A.J. Green

Chiefs, Packers, Rams Looking Into Texans’ Brandin Cooks

As another trade deadline approaches, this era’s trade kingpin is naturally being mentioned in potential deals. Teams are looking into Brandin Cooks ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline, amid another season in which the Texans are not expected to challenge for a playoff spot.

The Chiefs, Packers and Rams have discussed Cooks with the Texans, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson. While a trade would put Cooks alongside the likes of Eric Dickerson, Earl Morrall, Norm Snead and Co., the thrice-dealt wide receiver has said previously he did not want to be moved again. Cooks nevertheless remains a viable trade chip in his ninth season and is now winding down his 20s with a rebuilding team. No deal appears close, Wilson adds, but Cooks appears back on the market.

Cooks, 29, signed an extension to stay with the Texans in April, cutting off his previous batch of trade rumors. Signed to a two-year, $39MM deal, Cooks is nevertheless tied to a $1.17MM base salary. The veteran’s salaries spike after this season — to $18MM (guaranteed) and $13MM in 2023 and ’24, respectively — but thanks partially to a September restructure, Cooks’ 2022 money would not be particularly imposing for a team to add.

Each of these teams has been connected to wide receiver pursuits. The Packers have been mentioned as a team looking for wideout help. That report emerged before a rough outing from Green Bay’s passing attack, one that preceded Aaron Rodgers suggesting players who are making too many mistakes should see their playing time reduced. Randall Cobb is on IR, and second-round pick Christian Watson has missed the past two weeks due to a hamstring injury. Allen Lazard is also battling a shoulder ailment he sustained in Washington; Green Bay’s top wideout was outfitted with an arm sling Monday, Matt Schneidman of The Athletic notes.

While calls for the Packers to augment their post-Davante Adams receiver situation came in this offseason, the team resisted. It is now 3-4, increasing the urgency ahead of Rodgers’ 39th birthday. Cooks fetched first-round picks in his initial two trades (from the Saints to the Patriots in 2017 and from the Pats to the Rams in 2018) and a second-rounder (from Los Angeles to Houston in 2020), prices that will test the Packers’ resolve.

It probably will not cost a second-rounder this time around, though the Texans were seeking such a return this spring. Cooks’ 2023 guarantee will affect his trade market this time around. The Packers are also being connected to the Cardinals’ A.J. Green via trade, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes. With Green now 34 and seeing minimal Arizona playing time, the Packers would not need to pay much. Cooks would also provide a bigger boost for Green Bay’s passing attack. The Packers’ pass-catcher search also includes tight ends, per Graziano.

Kansas City has been linked as an Odell Beckham Jr. suitor, joining Los Angeles on this front as well, but the team has seen its free agency additions — JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling — make leaps in recent weeks. Both topped 100 receiving yards against the 49ers, a game in which the Chiefs surpassed 500 yards. Cooks would become the most experienced player in the Chiefs’ receiving corps, and with second-rounder Skyy Moore not making much of an impact yet, the six-time 1,000-yard receiver could buy the rookie some time.

The Rams rostered Cooks for two seasons, having traded their 2018 first-round pick for him, and gave him a lucrative second contract. The team used Cooks as a starter alongside Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, and while the former Saints first-round pick posted a career-high 1,204 yards in the Rams’ Super Bowl LIII-qualifying season, concussions limited him in 2019. This year’s Rams edition is struggling on offense — partially due to UFA addition Allen Robinson‘s minimal impact — and the team has not shied away from splashy moves.

A Cooks trade would seemingly cut off an OBJ path. The Rams have been the clubhouse leaders for Beckham for months, but with their offense ranking 29th in scoring and OBJ not expected to be ready until December, the team may be facing a timeline question. Van Jefferson is on track to return from IR soon, but the team initially added Beckham despite rostering Kupp, Woods and Jefferson last year. The Chiefs appear better positioned to wait for Beckham compared to the 3-4 Rams.

This season, Cooks (28 receptions, 281 yards, one touchdown) is not on 1,000-yard pace. While the Texans could retain the 5-foot-10 target for the purposes of Davis Mills development, stockpiling future draft capital should certainly be considered given where the franchise resides on its rebuild timeline. Cooks may end up serving as a consolation prize for one of the three teams involved in the latest Beckham sweepstakes.

WR Notes: Toney, Rams, Lions, Cards, Cooks

The Giants will enter their Week 4 game with Richie James, David Sills and Kenny Golladay as their top available wide receivers. Wan’Dale Robinson will miss a third straight game, while Kadarius Toney will be out for a second. The Toney-Giants relationship is steadily deteriorating. This regime is “clearly” not high on the Dave Gettleman-era first-round pick, Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports writes. Repeated injury problems have slowed Toney with the Giants, who saw the Eagles trade in front of them to nab DeVonta Smith last year. Reports connected the Giants to the Heisman winner ahead of last year’s draft. Toney will have missed nine career games by Sunday, due to various lower-body ailments, and the current Giants regime’s Golladay handling shows it is not afraid to bury bad investments. It would seem Darius Slayton — another player who has not impressed the current staff, leading to trade buzz — will see more run in Week 4, but Vacchiano adds the Giants will likely be looking for at least two new wideouts in 2023. Toney joined Slayton in being linked in trade rumors, albeit briefly, this offseason. Robinson, a second-round rookie, appears the only lock to be back.

