Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Extra Points: Kinlaw, UDFAs, Lions, Vaitai

2020 draft prospect Javon Kinlaw has an incredible story. The South Carolina defensive tackle had a rough upbringing, and was homeless for much of his childhood. As he prepares for the next chapter of his journey, Kinlaw gave an interview to Kimberly Jones of NFL.com. He said he doesn’t think about his past all that much, and called himself “hands down, without a doubt,” the best defensive tackle in the draft. He’s competing with Auburn’s Derrick Brown for that title, and is a lock to be a first-round pick. Although providing for his young daughter will be great, Kinlaw said his large rookie contract won’t be the best part. “Money’s going to be there and that’s cool,” he said. “But I love football. I’m just happy I get the chance to do what very few get a chance to do. I get a chance to play the game you grow up seeing. To have it as a job? You can’t ask for more than that.”

Kinlaw didn’t play in the Senior Bowl because of knee tendinitis and then didn’t work out at the combine, but it doesn’t sound like there are serious injury concerns. One team evaluator told Jones that Kinlaw’s recent medical reports came back clean. The former Gamecock said he’s spoken with “about 14 teams” in advance of the draft. Kinlaw could very well go inside the top ten, and he shouldn’t have to wait too long to hear his name called.

Here’s more from around the league as draft week approaches:

  • For all the talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the draft and potential technical malfunctions that could ensure while conducting it virtually, it could be even more disruptive for the undrafted free agent process. Undrafted free agency normally moves very fast as the draft wraps up, and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe spoke to some agents who think it’ll get complicated. One agent said it will be a “complete mess” and that “if they operate the same way this year there’s going to be more deals being reneged because they filled too many spots.” There are apparently concerns of communication issues in the frenzy that usually takes place, and as an example Volin writes that a “safeties coach could call a player and tell him to expect an offer, not realizing that [his team doesn’t] have the roster space.” Some around the league are calling for a gap to make things smoother. “Make it a separate day. Doing it on the third day of the draft this year is going to be miserable,” one agent argued. “I don’t see why everybody wouldn’t be on board with that.” Volin notes that he reached out to a league spokesman to see if they’d consider pushing it back, but got no response.
  • When the Lions gave Halapoulivaati Vaitai a big five-year, $50MM deal, most assumed he would take over for Ricky Wagner at right tackle, but that’s apparently not necessarily the case. Detroit GM Bob Quinn recently indicated the team might opt to play him at right guard, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). “We feel like we can plug him in either spot. … We’ll kind of see where the roster shapes up,” Quinn said. Birkett notes in a follow-up tweet that they certainly paid him like a right tackle, but may opt to kick him inside if there’s a tackle they really want early in this draft. They have Taylor Decker at left tackle. Vaitai was highly regarded in Philadelphia, but was buried behind the Eagles’ surplus of tackles, so he only started four games over the past two years.

Contract Details: Bridgewater, Panthers, Vaitai, Lions, Byrd, Patriots, Brees, Saints

The latest notes on all of the contracts being handed out around the league:

  • QB Teddy Bridgewater, Panthers: signed. Bridgewater got a three-year deal worth $63MM and a whopping $40MM of that is guaranteed in the first two years, according to David Newton of ESPN.com. He got a $15MM signing bonus to take over for the start of the Matt Rhule era. Newton’s post has the full breakdown on how it’ll be paid out with various workout and roster bonuses.
  • OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Lions: signed. Vaitai’s five-year, $50MM contract includes $20MM guaranteed which will come in the first two years of the deal, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio tweets. Detroit can get out of the pact after that.
  • WR Damiere ByrdPatriots: signed. Byrd’s one-year deal can be worth up to $2.5MM, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network notes in a tweet.
  • QB Drew Brees, Saints: re-signed. Brees’ two-year, $50MM new deal with New Orleans includes a signing bonus of $23MM and a small base salary of only $2MM in year one, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. That structure as well as two voidable years added on for 2022-2023 help keep his 2020 cap hit very low so the Saints can spend more as they gear up for one more Super Bowl with Brees under center.
  • LB Sean Lee, Cowboys: re-signed. Lee is back for one more ride on a one-year, $4.5MM deal with $2MM guaranteed. He actually could earn up to $6.5MM if he hits some playing time incentives, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, although he writes they’re “not-likely-to-be-earned.”
  • S Darian Thompson, Cowboys: re-signed. Thompson is getting a two-year deal worth $2.5MM, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. He’s getting a $200K signing bonus and can earn an extra $250K with playing time escalators.
  • WR Cody Core, Giants: re-signed. New York locked up the special teams ace who barely plays on offense, and he got paid handsomely. Core will be getting $4MM over a two-year deal, Wilson tweets. Only $1MM of it is guaranteed however.
  • S Jordan PoyerBills: extension. The full details are in on Poyer’s new pact. Poyer had two new years added on and will now make $22.7MM over the next three years with $13MM of that being guaranteed, Wilson tweets. He also got a $3MM signing bonus. In a separate tweet, Wilson notes that Poyer has an annual $500K interception incentive he can earn.

