Matt Kalil

AFC South Notes: Texans, Robinson, Colts

Rumblings about the Texans attempting a last-ditch Jadeveon Clowney trade have cooled down, with the team unlikely to recoup too much value for the three-time Pro Bowler after the franchise tag extension deadline passed (and with Clowney being able to effectively block a trade by virtue of not signing his tender). The last report on Clowney’s return indicated he was expected to report back between the start of next week and the end of the preseason. Clowney also has a grievance rumored, seeking to be tagged as a defensive end ($17.1MM) instead of as an outside linebacker ($15.9MM). But the former No. 1 overall pick should be fighting to ensure the Texans cannot tag him again in 2020, Joel Corry of CBS Sports writes. However, with this prohibition clause having not occurred since 2008 (Albert Haynesworth with the Titans), Corry predicts the sixth-year Texans edge defender will fail on this front and end up being tagged again in 2020.

Here is the latest news from the AFC South, shifting to a player who will draw Clowney blocking assignments this season:

  • Recently deemed iffy for Week 1, Cam Robinson appears a good bet to suit up against the Chiefs in two-plus weeks. The Jaguars‘ left tackle starter took snaps with the first unit in the team’s third preseason game, with Phillip Heilman of The Athletic tweeting Robinson joined the likely starting line of Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, Will Richardson and Jawaan Taylor on Thursday night. Robinson tore one of his ACLs in September of last year and spent the next several months rehabbing.
  • D’Onta Foreman will not have a chance to exact any revenge on the Texans this season, with the now-Colts running back set to miss the season. But the Colts still have him in their plans. A torn biceps will shelve Foreman, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets, but the team will not opt for an injury settlement. The Colts plan to stash the former third-round pick on IR and have him learn their system in time for a hopeful 2020 debut in Indianapolis.
  • While Matt Kalil was recently named the Texans‘ starting left tackle, Wilson adds that Roderick Johnson is “firmly” in the conversation to start against the Saints in Week 1. The Texans have held Kalil out of recent practices for conservation purposes, per Bill O’Brien. Kalil missed all of last season with a knee injury. Encouraging work in games and practices has allowed Johnson, a former Browns fifth-round pick and Texans waiver claim, to improve to the point of being a first-stringer. The Florida State product appears set to receive the first crack if Kalil cannot go, pointing to first-round rookie Tytus Howard staying at left guard.
  • Titans running back David Fluellen underwent knee surgery recently, but Paul Kuharsky (of PaulKuharsky.com) notes the backup is expected to be ready by Week 1. Fluellen is expected to keep his job as Tennessee’s No. 3 back.

Matt Kalil Named Texans’ Starting LT

Earlier this month, it was reported that Matt Kalil was the frontrunner to open the season as the Texans’ starting LT. However, the fact that Roderick Johnson started in Kalil’s place in Saturday’s preseason contest led some to wonder whether there was still an open competition for the job.

Head coach Bill O’Brien unequivocally shot down that notion, telling reporters that Kalil will be Houston’s starting left tackle, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. Kalil did not practice on Thursday after getting his foot stepped on during practice on Wednesday, but O’Brien said that did not have anything to do with his decision to keep Kalil on the sidelines. Rather, the Texans’ HC said Kalil would play in the team’s third preseason contest and that he is simply trying to manage the 30-year-old’s snaps.

Indeed, Kalil missed all of last season with a knee injury and he played just two games in 2016, so it’s understandable that the Texans would want to be cautious with him. The team’s O-line was its biggest weakness in 2018, and while Houston also added tackle Tytus Howard in the first round of this year’s draft, Howard is expected to begin his pro career at left guard.

Kalil’s injury history and Howard’s status as a small school rookie make it fair to wonder whether the Texans’ offensive front will actually be improved this year, but the club appears to be confident in that regard. Their performance will go a long way in determining Houston’s 2019 fate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans’ Tytus Howard To Open At Guard

The Texans deployed one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines last season and are likely to return multiple starters from the group that yielded 62 an NFL-most sacks. But the team looks to be planning on getting a key addition into the lineup in an unexpected fashion.

Tytus Howard is the frontrunner to open the season as Houston’s starting left guard, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. A first-round tackle out of Alabama State, Howard would replace 2018 starter Senio Kelemete if this plan ends up coming to fruition. Recent signing Matt Kalil is in place as the team’s left tackle, Wilson adds.

