David Bakhtiari

North Notes: Vikings, Bakhtiari, Dupree

Prior to Teddy Bridgewater‘s career-defining injury at Vikings practice two Augusts ago, Mike Zimmer assumed the 2014 first-round pick would be his quarterback for the remainder of his head-coaching tenure. But the gruesome leg injuries Bridgewater suffered eventually led him out of the Twin Cities and to the Big Apple. Now, the 62-year-old head coach envisions Kirk Cousins, attached to a three-year contract, as the quarterback for the rest of his run as Vikings HC.

I always thought Teddy was going to be my quarterback for my career and these are the way things go,” Zimmer said during a Sirius XM Radio interview. “Now, I hope that Kirk is the quarterback for my career … and it’s long, too. Not one year.”

Zimmer expanded a bit on what drew him to Cousins, though Minnesota certainly wasn’t alone in the rare pursuit of a franchise-level quarterback on the market. But the Vikings weren’t viewed as the obvious choice from the outset, given Case Keenum‘s success in 2017.

Part of it was his accuracy,” Zimmer said of the Cousins pursuit during the interview. “He threw the ball into a lot of tight windows, and we’re seeing that here in camp. Very consistent in the things he was able to do. So I think that was part of it. You know, not too many times is a quarterback that’s really entering his prime at 28 (Cousins turns 30 later this month) get out on the free agency market that’s thrown for 4,000 (yards) for three straight years. I think he’s my fifth quarterback in five years, so I’m hoping we’ve stabilized the quarterback position.”

Here’s the latest from a Vikings rival and the AFC North.

  • The Packers received a scare when a cart transported cornerstone left tackle David Bakhtiari from the practice field Saturday night, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (on Twitter) Bakhtiari suffered a sprained left ankle. He won’t return to action immediately, but at this point, it doesn’t look like the sixth-year lineman will miss regular-season time.
  • Bud Dupree suffered a setback this weekend and is in concussion protocol, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). The Steelers will be without their starting right outside linebacker for a bit, per Fowler, after seeing the fourth-year player start camp strong. Anthony Chickillo and Keion Adams reside as the top backups, per Pittsburgh’s first 2018 depth chart, and will see more time while Dupree is sidelined. Adams was a 2017 seventh-round pick who did not play last season.
  • Jabrill Peppers kept his starting spot after the Browns released their first depth chart, but Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets the battle between the 2017 first-rounder and Derrick Kindred is not over. Both continue to receive first-team reps opposite Damarious Randall, and Ulrich adds each will play plenty in three-safety looks this season (Twitter link). It would, however, be notable if Peppers couldn’t keep his starting job considering what the Browns invested in him. A 2016 fourth-rounder, Kindred’s started 15 NFL games.

North Notes: Burfict, Bears, Packers, Decker

Vontaze Burfict‘s Bengals contract calls for a $2MM roster bonus if he’s on the team by March 31 of next year, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The Bengals protected themselves heavily with the Burfict extension, one that could pay out $33.234MM through 2020, since the deal comes with just $3.3MM guaranteed. Speaking publicly about the extension for the first time, Burfict didn’t elaborate much about his decision to bypass free agency for a largely non-guaranteed deal. Although, he did say he appreciates the Bengals’ support in agreeing to take him on long-term given his suspension history. “I hope so,” Burfict said (via Owczarski) of the feeling of support. “I give my blood, sweat and tears out on the field. It’s vice versa. I appreciate everything they do for me and my family and like I said, let’s go get a win on Sunday. Now we’re in for four more years, so we’re past it now. So now obviously just win some games.”

The Bengals reinstated Burfict on Thursday.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions on a night when their most storied rivalry takes center stage.

