Matt Kalil

Sunday NFL Transactions: NFC South

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four NFC South teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the Falcons, Panthers, Saints, and Buccaneers are noted below.

Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s NFC South transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:

Atlanta Falcons

Practice squad:

Carolina Panthers

Placed on injured reserve:

Signed:

Practice squad:

New Orleans Saints

Signed to practice squad:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Panthers Place Matt Kalil On Injured Reserve

The Panthers have placed left tackle Matt Kalil on injured reserve, the club announced today. Carolina has signed cornerback Lorenzo Doss in a corresponding move.

Kalil recently underwent a knee scope, and the issue is concerning enough that he’ll miss at least the first eight games of the season. However, the Panthers are hopeful Kalil can return later this year. Kalil, 29, has been durable for most of his NFL tenure: while he missed 14 games with a hip injury in 2016, he’s played in all 16 games in every other season of his career.

With Kalil sidelined, Carolina will turn to 2017 second-round pick Taylor Moton to handle left tackle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Rework Luke Kuechly’s Contract

The Panthers have restructured star linebacker Luke Kuechly‘s contract by converting $6.8MM of his salary into a signing bonus, per ESPN’s Field Yates (Twitter link). The move gives Kuechly, who is coming off his fourth First Team All-Pro nod, a nice influx of cash while also creating $5.1MM of cap space for Carolina this year.

Kuechly remains under club control through 2021, and while teams generally do not like to convert salary into signing bonus, as it makes it more difficult to cut ties with a player before his contract expires, it seems unlikely that Carolina will want to move on from Kuechly anytime soon. Although the Boston College product has missed a number of games due to concussions, and although he has had surgery on both of his shoulders — indeed, he has not played a full 16-game season since 2014 — he remains the best inside linebacker in the game.

The 27-year-old will once again anchor the middle of the Panthers’ defense in 2018. Carolina made the playoffs last season and is hoping for a return trip this year, but the team’s offensive line is a major cause for concern at the moment. Indeed, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) that LT Matt Kalil is likely to miss at least the first three games of the regular season, and the Panthers have already placed RT Daryl Williams on injured reserve. Plus, left guard Amini Silatolu is dealing with a torn meniscus.

As such, Carolina could use some of its newfound cap space on an offensive lineman or two, and it could also look to upgrade its backup QB and safety situation. Theoretically, the Panthers could also look into an extension for wide receiver Devin Funchess.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers OT Matt Kalil Undergoes Knee Scope

Panthers left tackle Matt Kalil is week-to-week after undergoing a knee scope, according to David Newton of ESPN.com. Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) first reported Kalil would seek a second opinion on his knee from renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

Kalil, 29, has been durable for most of his NFL tenure: while he missed 14 games with a hip injury in 2016, he’s played in all 16 games in every other season of his career. His current knee injury been hampering him during training camp, and given his week-to-week diagnosis, it’s unclear if Kalil will be available for the start of the regular season.

Carolina can ill afford to lose any more offensive linemen. After allowing left guard Andrew Norwell to defect in free agency, the Panthers saw right tackle Daryl Williams go down with a torn MCL and dislocated knee cap in July. While Carolina is hoping Williams can return in the second half of the season, that’s far from a guarantee. Meanwhile, veteran Amini Silatolu — who had been winning the battle to replace Norwell at left guard — underwent surgery for a torn meniscus earlier this month.

With three projected offensive line starters sidelined, the Panthers are going to be forced to reshuffle their front five. 2017 second-rounder Taylor Moton was already scheduled to play right tackle in relief of Williams, but he could now be forced to move to the blindside. That would open yet another hole at right tackle, where journeyman Blaine Clausell would presumably step in.

Carolina could conceivably look to the open market for reinforcements, but the list of available tackles is slim. Currently, the top options include Chris Clark, Will Beatty, Bryce Harris, and Chris Hairston, while Menelik Watson will soon join them when he’s released by the Broncos.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Rework OT Matt Kalil’s Contract

The Panthers have reworked the contract of offensive tackle Matt Kalil by converting his $10MM option bonus into a signing bonus, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter links).Matt Kalil (Vertical)

As Yates indicates, converting an option bonus into a signing bonus doesn’t change much about Kalil’s contract, except to ensure that he receives the $10MM immediately. Additionally, while the Panthers could not recoup any portion of an option bonus were Kalil to retire or be suspended, the club could recover Kalil’s signing bonus if need be.

