K.J. Wright

NFC Rumors: Rodgers, Hawks, Linehan, Bucs

The Aaron Rodgers watch now includes a practice return. The Packers saw their best player resurface at Saturday’s practice after he’d missed all week of workouts. Although NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero points out Rodgers is still questionable (Twitter link) and the Packers will see how he looks Sunday morning, now that he’s gotten in a practice it’s a bit difficult to see the 34-year-old quarterback not suiting up Sunday against the Vikings. Swelling in Rodgers’ left knee remains an issue, per Pelissero (on Twitter), and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein tabs it as unlikely the Packers will give their centerpiece a green light if he’s still sore or experiencing swelling from Saturday’s workout. But the 14th-year passer has dealt with myriad left knee trouble at several points in his career. That said, the Vikings’ defense may be the toughest unit he faces all season; and Minnesota’s front seven will be facing a surely less mobile Rodgers than it ordinarily would.

Here’s what’s new out of the NFC going into Week 2 Sunday.

  • Bobby Wagner serves as the anchor for the Seahawks‘ front seven, having played in 42 straight games. That streak will end on Monday night after the Seahawks declared their top linebacker out for their Bears game. K.J. Wright also will not play. Wagner is battling a groin injury, while Wright is still recovering from a knee scope. Perhaps this explains the team’s need to make the controversial decision to sign Mychal Kendricks, who may face prison time after pleading guilty to insider trading. Barkevious Mingo is the only starting linebacker Seattle will have available in Chicago.
  • Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan saw increased latitude this offseason in the team’s effort to restructure its offense, with Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News writing the fourth-year Dallas OC was involved in the decisions to release Dez Bryant and move on from four offensive assistants. Linehan signed an extension in 2017 that calls for him to be paid approximately $2MM per season, George notes. This makes the Cowboys’ OC one of the NFL’s highest-paid assistants. George adds Linehan could well be on the chopping block if Dallas’ offense nosedives. The Panthers did not see much from Linehan’s unit in Week 1.
  • DeSean Jackson appears set to have another chance to face his original team. The Buccaneers wide receiver is expected to surmount concussion protocol and be on the field against the Eagles on Sunday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Jackson had his best game as a Buccaneer last week, hauling in five passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

Reactions, Notes On Mychal Kendricks Signing

The Mychal Kendricks saga took an interesting turn this evening, as the free agent linebacker signed a deal with the Seahawks. The 27-year-old recently pleaded guilty to insider trading after profiting more than $1MM from non-public investment information.

Even with the news that Kendrick was working out for Seattle earlier today, there was skepticism that the free agent would be able to secure a deal. After all, the charge would seemingly fall under the NFL’s personal-conduct policy, meaning the league could impose their own, separate punishment. “NFL PR Guy” Brian McCarthy told NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport that no decision has been made regarding a potential suspension (Twitter link).

“The matter is under review,” McCarthy said. “He is currently permitted to sign and participate in activities including games.”

Let’s take a look at some more notes and reactions to the Kendricks signing…

  • ESPN’s Adam Schefter provides some clarification (via Twitter) on Kendricks’ sentencing and potential punishment. While the player was originally scheduled to be sentenced in December, Schefter says the date has been moved to late January. This is important when it comes to Kendricks’ playing status, as it’d mean he’d be able to play the entire season (barring a suspension). Schefter also notes that the linebacker is facing 30 to 37 months in prison, a far cry from the 25 years that was originally suggested.
  • Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times writes that Kendricks pleading guilty to the charge likely contributed to the Seahawks decision to sign him. In fact, admitting to the crime was a bit shocking, and it led the judge to question whether he was coerced into the plea. “…I know I was wrong,” Kendricks said. “I know that I made the decision to accept information, secret information, and it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
  • The reason to add another linebacker could be partly attributed to K.J. Wright‘s absence, as the veteran has been recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. While he’s expected to miss this weekend’s game, Pete Carroll sounded optimistic that the 29-year-old will return soon. “He’s running today,” Carroll said (via ESPN.com) .“He felt pretty good. We’ll see how he goes. He’s going day-to-day. He ran yesterday and he’s working out again today so — he hasn’t done that yet, but he’s making progress. He’s feeling pretty good.”

