and that after the Texans learned of the contract language they “asked what a trade would cost,” but the Patriots declined. It’s fair to question why the Texans wouldn’t be aware of such language before they made it very clear that they wanted Caserio for the job, although that’s now a question for another day. Pelissero also was told that for now “the process will continue,” so it seems like they aren’t closing the door on hiring a GM for this year quite yet. Non-Caserio candidates reportedly include former GMs Ray Farmer, Martin Mayhew, Reggie McKenzie, and Scott Pioli.

Here’s more from around the league on a quiet Friday night:

  • The Texans aren’t the only team shuffling around their front office. The Packers promoted Richmond Williams to director of pro personnel and Brett Thiesen to college scout, per Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com. Williams is entering his twelfth year with the team, and originally joined Green Bay as a scouting intern all the way back in 2007. Green Bay’s power structure remains unchanged, with team president Mark Murphy and GM Brian Gutekunst still running the show.
  • In addition to everybody on their 90-man roster, the Colts also had a group of tryout players at their minicamp this week, per Joel Erickson of The Athletic (Twitter link). There were a couple of notable names trying out, including former Jaguars receiver/kick returner Jaydon Mickens. Mickens, a 2016 UDFA out of Washington, showed very well as a returner in 2017, but was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury last October. The Jags elected not to tender him a contract after the season. It’s a bit surprising he hasn’t been able to resurface on anyone’s offseason roster yet.
  • Star Lions cornerback Darius Slay skipped the team’s minicamp, and is apparently undecided on when his holdout will end. “Time will tell” whether he shows up to training camp next month, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Slay still has two years left on his contract, but feels grossly underpaid. He’s set to earn about $12.5MM in 2019 and $10MM in 2020, which has him outside of the top-10 among cornerbacks in average annual value. Slay has already forfeited $250K in workout bonuses this offseason, and will be fined more if he doesn’t report soon. This will be an important situation to monitor, as Slay is Detroit’s best player on defense.

Lions CB Darius Slay To Skip Minicamp

Darius Slay won’t be attending the Lions’ mandatory minicamp. During an Instagram Live conversation with former teammate Crezdon Butler, the cornerback acknowledged that he “ain’t going” next Tuesday (via Jeremy Reisman of PrideOfDetroit.com). NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport echoes the report (via Twitter), saying Slay wants a new contract.

Despite having two years remaining on his deal, Slay is looking for a raise. The cornerback is set to earn about $12.5MM in 2019 and $10MM in 2020, which puts him outside of the top-10 at his position in average annual value. The 28-year-old has likely already forfeited his $250K workout bonus by skipping OTAs, and his absence from minicamp could cost him another $100K.

However, as our own Rory Parks explored yesterday, Slay (along with teammate Damon Harrison) probably won’t hold out into the regular season, when the real fines will start to pile up. Therefore, the Lions could hope that Slay ends up relenting and attending training camp, and the two sides could then revisit negotiations in 2020. Plus, it doesn’t sound like Slay is all that eager to leave the Lions; after disclosing that he won’t be attending minicamp, the cornerback made sure to pass along some love to the fans.

“I love my fans, I love Detroit,” Slay said. “I’m telling y’all, Detroit got the best fans in the world, man. Y’all got some crazy ones now, but y’all are the best ones now. Y’all are the best fans in the world.”

The 2013 second-round pick has spent his entire career with the Lions, and he’s earned Pro Bowl nods in each of the past two seasons. While his 2017 campaign was hard to match statistically, Slay did his best in 2018. He ultimately finished last season with 43 tackles, 17 passes defended, and three interceptions in 15 games (15 starts). Pro Football Focus ended up ranking Slay 23rd among 112 eligible cornerbacks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Darius Slay, Damon Harrison

We don’t know if Lions cornerback Darius Slay has explicitly asked the club for a new contract like defensive tackle Damon Harrison has, but we do know that neither player is taking part in Detroit’s OTAs. GM Bob Quinn has said that Harrison’s absence is not related to his contract, but that seems unlikely, and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes that Slay and Harrison are indubitably angling for new deals.

Birkett goes on to examine the dilemma that Quinn faces in those negotiations, if he chooses to open negotiations at all. Both players have two years remaining on their current contracts, and teams are loath to extend contracts that have more than one year left. Plus, Slay is 28 and Harrison is 30, so while the defensive standouts have some quality play left in them, the Lions do not want to fork over big money for declining performance.