Here is the latest from the receiver scene around the league:

  • Allen Robinson flashed often during Rams training camp, and determining this signing will fail after three games is ill-advised. But early indications are Robinson’s 2021 Bears performance was not an outlier. The veteran dropped a touchdown pass against the Cardinals and has just seven catches for 88 yards with Los Angeles. The Rams came in with a monster offer — three years, $46.5MM; $30MM fully guaranteed — to sign the former Jaguars and Bears wideout, using their cap space on the ninth-year player after Von Miller chose the Bills. Other teams were interested in Robinson, albeit at lower price points, but SI.com’s Albert Breer notes teams did not like what Robinson put on tape. That is not exactly surprising, considering how badly Robinson’s final Bears season (38 receptions, 410 yards, one touchdown) went. But the early returns on Robinson’s Rams deal are not promising. Rams-Odell Beckham Jr. connections will likely continue.
  • The Lions are being patient with Jameson Williams, who is recovering from an ACL tear sustained during the national championship game. Williams is on Detroit’s reserve/NFI list, and while the first-round wideout could return in Week 5, he will not. The Alabama product is likelier to be back in early November, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press posits. Williams recently posted a video of him running and cutting. A second-half return has always been rumored for Williams, whom the Lions traded up 20 spots to draft. But no setbacks having occurred here obviously represents a good sign for the rebuilding franchise.
  • The Cardinals‘ receiving corps will not be at full strength until at least Week 7, when DeAndre Hopkins is eligible to return from his PED suspension. But the team may have one of its previously unavailable weapons in uniform Sunday. Rondale Moore is tracking toward returning from his hamstring injury, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. The 2021 second-rounder, who caught 54 passes for 435 yards as a rookie, has missed Arizona’s first three games. He managed three limited practices this week. Marquise Brown, who suffered a foot injury in Week 3, is also likely to play. A.J. Green will miss Week 4 with a knee injury.
  • After Brandin Cooks played one game on the base salary he locked in by signing a two-year, $39.76MM extension in April, the Texans converted $831K of that base into a signing bonus. The Texans saved $554K with the move, Wilson notes. Cooks’ salary is down to $1.17MM; it spikes to $18MM next year. Cooks, who is now on his third contract, is signed through 2024.

Cardinals Re-Sign WR A.J. Green

After bouncing back to contribute for the first playoff-qualifying Cardinals team in six years, A.J. Green is staying put. The 12th-year veteran agreed to re-sign with the Cards on a one-year deal, according to the team. Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reports that the contract is worth up to $3.5MM, with $3MM of that total guaranteed (Twitter link). Green can earn the remaining $500K in per-game active roster bonuses, and the deal also includes two voidable years for cap purposes.

This will give Green a chance to play an age-34 season; the former perennial Pro Bowler will turn 34 in July. Green is coming off a season in which he played 16 games, helping a Cardinals club that was without DeAndre Hopkins for much of the year. With Christian Kirk now out of the picture, Green again stands to be a key factor for Arizona’s Hopkins-led receiving corps.

Although Green’s days of 1,000-yard seasons appear to have passed, the 6-foot-4 wideout did re-emerge after a rough close to his Bengals career. After missing the 2019 season, Green posted just 523 receiving yards in 2020. This led him to the desert, but the former top-five pick caught 54 passes for 848 yards and three touchdowns. The Georgia alum posted two 100-yard games last season.

Green’s historic run of Pro Bowls to start his career (seven) stopped after the 2017 season, with injuries causing him to miss 23 games at the end of the 2010s. And he was not connected to any other teams in free agency this offseason. Thus, it is certainly interesting to see this Green-Cards partnership continue for another year.

The Cards might still be interested in wideout help, considering they will have two 30-somethings at receiver this year — Hopkins turns 30 in June — they still have Rondale Moore and Antoine Wesley rostered. Former second-round pick Andy Isabella remains on the team, but the Cardinals gave him permission to seek a trade last month. Green’s injury past and Hopkins’ 2021 setbacks should still make this a relative need, but the former’s return should certainly help the Kyler Murray-centered offense.

Cardinals, TE Zach Ertz Closing In On Deal

After acquiring tight end Zach Ertz in a trade with the Eagles in mid-October of last year, the Cardinals are finalizing a new multi-year deal for the nine-year veteran, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The three-year deal is set to keep the 31-year-old among the top-10 highest-paid tight ends in the NFL. 