There was never any doubt that Kalil would be part of Carolina’s 2018 roster, as the five-year, $55.5MM contract he inked last offseason will likely keep him in the Panthers’ plans for at least two more years. Carolina would incur $20.6MM in dead money by releasing Kalil now, and $14.7MM if they wait until 2019. In both seasons, it would actually cost the Panthers more to cut Kalil than it would to retain him.

The 28-year-old Kalil is the 11th-highest-paid left tackle in the NFL on an annual basis, but he didn’t live up to that salary in 2017, as Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 55 tackle among 81 qualifiers. Kalil has started all 16 games in five of six NFL seasons, but he hasn’t received an above-average grade from PFF since his rookie campaign in 2012.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Sign Matt Kalil

Former Minnesota offensive tackle Matt Kalil has signed with the Panthers, per a club announcement. The deal was first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Now, Matt will play on the same offensive line as his brother, Ryan Kalil.

Matt Kalil (vertical)

It’s a five-year, $55.5MM deal for Kalil, who will receive $24MM guaranteed, Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer writes. However, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. The deal is effectively a one-year pact with an option for more, based on what one source tells Mike Florio of PFT.

The Panthers have to decide between the first and fifth day of the 2018 league year whether to exercise a $10MM option bonus for 2021, with a $10MM non-exercise fee for 2018. The Panthers can avoid escape the option bonus by releasing or trading him prior to that deadline. Ultimately, this all measures out to a one-year, $13MM deal with a $1MM guarantee for 2018. Cutting ties with Kalil after one year would be costly, but it wouldn’t be out of the question if he underperforms.

The Vikings took Kalil No. 4 overall in 2012 draft and watched him enjoy a stellar rookie campaign. However, he’s been unable to replicate that success. Last year, he appeared in just two games due to injury. Hopefully, he’ll be able to turn in a 16-game season this year, like he did from 2012-2015.

There was mutual interest in a reunion between the Vikings and the 27-year-old (28 this summer), but Kalil was likely drawn to Carolina by the chance to play with his brother. Now, he’ll go to the Panthers and fill one of the team’s major offseason needs. Michael Oher was slated to be the team’s left tackle for 2017, but concussion issues have put his status in question.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Matt Kalil Likely To Sign With Vikings Or Panthers

Free agent left tackle Matt Kalil is expected to sign with either the Vikings or the Panthers, according to Peter Schrager of FOX Sports (Twitter link), who adds that clubs are waiting for the first left tackle “domino” to fall.Matt Kalil (vertical)

A reunion with the Vikings would see Kalil staying with the only club he’s ever played for during his five-year career. Minnesota selected Kalil fourth overall in the 2012 draft, and witnessed him excel during his rookie campaign. It’s been all downhill since, however, as Kalil has struggled to live up to his first-year production. In 2016, Kalil managed less than 200 snaps before going down with injury.

Kalil, 27, has indicated a preference to stay with the Vikings, and general manager Rick Spielman has also expressed his desire to re-sign the sixth-year pro. “We have a plan in place on everything,” Spielman said last month. “But I also know I have a pretty good history of trying to keep our own guys as well.” Minnesota’s offensive line was perhaps the league’s worst last year, so while Kalil isn’t an elite option, he’s preferable to what the Vikings deployed at left tackle in 2016.

The Panthers’ interest in Kalil has been reported before, as Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer linked Kalil to Carolina earlier this week. As of early this month, incumbent Panthers left tackle Michael Oher is still in the concussion protocol — even if he’s healthy, Oher could shift to the right side if Kalil is signed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents

It’s free agency week! This year, thanks to the salary cap increase, the dollars will be flying and players will make more than you ever could have expected. Our lists for offense and defense rank free agents based on overall ability, but our Top 50 ranks players based on earning power. Here, you’ll get a good sense of what the market will be like this week and who the big fish are.

The league’s “legal tampering” window will open on Tuesday at 11:00am CT. Technically, teams and players aren’t permitted to finalize agreements on contracts during that legal tampering window, but that’s often treated as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. We will almost certainly see handshake agreements go down on Tuesday and Wednesday before they become official on Thursday, the technical beginning of free agency.

