Nick Kwiatkoski

Raiders Restructure Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski Deals

Via releases, trades and restructures, the Raiders have made several moves over the past week and change to create cap space. They continued to do so Friday.

Las Vegas will restructure two deals from the 2020 free agency period, rearranging some funds in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski‘s deals, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Together, these moves will create more than $7MM in cap space for the Raiders.

[RELATED: Raiders, Nicholas Morrow Discussing Deal]

This marks the second restructure for Littleton, who initially saw his contract reworked in September of last year. The Raiders initially signed the former Rams linebacker to a three-year, $35.25MM pact. Kwiatkoski signed a three-year, $21MM pact last March, completing an overhaul of the Raiders’ linebacking corps.

Over the past week and change, the Raiders have released Gabe Jackson, Richie Incognito and Lamarcus Joyner to clear up more than $25MM in cap space. They traded Trent Brown to the Patriots, adding another chunk to that total. They have climbed into the top 10 in cap space, now holding more than $30MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/23/20

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

AFC West Notes: Chiefs, Mahomes, Raiders, Broncos

Patrick Mahomes could be the NFL’s first $200MM player if he takes full advantage of his leverage, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com writes. However, Corry suggests that the Chiefs star should be less fixated on that figure and more focused on a similarly lucrative three-year extension. With a shorter deal, the quarterback could land an even bigger payday, thanks to the expected rise in revenue from the addition of a 17th regular season game.

There’s also been lots of chatter about a clause in the later years of Mahomes’ deal that would tie his contract to the salary cap as it escalates. It doesn’t seem out of the question for the NFL’s brightest star, but Corry isn’t sure if the Chiefs will be willing to set a radically new precedent in the game.

The salary cap percentage clause would be a game-changer, but I’d imagine that it’s in the realm of possibility for Mahomes, especially after Kirk Cousins secured a fully-guaranteed deal with the Vikings.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Raiders newcomer Nick Kwiatkoski will play middle linebacker in the Raiders 4-3 scheme, according to Scott Bair of NBC Sports. Kwiatkoski played on the inside of the Bears’ 3-4 layout and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther believes that he can be the team’s field general at the position. Kwiatkoski – signed for three years thanks to his $21MM deal – will be joined by fellow free agent addition Cory Littleton.
  • Raiders rookie Lynn Bowden Jr. had his home searched by the DEA this week, but his agency says that the running back was not arrested or charged afterwards (via Tashan Reed of The Athletic). Barring league discipline, the Raiders plan to open the year with Bowden as one of their supporting tailbacks behind starter Josh Jacobs. Devontae Booker, Jalen Richard, and Rod Smith are also on hand. On the field, Bowden has impressed – he ran for nearly 1,500 yards at Kentucky last year with an eye-popping average of 7.9 yards per carry.
  • After the departure of safety Will ParksBroncos defensive back Alijah Holder says he’s ready to step up for whatever role he’s assigned. “I’m a quick learner and wherever they put me, I’m going to learn the position,” Holder said (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post). “In dime, I feel I could take on that role. In practice last year, I played dime and nickel so I’m pretty familiar with most of the stuff. I really would love the chance to play dime if [defensive coordinator Vic Fangio] if goes that way.”

Bengals Tried Hard For LBs Joe Schobert, Nick Kwiatkoski

Free agent linebacker Joe Schobert just agreed to a massive contract with Jacksonville, and he apparently had options. The Bengals were “trying aggressively” to land Schobert, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). 

Schobert got five years and $54MM from the Jaguars, and Fowler reports that they were unwilling to match that. Cincinnati is usually never a big player in free agency, and they’ve now struck out on a couple of their bigger attempts. The Bengals were also in until the end on Nick Kwiatkoski, who ended up with the Raiders, tweets Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic. Clearly, they’re looking for linebacker help.

Given what Cincy’s defense looked like last year, it isn’t surprising that they’re being a little more active than usual in free agency. The Bengals were the worst team in the league in the first season of the Zac Taylor era, and figure to start completely fresh in 2020, likely with a new rookie quarterback.

