Jaire Alexander

Packers Expect Late-Season Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith Returns

The Packers finished their Week 11 loss to the Vikings without most of their Pro Bowlers. In addition to David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones‘ absences, Elgton Jenkins suffered a torn ACL. And the outing marked yet another game without Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander.

While little clarity has emerged on Smith and Alexander’s statuses, it appears the Packers are not expecting either to miss the rest of the season. The Packers are eyeing a Smith return at some point during the regular season’s final six weeks, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (ESPN+ link). Ditto Alexander, whom The Athletic’s Matt Schneidmann adds is expected to be back at some point late in the season as well (subscription required).

The lack of concrete timetables over the past several weeks opened the door to one or both standouts being shut down. That was in play for Alexander, but the fourth-year cornerback did not opt for surgery. Green Bay’s top cover man has instead progressed to the point he is working out without an arm sling, Schneidmann adds. Alexander suffered a shoulder injury in Week 4. A rebound for Alexander will only further bolster his stock, with a clear extension window opening ahead of his 2022 fifth-year option season.

Smith has been out with a back injury since Week 1, and the Pack’s top sack man having battled back trouble this offseason and during camp creates a murkier situation. The seventh-year pro underwent surgery in late September and has a monster cap number ($28.1MM, up from $14MM this season) in 2022. While Smith’s post-2021 Wisconsin future is highly uncertain, his return to rejoin Preston Smith and Rashan Gary would be a tremendous boon to the Packers’ Super Bowl chances. Smith totaled 26 sacks between the 2019 and ’20 seasons.

Neither Smith nor Alexander has been designated to return from IR. Once the Packers make those moves, respective 21-day activation windows will open. The Packers’ defense has played well without its top players, ranking fifth in points allowed and seventh in yards yielded. While the Vikings dented the previously stingy unit, the Packers can hope their squad will be reinforced with top-level talent in the not-too-distant future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Place CB Jaire Alexander On IR

Already down their top pass rusher, the Packers will play without their top cover man for a while. Green Bay placed Jaire Alexander on IR Saturday, shelving the Pro Bowl cornerback for at least the next three games.

Alexander suffered a shoulder injury during the second half of the Packers’ Week 4 win. His absence will deal the Green Bay defense a considerable blow, especially considering Za’Darius Smith is expected to be out until at least late in the regular season.

The Packers’ plan, per HC Matt LaFleur, is for Alexander to avoid surgery at all costs, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com hears that an official decision will be made in that regard over the next two weeks as doctors evaluate how the shoulder is healing. If surgery is required, that would likely bring an end to Alexander’s 2021 season.

While Green Bay has Preston Smith and Rashan Gary at the edge-rushing spots, the team is a bit less equipped to withstand a prolonged Alexander absence. The Packers will lean on first-round pick Eric Stokes and the recently re-signed Kevin King at corner. They explored a Stephon Gilmore trade but saw their salary cap situation intervene. The Panthers acquired the former Defensive Player of the Year instead.

The team also activated defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster from its reserve/COVID-19 list and elevated wideout Equanimeous St. Brown and guard Ben Braden from its practice squad.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Explored Stephon Gilmore Trade

When it became known the Patriots were moving on from Stephon Gilmore, reports linked the All-Pro cornerback to the Packers. However, the Panthers instead made the move to land him.

The Packers did try to acquire Gilmore, according to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, who notes the team explored ways to add his contract. Gilmore’s expiring deal has $5.8MM remaining this season; the Packers have just more than $7MM in cap space.

While the team could have afforded Gilmore, it would have been up against the cap. The Packers made contact with the Patriots once their desire to move on became known, per Demovsky, who adds the 10th-year corner wanted a monster extension to go with any trade. Considering how little the Patriots received for Gilmore without the extension requirement, this demand was quickly dropped. Gilmore, per SI.com’s Albert Breer, wanted to play for the Packers (video link via 98.5 The Sports Hub). But he ended up in Carolina, which has now acquired Gilmore and 2020 first-round corner C.J. Henderson.

Green Bay did make a move at corner Wednesday, signing Rasul Douglas off Arizona’s practice squad. The Packers have Jaire Alexander expected to miss at least Week 5, and it sounds like a longer absence is in play. Matt LaFleur said the team will try to avoid its top corner undergoing surgery “at all costs,” via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (on Twitter), but it remains to be seen when Alexander will be ready to return. Alexander suffered a shoulder injury late in the Packers’ Week 4 win over the Steelers. Shoulder surgery likely would end Alexander’s season and deal a huge blow to Green Bay’s Super Bowl aspirations.