Lions Sign Halapoulivaati Vaitai

A slightly more under the radar name is getting a huge payday. Former Eagles offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai is signing a massive five-year, $50MM contract with the Lions, a source told Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio (Twitter link).

It’s a pretty remarkable sum considering Vaitai has only started four games over the past two years. It wasn’t totally unexpected though, as we heard a couple of weeks ago that he would likely command between $8-12MM annually. Vaitai has clearly always had talent, but he was buried on the depth chart due to the Eagles’ abundance of tackles. Philly has announced that Jason Peters will be allowed to hit free agency, and they’ll move forward with Andre Dillard and Lane Johnson as their tackles.

Vaitai was drafted in the fifth-round in 2016, and he ended up starting six games as a rookie. The following year he started ten games, winning Super Bowl LII with the team. As the Eagles got healthy at tackle he took a bit of a backseat, starting only once in 2018 and three times this past season.

The Lions released starting right tackle Ricky Wagner a few days ago, perhaps foreshadowing this move. The Lions are also letting starting right guard Graham Glasgow, who has received very strong marks from Pro Football Focus, walk in free agency, so their offensive line is going to look a lot different next year.

Matthew Stafford missed half of last season due to injury, so obviously protecting him will be a priority in 2020. The unit is getting an overhaul, and they’ll have to build chemistry in a hurry as a result. Vaitai is 26, and together with 26-year-old former first-rounder left tackle Taylor Decker, Detroit is surely hoping they’ve established a long-term tackle pairing.

AFC East Rumors: Jets, Bell, Butler, Norman

The Jets are widely expected to be active in free agency, and now that a new CBA has been approved, they can increase their ability to spend by designating Trumaine Johnson as a post-June 1 cut. Rich Cimini of ESPN.com takes a look at the players that Gang Green is expected to target, and unsurprisingly, some of this year’s most prolific O-lineman, edge rushers, and cornerbacks are on the list.

But what are the Jets’ fallback plans if they can’t land their top targets? Connor Hughes of The Athletic has heard that the team could pursue Eagles OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and if the Jets miss out on guards like Graham Glasgow and Joe Thuney, Hughes says they have looked into Panthers guard Greg Van Roten.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • The Jets would like to retain WR Robby Anderson, but if his price tag gets too high, both Hughes and Cimini believe Breshad Perriman would be a target. Perriman offers field-stretching ability and had a strong finish to the 2019 season with the Bucs.
  • Jets RB Le’Veon Bell receives a $2MM roster bonus today. As Cimini points out, that bonus makes it a little less likely that Bell is traded, though that never seemed like a realistic proposition to begin with.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes the Patriots are prepared to move on from WR Phillip Dorsett, though it’s a different story for Adam Butler. The fourth-year DT recently switched agents, and Reiss says extension talks could be on tap. Butler, a former UDFA, recorded six sacks last season.
  • The details are in on Josh Norman‘s new contract with the Bills, courtesy of Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (via Twitter), The deal was originally reported as a one-year, $6MM pact that could increase to $8MM with incentives, but Norman has a number of workout and roster milestones to hit before he collects the full $6MM. His salary is just $2.8MM, $1.5MM of which is guaranteed.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai To Earn $8-12MM/Year?

Eagles offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai is expected to command a solid market when he reaches free agency, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com, who indicates “Big V” should earn a salary between $8MM and $12MM annually.

While the free agent tackle market hypothetically contains a few interesting options, veterans such as Anthony Castonzo and Andrew Whitworth are largely expected to re-sign with the Colts and Rams, respectively. Vaitai, only 26 years old, will present a youthful alternative among a crop of available tackles that also includes Jack Conklin and Bryan Bulaga.

The Eagles haven’t ruled out re-signing Vaitai, but it seems highly unlikely they’ll have a spot for the former fifth-round pick given the presence of fellow tackles Andre Dillard and Lane Johnson. Philadelphia announced today that veteran lineman Jason Peters will be allowed to test free agency, and it’s unclear if the club is interested in retaining him.

Vaitai played more than 70% of the Eagles’ offensive snaps during his first two years in the NFL, but he hasn’t topped 45% playing in either of the last two seasons. In 2019, appeared in all 16 games for Philadelphia and started three contests, grading as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 22 offensive tackle among 81 qualifiers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles G Brandon Brooks Left Game With Anxiety

Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks left in the first quarter of the team’s 17-9 loss to the Seahawks and did not return. The team listed Brooks as out with an illness and sources tell Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer that anxiety was the culprit.