Although Howard was viewed as a bit of a reach as a first-rounder, the Texans — despite firing GM Brian Gaine, who oversaw this year’s draft — clearly believe the former high school quarterback has a chance to play immediately. Gaine said after the draft the college tackle could play both guard positions, and Bill O’Brien‘s staff is testing that stance.

Additionally, the Texans are considering second-round guard Max Scharping as a Week 1 starter on the right side. But Wilson adds 2018 starter Zach Fulton is firmly in the mix to keep his job to start this season. Seantrel Henderson, who re-signed after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1, is expected to start at right tackle.

Deshaun Watson took the most sacks any NFL passer has since Jon Kitna in 2006. The Texans were quiet in free agency on this front, despite entering the marketplace with more than $80MM in cap space. They added the oft-maligned Kalil and used first- and second-round picks on a Division I-FCS tackle (Howard) and mid-major guard (Scharping, out of Northern Illinois). All three additions could be Week 1 starters, doing so after 2018’s batch of newcomers frequently failed to protect Watson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Rumors: Texans, Falcons, Saints

The Texans have received positive health news on two offensive players, as both receiver Will Fuller and left tackle Matt Kalil are expected to be ready for the regular season after sustaining injuries in 2018, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (all Twitter links). Fuller averaged a career-high 15.7 yards per reception in seven games before suffering a torn ACL, but he’s now recovering nicely. Kalil, who inked a one-year deal with Houston after being released by Carolina, missed all of last year while dealing with a knee issue, but general manager Brian Gaine says Kalil is expected to compete with Julien Davenport to start on Deshaun Watson‘s blindside.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

  • Alabama State offensive tackle Tytus Howard is a second-round target of the Falcons, tweets Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.net. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com lauds Howard’s size (6’2′”, 322) and ability to “explode out of his stance,” but notes potential concerns about Howard’s level of competition in the FCS. Atlanta owns the 45th pick, so Howard could certainly be available when the Falcons make their second-round selection. Although Atlanta recently extended incumbent right tackle Ty Sambrailo, his new contract is essentially a one-year deal with multiple team options. Howard has also met with the Jets during the pre-draft process.
  • Defensive tackle Tyeler Davison‘s one-year deal with the Falcons will qualify as a minimum salary benefit contract, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Davison will collect an $895K base salary ($110K guaranteed) and a $90K signing bonus, but he’ll only carry the salary cap charge of a second-year veteran plus his signing bonus — a total of $660K. A fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft, Davison started 48 games over the past four seasons in New Orleans, and will now give Atlanta a run-stuffing option alongside fellow defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.
  • Saints cornerback Ken Crawley is planning to sign his original round restricted free agent tender when New Orleans begins its offseason program on Monday, as Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com writes. As of yet, Crawley has not received any interest from any rival clubs, and isn’t expected to until Friday’s deadline for RFAs to sign offer sheets. Crawley is now scheduled to earn $2.025MM for the 2019 campaign, but none of that total is guaranteed, an important distinction given that Crawley isn’t a lock to make the Saints’ roster after finishing as a bottom-three cornerback last season, per Pro Football Focus.

AFC Notes: Colts, Funchess, Mathis, Texans, Mills, Bills, Ravens

The Colts made it very clear they were looking for a number two receiver this offseason. Ever since the season ended with a loss to the Chiefs in the second round of the playoffs, the front office and coaching staff had emphasized the need for a consistent second option behind T.Y. Hilton. The Colts mostly rotated lesser-known role players like Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers as their number two last season, and needed to upgrade. When free agency opened they went out and got their guy, signing Devin Funchess to a one-year deal worth up to $13MM.