On the other hand, the Lions cannot afford a repeat of their disappointing 2018 season, and if they believe keeping Slay and Harrison happy financially will ensure their continued strong play, then they may be willing to talk. Then again, it may be just as likely that the players will be more motivated to play well if they are still trying to land one last big contract.

After all, Slay and Harrison have already forfeited $250K workout bonuses by staying away, and Birkett believes that neither player is likely to hold out into the regular season, when the real fines start to accumulate (though both Slay and Harrison are represented by Drew Rosenhaus, so all options are theoretically on the table). As such, the Lions could cross their fingers and hope that Slay and Harrison report to training camp, soldier through the regular season, and revisit negotiations in 2020. Alternatively, since both players are now underpaid relative to their peers, but not dramatically so, the team could add a pay bump or an incentive package to their current deals without tacking on additional years.

Interestingly, Harrison himself took to Twitter yesterday and said that major news is coming soon, so we’ll have to wait and see exactly what he’s referring to.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Kupp, Rudolph, Lions, Eagles

Rams wideout Cooper Kupp tore his ACL back in mid-November, and the team is eyeing a Week 1 return for the 25-year-old. Kupp participated in individual drills during the Rams’ organized team activities on Monday, and he told reporters that he feels better each week.

“It’s been a long process for sure,” Kupp told ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry. “I’ve been doing what I can to get back.

“I can’t predict how I’m going to feel even a week from now. But the way that things are going, I’m happy with the way that things are trending. Each week there’s progress.”

While Kupp wouldn’t give a definitive target date for his return, coach Sean McVay told reporters said the team is hopeful he’ll be ready to go for the season opener.

“He’s like a kid standing on the sidelines that just wants to grab a ball and go play,” McVay said. “He’s one of those guys that’s right on track with where we want him to be.”

The former third-rounder followed a standout rookie campaign with a solid 2018 season. Kupp finished the year with 40 receptions for 566 yards and six scores in eight games.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • While there’s no guarantee that he’ll be with the Vikings come the start of the season, tight end Kyle Rudolph told NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero that he’d be attending his team’s OTAs (Twitter link). We learned last week that the organization had offered the veteran a five-year extension, although there hasn’t been a lot of progress with negotiations. There were rumblings that the team could even look to move on from Rudolph after selecting Irv Smith Jr. in the second round of last month’s draft.
  • A pair of veterans won’t be attending Lions OTAs. Coach Matt Patricia told Justin Rogers of The Detroit News that nose tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Darius Slay wouldn’t be attending the voluntary workouts (Twitter link). “Right now we are – it’s voluntary as that part of the season is concerned,” Patricia said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “Those two guys are not here. You will not see them at the practice today, but we fully expect that this time of the year, guys that are here, guys that are not. That’s totally fine. We’re working with the guys that are out there.” Both Harrison and Slay have two years remaining on their current deals, and both players are represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus.
  • Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins isn’t attending his team’s OTAs, tweets NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter points out on Twitter, the absence is notable because Jenkins is “one of the NFL’s most-respected players.” The defensive back is presumably seeking a new contract, although his current deal doesn’t expire until the end of the 2020 season. Jenkins’ $8.75MM average annual salary still ranks in the top-10 at the position. The 31-year-old earned his third Pro Bowl nod last season.
  • Chris Long played alongside a number of talented defensive linemen with the Eagles this past season, leading to him appearing in a modest 59.1% of the team’s defensive plays. The veteran acknowledged that his diminishing role played a part in his decision to retire. “Philadelphia is where I wanted to play a couple more years,” Long told Peter King of Football Morning in America. “I love Philadelphia. But as a player I learned the most important thing to me is Sunday, and having a chance to be a big part of it. It seemed like player-coach was kind of the role that was going to be carved out for me—maybe playing 10, 12, 15 plays a game. I’m a rhythm player. I need to set people up, I need to be in the flow of the game. If I sit on the bench for three series, I can’t get rhythm, and I’ll get cold and maybe I’ll hurt myself. Some people think that’s great—play less and you won’t get hurt. Man, I want to play ball. In Philadelphia, it didn’t seem there was much of a chance to compete there. But they were honest with me the whole time. I appreciate the honesty.”