  • The BearsTarik Cohen pursuit began when Ryan Pace‘s top southeastern scout declared the then-North Carolina A&T running back was his favorite player to watch, over all of the SEC prospects he observed, and the Chicago GM soon became enamored as well, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). The Bears selected several small-school talents this year, with second-round tight end Adam Shaheen being the first, but Cohen — a fourth-rounder — has played an impact role from the start.
  • While Cohen will receive his first chance to display the elusiveness that enticed the Bears to a national audience, the Packers will be down several key players. Both starting tackles — David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga — are out, and Mike Daniels will miss the Week 4 tilt as well. The Packers are already down would-be backup options in Don Barclay, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy — each on IR — so Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets a four-guard lineup could be on tap. Justin McCray, who started at tackle for Bakhtiari in Week 2, and fellow rookie Adam Pankey join second-year player Lucas Patrick in the mix to protect Aaron Rodgers on Thursday. Each of those players entered the league as a UDFA. The Packers played without both starting tackles against the Falcons, with Murphy and McCray receiving the replacement starts.
  • The Bears aren’t judging Mike Glennon in their impending quarterback swap but rather are monitoring Mitch Trubisky to determine when the rookie will be ready to take over, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. Glennon has struggled during his first three starts, and Biggs categorizes the season’s plan — once based around Trubisky redshirting as a rookie — as a week-to-week arrangement.
  • Ka’Deem Carey‘s Bears injury settlement was worth $273,529, Biggs reports. The Bears placed the backup running back on IR just before the season, and the settlement came shortly after.
  • Not known for particularly expansive pressers, Jim Caldwell succinctly assessed Taylor Decker‘s status. The fourth-year Lions coach said Decker is “progressing towards” a midseason return, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. The left tackle was given a four- to six-month timetable upon a labrum tear in June. Midseason would fall in that range. Greg Robinson currently mans the left edge for the Lions.
  • Tests done on Danny Shelton‘s injured calf don’t look to reveal a serious malady, Rapoport tweets. The Browns defensive tackle injured the calf in practice Wednesday. He has not missed a game in his three-year career.

North Notes: Bengals, Bradford, Packers

A “near mutiny” helped induce the Bengals to fire offensive coordinator Ken Zampese after two games. Although Andy Dalton‘s job is not believed to be in jeopardy as of now, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes the leash might not be especially long for the seventh-year starter. And some Cincinnati players might not all be on board with a simple A.J. McCarron succession strategy. While it would certainly be an off-the-board choice, Florio hears some Bengals players are expressing support for a Colin Kaepernick signing.

The UFA passer has been the NFL’s most discussed player this offseason despite not being affiliated with a team. McCarron’s been a Bengal since 2014 but has never threatened Dalton’s job security, only seeing relevant action after a Dalton injury in 2015. Kaepernick said recently he does want to return to the NFL, and has been training daily for a potential chance. Many players have publicly endorsed the 29-year-old quarterback receiving an opportunity. A Bengals route might be a stretch, though, considering McCarron’s status.

Dalton currently sits on a 55 percent completion percentage and a 0-to-4 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio. The Bengals have not scored a touchdown in two games and have posted just nine points.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions.

  • The Vikings played without Sam Bradford on Sunday, and the Case Keenum-led team lost to the Steelers. Bradford’s knee injury has him at day-to-day for the time being, but Florio hears the quarterback’s injured knee is “structurally fine.” Mike Zimmer used “fine” to describe Bradford’s status (Twitter link), even though the coach was vague in setting a return timetable. Any further game absences would signal the eighth-year signal-caller is, in fact, not fine.
  • Green Bay will be playing without both starting tackles tonight in Atlanta. Longtime Packers starters David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga will miss the Falcons tilt, the team announced. Bulaga missed last week’s game due to an ankle injury suffered during preseason play. A hamstring malady will shelve Bakhtiari. Kyle Murphy and Justin McCray will start, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports. A fourth-year UDFA, McCray has yet to play in an NFL game.
  • The Bears will not deviate at quarterback despite Mike Glennon‘s struggles, John Fox said today. Fox shot down the idea Mitch Trubisky would start in Week 3 for the 0-2 team. Glennon threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in a blowout against his former team in Week 2.
  • The Ravens received the toughest blow of any North-division team Sunday, losing Marshal Yanda for the season.

Packers, David Bakhtiari Agree To Extension

The Packers and David Bakhtiari have agreed to an extension, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Bakhtiari gets a four-year block worth as much as $51.67MM. The new money average is $12MM per year, which puts him in the top five for all offensive linemen in the NFL. David Bakhtiari

Bakhtiari, 25 at the end of the month, has positioned himself as one of the better offensive tackles in the NFL. A fourth-round pick in 2013, Bakhtiari has made a lot of GMs regret their choices in that draft.

Last year, the advanced stats at Pro Football Focus gave Bakhtiari a 76.3 overall grade. Had he reached the free agent market, he would have been the highest-graded player at left tackle 2015 to be a free agent in 2017 and under the age of 34. Bakhtiari has drawn stellar pass-blocking grades from PFF in the past, though his run-blocking skills are not considered to be on the same level.

Green Bay freed up some money for this deal after they cut talented guard Josh Sitton loose last week. Sitton was scheduled to earn $6.15MM in base salary and count $6.85MM against the cap and the Packers recouped nearly all of that space, save for his $300K workout bonus.