Our list of 2017’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or franchise tagged players, since they’re effectively restricted free agents as well.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2017, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:

1. A.J. Bouye, CB (Texans): Bouye is an overnight sensation, going from unknown to elite talent in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what to make of Bouye, but his upside is too much for teams to pass up. The Texans declined to use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old (26 in August), but they’re still hoping to get a deal done this week. The Jets are said to have interest, but it’s not clear if they’ll have the room to get something done. Cornerback-needy teams like the Panthers, Saints, Jaguars, Titans, Bears, and Eagles can be expected to at least kick the tires on this year’s top player in the secondary. Could something like Janoris Jenkins‘ five year, $62.5MM contract ($28.8MM fully guaranteed) from last year be within reach? Jenkins had a longer history of success than Bouye, but consider these facts: Bouye nearly two years younger than Jenkins was at time of signing and the salary cap has risen by about $12MM.
Signed with Jaguars for five years, $67.5MM.A.J. Bouye (vertical)

2. Alshon Jeffery, WR (Bears): He was hurt for most of 2015 and he slumped along with the entire Bears offense in 2016, but his natural ability is still evident and he is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. At one point, it seemed like Jeffery could wind up as the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. That won’t be the case, but he will likely get more cash than any other wide receiver in this year’s class. The Eagles and Titans have been hot on his tail for some time now. The 49ers could also get involved and a return to the Bears cannot be ruled out either. Ultimately, Jeffery should wind up fetching at least $10MM per year and perhaps as much as $12MM per year on his next deal.
Signed with Eagles for one year, $9.5MM.

3. Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins): Jeffery isn’t the only wide receiver who could fetch $12MM per year. Stills isn’t necessarily the best wide receiver on his own team, but he is just on the cusp of his 25th birthday and his ability to stretch the field is tantalizing. It doesn’t sound like the Dolphins are ready to be the highest bidder for his services and it’s not hard to imagine a team like the Eagles landing him. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the potential suitors for Jeffery and Stills: the Eagles, Titans, Bears, and 49ers will probably come calling. The Rams may not have enough room to squeeze in Stills, but they could certainly use a playmaker like him if they do not re-sign Kenny Britt. Stills reportedly likes the West Coast (who doesn’t?) so the Niners and Rams could have a leg up on the others if the bidding is close.
Re-signed with Dolphins for four years, $32MM.

4. Dont’a Hightower, LB (Patriots): The market is capped for non-rush linebackers, but Hightower is pretty much the best at what he does and is also lauded for his intangibles. The Patriots have always embraced the “next man up” philosophy, so it is possible they will allow him to go elsewhere. The Dolphins have been frequently connected to Hightower, but that might be too ambitious for a team that has multiple major needs to address. The Colts might also make sense, but the price might be too rich for their blood. A Patriots return appears to be the most likely outcome, but anything is possible.
Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $35.5MM. 

5. Kevin Zeitler, G (Bengals): Zeitler has age on his side and he’s one of the safest free agents in the top ten after three consecutive years of dominance. Interior offensive linemen don’t get as much love as their counterparts on the outside, but they are still incredibly vital and Zeitler’s next contract will reflect that. If he doesn’t circle back to the Bengals, the Jaguars, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks all make varying degrees of sense for Zeitler. From a football standpoint, you can add the Jets to that group too, but I’m not sure they can meet a ~$12MM/year asking price.
Signed with Browns for five years, $60MM.

6. Logan Ryan, CB (Patriots): There are bigger names available at the cornerback position, but Ryan slots ahead of many of them after a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that this fresh-faced Super Bowl champ only just turned 26 in February. If the Patriots don’t tie him down, Ryan’s earning power could conceivably vault him past Trumaine Johnson in terms of guaranteed cash. The Jaguars and Titans would be wise to zero in on Ryan if they can’t land Bouye and it’s possible that some of their evaluators might even prefer Ryan over the Houston standout. Ryan’s next deal will probably pay him eight figures per year and it should be a lengthy pact.
Signed with Titans for three years, $30MM.

7. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Browns): There is strong mutual interest in a new deal between Pryor and the Browns. Still, the Browns passed on the opportunity to franchise tag the Ohio State product and he now appears poised to test the open market. With pretty much just one year to show, how will Pryor fare in free agency? His next deal should pay him at least $10MM/year and he could get up to $12MM/year. In addition to the Browns, the usual suspects for this year’s high-end WRs will explore signing Pryor (say it with me): Eagles, Titans, and 49ers. There’s conflicting word about whether the Steelers will get involved. The Giants are known to have interest, but I don’t think they’ll be splurging on free agents like they did one year ago.
Signed with Redskins for one year, $6MM.