With Alexander down and Gilmore now on the Panthers’ PUP list, Green Bay does have some depth on which to lean. The Pack drafted Eric Stokes in Round 1 and re-signed Kevin King. The team traded Josh Jackson straight up for Isaac Yiadom this summer and drafted Shemar Jean-Charles in the fifth round. Fourth-year defender Chandon Sullivan, however, saw his workload boosted after Alexander’s injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers’ Jaire Alexander Suffers Shoulder Injury

Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander is believed to have suffered an AC joint injury in his shoulder (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo). He’ll know for sure on Monday, but that wouldn’t be a terrible outcome considering he was carted off the field.

Alexander was forced out in the third quarter after colliding with Steelers running back Najee Harris. The Packers went on to win 27-17, advancing to 3-1 on the year.

Alexander, the 18th-overall pick in the 2018 draft, earned All-Rookie team honors and showcased his skills throughout his first two pro seasons. He started earning some league-wide recognition in 2020, including a Pro Bowl nod and second-team All-Pro nod. The 24-year-old ultimately finished the campaign with 51 tackles, 13 passes defended, one interception, one sack, and one forced fumble in 15 starts. He also came up big during the postseason, snagging a pair of interceptions in two games.

Through four games this year, Alexander has 13 tackles and one interception. It may be a while before he can add to those totals, but the early prognosis indicates that it won’t be a season-ender.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2022 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 3 to officially pick up their options on 2018 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. In a change from years past, fifth-year option seasons are fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement, and specific performance metrics:

  • 2-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • 1-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the 3rd-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • 75%+ snaps in two of their first three seasons
    • 75%+ average across all three seasons
    • 50%+ in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will get the average of the 3rd-25th top salaries at their position.

With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

Updated 4-30-21, 4:24pm CT

  1. QB Baker Mayfield, Browns: Exercised ($18.858MM)
  2. RB Saquon Barkley, Giants: Exercised ($7.217MM)
  3. QB Sam Darnold, Panthers (via Jets): Pending ($18.858MM)
  4. CB Denzel Ward, Browns — Exercised ($13.294MM)
  5. LB Bradley Chubb, Broncos — Pending ($12.716MM)
  6. G Quenton Nelson, Colts — Pending ($13.754MM)
  7. QB Josh Allen, Bills: Pending ($23.106MM)
  8. LB Roquan Smith, Bears: Exercised ($9.735MM)
  9. OT Mike McGlinchey, 49ers: Exercised ($10.88MM)
  10. QB Josh Rosen, Cardinals: N/A
  11. S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers (via Dolphins): Exercised ($10.612MM)
  12. DT Vita Vea, Buccaneers: Exercised ($7.638MM)
  13. DT Daron Payne, Washington — Exercised ($8.529MM)
  14. DE Marcus Davenport, Saints: Exercised ($9.553MM)
  15. OT Kolton Miller, Raiders — N/A (extension)
  16. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Bills: Pending ($12.716MM)
  17. S Derwin James, Chargers: Exercised ($9.052MM)
  18. CB Jaire Alexander, Packers: Exercised ($13.294MM)
  19. LB Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys: Pending ($9.145MM)
  20. C Frank Ragnow, Lions: Exercised ($12.657MM)
  21. C Billy Price, Bengals: Declined ($10.413MM)
  22. LB Rashaan Evans, Titans: Pending ($9.735MM)
  23. OT Isaiah Wynn, Patriots: Pending ($10.413 MM)
  24. WR D.J. Moore, Panthers: Exercised ($11.116MM)
  25. TE Hayden Hurst, Falcons (via Ravens): Pending ($5.428MM)
  26. WR Calvin Ridley, Falcons: Pending ($11.116MM)
  27. RB Rashaad Penny, Seahawks: Pending ($4.523MM)
  28. S Terrell Edmunds, Steelers: Pending ($6.753MM)
  29. DT Taven Bryan, Jaguars: Pending ($7.638MM)
  30. CB Mike Hughes, Vikings: Pending ($12.643MM)
  31. RB Sony Michel, Patriots: Pending ($4.523MM)
  32. QB Lamar Jackson, Ravens: Exercised ($23.106MM)

Packers To Pick Up CB Jaire Alexander’s Fifth-Year Option

No surprise on this one. The Packers are expected to pick up the fifth-year option on cornerback Jaire Alexander, general manager Brian Gutekunst told reporters (via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky on Twitter).