West Rumors: Raiders, Bosa, Chiefs, Griffin

With Jon Gruden and Mark Davis leading the charge to trade Khalil MackReggie McKenzie‘s premier draft choice — it could signal a separation of the Raiders‘ power structure soon. Davis gave Gruden power via the 10-year, $100MM contract, but McKenzie’s remained in his GM role. That could change soon, with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports expecting the Raiders to part ways with McKenzie and bring in one or two younger evaluators to work under Gruden as the franchise transitions to Las Vegas. Some around the league didn’t expect Gruden and McKenzie to coexist for long, and the Raiders making one of modern NFL history’s biggest trades could further drive the decision-makers apart. Gruden has also expressed doubt about McKenzie’s recent draft classes, and the transactions involving those players signal the new coach’s dissatisfaction with the classes.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions:

  • Mack’s contract sets up Joey Bosa as the player best-positioned to eclipse it, Joel Corry of CBS Sports said (via Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune). Bosa’s floor will be Mack’s $23.5MM-AAV Bears deal, per Corry, who adds he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chargers‘ young pass rusher sign for $25MM per year and shoot for $100MM guaranteed. The Chargers have Bosa under team control through 2020 via the fifth-year option, and as teams showed with the 2014 first-round crop, procuring an extension with two years left on a rookie contract is difficult. Todd Gurley provided a recent exception, however. Bosa, 23, becomes extension-eligible after this season and will be much younger than Mack or Donald was when they became eligible. The Bolts also have Philip Rivers signed through 2019, and the veteran quarterback has not indicated he’s considering near-future retirement. So, the Chargers might have to build for the prospect of having two $20MM-per-year players on a payroll. No team’s cap sheet currently features that.
  • Shaquem Griffin will make a Week 1 start. The inspirational Seahawks fifth-round rookie will start in place of K.J. Wright against the Broncos this week, Pete Carroll said. Wright underwent recent knee surgery and has a best-case scenario of being ready by Week 2.
  • Despite being away from the Chiefs all offseason, Ron Parker has multiple avenues back into the starting lineup in time for Week 1. Eric Berry is questionable to face the Bolts with a heel injury, and Andy Reid said Berry’s longtime wingman could start regardless of the All-Pro’s status (Twitter link via the Kansas City Star’s Brooke Pryor). Parker’s started all but one Chiefs game for the past four seasons but was released in March for cap concerns. He’s now back for the league minimum, per OverTheCap. The Chiefs lost projected starter Daniel Sorensen to an August injury; he’s currently on IR.

NFC West Rumors: Donald, Wright, Cards

The Rams seem to be preparing their fans for a contract coronation soon, continuing to declare they’re near the goal line of the Aaron Donald negotiations. After Sean McVay made comments about the Donald deal being close to completed, Rams GM Les Snead confirmed this two-offseason saga is nearing completion. He added, via Pro Football Talk, nothing’s been agreed to just yet. After Donald reported into the regular season and won defensive player of the year acclaim despite being in a new defense, the fifth-year player’s late arrival probably won’t mean much to the Rams. But the results of this process will be plenty important for Khalil Mack and others seeking to raise a defensive salary ceiling that’s remained stagnant for two years as quarterbacks’ wages have skyrocketed.

Over the past year alone, the top of the QB market has climbed by 24 percent, with Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweeting Donald or Mack will have to sign for a $23.66MM deal to match that kind of increase. Von Miller‘s $19MM-AAV agreement — signed in July 2016, when the highest-paid quarterback wasn’t yet making $25MM per year — remains the top defender contract.

More from the NFC West, moving to another longtime defensive starter, here:

  • A Seahawks defense that already jettisoned four Super Bowl-era starters this offseason may be without another in Week 1. K.J. Wright underwent surgery on Monday and probably won’t be ready when the Seahawks face the Broncos next Sunday, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. Pete Carroll categorized this procedure as a “cleanup” but said a couple of weeks would be the most optimistic timeline. Shaquem Griffin‘s first start, then, figures to occur sooner than expected. Condotta confirms the fifth-round rookie will start if Wright can’t go.
  • Jonathan Cooper went from signing a near-$5MM contract with the 49ers this spring to possibly being a post-preseason casualty. A slow recovery from knee surgery has Cooper on the 49ers’ bubble, Corry notes. Cutting Cooper, who is behind Mike Person and Joshua Garnett at right guard, would cost the team $4.48MM in dead money.
  • Two notable names appear to be competing for the final Cardinals receiver spot. Former Cowboys rotational cog Brice Butler signed a two-year Cardinals deal but is not a lock to make the team. He and one-time Browns second-round pick Greg Little, who hasn’t played since 2014, may be vying for one job, with Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com writing he wouldn’t be surprised if Little beats out Butler. He has Butler making the team ahead of Little, however. A Butler cut would cost the Cards $500K in dead money.

West Notes: Seahawks, Cardinals, Raiders

Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright is entering the final year of his contract and is quietly hoping for an extension.

I want to be here, of course,’’ Wright said (via Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times). “The Seahawks know that. Whatever they want to do, they’ll do. It’s my job to be the best that I could be, to make sure that K.J. and this defense is good. They know what it is and let’s get something done.”