Notable 2019 Pro Bowl Incentives/Escalators

The NFL announced the 2018 Pro Bowl rosters earlier on Wednesday, and aside from determining which players will spend a week in Orlando early next year, the rosters also dictate several important bonuses and/or contract escalators for individual players. Former NFL agent and current CBSSports.com contributor Joel Corry has rounded up the notable incentives earned, and we’ll pass those along below. As Corry notes (Twitter link), only first ballot Pro Bowlers who actually participate in the game (unless injured or playing in the Super Bowl) are in bonuses, which are typically paid out by the end of March.

Here are the notable Pro Bowl bonuses and escalators that were netted last evening (all links to Corry’s Twitter):

Bonuses

  • Ravens S Eric Weddle$1MM; requires Baltimore in playoffs (link): For the second consecutive season, Weddle’s bonus will ride on the ability of the Ravens to earn a postseason berth. Baltimore is one of several teams in the mix for the AFC’s No. 6 seed, but FiveThirtyEight gives the club only a 41% chance of actually making the playoffs. Weddle, who will be entering his age-34 campaign in 2019, could potentially retire or be released before next season starts.
  • Chargers C Mike Pouncey, $500K (link): Pouncey somewhat surprisingly earned a Pro Bowl nod alongside his brother, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. Mike Pouncey hasn’t been a terrible player by any means, but Raiders center Rodney Hudson has undoubtedly been better. Signed to a two-year contract this offeason, Pouncey is due a $6MM base salary and a $1.5MM roster bonus in 2019.
  • Vikings WR Adam Thielen, $500K (link): Thielen, notably, signed arguably the most team-friendly contract in the NFL in March 2017, a three-year deal that’s worth less than $20MM. By picking up a half-million dollar Pro Bowl bonus, Thielen will collect a bit more cash, but he’s still vastly underpaid. Second in the league in receptions, Thielen will count just $11.5MM total on the Vikings’ salary cap over the next two years.
  • Eagles TE Zach Ertz, $100K (link): Ertz will also see his base salaries increase by $250K in each of the 2019, 2020, and 2021 campaigns. He’s already surpassed career-highs in both receptions and yardage, and could top his career-high of eight touchdowns with a strong showing down the stretch.

Escalators

  • Chiefs T Eric Fisher, $500K base salary increase in 2019 (link): While Fisher hasn’t necessarily lived up to his status as a former No. 1 overall pick, he has played nearly every offensive snap for the Chiefs over the past six years while offering respectable play. He’s signed through 2021 as part of a four-year, $48MM extension he inked in 2016. Kansas City’s best tackle — Mitchell Schwartz, who mans the right side — has somehow been named second-team All-Pro for three consecutive years without ever being given a Pro Bowl nod.
  • Lions CB Darius Slay, $550K base salary increase in 2019 (link): Slay needed to reach two of three thresholds in order to earn his escalator. While he hasn’t yet met a five interception requirement, he was named to the Pro Bowl and has played on at least 80% of the Lions’ defensive snaps.
  • Packers WR Davante Adams, $250K base salary increase in 2019 (link): While he’s not quite at Thielen-level in terms of selling himself short, Adams arguably signed his extension with the Packers well before he needed to. Adams took a four-year, $58MM deal in December 2017, just months before he was scheduled to hit the open market. He’s vaunted to true No. 1 wideout status this year, but he’s just the NFL’s ninth-highest-paid wideout in terms of annual average.
  • Eagles G Brandon Brooks, $250K base salary increase in 2019-2020 (link): Brooks, 29, is quietly one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, and Pro Football Focus currently grades him as the No. 5 guard in the league. He’s signed through the 2020 season, although his contract does contain two void years in 2021-22 that are in place only for salary cap purposes.

North Notes: McCarthy, Lions, Tuitt, Ravens

Mike McCarthy‘s enjoyed the benefit of coaching two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and the Packers have qualified for nine playoff brackets in the coach’s 12 previous seasons. But with the team in danger of missing the NFC bracket for the second straight season, McCarthy appears to be firmly on the hot seat. The 13th-year Green Bay coach’s job status is “pretty clearly” uncertain regarding 2019, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). McCarthy signed a one-year extension to take him through the ’19 season, so the team isn’t committed long-term here. He’s now reporting to team president Mark Murphy under the post-Ted Thompson power structure, and with Brian Gutekunst now GM, different voices will have a say if McCarthy will be brought back.

That’s the job. That’s the way this business has gone,” McCarthy said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, when asked about his status. “I’m not going to get into comparables, but at the end of the day that’s part of the job responsibility of the head coachWe set a standard here the past 12 years and it’s our responsibility to play to that standard.”

