Halapoulivaati Vaitai

NFC Notes: Saints, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys

The Saints have had a relatively quiet offseason ever since their season ended in devastating fashion in the NFC Championship game. That’s about to change though, as they have several big decisions to make in the coming days and weeks. Mark Ingram is set to be a free agent, and there’s been a lot of talk that the Saints might move on and choose to give Alvin Kamara more of a featured role. Ingram “wants nothing more than to strike a deal to stay in New Orleans,” writes Larry Holder of The Athletic. Holder also writes that head coach Sean Payton wants to keep him around. Holder points out that Ingram doesn’t have the typical wear and tear a 30-year-old running back usually has, because he’s usually split time in whatever backfield the Saints have put together throughout his career.

The Saints also lacked consistent options in the passing game beyond Michael Thomas last year, and could be looking to add a receiver. Sources told Holder that “Someone like Adam Humphries intrigues the Saints.” Holder thinks Humphries might get priced out of their range though, and that New Orleans might end up turning to the draft to add receiver help. Multiple sources also told Holder the Saints aren’t interested in adding Antonio Brown.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • There’s been a ton of discussion about the Giants’ quarterback situation, but not a lot has been written about Kyle Lauletta. Lauletta was the Giants’ highly-touted fourth round pick last year, but was relegated to third-string duties behind Manning and Alex Tanney for much of the season. The Giants re-signed Tanney earlier today, which could bode poorly for Lauletta. Lauletta also underwent knee surgery this offseason, sources told Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. Dunleavy isn’t bullish on Lauletta’s future with the team, and writes that he’s already shown he isn’t “capable of challenging Manning.” Lauletta only attempted five passes this past year, completing zero and throwing an interception. With the Giants a definitely possibility to draft a quarterback high in this April’s draft, Lauletta could prove to be a one-and-done in the Big Apple.
  •  The Eagles extended guard Isaac Seumalo earlier today, and they might not be done locking up offensive linemen. The “expectation” is that Philly “will attempt to extend OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai this offseason”, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Vaitai was the Eagles’ fifth round pick in 2016, and has been a backup tackle for them ever since. In 2017, he filled in for Jason Peters at left tackle and started the entire second half of the season plus the playoffs. Peters is 37 now, and his status for 2019 is still unclear. It’s very possible that the Eagles view Vaitai as the successor to Peters on Carson Wentz‘s blindside.
  • “When the 2018 season ended there was an expectation that Sean Lee would not return to Dallas,” writes Calvin Watkins of The Athletic. But now things appear to be shifting in the direction of the veteran linebacker returning for one more season in a reduced role, Watkins notes. Lee wants to play again and is willing to accept less playing time, according to Watkins, and Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones sounded open to the idea of bringing him back. “When he has played, he has played really well. He’s had a big impact on our football team, not only what he’s doing on the field, but off the field with his leadership,” Jones said. In the same piece, Watkins also took a look at the looming contract negotiations between Dallas and Ezekiel Elliott. Watkins thinks that Elliott “will probably get at least $50 million guaranteed”, topping the $45MM guaranteed Todd Gurley received from the Rams.

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. 

NFC Notes: Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Wentz

Following the Cowboys’ decision to move on from Dez Bryant, the offense was left with only two wideouts from last year’s roster: Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams. The team did an admirable job of adding Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson via free agency, Tavon Austin via trade, and Michael Gallup via the draft, but none of their options profile as a top-tier wideout.

While the team’s depth chart may be lacking, quarterback Dak Prescott believes the Cowboys’ offense will be just fine.

“I don’t know if any team in the league necessarily needs a No. 1 receiver,” Prescott said (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com). “It’s about getting the ball out, spreading the ball around, keeping the defense on its toes.”

Of course, while Prescott is confident in his ability to lead the unheralded offense, he understands that there’s still work to be done.

“I mean the only thing you can do is just get out there with routes on air, things like that,” Prescott said. “We did a bunch together. Me and these young guys have been here before we even started OTAs, getting that timing down so we can get in OTAs and have good feel for each other and now with the defense in front of us, grow off of that and grow from what we’ve already accomplished. That’s the best thing I can do.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of the NFC…

  • After having seen several Giants practices, Matt Lombardo of NJ.com opines that 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb has been the team’s most impressive signal-caller. However, the writer emphasizes that there isn’t a quarterback controversy, noting that the team’s offseason moves indicate that the front office wants to make a playoff push with Eli Manning. Still, since the Giants weren’t sold on any of the top quarterback prospects in the draft, Webb has been doing a nice job of making his case to be Manning’s heir apparent.
  • Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com takes an early look at the Eagles projected depth chart. The writer’s opinion of the offensive tackle position is of particular note, as Jason Peters and Lane Johnson are currently slotted in as starters. However, Shorr-Parks wonders if Halapoulivaati Vaitai could take over as the starter for Peters if the veteran doesn’t recover from his major knee surgery. The writer also notes that there will be a battle between Josh Sweat and Steven Means for third-string defensive end reps. If Means earns a spot on the active roster, the Eagles could choose to stash the first-year Sweat on the injured reserve.
  • Carson Wentz participated in the Eagles OTAs this week, and reports indicated that he looked good as recovered from an ACL and LCL tear. Still, while there should be optimism around Wentz’s progress, Dr. David J. Chao of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes that it’s too early to “anoint his full return for the season opener.” While the quarterback is on track, he still has plenty of steps to complete until he’s back to full mobility. Wentz will have to focus on running and cutting before he’s ready for regular season action.