Wright is set to earn $7.2MM this offseason before reaching unrestricted free agency. With his 30th birthday coming on July 23, he recognizes that this could be his last chance at a big payday.

Wright has certainly earned a new contract with his on-field performance in recent years. Last year, he racked up 108 total tackles and an interception as he started in all 15 of his games. Last year, he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 18 ranked linebacker and has routinely been a top-20 LB per the advanced metrics since becoming a full-time starter in 2012.

Here’s more from the West divisions:

  • Odds are the Cardinals will sign wide receiver Greg Little after minicamp, Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic tweets. Little likely would have signed with the club after his first tryout, but a hamstring injury got in the way. Little, a second-round of the Browns in 2011, spent three seasons in Cleveland before being waived. Since then, he has had stints with the Raiders, Bills, and Bengals. Little, 29, has played in 54 games with 42 starts over the course of his career. His most productive season came as a rookie when he had 61 catches for 709 yards and two scores. He followed that up with 53 catches for 647 yards and four scores as an NFL sophomore.
  • The Raiders‘ kicking competition close between Giorgio Tavecchio and Eddy Piñeiro is extremely close, as Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Tavecchio stands as the only incumbent specialist left on the Raiders’ 2018 offseason roster after the team parted ways with punter Marquette King, long snapper Jon Condo, and longtime kicker Sebastian Janikowski, but it’s possible that they’ll clean house in that department under new head coach Jon Gruden. “I believe we’ll go in through some of the preseason games for sure and give them both an opportunity to kick in game-like situations,” special teams coach Rich Bisaccia said. “We’ll try to create as many situations in practice as we possibly can and certainly when we get to pads. It’s a process and everything matters. … Right now, they’re nip and tuck.”

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Thurmond, Giants

Some assorted notes from around the NFC…

  • The 2016 base salaries for several Seahawks players will be guaranteed today, tweets Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. The list includes Richard Sherman ($12.569MM), Russell Wilson ($12.342MM), Cliff Avril ($6MM) and K.J. Wright ($5.25MM). $6MM of Earl Thomas‘ $8MM 2016 salary is also guaranteed today (via Corry).
  • The Eagles and free agent safety Walter Thurmond haven’t started discussions on an extension, tweets Geoff Mosher. The two sides are expected to start talking at the NFL Combine.
  • Jordan Raanan of NJ.com puts the Giants chance of retaining cornerback Prince Amukamara at “40 percent.” With the 26-year-old expected to fetch a contract of at least $10MM annually, Raanan isn’t convinced that the team is willing to spend at the position.
  • Raanan also believes the Giants should pursue Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon. The 25-year-old is younger than Mario Williams (who is expected to be released) and he’s more dependable than Jason Pierre-Paul.

2015 Salaries Become Guaranteed For Sherman, Thomas, Others

Five members of the NFC champion Seahawks will have their 2015 base salaries become fully guaranteed today, as former agent Joel Corry explains on CBSSports.com. This list includes cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas, linebacker K.J. Wright and defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

Sherman’s guaranteed salary in 2015 is $10MM, the highest of the group. Combined with his $2.2MM signing bonus, the cornerback’s cap hit will be worth an estimated $12.2MM next season. This total is more than three times the value of Sherman’s cap hit last season. Meanwhile, one of Sherman’s fellow defensive backs will also be earning a chunk of change today. Thomas’ $5.5MM salary becomes guaranteed, meaning the All-Pro safety will count for $7.4MM against the ‘Hawks cap (counting the player’s $1.9MM prorated signing bonus).

Wright’s salary and cap hit will take a significant jump in 2015. The linebacker’s $3.75MM is now full guaranteed, and coupled with the player’s $1MM signing bonus, Wright counts for $4.75 against the cap. Michael Bennett’s cap hit will be worth twice as much as its 2014 value, as the defensive end’s $6MM salary is now guaranteed. Combined with the player’s $2MM signing bonus, Bennett will count for $8MM against the cap. Finally, fellow defensive end Avril had his $7.5MM salary guaranteed. Add that total to the veteran’s $500K signing bonus, and the player’s cap hit is worth $8MM (a drop from last season’s value).

Two other members of the organization had their contracts partially guaranteed today. Safety Kam Chancellor had $4.45MM of his $4.55MM salary guaranteed, meaning his cap hit is worth $5.5MM. $2.3MM of wideout Doug Baldwin‘s $2.8MM salary becomes guaranteed today, meaning the player now counts for an estimated $3.9MM against the cap.