Now that Bakhtiari is taken care of, the Packers may shift their attention to talented right guard T.J. Lang. He is set to earn $6.85MM in the last year of his four-year, ~$21MM extension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Bakhtiari, Lang, Bears, Vikes

David Bakhtiari is one of three Packers starting offensive lineman who will hit free agency next spring, and the fourth-year left tackle isn’t denying that he’s thought about the prospect of the open market. “We’ve got a lot of guys up, and if I’m gambling, I’m going to bet that not all of us come back,” Bakhtiari told Jason Wilde of ESPN.com. “But that’s something you don’t want to think about and that shouldn’t be our topic of conversation. Do I know what has happened [with other left tackles]? Yes. I’m not living under a rock. But [I’m not] coming in every day with a notebook researching finances and wondering what I’m going to do.”

The Packers selected Indiana left tackle Jason Spriggs in the second round of this year’s draft, so the club has a fallback plan if Bakhtiari finds a better offer in free agency. Given the recent extensions handed out to Trent Williams, Terron Armstead, and Cordy Glenn, Bakhtiari could be in line for a multi-year deal with an average salary of more than $11MM.

Here’s more from the NFC North, including another item on the green Bay offensive line…

  • Like Bakhtiari, Packers right guard T.J. Lang is both entering the final year of his contract and dealing with the after-effects of a physical ailment, as the 29-year-old underwent shoulder surgery in February. As Lang details to Wilde, however, he expects to be ready for the start of training camp in late July. “Especially going into a contract year, you want to be as healthy as possible,” said Lang, who is set to earn $6.85MM in the last year of his four-year, ~$21MM extension.
  • The Bears are in the midst of a major transition, and only 21 players on the current roster predate the arrival of GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox, who were hired in January 2015. Rich Campbell of The Chicago Tribune looks at six players who must elevate their performance in the second year of the Pace/Fox era, including safety Adrian Amos, last year’s fifth-round pick who will be asked to play in the box more often than he did in his rookie campaign to take advantage of his tackling ability while masking his weaknesses in coverage.
  • Vikings tackle T.J. Clemmings, who started all 16 games in 2015 at right tackle in place of the injured Phil Loadholt, is being asked to shift back to left tackle now that Loadholt and Andre Smith appear poised to battle for his old spot, and as such, Clemmings is now behind Matt Kalil on the depth chart and no longer has a starting role. But the second-year player is trying to stay positive, saying, “I’m just trying to become better, that’s the plan.” As for the move to left tackle, Clemmings said, “Adjusting (at first) is kind of tough, but I have a good amount of weeks to get a feel for it” (Twitter links via Chris Tomasson of The St. Paul Pioneer Press).

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

Pauline’s Latest: OTs, Steelers, Packers, Bucs

League insiders believe that as many as six offensive tackles could be selected in the first round of tonight’s draft, according to Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com. Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley, Jack Conklin, and Taylor Decker are the obvious names, but Jason Spriggs, Le’Raven Clark, and Germain Ifedi are also candidates to go off the board tonight. The clubs that have put the most research into offensive tackles, per Pauline? The Colts, Packers, Seahawks, Broncos, Panthers, and Steelers.

Let’s check out the latest draft rumors, all courtesy of Pauline:

  • Among the teams hoping to trade down tonight are the Falcons, Colts, Vikings, and Jets, according to Pauline. On the other side of the coin, the Cardinals, Panthers, and Broncos may like to trade up. Denver, presumably, would be targeting a quarterback in a trade-up scenario.
  • The Steelers will consider a cornerback at pick No. 25, but they’ll also look at offensive tackles, writes Pauline. Pittsburgh returns Alejandro Villanueva at tackle, and signed Ryan Harris this offseason, but an upgrade wouldn’t be out of the question.
  • The Packers might also like to find a new left tackle, says Pauline, as Green Bay would like to transition incumbent David Bakhtiari to left guard.
  • If pass rusher Noah Spence is still available at the end of the first round, a club might trade back up in order to draft him, per Pauline. The Buccaneers are one team to watch in such a situation.

2016 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure is projected to be $1.696MM in 2016. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2016 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:Keenan Allen (Vertical)