Speaking to the media from the owners meetings this week, Colts coach Frank Reich revealed he banged the table for Funchess. When GM Chris Ballard first approached Reich about signing Funchess, Reich said he was immediately all-in, according to Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star. “I was like, ‘Please, let’s get this guy.’ That was the guy we really wanted to get,” Reich explained. Funchess was up and down during his time with the Panthers, but has always been high on talent. Funchess will provide the Colts’ receiving corp with the big bodied receiver they were lacking opposite the smaller Hilton, and will be a nice weapon for Andrew Luck in 2019. The Colts are clearly confident in his ability to improve his consistency, and Reich seems genuinely excited about the addition.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Speaking of the Colts, Indianapolis is making a notable change to their coaching staff. Robert Mathis will no longer be a full-time coach, according to Keefer. The Colts’ legend had served as an assistant coach helping out with the team’s pass-rushers the past two seasons. Mathis will now transition into a role as a consultant, giving him more time to develop his private training business. Mathis spent 14 years in the NFL, all with the Colts, and racked up 123 sacks. He’s also the league’s all-time leader in forced fumbles.
  • The Texans recently signed Matt Kalil, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily done adding offensive tackles. The team hosted former Bills tackle Jordan Mills on a visit before signing Kalil, but they’re apparently still interested in adding Mills, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Wilson writes that Houston has “remained in contact with Mills” and that he’s “still a candidate to potentially join the team.” Offensive line was the team’s main weakness last year, and it looks like they’re trying to add as many pieces as possible. Mills started all 16 games for Buffalo in each of the last three seasons, but graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 70th-best tackle last season.
  • The Bills and Ravens are two teams that could desperately use receiver help, that much isn’t really a secret. Both teams have young quarterbacks in Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, and they both need to upgrade their receiving corp. They’re both likely to draft a wideout early next month, and they’re each showing interest in one of the top receivers available in the upcoming draft. Buffalo and Baltimore will both meet with Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf ahead of the draft, James Palmer of NFL Network hears (Twitter link). Metcalf blew up the combine with freakish athletic testing, and should go sometime in the first round.

Extra Points: AAF, Texans, Colts, Ravens

Is the Alliance of American Football in trouble? Potentially, as majority league owner Tom Dundon explains to Kevin Allen and Mike Jones of USA Today. “If the [NFL] players union is not going to give us young players, we can’t be a development league,” said Dundon. “We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league.” The AAF wants the NFLPA to allow active NFL players — especially those on practice squads — to participate in the developmental league. The union, however, is worried that not only would such an arrangement would violate the collective bargaining agreement, but put said players of in danger of being injured in non-NFL-sanctioned action.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Matt Kalil received a $2.25MM signing bonus and a $3.25MM base salary as part of his one-year deal with the Texans, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Currently projected as Houston’ starting left tackle, Kalil can also earn $125K in gameday active roster bonuses, which could add an additional $2MM to his deal. If he’s healthy and active for each of the Texans’ 16 regular season games, Kalil will take home $7.5MM for the 2019 season. Kalil’s health isn’t a sure thing, of course, given that he missed all of last year with a knee injury.
  • Colts owner Jim Irsay attempted to hire Peyton Manning for a front office role, first in 2016 and again in early 2017 after firing general manager Ryan Grigson, and those conversations actually went further than previously indicated. “It did get close with Peyton,” Irsay told Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “I wouldn’t say super serious close, but enough to kick the tires and say, ‘What are you thinking?’ Because my counsel is there for him whether he comes to the Colts or chooses to do something else. There was definitely some interest on both sides.” Manning has been loosely tied to several front office jobs since retiring after the 2015 season, but he’s thus far resisted every overture.
  • The Ravens are still interested in adding a “shifty, third-down, home-run-type” running back even after signing Mark Ingram, head coach John Harbaugh said this week, per Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. Ingram received a three-year deal to leave New Orleans and is the favorite to lead Baltimore in touches, but Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, Tyler Ervin, and De’Lance Turner could also factor into the club’s backfield. The draft could present the Ravens with the opportunity to bring in another back, while free agents who might Harbaugh’s criteria include Ty Montgomery (whom Baltimore traded for last season), Bilal Powell, and Corey Grant.
  • T.J. Weist has been named the Ravens‘ assistant special teams coach, the club announced. Weist, a longtime coach at the collegiate level, originally joined Baltimore as an offensive analyst in 2018.

Texans Sign Matt Kalil

The Texans signed free agent tackle Matt Kalil, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (on Twitter). Terms of the deal are not yet known, but it’s likely to be a low-cost contract for Houston. 

The Panthers cut Kalil last week to save roughly $7MM, though they’ll eat $5MM in 2019 and $9MM in 2020 by designating him as a post-June 1 cut. The Panthers, apparently, viewed it as a necessary move after Kalil underperformed in his first year with the club and spent all of 2018 on injured reserve. Even under the best of circumstances, many thought it was unlikely that the veteran would ever live up to his five-year, $55MM deal.