Brooks has talked openly about his struggles with mental illness throughout his career. This would not be the first time Brooks’ fight has caused him to miss time on the field. In 2016, Brooks missed a pair of games when he suffered panic attacks during the team’s pregame warmups. The severe anxiety seemed to cause Brooks more problems earlier in his career during his tenure with the Texans, but as most people with mental illness will tell you, cures are few and far between.

The Eagles were already dealing with the absence of right tackle Lane Johnson and were left with backups on the entire right side of their offensive line. Veteran backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai first stepped in for Brooks, but the Eagles decided to slide Vaitai over to right tackle due to the struggles of Andre Dillard. In Vaitai’s place, Matt Pryor received the first substantial action of his two-year career.

Brooks signed as a free agent with Philadelphia after the 2015 season to a 5-year, $62.5MM contract. Since joining Philly, Brooks has become one of the better interior lineman in football, reaching the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons. Going forward, the Eagles will hope to get one of the biggest pieces of their offense back.

Extra Points: Drake, Eagles, Giants, Winston

The Lions were dealt a tough blow when they lost Kerryon Johnson to a knee injury, and they’re apparently planning on replacing him with outside help. Detroit has been “aggressively scouring the running back market” for potential trades, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Kenyan Drake is expected to be dealt by Miami in the next day or so, and we’ve already heard the Lions were interested. Robinson points out that Dolphins coach Brian Flores has a longstanding relationship with Lions coach Matt Patricia, which could help facilitate a deal. While the Lions need a running back and Drake is on the move, don’t necessarily bank on him landing in Detroit. It “didn’t sound like the Lions were close to anything on the trade front,” after speaking with a source, tweets Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • There are a few teams looking for offensive tackle help, most openly the Browns. We’ve hear Eagles backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai could be an option, and Robinson tweets that he continues to hear that Vaitai is the “most available” tackle on the market. He also notes that Vaitai had “several teams” interested in him during the preseason. Vaitai started 16 games between 2016 and 2017 and is entering the final year of his contract, so it makes sense why Philly would try and get something for him.
  • Conversely, teams might have a harder time prying Nate Solder away. We’ve heard the Browns are interested in the Giants’ left tackle, but Robinson notes in the same tweet that he’ll be a “tougher get” since the Giants are “reticent” to shakeup Daniel Jones‘ offensive line too much. The former Patriot hasn’t lived up to his massive contract, but it looks like New York will hang onto him through the end of the season.
  • Marcus Mariota has already been benched by the Titans, and it sounds like his 2015 draft-classmate Jameis Winston is going to be able to avoid a similar fate. Winston had another turnover-plagued game during the Buccaneers’ Week 8 loss, but Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the Bucs’ plan is to give Winston the rest of the season to make his case. Working in Winston’s favor is that unlike Mariota, he doesn’t have an experienced backup like Ryan Tannehill breathing down his neck. Winston’s current backup, Ryan Griffin, has never taken a regular season snap.
  • The Texans lost starting running back Lamar Miller to a torn ACL right before the start of the season, and ended up trading for running back Carlos Hyde. Although many thought Houston would be actively looking for running back help after Miller went down it was apparently the Chiefs who initiated the Hyde trade, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The Chiefs inked Hyde to a one-year, $2.8MM deal back in March, but clearly regretted it and didn’t want him on the team any longer. They landed offensive tackle Martinas Rankin in return.

Browns Plan To Acquire OT Before Trade Deadline

Browns general manager John Dorsey is targeting a number of offensive tackles to ensure the team acquires an upgrade before the trade deadline, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. Cleveland’s offensive line woes have been well documented this season, but they are far from the only team seeking upgrades via trade.

Washington tackle Trent Williams remains the obvious best candidate available. Except, while he continues to hold out with no progress toward a new contract, Washington reportedly has no interest in trading him. In the report, Robinson quotes one source who said “Dorsey has been trying to get Williams for basically six weeks.”

While Williams remains Dorsey’s top target, Robinson reports that multiple league sources have said Dorsey has been “reaching out to a swath of teams about acquiring offensive line help before the deadline.” The report goes on to mention that on top of Washington, he has contacted two other NFC East teams: the Giants and Eagles.

Less than a week away from the trade deadline, Dorsey seems primed to wait until the deadline to see if Washington changes course on Williams’ availability. If not, Giants starting offensive tackle Nate Solder or Eagles swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai seem like legitimate fallback options, per Robinson.

NFC East Notes: Eagles, McCoy, Giants

With Brandon Brooks going down with a torn Achilles in the second round of the playoffs, the Eagles face an issue regarding how their starting offensive line will look come Week 1. But five months later, Brooks revealed a bit about where his recovery process stands. The veteran guard shared a brief workout video (Twitter link) that shows him doing agility drills again. The fourth-year Eagle will almost certainly begin training camp on the active/PUP list, and it can’t be considered a lock he will be ready for the start of the season. But this represents an encouraging sign from the mammoth offensive lineman.

