David Onyemata

Saints Gain $4.3MM+ In Cap Room

The Saints now have $4.34MM in extra cap room to work with, thanks to David Onyemata. The defensive tackle has agreed to convert a portion of his $7MM base into a signing bonus, kicking a portion of his hit into 2022 and granting the Saints some flexibility in the near term. 

Onyemata cracked the Saints’ starting lineup in 2019 and re-upped with the Saints last year on a three-year, $27MM deal. The move garnered mixed reviews since Onyemata wasn’t a tremendous performer in his platform year, per the advanced metrics. Then, he silenced the critics with 44 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, and one interception. Pro Football Focus graded him as the seventh-best interior defender in the NFL, behind only Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, Mario Edwards Jr., Vita Vea, DeForest Buckner, and Cameron Heyward.

Meanwhile, the Saints have also re-signed defensive back J.T. Gray, Rapoport hears. The special teams specialist will stick around on a two-year, $4MM deal that includes $2MM in guarantees.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints To Re-Sign DT David Onyemata

The Saints reached an agreement to keep one of their top free agents off the market. They will retain defensive tackle David Onyemata, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. It’s a three-year, $27MM deal for Onyematta, Garafolo reported in a separate tweet.

Onyemata has recorded 7.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits over the past two seasons. He moved into the Saints’ starting lineup on a full-time basis last season.

Added in the fourth round in 2016, Onyemata graded well in the opinion of Pro Football Focus in 2017 and ’18. However, PFF viewed him as a lower-level performer upon moving into the starting lineup last season. That said, the 27-year-old defender was viewed as a player who could draw interest on the market. The Saints now have him locked down hours into the tampering period.

New Orleans entered Monday with less than $5MM in cap space. The team has still yet to re-sign Drew Brees, so some maneuvering must still commence to facilitate that. But the team moved forward with Onyemata nonetheless, which appears to be a clear sign the Saints view him as a key player going forward.

Extra Points: CBA, Supplemental Draft, Saints, Onyemata

Everything we’ve heard so far indicates that discussions between the league and the NFLPA on a new CBA have been positive. Things seem so be going surprisingly smoothly, and earlier this week we heard the two sides hope to have a deal done before the 2019 season starts. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of issues to be resolved. As we track the negotiations this summer, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com is out with a great piece detailing the fight ahead.

Graziano broke down the nine biggest issues in the talks, and the whole article is well-worth a read. Graziano cautions that while everything seems positive for now, it’s “a complex negotiation with pitfalls.” Graziano writes that the owners have run out of money for stadiums that they were allotted in the previous CBA, and that’s “seen by many connected with the talks as the main reason the owners are interested in doing a new deal as soon as possible.” He writes that “they need money to help with stadium projects in places such as Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Carolina, Washington and even Los Angeles, where Rams owner Stan Kroenke would likely enjoy a bit of league-sponsored help with his project.” If the players are going to allow the owners to take more money off the top for ‘stadium credits’ as they’re called, Graziano writes that they’ll demand a greater share of the net revenue in return.

Among many other interesting nuggets, Graziano notes that the players have a good shot of getting the ‘fully funded rule’ erased, which “requires teams to hold in escrow any portion of a player’s contract that is fully guaranteed.” It currently dissuades owners who might not want to tie up all the cash from giving out longterm guaranteed contracts, and doesn’t exist in any of the other major leagues.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • This year’s Supplemental Draft will be more intriguing than most. Washington State safety Jalen Thompson‘s entry into the draft ensured that there would be at least one player selected. We heard last week that Thompson had a 3-4th round grade on him before last season, but there’s another player with good shot of getting picked. Former West Virginia Marcus Simms is “likely to be chosen” as well, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Simms held a workout on Monday which was attended by half the league’s teams, including by Raiders GM Mike Mayock. The draft is scheduled for July 10th, so we should know pretty soon.
  • Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata was recently suspended for the first game of the 2019 season, but at least he won’t be facing any further legal trouble. Onyemata completed a diversion program and won’t be prosecuted in his marijuana case, per Ramon Antonio Vargas of NOLA.com. Unfortunately for Onyemata this didn’t all happen before the new CBA took effect, as the league is reportedly likely to stop punishing players for marijuana use. Onyemata, a 2016 fourth-round pick, has blossomed into a key contributor for the Saints, and New Orleans’ defensive line will be a bit thin in Week 1 with him and Sheldon Rankins both sidelined. Last year Onyemata played around 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps as a run-stuffer, and received very strong marks from Pro Football Focus.