Kalil started all 16 games in 2017 in his first year with the Panthers, but knee troubles cost him all of last year. It was never made clear exactly what the issue with Kalil’s knee was, but he’s apparently healthy enough to play now.

Kalil was a star at USC, and the Vikings took him fourth overall in the 2012 draft. He was a reliable starter his first few years, starting all 16 games in each of his first four seasons. But then Kalil played in just two games in 2016 while dealing with a hip injury, which made the Panthers’ decision to give him the massive deal even more puzzling. The Texans need all the offensive line help they can get, and Kalil is still only 29, so he could prove to be a nice reclamation project in Houston.

 

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Release LT Matt Kalil

Panthers veteran left tackle Matt Kalil has been released, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Panthers will cut him with a post-June 1 designation, saving the club roughly $7MM this year. After that, they’ll eat $5MM in 2019 and $9MM in 2020.

Kalil signed a higher-than-expected five-year, $55MM contract with the Panthers in 2017 and that deal still had guarantees going into 2019. The left tackle leaves Carolina after appearing in just 16 games (all in ’17).

Ultimately, this amounts to a cut-your-losses maneuver. The Panthers have a new owner in David Tepper, and the GM that authorized the Kalil contract, Dave Gettleman, is now with the Giants. Effectively, the club’s new decision makers are willing to chalk up Kalil’s deal – and the associated penalties – to a bad move by the old crowd.

Kalil has spent all of the 2018 season on injured reserve. After being taken out by the right knee injury, Chris Clark took over his spot. Next season, right tackle Taylor Moton could switch sides to man LT.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Collins, Gurley, Panthers

Providing an interesting flashback, Nick Foles engineered the Eagles to a big win Sunday night. He is going to be Philadelphia’s starter next week against the Texans, Doug Pederson said Monday. However, unlike last season, Carson Wentz is not headed to IR after what is viewed as a season-ending injury, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The third-year starter is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a back problem, so an IR trip would make sense — unless the Eagles want Wentz around in case he can make a surprise recovery or be an emergency quarterback. Pederson added that the Eagles will not put Wentz in harm’s way. The Eagles remain committed to the former No. 2 overall pick, who is eligible for an extension at season’s end. Foles, though, has started during the team’s biggest wins the past two years and will have another chance to build a unique free agency case. Foles’ contract expires after the season.

The latest from the NFC here, continuing with a key Giants offseason decision:

  • Landon Collins is rehabbing an injury that is expected to impact him well into the offseason. The Giants safety said he risked further damage to his injured shoulder by continuing to play, though he said during an appearance on The Michael Kay Show (via ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan, on Twitter) he would have considered staying on the field if the Giants had beaten the Eagles to stay in a more realistic playoff pursuit at the time. Collins’ contract expires soon, and the Giants are not believed to have engaged in extension talks with him yet. Collins, though, would prefer to stay in New York and is, as of now, expecting to return (Twitter link via Raanan). The franchise tag — expected to be worth approximately $11.2MM for safeties — is likely, Raanan adds.
  • Another high-profile player might not be back with his current employer. Matt Kalil signed a somewhat surprising five-year, $55MM Panthers contract in 2017, and that deal still has guarantees going into 2019. The Panthers would be tagged with $14.7MM in dead-money charges if they released Kalil next year — and such a move would not net Carolina anything in cap savings — but The Athletic’s Joe Person notes (subscription required) the current sense is Kalil will be released. The Panthers have a new owner in David Tepper, and the GM that authorized the Kalil contract, Dave Gettleman, is now with the Giants. So, a cut-your-losses maneuver would add up more compared to if the decision-makers behind the contract were still in place. Kalil has spent all season on IR.
  • Todd Gurley‘s knee injury surely terrified millions of fantasy owners, and it would throw another wrench in a slumping Rams attack. But Sean McVay said Monday (via ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry, on Twitter) Gurley is day-to-day with knee inflammation. This does not mean the All-Pro running back is a lock to face the Cardinals on Sunday, but it appears Gurley has dodged a multi-week injury and will be fine for the playoffs at the latest.
  • Greg Olsen underwent foot surgery on Monday, Person tweets. The Panthers’ Pro Bowl tight end said the procedure went well. Olsen is signed through the 2020 season, but the foot trouble that’s plagued him may not make it a lock he returns next year.

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