Seahawks Sign K.J. Wright To Extension

SUNDAY: Wright will be guaranteed $16MM, $5MM of which is available in the form of a signing bonus, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports, who also breaks down the cap figures in the linebacker’ extension. Wright’s cap figure will be $4.75MM in 2015, $6.25MM in ’16, $6.8MM in ’17, and $8.2MM in ’18. His injury guarantees will become fully guaranteed five day after the waiver period in each year (Twitter links: 1, 2, 3).

THURSDAY: The Seahawks have locked up linebacker K.J. Wright for the next several seasons, announcing today that they’ve signed Wright to a four-year contract extension, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (via Twitter). Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) that the new deal, which will keep Wright from becoming a free agent this offseason, is worth $27MM.

Wright, 25, has been a starter in Seattle ever since being selected 99th overall in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He has been consistently effective in that role since becoming a Seahawk, recording grades of +7.2 or higher in each of his first three seasons with the club, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Wright has a more modest +3.2 grade in 2014, but that has been partly the result of moving around on the defense more often — as a 4-3 outside linebacker, the Mississippi State product still ranks 12th among 39 qualified players, per PFF.

As a fourth-round pick, Wright had a rookie contract worth just $2.526MM, so his extension provides him with a significant pay raise. According to Condotta (via Twitter), the fact that the Seahawks were able to clear Percy Harvin‘s future salaries from their cap in October’s trade with the Jets likely afforded the team additional flexibility and contributed to accelerating talks with Wright.

With Wright locked up, the Seahawks have secured a number of their key defensive players, as the 2015 offseason approaches. Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Michael Bennett also signed long-term deals with the team within the last year.

NFC Notes: Glennon, Vick, Rolle, Austin

A pair of playoff hopefuls will square off in two NFC divisional matchup this weekend, but it’s hard to view Cardinals/Seahawks and Saints/Falcons as equally important games. While the winner of the West showdown will have the inside track on the No. 1 seed for the postseason, the winner of the South contest will inch slightly closer to .500, and move closer to becoming the league’s worst division winner.

While we look forward to those two games and others, let’s check out the latest links from around the conference….

  • In the offseason, head coach Lovie Smith repeatedly referred to Mike Glennon as the Buccaneers‘ “quarterback of the future,” but he wasn’t willing to continue bestowing that title on Glennon this week, writes Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. “His future right now is, he’s on our football team,” Smith said of Glennon. “We’re not talking on the future right now. The future is about that last press conference — after the season.”
  • With his one-year Jets deal set to expire soon, Michael Vick has considered his 2015 destination, and is intrigued by the idea of joining his hometown team in Washington, as he tells Newsday’s Kimberley A. Martin. “I’m open to playing for anybody that wants to win. But obviously, going back home, I mean, that’ll be a dream come true,’‘ Vick said with a smile. “But I would hate to get my hopes up for something that wouldn’t happen. So I can’t even think about it right now.”
  • Nick Powell of NJ.com attempts to determine what a new contract for Antrel Rolle would look like as the Giants safety nears free agency.
  • Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who is on the Fritz Pollard list of top minority head coaching candidates, indicated today that he’ll interview with any teams interested in him as a head coach this offseason, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link).
  • Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, whose new four-year extension with the team was announced earlier today, said sticking with Seattle was his preference all along, and the Seahawks’ offer exceeded the dollar number had had in his head (Twitter link via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times).

West Notes: Miller, Seahawks, Broncos, Rams

Broncos star Von Miller became the latest player to weigh in on J.J. Watt‘s megadeal and he thinks the Texans got away light. “He’s underpaid in my opinion. What he does for the Texans, no one else does that for their organization,” Miller said, according to Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today Sports. “None of the big-time quarterbacks that are getting the big-time deals do. J.J. Watt deserves a similar deal. He does everything on the field, everything off the field. It was well deserved. I think he should have gotten more.” Of course, given Miller’s off-the-field troubles, it’s hard to say what Watt’s deal means for the Denver standout. More out of the AFC and NFC West..

  • On the eve of their season opener, the Seahawks haven’t given up hope of working out contract extensions with Cliff Avril and/or K.J. Wright, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). La Canfora writes that they’re “exploring options” with both, so agreements aren’t necessarily imminent.
  • The Broncos tried out long snappers Danny Aiken and Luke Ingram before picking up Kevin McDermott, according to Howard Balzer of USA Today (on Twitter).
  • Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (on Twitter) wonders if the Rams would have claimed Ryan Griffin if he were available instead of Case Keenum. St. Louis signed Keenum on Monday. Griffin, meanwhile, is back with the Saints on a practice squad deal.
  • Allen Bradford, Drew Nowak and David Arkin visited with the Seahawks, tweets Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.