The Packers are venturing near must-win territory if they want to secure their ninth playoff berth in 10 seasons. They face the Vikings in Minnesota next week.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions:

  • The post-Megatron Lions relied on the Marvin JonesGolden Tate tandem. For the first time since Calvin Johnson retired, neither will suit up for Detroit. Jones is out for Sunday’s game against the Panthers after missing practice this week, and ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein reports the veteran Lions wideout is seeking a second opinion on his injured right knee. Initial tests revealed no damage to Jones’ ACL or MCL, and Jones was diagnosed with a bone bruise. He’ll miss only his second game as a Lion. T.J. Jones would likely be the starter in Marvin Jones‘ place.
  • T.J. Lang‘s Lions tenure hasn’t gone as smoothly from a health standpoint. The former Pro Bowl guard landed on IR this week because of a neck injury, but that setback is not believed to be career-threatening, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. Lang also suffered a concussion that forced him to miss time earlier this season. He only played in six games this season after missing three in 2017. Set for his age-32 season next year, Lang — with an $11.1MM cap number — will be a release candidate in the offseason. The Lions could save more than $8MM by releasing the acclaimed blocker. Lang is due a $500K roster bonus on the fourth day of the upcoming league year.
  • Darius Slay, however, will be back for the Lions after missing Week 10. Bears wideout Allen Robinson gouged the Lions in Slay’s absence, but the All-Pro cornerback was not on the injury report as of Friday and will return Sunday.
  • While the 2018 Jaguars haven’t been the kind of impediment the 2017 version was, the Steelers will be without a key starter in their attempt to beat a team that went 2-0 against them last season. Stephon Tuitt will miss Sunday’s game with an elbow injury he sustained against the Panthers. Tyson Alualu will start in Tuitt’s place up front, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Although Robert Griffin III has been mentioned as a possible Ravens starter Sunday, the expectation remains Lamar Jackson will take the reins, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Jackson’s hospital trip Thursday, coupled with Joe Flacco‘s hip injury, left Griffin as the Ravens’ lone practice quarterback that day. But Jackson returned to practice Friday.

Injury Notes: Gronk, Mack, Pack, Eagles

A third Rob Gronkowski injury absence appears to be in the cards. The Patriots will not deploy their All-Pro tight end to play Sunday against the Titans, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. While Gronkowski is traveling with the team to Nashville, per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter), he’s expected to be held out. Gronk missed games against the Bears and Packers but played in Buffalo on the Monday night in between those tilts. He’s been dealing with back and ankle trouble. While the Patriots have been able to win without their top pass-catcher, these repeated absences are obviously a concern for the future Hall of Famer’s availability for New England’s stretch run and potentially his post-2018 NFL future. It’s likely the Pats are attempting to rest Gronk now to hopefully see him healthy for key late-season games and the playoffs, but that can’t be considered a lock given his extensive injury history. Gronkowski hitting his incentive targets may now be unrealistic as well.

Here’s the latest from the Week 10 injury front.

  • Better news for the Bears. They’re in line to have both Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson back on Sunday when they face the Lions, per the Associated Press. Mack is no longer on the injury report after missing the past two Chicago games because of an ankle malady. His defensive player of the year chances took a hit because of this hiatus and Aaron Donald continuing another all-world season but Mack figures to still be in the running and can help a team attempting reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
  • The Lions‘ Robinson coverage options will be limited. Darius Slay is out for Week 10, joining guard T.J. Lang in that regard. Slay’s played in each of Detroit’s previous eight games and hasn’t missed time since 2016 but is battling a knee injury. A neck ailment will sideline Lang, who also missed time because of a concussion this season.
  • A tough injury night against the Patriots will have after-effects for the Packers. Kevin King will not play Sunday against the Dolphins because of a hamstring injury. Bashaud Breeland, whom ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky notes appeared to impress the Packers in his Green Bay debut, figures to see more time.
  • Both Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills are going to miss Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys game, but Corey Graham will return after missing four games, per Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter). After claiming Cre’Von LeBlanc off waivers earlier this week, surely due to injuries affecting the aforementioned duo, the Eagles have seven corners on their roster.
  • Taco Charlton and Connor Williams aren’t playing for the Cowboys on Sunday. Xavier Su’a-Filo appears to be the choice to replace Williams at left guard for Dallas, per executive VP Stephen Jones (Twitter link). A full-time Texans starter the past two seasons, Su’a-Filo has not played this season. Williams is down with a knee injury.