8 .Ricky Wagner, OT (Ravens): There’s already talk of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year and it’s not like this year’s free agent market is flush with young, quality tackles. When you also consider the lack of quality tackles in the draft, it’s apparent that Wagner is about to get PAID, in all caps.Believe it or not, $10MM/year might be his floor. When all is said and done, he’ll be the league’s biggest earner at right tackle. The Bears are particularly interested in Wagner, so he could go from the AFC North to the NFC North this week.
Signed with Lions for five years, $47.5MM.

Calais Campbell (vertical)9. Calais Campbell, DL (Cardinals): Campbell was supposed to be an afterthought in Arizona after the addition of Chandler Jones. Perhaps motivated by a perceived slight, Campbell turned in a stellar year. Now, the Cardinals would very much like to keep him, but they can only go so far as they back up the Brinks truck for Jones and look into retaining other key free agents. If Jones does not agree to a cap-smoothing long-term deal between now and March 9th, the odds of Campbell leaving increase. The Jaguars are said to be a leading contender for Campbell while the Titans, Broncos, Colts, and Bears could also use a force like him. His age (31 in September) gives him a bit of a ceiling in terms of overall compensation, but he should still do nicely this month.
Signed with Jaguars for four years, $60MM.

10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (Bills): In terms of pure talent, Gilmore might be the best cornerback available. Trouble is, no one knows what to make of him after a down 2016. Some have openly theorized that Gilmore was playing it safe to avoid injury in his pivotal contract year. It’s also possible that Buffalo’s injuries in the front seven put undue stress on the secondary. The Bears are reportedly high on Gilmore and he may represent a cheaper option than Bouye or Ryan. A Bills return would also make sense here.
Signed with Patriots for five years, $65MM.

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Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Offense

NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.

Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.

Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Updated 3-7-2017, 2:55pm CT

Quarterback:

  1. Mike Glennon
  2. Nick Foles
  3. Brian Hoyer (story)
  4. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  5. Colin Kaepernick
  6. Josh McCown
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Christian Ponder
  12. Blaine Gabbert
  13. Geno Smith
  14. Matt Schaub (story)
  15. EJ Manuel

Honorable mention: Ryan Nassib, Landry JonesShaun Hill Mike Glennon (vertical)

Colin Kaepernick’s agents have (wisely) let everyone know that their client will stand for the National Anthem in 2017. That may seem like a minor point, but teams say they would have automatically removed him from consideration if he continued his attention-grabbing protest. He grabbed headlines for his actions on the sidelines last year, but he actually turned in an OK season. From a football standpoint, Kaepernick would make sense for a lot of teams as a QB2 with upside.

Interestingly, this list includes three quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it as the Jets’ starter and three rejects from the 49ers. They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all six of those players (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert) come with varying degrees of potential and proven effectiveness. Smith, somehow, could reportedly be retained by the Jets and installed as the starter in 2017.

Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.

Running back:

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Jamaal Charles
  6. Darren McFadden
  7. Jacquizz Rodgers
  8. Rex Burkhead
  9. Rashad Jennings
  10. Danny Woodhead
  11. Tim Hightower
  12. DeAngelo Williams
  13. Andre Ellington
  14. Chris Johnson
  15. Christine Michael

Honorable mention: Robert Turbin, Travaris Cadet, Benny Cunningham, Lance Dunbar, Bobby Rainey, Brandon BoldenDenard Robinson, James Starks

Adrian Peterson (vertical)As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.

The Patriots believe they won’t be able to match the offers that come in LeGarrette Blount‘s direction. Latavius Murray could circle back to the Raiders, but he won’t be agreeing to a deal with them before free agency opens on Thursday.

Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.

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Panthers Interested In Matt Kalil?

The Panthers could be fixing to have both Kalil Bros. on the roster in 2017. The Panthers are expected to have interest in Matt Kalil, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Matt Kalil (vertical)

Kalil, 28 in July, played in only two games last year thanks to September hip surgery. Teams will be wary of his medical status, but his father tells Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press that he is now 100% healthy. For his part, the younger Kalil has said that he would like to stay in Minnesota:

I’d love to stay here the rest of my career,” Kalil said last fall. “This is the team I started out with in the NFL, and I’ve been playing with these guys. I’ve met a lot of great friends here, my wife is from here. It’d be a good place to finish my career.”

Even if he’s healthy, the reality is that Kalil comes with tons of question marks. Kalil hasn’t been overly effective blocker since earning a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie. Kalil allowed the second-most pressures among tackles in 2014 and finished 18th from the bottom in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.