In the event Brooks is not ready to go in September, a contingency plan might involve a position switch. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who replaced Jason Peters at left tackle as a rookie in 2017, has worked at guard at times this offseason. The Eagles appear to be preparing Vaitai to be their Brooks stopgap, in the event he needs more time, Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia writes. The Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in Round 1 and have rugby convert Jordan Mailata at tackle as well, so Vaitai working at guard may be a way to stay on the roster. This is interesting given that Stefen Wisniewski (24 Eagles left guard starts from 2016-18) re-signed in May. It would stand to reason the experienced interior lineman would be the Brooks fill-in, but Doug Pederson mentioned a possible Vaitai-Lane Johnson right side recently.

Shifting to more NFC East position battles, here is the latest out of the division:

  • The Eagles’ Zach Brown addition figures to clear up uncertainty about their three-down linebacker sets, with Brown joining Nigel Bradham. And despite the return of Paul Worrilow and arrival of L.J. Fort, Zangaro notes Kamu Grugier-Hill remains the third linebacker in base sets and adds it would not be a surprise to see him gut into Brown’s work in nickel sets. Grugier-Hill played 32% of the Eagles’ 2018 defensive snaps. Brown, however, posted a top-10 Pro Football Focus coverage grade last season. Grugier-Hill did not grade nearly as well.
  • Colt McCoy‘s final surgery total from the fractured fibula he suffered late last season: three. The veteran Redskins quarterback is expected to be cleared for training camp, but J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington notes McCoy indeed underwent three procedures since December — the most recent coming in April. McCoy’s knowledge of Jay Gruden‘s offense will help him in Washington’s QB battle and possibly as a mentor type once Dwayne Haskins inevitably takes over this season.
  • Once Janoris Jenkins returned to work this offseason, Deandre Baker remained a Giants first-stringer over Sam Beal this offseason. And UDFA Grant Haley resides as the favorite to replace B.W. Webb as the team’s slot corner, Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com writes. While including Beal as a possible challenger for the slot job, along with fourth-round rookie Julian Love, Dunleavy notes the 2018 supplemental draft pick does not have slot experience. This would stand to make the Western Michigan product Big Blue’s CB4 to start the season.
  • Alec Ogletree has one Giants inside linebacker job locked up, and as of now, fourth-year man B.J. Goodson is the team’s base-set starter. Tae Davis remains the nickel replacement for Goodson, per Dunleavy, but rookie fifth-round pick Ryan Connelly is in the mix for this role. The fifth-rounder out of Wisconsin was viewed as one of this draft’s top coverage linebackers.

NFC East Rumors: Redskins, Eagles, Scherff

It was reported in February the Redskins and guard Brandon Scherff were discussing an extension but no news had trickled out since then. Scherff, however, confirmed earlier this week that talks were ongoing, NBC Sports’ JP Finlay writes.

“We’ve been talking, but I’m not really worried about that,” Scherff said. “I’m here for another year, so that’s all I’m worried about right now. Everything will take care of itself.”

Signed through 2019 via his fifth-year option, Scherff is set to make $12.5MM this season, but an extension could very well help lower Washington’s cap number heading into the season. An extension could see Scherff paid like Zack Martin and Andrew Norwell, who recently became the first guards to sign for $13MM-plus per year.

The fifth-overall pick in 2015, Scherff has justified the high-draft slot by earning two Pro Bowls in his first four seasons in the league. Though durable in his first three seasons, playing all but two possible games, the Iowa product suffered a torn pectoral in Week 8 of 2018 and was lost for the season.

Here’s more from around the NFC East:

  • Sticking with the Redskins, safety Montae Nicholson skipped the early sessions of the team’s OTAs, NBC Sports’ Peter Hailey writes. Though he showed up later, the safety’s absence turned some heads and coach Jay Gruden reportedly seemed annoyed by the situation. Nicholson is in a batter for the starting safety spot opposite the newly signed Landon Collins.
  • Though the Eagles added Cody Kessler and rookie Clayton Thorson, Nate Sudfeld is still expected to fill the No. 2 quarterback role, NBC Sports’ Andrew Kulp writes. Early in the offseason, Philadelphia gave Sudfeld a second-round tender as an RFA, which should indicate that the backup gig is his to lose despite the additions.
  • Remaining with the Eagles, it appears Jordan Mailata is ahead of Halapoulivaati Vaitai on the depth chart at tackle, NBC Sports’ Reuben Frank writes. Expected to enter 2019 as the team’s top backup tackle option, Mailata was thrown for a loop when the team took Andre Dillard in the first round. The former rugby player, however, is penciled in as the No. 2 at right tackle and Vaitai, a starter at left tackle in the Super Bowl just over a year ago, is now hoping to carve out a role at guard.