NFC East Rumors: Cowboys, Foster, Johnson

The Cowboys decided not to pursue an extension for Demarcus Lawrence before this season, with the defensive end’s history of back trouble leading to hesitancy on this front, Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News notes. Dallas’ brass wanted to see if Lawrence could stay healthy and deliver on the intermittent promise he showed during his career, per George, who adds the franchise tag could be in play for Lawrence come March. That would cost the team more than $17MM, but with Lawrence’s 9.5 sacks second in the league (despite the Cowboys having already had their bye) and considering he had back surgeries the past two offseasons, it would seem reasonable the team would still want to opt for a temporary arrangement for the time being. George describes Lawrence as playing through severe back pain last season rather than opting for season-ending surgery, and he’s on the verge of becoming a high-end UFA if he can make it through this season healthy.

Here’s more from Dallas and other NFC East cities.

  • Ezekiel Elliott will play for the Cowboys on Sunday, but the seminal event for the running back will come Monday afternoon when his team and the NFL face off in New York’s Southern District Court. The latest Elliott-vs.-NFL chapter is set for 4pm CT Monday, and Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News expects it to determine the running back’s 2017 fate. Should Judge Katherine Polk Failla green-light an Elliott injunction, Hairopoulos expects him to play the rest of this season while the court battle plays out. If not, the reporter doesn’t see him skirting the six-game suspension.
  • Mason Foster fired off a string of tweets voicing his frustration with the Redskins, who placed him on IR Friday. However, the veteran linebacker met with Bruce Allen, senior VP of football operations-general counsel Eric Schaffer and other members of Washington’s front office on Saturday to clear the air about the IR decision, Master Tefatsion of the Washington Post reports. The inside ‘backer described his state of mind upon sending those tweets as being “too emotional,” and the UFA-to-be is open to staying with the Redskins. “I’m a Redskin until they tell me I’m not a Redskin,” Foster said, via Tefatsion. “That’s how I feel about it. I love this team. This is where I wanna be. We handled it internally, and I appreciate Bruce sitting down with me and Eric Schaffer so that we could get it squashed and go about business.” Foster played through a 2014 injury that affected his free agent stock the following spring and will be shut down this time around after playing through a torn shoulder labrum for three games.
  • The Eagles will not move Lane Johnson to left tackle midseason, instead installing swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai at Jason Peters‘ spot, Zach Berman of Philly.com notes. Vaitai struggled replacing Johnson last season at right tackle, and considering the Eagles’ hot start, there will be a bright spotlight on the second-year player this season on the left side. “Right now, Lane is playing extremely well at right tackle and looking down the road, and I hate to look down the road, but we’ve got some teams coming up that have some players on our right side, their left side, the Von Millers of the world, Khalil Macks of the world that play on that side of the ball,” Doug Pederson said of the decision to keep Johnson at right tackle.

Draft Pick Signings: Eagles, Packers, Bears, Colts

Checking in on the latest rookie signings from around the NFL…

  • Two offensive linemen – third-rounder Isaac Seumalo and fifth-rounder Halapoulivaati Vaitai – have agreed to deals with the Eagles, the team tweeted. Seumalo went 79th in the draft after playing various positions, mostly center, along Oregon State’s O-line. Vaitai, the 164th pick, made 30 starts at tackle (primarily on the right side) during his TCU tenure.
  • The Colts have signed fourth-round linebacker Antonio Morrison, the 125th overall choice, according to a team press release. Morrison was a four-year starter at Florida.
  • Packers general manager Ted Thompson announced the signings of four draftees — fourth-rounders Blake Martinez (linebacker, Stanford) and Dean Lowry (defensive end, Northwestern), fifth-rounder Trevor Davis (receiver, California) and sixth-rounder Kyle Murphy (offensive tackle, Stanford). Those four were Green Bay’s final picks of this year’s draft. The team still has to lock up its top three selections, including first-round defensive lineman Kenny Clark.
  • The Bears inked fourth-round defensive back Deiondre’ Hall to a four-year deal worth $2.85MM, including a $510,982 signing bonus, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Hall, the 127th pick, piled up 13 interceptions during his four years at Northern Iowa.
  • The Vikings have signed fourth-round offensive lineman Willie Beavers and fifth-round linebacker Kentrell Brothers, per a team press release. Beavers was a stalwart at left tackle for Western Michigan before the Vikings grabbed him with the 121st choice, while Brothers – the 160th selection – was a prolific defensive playmaker at Missouri.
  • The Steelers announced the signing of sixth-round linebacker Travis Feeney, a former University of Washington standout and the 220th overall pick.