As the reporter notes, the only question is if the team can sign their All-Pro to a contract extension. Alexander’s fifth-year option is valued at $13.294MM thanks to him making the Pro Bowl in 2020, and the defensive back will surely see a pay raise (along with long-term security) in any extension.

Alexander, the 18th-overall pick in the 2018 draft, was more than solid through his first two years in the NFL, including a 2018 campaign where he received All-Rookie team honors. The cornerback started earning some league-wide accolades in 2020, including a Pro Bowl nod and second-team All-Pro recognition. The 24-year-old ultimately finished the campaign having compiled 51 tackles, 13 passes defended, one interception, one sack, and one forced fumble in 15 starts. He also came up big during the postseason, snagging a pair of interceptions in two games.

The Packers have been busy retaining their cornerbacks corps this offseaosn. They re-signed starter Kevin King, and they also brought back restricted free agent Chandon Sullivan. This trio will join former second-rounder Josh Jackson and perhaps a rookie on the Packers depth chart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL’s Fifth-Year Option Salaries For 2021

The NFL’s 2021 salary cap has been set at $182.5MM, marking the league’s first reduction in a decade. With that, the league has also ironed out the value of this year’s fifth-round option for 2018 first-round picks.

Here’s the full rundown, via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter):

1. Baker Mayfield, Browns, QB — $18.858MM (playing time)

2. Saquon Barkley, Giants, RB — $7.217MM (1x Pro Bowl)

3. Sam Darnold, Jets, QB — $18.858MM (playing time)

4. Denzel Ward, Browns, CB — $13.294MM (1x Pro Bowl)

5. Bradley Chubb, Broncos, LB — $12.716MM (1x Pro Bowl)

6. Quenton Nelson, Colts, G — $13.754MM (2x Pro Bowl)

7. Josh Allen, Bills, QB — $23.106MM (1x Pro Bowl)

8. Roquan Smith, Bears, LB — $9.735MM (playing time)

9. Mike McGlinchey, 49ers, OT — $10.88MM (playing time)

10. Josh Rosen, Cardinals, QB*

11. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers, S (drafted by Dolphins) — $10.612MM (2x Pro Bowl)

12. Vita Vea, Buccaneers, DT — $7.638MM

13. Daron Payne, Washington, DT — $8.529MM (playing time)

14. Marcus Davenport, Saints, DE — $9.553MM

15. Kolton Miller, Raiders, OT — $10.88MM (playing time)

16. Tremaine Edmunds, Bills, LB — $12.716MM (1x Pro Bowl)

17. Derwin James, Chargers, S — $9.052MM (1x Pro Bowl)

18. Jaire Alexander, Packers, CB — $13.294MM (1x Pro Bowl)

19. Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys, LB — $9.145MM

20. Frank Ragnow, Lions, C — $12.657MM (1x Pro Bowl)

21. Billy Price, Bengals, C — $10.413MM

22. Rashaan Evans, Titans, LB — $9.735MM (playing time)

23. Isaiah Wynn, Patriots, OT — $10.413MM

24. D.J. Moore, Panthers, WR — $11.116MM (playing time)

25. Hayden Hurst, Falcons, TE (Drafted by Ravens) — $5.428MM

26. Calvin Ridley, Falcons, WR — $11.116MM (playing time)

27. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks, RB — $4.523MM

28., Steelers, S Terrell Edmunds — $6.753MM (playing time)

29. Taven Bryan, Jaguars, DT — $7.638MM

30. Mike Hughes, Vikings, CB — $12.643MM

31. Sony Michel, Patriots, RB — $4.523MM

32. Lamar Jackson, Ravens, QB — $23.106MM (1x Pro Bowl)

* Rosen was released from his original contract and, therefore, is not option-eligible 

As a refresher, the fifth-year option year is now fully guaranteed. In the past, it was guaranteed for injury only. The values are also dependent on certain performance metrics:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the 3rd-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • 75%+ snaps in two of their first three seasons
    • 75%+ average across all three seasons
    • 50%+ in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will get the average of the 3rd-25th top salaries at their position.