Playing in the same division as the Browns and facing him twice a year, the Bengals had plenty of opportunities to scout Schobert. Inside linebackers have been flying off the board, and the pickings are now officially somewhat slim. One of the top remaining options is one of their own, Nick Vigil.

The fact that the Bengals were interested in these guys is a sign they weren’t too keen on bringing Vigil back, but they could pivot and re-sign him now that they’ve whiffed on Schobert and Kwiatkowski.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders To Sign Nick Kwiatkoski

The Raiders have agreed to sign former Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. Kwiatkoski has also personally confirmed the news, tweeting out a picture of the Raiders’ new stadium.

It’s a three-year deal for the free agent defender, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The longtime Bears backup/part-time starter will receive $21MM in this deal, with $13.5MM guaranteed, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Giants were also in the mix for the four-year veteran, per Garafolo (on Twitter).

Kwiatkoski will make $6.75MM in base salary this season, and Albert Breer of SI.com tweets the linebacker has a $3.4MM roster bonus that is essentially guaranteed at signing. He will receive that payment in five days.

The Bears watched Kwiatkoski progress into a legitimate contributor since he was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. However, after signing fellow linebacker Danny Trevathan to a three-year extension, the Bears decided to let Kwiatkoski walk via free agency. Jon Gruden, who has been eager to fortify his front seven, was happy to take him on.

Kwiatkoski, 27 in May, had perfect attendance for his last two seasons and started in half of his contests last year. In 2019, he logged 76 stops, three sacks, one interception, and four passes defensed.

Kwiatkoski, a well-respected run-stuffer, also stepped up his pass-rush pressure last year. The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus gave him an 81.8 grade in that category, showing that he’s trending towards even better things. The Broncos and Giants were among the clubs that were connected to him – at least, speculatively – before the deal with Las Vegas.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Harris, Kwiatkoski, Kearse, Kilgo

The Vikings secondary was one of the most inconsistent parts of their defense last season, but safety Anthony Harris remained a star amidst an inconsistent supporting cast. While Harris is set to become a free agent, Minnesota fans should be happy to know that he has a positive view of the Vikings. In an interview on Sirius XM, Harris stated, “I love the organization.”

Here are a few more notes from the NFC North:

  • The Bears organization has seen linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski progress into a legitimate contributor since he was selected in the 4th round of the 2016 draft. However, Dan Pompei of The Athletic, reports that after signing fellow linebacker Danny Trevathan to a three-year extension, Chicago appears prepared to let Kwiatkoski leave the organization via free agency.
  • Vikings impending free-agent defensive back Jayron Kearse took to Twitter on Friday and said he does not want to return to the team. A pair of Vikings fans were engaging in common social media speculation about the various ways Minnesota could approach the offseason. When one argued that they thought Jayron wanted to stay in the twin cities, Kearse jumped in and said, “No jayron doesn’t want to come back.”
  • Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports Lions nose tackle Darius Kilgo will soon be cleared to return to action from the quadriceps injury that cost him all of last season. Pelissero further notes that Detroit has no intention of resigning Kilgo, but it’s obviously ideal for Kilgo to be back to health before entering the open market. Of course, teams would likely want to see Kilgo workout in person, but the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak could make teams more tentative to give Kilgo any guarantee if they are unable to see him in person.

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 North Notes: Bradford, Adams, Lions

Despite Sam Bradford having expected to have a good idea about his Monday-night playing status after the Vikings‘ Saturday practice, the quarterback is officially listed as questionable for Week 5. Considering the starting signal-caller was declared out during the past two work weeks for Minnesota’s Week 3 and Week 4 games, this is progress. But Mike Zimmer (via Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, on Twitter) either doesn’t look to have seen much more from Bradford over the past two practices compared to Thursday’s, or he’s keeping encouraging news close to the vest. Although the coach said his preferred passer looks “good,” this is likely going to be a game-time decision — one that could end up with Case Keenum starting a fourth consecutive game.

Here’s the latest from the rest of the NFC North, continuing on the injury front in Green Bay.