Notable 2018 Pro Bowl Incentives/Escalators

The NFL announced the 2018 Pro Bowl rosters earlier tonight, and aside from determining which players will spend a week in Orlando early next year, the rosters also dictate several important bonuses and/or contract escalators for individual players. Former NFL agent and current CBSSports.com contributor Joel Corry has rounded up the notable incentives earned tonight, and we’ll pass those along below. As Corry notes (Twitter link), only first ballot Pro Bowlers who actually participate in the game (unless injured or playing in the Super Bowl) are in bonuses, which are typically paid out by the end of March.

Here are the notable Pro Bowl bonuses and escalators that were preliminarily netted this evening (all links to Corry’s Twitter):

Bonuses

  • Ravens S Eric Weddle, $1MM; requires Baltimore in playoffs (link): Still playing like one of the league’s best coverage safeties at the age of 32, Weddle needs the Ravens to land one of the AFC Wild Card slots in order to earn his incentive. Baltimore appears to on course to do just that, as FiveThirtyEight gives the club an 87% of earning a postseason berth. That playoff appearance will be largely due to the Ravens’ defense, which ranks second only to Jacksonville in DVOA.
  • Bills S Micah Hyde, $400K (link): Sean McDermott can coach defensive backs. After spending years finding gems at safety for the Eagles and Panthers, the Bills head coach has helped Hyde transform into a top-notch DB. Hyde, who inked a five-year, $30.5MM contract with Buffalo in the spring, ranked a respectable 53rd in Pro Football Focus‘ safety grades a year ago. This season? He’s ninth.
  • Raiders G Kelechi Osemele, $300K (link): Under general manager Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders have employed what is often referred to as an “all cash” salary cap management system, wherein prorated signing bonuses are rarely used while base salary guarantees, roster bonuses, and — as evidenced by the number of Oakland players on this list — incentive clauses are heavily employed. Osemele, the league’s highest-paid interior offensive lineman, is signed through 2020 with cap charges north of $10MM in each season.
  • Rams K Greg Zuerlein, $250K (link): While the Los Angeles offense garners the most headlines, the club’s special teams unit has maintained its dominance under coordinator John Fassel, who briefly took over as the Rams’ interim head coach in 2016. Fassel, Zuerlein, & Co. have managed a No. 2 ranking in special teams DVOA, while Zuerlein himself has been worth 15.1 points of field position (second in the NFL).
  • Raiders T Donald Penn, $200K (link): Penn’s summer holdout lead to extra guarantees in the future, but didn’t end with a change to his 2017 salary, meaning this bonus part of his original deal. The 34-year-old Penn is currently on injured reserve, and will miss his first game since 2007 on Sunday. Still, his renegotiated contract now contains a $3MM guarantee for 2018, meaning he’s likely part of the Raiders’ plans.
  • Patriots ST Matthew Slater, $150K (link): Slater has now earned a Pro Bowl berth in every season since 2011. At some point, it’s fair to wonder if Slater is skating by on reputation, as he played only a quarter of the Patriots’ special teams snaps this year. Slater missed more special teams tackles than he made prior to his 2016 berth, tweets Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus.
  • Raiders C Rodney Hudson, $100K (link): For all of Oakland’s problems this season, the Raiders have continued to boast some of the NFL’s best pass-blocking offensive lineman. Hudson is the best pass-blocking center in the league by a wide margin, meaning he’s eminently affordable at $8.9MM annually.

Escalators

  • Lions CB Darius Slay, $550K base salary increase in 2018 (link): As Corry reports, Slay had three ways to earn this heft escalator — post five or more interceptions (he sits at seven), play on 80% or more of Detroit’s defensive snaps (he’s at 97.6%), or earn a Pro Bowl berth. Slay managed all three in what has become the best season of an increasingly impressive five-year career.
  • Eagles T Lane Johnson, $250K base salary increase each season from 2018-21 (link): Depending on Jason Peters‘ health and the Eagles’ plans, Johnson could very well be playing left tackle as soon as 2018. Even with his base salary set to increase, Johnson won’t have a cap charge north of $13.5MM over the life of his contract.
  • Eagles G Brandon Brooks, $250K base salary increase each season from 2018-20 (link): General manager Howie Roseman zeroed in on Brooks at the outset of the 2016 free agent period, and the 28-year-old has quickly proved to be one of the best free agent signings in recent memory. Brooks will earn an $8.5MM base salary — the largest during his five-year deal — in 2018.
  • Eagles TE Zach Ertz, $250K base salary increase from 2019-21 (link): Per Corry, Ertz also picked up a $100K bonus for 2017. Ertz has already set a career-high in touchdowns (eight) and has a shot to set new marks in receptions and yards even though he missed two games with injury. A former second-round pick, Ertz ranks among the top-five tight ends in catches, yards, and scores.