Saints DT David Onyemata Suspended One Game

It’s an otherwise slow Friday afternoon, but we already have our second suspension of the day. Not long after Rams center Aaron Neary was slapped with a four-game ban, Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata is being suspended for the first game of the 2019 season, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Schefter reports that it’s for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Onyemata was cited for Marijuana possession back in February, and the suspension likely stems from that incident. Onyemata was drafted in the fourth round back in 2016, and he’s taken on a big role in New Orleans. He played nearly 60 percent of the defensive snaps for the Saints last year, so this is a big loss.

Onyemata had an interesting path to the NFL, as he grew up in Nigeria. After moving to Canada, he became a breakout football star despite never having played the sport prior to moving. He was invited to the East-West Shrine Game despite never playing American college football, and the Saints drafted him 120th overall.

After playing a rotational role as a rookie, he started playing a lot more the last couple of years. In 2018 he racked up 35 tackles and 4.5 sacks while appearing in all 16 games and starting four. He received very strong marks from Pro Football Focus, grading out as their 24th-best defensive lineman last year. Sheldon Rankins tore his Achilles at the end of last season, and with Onyemata now on the shelf the Saints could be pretty thin at defensive tackle in Week 1.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

David Onyemata Cited For Marijuana Possession

Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata was recently cited for possession of marijuana, per Nick Underhill and Ramon Antonio Vargas of The New Orleans Advocate. Jefferson Parish (La.) prosecutors are unsure if they will formally charge Onyemata.

New Orleans selected Onyemata, a native of Nigeria, in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, and he has steadily improved his game during his first three seasons in the league. He played in almost 60% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2018 and compiled a career high 4.5 sacks to go along with 35 total tackles. He has appeared in all of the Saints’ regular season and playoff contests since he became a pro.

His early career is especially impressive considering he did not start playing football until 2011, when he arrived at the University of Manitoba. He said he picked up the game just to have something to do between classes, and now he is a regular on one of the league’s better clubs. The Saints were intrigued enough by his potential that they traded up in the 2016 draft to acquire him, and they have thus far gotten a solid return on their investment

Onyemata is entering the final year of his rookie contract, so this citation comes at something of an inopportune time. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office began investigating a package that was seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection personnel in Buffalo, New York, on January 28, and it obtained a search warrant for Onyemata’s apartment the following day. Deputies ultimately seized three ounces of marijuana, cannabis oil, marijuana edibles, and hemp powder.

Even if Onyemata escapes legal repercussions, he could still face disciplinary action from the league. With Sheldon Rankins working his way back from an Achilles injury suffered during the playoffs, and with Tyeler Davison a free agent, New Orleans could be a little thin along the defensive line to start the 2019 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2019 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 should be around $2MM in 2019. 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 2019 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

Bears: RB Jordan Howard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Bengals: LB Nick Vigil

Broncos: G Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, S Justin Simmons

Browns: S Derrick Kindred, LB Joe Schobert

Buccaneers: G Caleb Benenoch, DE Carl Nassib, CB Ryan Smith

Chargers: LB Jatavis Brown

Chiefs: CB Kendall Fuller, WR Tyreek Hill, S Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson

Colts: QB Jacoby Brissett, T Joe Haeg

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown, DT Maliek Collins, QB Dak Prescott

Dolphins: RB Kenyan Drake

Eagles: CB Jalen Mills, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, G Wes Schweitzer

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Jets: LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Rashard Robinson, T Brandon Shell

Lions: C Graham Glasgow

Packers: LB Kyler Fackrell, DE Dean Lowry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Antonio Morrison