  • Davante Adams has surmounted the concussion protocol and expects to suit up for the Packers against the Cowboys, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports. This would come as a slight surprise given the severity of the hospitalization-forcing hit Adams absorbed the last time he was on a game field, but the fourth-year wide receiver did have an extra three days to go through the protocol. Demovsky heard Adams was cleared just before the team boarded the plane for Dallas, and Mike McCarthy said earlier this week he would have a good idea about Adams’ playing status by that time. Adams also suffered a concussion last season but was cleared without missing a game.
  • With each passing game, the chances are increasing the Lions will cut Eric Ebron rather than pay him the $8.25MM he’d be owed in 2018 via the fifth-year option, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com writes. Ebron has played in all four Detroit games but only has 11 catches for 87 yards. Meinke notes fourth-round rookie Michael Roberts could serve as a replacement at a fraction of the cost next season.
  • The Lions will want to hang onto Ziggy Ansah, but their top pass rusher’s age, recent injury history and sporadic production since 2016 — sacks in just three of the past 20 regular-season games — will make the 29-year-old defensive end a franchise tag candidate, Meinke writes. Meinke doesn’t envision, at least as of now, the Lions making a long-term commitment to Ansah based off this recent work sample. Nothing’s emerged on an extension front since March, when the Lions were planning a re-up. Questions about the Ghana native’s actual age surfaced earlier this year as well. Needless to say, the next three-plus months will be big for the 2014 first-round pick. It cost $16.9MM to franchise a defensive end this year, so that number could approach or surpass $18MM in 2018.
  • The Bears are likely to have a full-on skeleton crew at inside linebacker Monday night. With Nick Kwiatkoski doubtful to return from a pectoral injury sustained in Week 2, per Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter), the Bears would be without their top three inside ‘backers. Danny Trevathan will serve his one-game suspension Monday night, and Jerrell Freeman (pec) is on IR. Christian Jones and a to-be-determined player will start there against the Vikings.

Bears Notes: Glennon, Trubisky, Howard

The Bears have not yet had a discussion about replacing starter Mike Glennon with fellow quarterback Mitch Trubisky, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). Through two games (both Chicago losses), Glennon has completed 67.1% of his passes for 514 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. He currently ranks 21st in quarterback rating and 25th in adjusted net yards per attempt, while the Bears’ passing offense is just 26th in DVOA.

Here’s more from the Windy City:

  • Running back Jordan Howard is playing through a sprained AC joint, tweets Rapoport, who adds the injury could help explain why some scouts believe the Bears second-year back is running “tentatively.” Howard, who topped 1,300 yards on the ground in 2016 after entering the league as a fifth-round pick, has seen his snap percentage decrease this season as rookie Tarik Cohen takes on more passing game responsibility. Heading into today’s game Howard had managed just 2.7 yards per carry, but he’s already managed 46 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers in Week 3.
  • While the Bears originally believed Nick Kwiatkoski was done for the year after suffering a pectoral injury last week, the linebacker’s health issue may not be season-ending, per Rapoport (Twitter link). While Kwiatkoski will miss several games, he’s likely to be available later this year. That’s an extremely positive development for Chicago, which had already placed starting linebacker Jerrell Freeman on injured reserve.
  • Can the Bears rebound from their 0-2 start? Not according to PFR readers, who ranked Chicago as one of the least likeliest winless teams to perform better down the stretch. Check out the rest of the poll results and add your own thoughts here.

Bears’ Nick Kwiatkoski Likely Done For Year

Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski is likely done for the year with a season-ending pectoral injury, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Once confirmed by medical testing, Kwiatkoski will be placed on injured reserve. Nick Kwiatkoski (vertical)

Kwiatkoski, a fourth-round pick in last year’s draft, was moved into the starting lineup in the wake of Jerrell Freeman‘s pectoral injury and concussion. Now, Chicago is down two ILBs and their best in-house option is former UDFA Christian Jones. Jones has started 20 games for the Bears in the past, but he is not an ideal first string player.

Kwiatkoski, 24, appeared in 14 games as a rookie, including seven starts. He finished out with 42 tackles, one sack, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble.

The Bears lost to the Bucs 29-7 on Monday, dropping them down to 0-2. They’ll look to get in the win column on Sunday when they face the Steelers at Soldier Field.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.