49ers: Gerald Hodges, LB

Bears: Marquess Wilson, WR

Buccaneers: William Gholston, DE; Mike Glennon, QB; Akeem Spence, DT

Cardinals: Andre Ellington, RB; Tyrann Mathieu, CB/S; Alex Okafor, LB

Chargers: Keenan Allen, WR

Colts: Sio Moore, LB; Hugh Thornton, G

Cowboys: J.J. Wilcox, S; Terrance Williams, WR

Dolphins: Jelani Jenkins, LB; Dallas Thomas, T; Dion Sims, TE; Kenny Stills, WR

Eagles: Bennie Logan, DT

Falcons: Kemal Ishmael, S; Levine Toilolo, TE

Jaguars: Josh Evans, S; Dwayne Gratz, CB

Jets: Brian Winters, G

Lions: Larry Warford, G

Packers: David Bakhtiari, T; Micah Hyde, S

Patriots: Duron Harmon, S; Chris Jones, DT; Logan Ryan, CB

Raiders: Mychal Rivera, TE

Rams: T.J. McDonald, S

Ravens: Ricky Wagner, T; Brandon Williams, DT

Saints: Terron Armstead, T; John Jenkins, DT

Seahawks: Luke Willson, TE

Steelers: Markus Wheaton, WR

Titans: Brian Schwenke, C

Washington: Jordan Reed, TE

North Notes: Bakhtiari, Browns, Lions

It’s not too early for Ted Thompson and the Packers to start thinking about extending David Bakhtiari‘s contract, according to Ryan Wood of USA Today-Wisconsin. Green Bay’s starting left tackle is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and is interested in remaining with the team beyond 2016, as he tells Wood.

“I think it’s mutual,” Bakhtiari said of his interest in sticking with the Packers. “I like it here, and they like me. I have another year. So I think if they want to do it early, awesome. If not, then we have one more year to work together. So we can talk about it then. I do think it’s too early though.”

The Packers don’t foray into free agency much, but do typically lock up their own players, so it could be a matter of when, not if, the team gets something done with Bakhtiari. We saw Green Bay lock up Mike Daniels months before he was eligible for free agency, but the club sometimes lets talks go down to the wire — Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga signed extensions a year ago just before hitting the open market.

As we wait to see if Bakhtiari and the Packers can get anything done this offseason, let’s round up some more items from out of the NFL’s North divisions….

  • Browns executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown would be shocked if the team traded up to No. 1 in the draft, telling Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that the club is more likely to trade down, if it moves off the No. 2 pick. The Titans have the first overall pick, so if the Browns intend to select a quarterback second overall, the only way they won’t get their man is if another team trades for Tennessee’s pick.
  • New Lions general manager Bob Quinn said today that he hasn’t talked to Calvin Johnson yet about whether or not the wide receiver wants to continue playing, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Although Quinn doesn’t want to rush Johnson into a decision, the GM admits he “absolutely” hopes to have resolution on the issue before free agency begins in March.
  • Although there’s no question that Lions players wanted Jim Caldwell back as the team’s head coach, Quinn didn’t consult with any players before making a decision on Caldwell, as Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com details.
  • Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle passes (Twitter links) along a couple workout updates, reporting that the Browns recently tried out kicker Kyle Brindza, while the Vikings auditioned running back Isaiah Pead.

NFL Quotes: Raiders, Pryor, Vikings, Packers

With OTAs finished, it’s been relatively slow in the NFL world (luckily we have the Tom Brady saga to distract us temporarily). Even with a lack of news, various beat reporters have still been able to come away with some excellent sound clips, and we’ve compiled those for you below…

Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave on team’s offense (via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com):

“We made some strides, but we have a long way to go. That’s probably the understatement of the year. … We have our moments, but we have to be much more consistent. I think we all recognize and acknowledge that. That will be our goal, of course, going up there to training camp so we can get good in a hurry.”

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel on Terrelle Pryor‘s quest to become a wideout (via WHBC in Canton, Ohio; quote via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com):

“If anyone can, he can. He certainly has tremendous athletic ability and a passion to help wherever he can be helpful. So if anyone can do it, he can. And, he could be the bonus of, he can be the team’s third quarterback, and that way they only have to carry two, which gives you a chance to have one more good player on special teams or whatever else. So I think he could be a bonus.”

Vikings wideout Charles Johnson on his job security (via Master Tesfatsion of the Minneapolis Star Tribune):

“In this business, you’re never secure. You never want to lie down and say, ‘Hey, I made it.’ I’m always working, and we’re always working together. Nobody here has been handed anything, and we’re just ready to come out here and work and become the best players we can be.”

Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari on his interactions with Aaron Rodgers (via Paul Imig of Fox Sports Wisconsin):

“I didn’t really talk to Aaron. I was like, ‘If he speaks to me, I’ll speak to him.’ If he didn’t speak to me, I didn’t want to go up to him unless he wanted to engage in a conversation.”

Bears’ Mills Tops Performance-Based Pay List

Bears rookie right tackle Jordan Mills, whose base salary was $495k last season, will receive approximately $318k from the performance-based pay pool, more than any other player in the league. Created in order to reward players who make the least and play the most, the performance-based league pool is $3.46MM per team. Each team’s performance-based pay leader can be found here, courtesy of USA Today.

Mills, a fifth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech, started all 16 games for the Bears. However, his starts were more a reflection of the team’s lack of options, as Mills rated as one of the league’s worst starters, ranking last in pass protection (-32.5 rating) and hurries allowed (62). Other notables (dollar figures rounded):