Lions CB Darius Slay To Miss Time?

As the Lions work to lock down the NFC North crown, they could be without their best cornerback. Darius Slay will have an MRI on his re-injured hamstring today, but he sounds like a longshot to play this week against the Cowboys, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. He could also miss more time beyond the Week 16 game. Darius Slay (vertical)

[RELATED: Lions Claim LB Corey Lemonier]

Slay has been dealing with hamstring issues all year and this latest instance forced him to exit Sunday’s game in the second quarter. If he is forced to miss this week, the Lions will have their hands full as they plan for the always dangerous Dez Bryant. Without Slay, Nevin Lawson will likely be elevated to the top cornerback role.

Through Week 15, Slay is ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 11 cornerback in the entire NFL. His 86.3 overall grade is roughly identical as his 2015 finish. So far, Slay’s four-year, $50.2MM contract extension looks like a wise move by Detroit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Lions, Seahawks, Saints

The Bears and receiver Alshon Jeffery didn’t agree to a multiyear contract by the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players, meaning they won’t be able to negotiate a new deal until the end of the season. Despite a report that the Bears aren’t keen on giving big money to Jeffery, general manager Ryan Pace is “optimistic” the two sides will eventually work something out (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com). Jeffery will first have to stay healthy in 2016, though, Pace said. Jeffery accomplished that from 2013-14, appearing in all 32 of the Bears’ games, but he missed six as a rookie and seven last year.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • The four-year, $50.2MM contract extension the Lions and cornerback Darius Slay agreed to Friday is a win for both sides, opines Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. In the 25-year-old Slay, the Lions finally have a shutdown corner, one who has rapidly improved since his rookie season – 2013 – thanks in part to his strong desire to get better, Meinke writes. Further, the Lions didn’t break the bank on Slay, whom Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked as the league’s second-best corner last season. For Slay, the deal provides financial security and pays him like a top seven corner, which is exactly the type of money he was seeking before signing the contract.
  • The Seahawks remain on the lookout for quarterback help, GM John Schneider revealed Friday (per Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk). “Yep, absolutely. And we do that with every position. We’ll have one, two, three guys like on standby.” Schneider also talked up undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin, the current favorite to serve as the No. 2 behind Russell Wilson. “Great athlete, tons of arm strength,” said Schneider, who believes Boykin would’ve been a third- to fifth-round pick if not for off-the-field trouble last season at TCU. Along with Boykin, Seattle has Jake Heaps, an undrafted free agent in 2015. Boykin and Heaps make up a less-than-ideal tandem from at least an experience standpoint, which would explain why the club tried to land Connor Shaw via waivers earlier this month. The top free agent signal-caller available is the recently released Nick Foles, though reports haven’t connected the Seahawks to him.
  • Between auditioning for the Saints in May and signing with them Wednesday, receiver Hakeem Nicks stayed on the team’s radar by texting head coach Sean Payton on a weekly basis, the 28-year-old said Friday (via Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com). Some of those texts included workout videos, according to Nicks, which apparently paid off for the former Giant, Colt and Titan. “We were real familiar with him just because on two different occasions we had him in for workouts. Plus, he wouldn’t stop texting me,” commented Payton, who added that Hicks’ personality “could be infectious and help the room.”
  • The Falcons’ offseason signing of center Alex Mack is their biggest pickup since the drafting of receiver Julio Jones in 2011, contends Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Mack could singlehandedly turn the Falcons’ offensive line from a weakness to a strength, writes Schultz, who notes that Atlanta has struggled since it jettisoned now-retired center Todd McClure after the 2012 season. In regards to joining the Matt Ryan-led Falcons, Mack told Schultz, “It was enticing to come here knowing they had a quarterback.” The 30-year-old spent the first seven seasons of his career with the bottom-feeding Browns, whose quarterback play was consistently woeful. Mack held his own, though, making three Pro Bowl trips before securing a five-year, $47.5MM contract with the Falcons in free agency.