Packers Sign CB Jaire Alexander

The Packers announced the signing of first-round pick Jaire Alexander. The cornerback out of Louisville was the No. 18 overall selection in the draft.

Alexander put himself squarely in the Round 1 conversation despite missing time with a knee injury in 2017. Some evaluators had concerns about Alexander’s slender build leading to another injury, but the potential was too much for Green Bay to pass up.

The Packers moved around on draft night and still came away with the cornerback they wanted. The Packers shipped their original pick to the Saints for the No. 27 pick, a fifth-round choice, and the Saints’ first-round selection in 2019. Then, the Packers moved up nine spots by giving up their third and sixth-round choices in a swap with the Seahawks.

Alexander will get an opportunity to prove himself right off the bat with the Packers as he projects to start alongside free agent addition Tramon Williams. Veteran Davon House, 2017 second-round pick Kevin King, and this year’s second-rounder Josh Jackson are also in support.

As shown on PFR’s rookie contract tracker, the Alexander signing leaves Jackson and third-round linebacker Oren Burks as the last remaining unsigned members of the Packers’ draft class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Ravens, Seahawks, Saints, Browns

Let’s take a look at some assorted notes as we get ready for the start of the draft…

  • There are a number of teams currently picking in the twenties that would be interested in moving up to the teens, reports Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). Interestingly, those teams may have some suitors, as the reporter notes that the Ravens and Seahawks are among the teams interested in trading back.
  • Saints assistant general manager Jeff Ireland told Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune that running back Saquon Barkley is the top player on their draft board (Twitter link). “He’s rare,” Ireland gushed. “He’s unique.” Of course, barring some crazy development, the Saints are unlikely to have an opportunity to select Barkley, as they’re only armed with one pick in the first two rounds. Plus, the team is already rostering several talented running backs, including Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.
  • There could end up being a flurry of trades if the Browns select Baker Mayfield with the first-overall pick, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter video). All of the potential scenarios have seemingly stalled trade talks, although Rapoport notes that the Browns (No. 4), Broncos (No. 5), and Colts (No. 6) are among the teams who’d consider moving down. The Bills could be among the teams looking to trade into the top-six range, and the Broncos could ultimately choose to keep their pick if someone like Josh Allen falls into their lap.
  • Rapoport also notes (via Twitter) that several prospects are expected to be selected earlier than initially thought: Maryland wideout D.J. Moore, UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport, and Louisville Jaire Alexander. Davenport and Alexander both landed in the top-20 of Daniel Jeremiah’s rankings, while Moore was listed 37th.

NFL Draft Rumors: Nelson, 49ers, Eagles

Good news for Wisconsin product Nick Nelson. The surgery to fix the cornerback’s torn meniscus was successful and he did not need a full repair, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Because it was not a full repair, he is expected to recover in six weeks rather than 3-4 months and should be ready for training camp. Nelson was projected to come off the board no later than the third round before the injury and he should be in consideration for rounds 2 and 3 once again after the operation.

Here’s a look at the latest NFL Draft news:

  • The 49ers met with Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith on Tuesday, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. Smith had 137 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season and could be a replacement for Reuben Foster, who is embroiled in serious legal trouble stemming from a domestic violence arrest.
  • Iowa center James Daniels, who is widely regarded as the top center in this year’s draft, visited with the Eagles this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. On Tuesday, he’ll meet with Bears before traveling to the 49ers on Wednesday. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com says that Daniels is one of the best center prospects he’s seen in the last five years and has him ranked as the 23rd best prospect overall in this year’s draft.
  • South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, met with the Lions on Tuesday, Rapoport tweets. If the Lions select Hurst in the first round, that will make three first round tight ends for them in the last ten years, following Brandon Pettigrew (2009) and Eric Ebron (2014).
  • Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander visited the Eagles and Dolphins this week, Rapoport tweets. Alexander is widely projected to be a first round pick and may be the second CB to come off the board after Ohio State’s Denzel Ward.
  • Teams like Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, but the belief that he is a two-down defender and not an adept pass-rusher may keep him out of the Top 10, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com hears.
  • Speaking of Payne, he visited the Redskins on Monday, a source tells ESPN.com’s John Keim (on Twitter). Washington owns the No. 13 overall pick in the draft.