Patriots: G Joe Thuney, LB Elandon Roberts

Rams: G Austin Blythe, TE Tyler Higbee

Ravens: DE Matt Judon, OL Alex Lewis, CB Tavon Young

Saints: DT David Onyemata

Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave

Texans: DT D.J. Reader

Titans: S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

Extra Points: Chiefs, Bengals, Saints, Rams

The Chiefs will interview Seahawks executive Scott Fitterer for their general manager position either today or early Wednesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Fitterer, Seattle’s co-director of player personnel, is one of six candidates linked to the Kansas City vacancy (a total that includes the Vikings’ George Paton, who declined an interview). Earlier this year, Fitterer was an initial candidate for the 49ers’ GM job, but ultimately was not asked back for a second interview. Another candidate for the Chiefs gig — Tennessee staffer Ryan Cowden — will meet with Kansas City tomorrow, as Rapoport indicated earlier today.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Bengals told current Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby that he’d be their pick at No. 24 in the 2014 draft, but that changed after Roby was charged with OVI, as Roby explains to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. Cincinnati instead chose Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, a choice that — at least through three seasons — was clearly the incorrect choice. While Roby has played well as Denver’s third corner after being selected 31st overall in ’14, Dennard has struggled to get on the field in the Queen City. A fitting conclusion to the tale? Vance Joseph, now the Broncos head coach, was the Bengals defensive backs coach in 2014 who promised Roby he wouldn’t fall past pick No. 24.
  • Although Saints coaches are high on second-year defensive tackle David Onyemata, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to fill the hole vacated by the loss of veteran Nick Fairley, as Mike Triplett of ESPN.com writes. New Orleans placed Fairley on the non-football injury list Monday after doctors ruled a heart condition wouldn’t allow him to play in 2017. Onyemata, a fourt-round pick last year out of Manitoba, played on slightly more than a third of the Saints’ defensive snaps during his rookie campaign and posted 18 total tackles. Earlier today, I ran down a list of external options New Orleans could consider to help replace Fairley’s production.
  • Connor Barwin is not only playing a 3-4 scheme once again, but will see his second go-round under the tutelage of new Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, per Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. Barwin, who signed a one-year, $3.5MM with Los Angeles this spring, struggled in Philadelphia’s 4-3 defense last season (bottom-10 edge defender, per Pro Football Focus), but he’s excited about the shift back to a 3-4. “There’s certain things I can do and I can take advantage of that you can’t necessarily do being down in an even front every single play,” said Barwin. “This is really where I want to be playing, the system I want to be in and where I’m going to have the most success.”

Draft Signings: Dolphins, Raiders, Saints

We’ll keep track of today’s draft signings here:

  • A second-round pick who is expected to play a key role for a Dolphins cornerback corps that lost most of its starters from 2015, Xavien Howard has signed his rookie deal, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports. He’s the fifth player in Miami’s eight-man draft class to sign. For Baylor last season, Howard snared five interceptions and broke up 15 passes en route to All-Big 12 acclaim. He’ll vie to join Byron Maxwell as the Fins’ starting corners.
  • The Saints have now wrapped up their draft class’ contracts after signing fourth-round defensive lineman David Onyemata, according to the team’s website. The first University of Manitoba player to be drafted, the Nigeria native finished with 9.5 sacks in 37 games with the Bison. A 300-pound lineman who was selected No. 120 overall, Onyemata won the J.P. Metras Trophy, which is given to the best down lineman in Canadian Interuniversity Sport football.
  • The Raiders announced the signing of second-round defensive lineman Jihad Ward. Ward, selected with the No. 44 overall pick, played for Illinois over the last two seasons. In his time for the Fighting Illini, Ward started all 25 games, totaling 104 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. The 6’6″, 295-pound athlete climbed up draft boards in the weeks leading up to the draft, leading to his mid-second-round selection.

NFC Notes: Brees, Goff, Pettigrew, Giants

For most of the offseason, NFL observers have assumed that the Saints and Drew Brees will negotiate an extension that locks up the quarterback beyond the 2016 season and frees up some cap room for the team. However, agent Tom Condon said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show that the Saints seem to be satisfied with Brees at his current cap number, per Joel A. Erickson of The Advocate.

According to Over the Cap’s data, New Orleans currently has less than $2MM in cap room, and that appears to be without factoring in the team’s draft picks. There are ways that the Saints could lock up all their picks and get through the 2016 season without reworking Brees’ deal, but it would almost certainly require adjusting another contract or two.

Brees, who is entering the final year of his deal, currently has a $30MM cap charge, with only one other player on the Saints’ books for a number larger than $6.35MM in 2016 — Jairus Byrd has a $10.9MM cap hit, which could be reduced via a restructure, if necessary.

As we wait to see whether New Orleans is serious about standing pat on Brees, here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Defensive lineman David Onyemata has been drafted for the second time in two weeks, writes Christopher Dabe of NOLA.com. After being selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Saints, Onyemata came off the board in the fourth round of the CFL draft as well, snatched by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Of course, Onyemata went 120th overall in the NFL draft, as opposed to 35th in the CFL draft, and he would have gone higher in the CFL draft had the Saints not selected him last month — he was viewed as the No. 1 Canadian prospect for 2016, but the Roughriders won’t get him as he long as he remains with New Orleans.
  • The Rams don’t want to rush No. 1 pick Jared Goff into anything, but as Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com writes, there’s a good chance the former Cal quarterback will be under center for the team sooner rather than later — perhaps even by Week 1.
  • Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who suffered a torn ACL near the end of the 2015 season, said on Tuesday night that he expects to be ready to go for the start of training camp in July, tweets Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com.
  • When the Giants waived wide receiver Ben Edwards earlier this week, the team did so with an injury designation. As Jordan Raanan of NJ.com explains, the injury Edwards suffered was a torn ACL. Since the wideout went unclaimed he’ll revert to IR — Big Blue can either keep him there for the 2016 season, or negotiate an injury settlement if he has a chance to return before the end of the year.

Draft Updates: Cowboys, Tunsil, Pats, Jets, Saints

The Cowboys’ later-round selections have featured some interesting near-misses. Dallas has been linked to multiple players it did not end up selecting, including new Browns edge-rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, whom Cleveland chose in Round 2. The team also eyed Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd, Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com reports.

Even its own pick brought uncertainty after a report surfaced Friday that the team nearly unloaded its second-round pick to the Bears before taking Notre Dame injured star Jaylon Smith. Perhaps these pass-rushers going off the board contributed to the urge to wanting to trade down.

We heard Friday night the Cowboys are not going to re-sign Greg Hardy. This, coupled with the looming suspensions of Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory have left the team thin at defensive end despite signing former Eagles edge presence Cedric Thornton in free agency. It took Dallas until the fourth round to address this spot, when it took Charles Tapper from Oklahoma.

Here’s the latest from the draft.

  • The Saints traded up for the 120th pick, but according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter), they didn’t get their selection in on time. This allowed the Vikings to jump the Saints, with Minnesota selecting offensive lineman Willie Beavers. New Orleans presumably still got their target in defensive tackle David Onyemata.
  • The Dolphins believe it was the former financial advisor of rookie Laremy Tunsil who released the incriminating gas mask video, tweets Andrew Abrasion of The Palm Beach Post. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the video caused Tunsil to drop from the sixth overall pick to No. 13.
  • Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan told Dom Cosentino of NJ.com that the team isn’t working to acquire another quarterback, including Nick Foles (Twitter link).
  • Pauline also notes the Patriots‘ collection of second- or third-round quarterback choices in the Tom Brady era could have included Wisconsin passer Joel Stave instead of the player they actually selected, Jacoby Brissett, in the third round. While neither was considered a top prospect, Brissett was mentioned as a mid- or late-round pick before the lesser-regarded Stave — a 6-foot-5 former Badger, who remains on the board. Stave threw for just 11 TDs last season for the run-oriented Badgers.
  • The Steelers are considering a trade to get into the fifth round, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets.

Ben Levine contributed to this report