Ertz is a three-time Pro Bowler who set the NFL-record for single-season receptions for a tight end in 2018 with 116 catches, which trailed only Saints’ receiver Michael Thomas for the league lead among all pass-catchers. Ertz was consistently productive in Philadelphia, recording five-straight seasons with at least 800 receiving yards.

After taking a back seat role to the Eagles’ younger tight end Dallas Goedert, the Cardinals made the move to acquire Ertz and watched him thrive in the new system. Ertz’s 11 games in Arizona in 2021 showed far more production than the 11 games he played in Philadelphia the year prior. With wide receivers Christian Kirk and A.J. Green set to hit the free agent market this week, locking down their tight end was a must.

The three-year deal will be worth $31.65MM with a guaranteed amount of $17.5MM. The annual average value of $10.55MM ranks 10th among NFL tight ends, just below David Njoku, Mike Gesicki, and Dalton Schultz, who got franchise tagged for $10.93MM. With this deal Ertz is now off the crowded tight end market, along with the three who were tagged. Remaining options for those looking for tight ends are C.J. Uzomah, Robert Tonyan, Evan Engram, and Will Dissly.

Cards’ Owner Bidwill On Kyler Murray

With everything starting to appear copacetic between the Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray, the team’s owner, Michael Bidwill, addressed the 24-year-old’s future in Arizona, as reported by Jeremy Cluff of The Arizona Republic. As Murray heads into the fourth year of his rookie contract, Bidwill discussed the possibility for an extension. 

“The window has just opened for a contract extension. Certainly he’s part of our long-term plan,” Bidwill said of Murray. “Most of the big ones are done further down the road, I think Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen were done in the summer time. Others were done in the summer time. So we’ve got time, but they’re complicated.”

In respect to the turmoil surrounding the quarterback, Bidwill claimed he and Murray have had “good conversations non-stop.”

While expressing the desire to give Murray an extension out of his rookie contract, Bidwill also acknowledged that the team has other priorities, as well, namely bringing back some key free agents. He recently expressed his wishes to retain two-time All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones, which Jones appeared scoff at. Newcomers to the desert, running back James Conner and tight end Zach Ertz, have both made it known that they would be more than happy to consider re-signing.

Other Cardinals headed to free agency include running back Chase Edmonds, wide receiver Christian Kirk, veteran wideout A.J. Green, and tight end Maxx Williams. While the Cardinals’ owner is looking forward to finding a way to keep Murray long-term, he and his front office have some work to do in the meantime.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/11/21

Today’s minor NFL transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Los Angeles Chargers

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/3/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Dallas Cowboys

Houston Texans

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Cardinals To Sign A.J. Green

The Cardinals’ already impressive receiving corp just added another big name. Arizona has agreed to terms on a deal with A.J. Green, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Green had been expected to leave Cincinnati all along. It’s a one-year deal worth “up to” $8.5MM with $6MM of that being guaranteed, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The base value is $6MM with incentives that can push it higher, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets. While Cardinals fans might be quick to get excited about this news, it could also indicate that fellow free agent Larry Fitzgerald is unlikely to return. Fitzgerald, 37, could decide to hang up his cleats or even continue playing with another team.

Green is now the second first-round pick from the 2011 draft the Cards have added this offseason after they already signed J.J. Watt. If they bring back Patrick Peterson, they’ll have three of the top 11 picks from that draft on the roster. Once one of the best receivers in the game, injuries limited Green to just nine contests in 2018 and he then missed the entire 2019 season.

He returned this past year to appear in all 16 games, but his role was greatly reduced in new coach Zac Taylor’s offense. He finished with just 47 catches for 523 yards, easily the lowest total of his career, including the nine-game campaign. His 694 yards in nine 2018 games would’ve projected out to 1,233 yards for a full season, so there are reasons to believe he’s still got something in the tank.

While it ended on a bad note, the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft had an incredible run in Cincy. He set all sorts of franchise records while making seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. He didn’t seem to see eye to eye with the new Bengals management, and there was even some speculation back in October that he wanted to be traded although the wideout denied it.

Green will turn 33 in July, and he certainly won’t be the number one option in an offense that features DeAndre Hopkins. But he’s got a chip on his shoulder, and perhaps Hopkins’ presence will free things up for him. Here’s to hoping he rejuvenates his career in the desert.

A.J. Green Very Unlikely To Be Back With Bengals?

When he last spoke about his future, A.J. Green made it clear he knew there was a chance he was playing his last games in Cincinnati. It sounds like it’s no longer just a chance, it’s a foregone conclusion.

While going through the Bengals’ upcoming free agent class, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic writes that there’s just a ‘one percent’ chance of Green coming back. “The hope for all involved is Green can resurrect his remarkable career. It just won’t be in Cincinnati,” he writes. This isn’t exactly a shock, as this has been the direction things have been trending, and there was even some speculation back in October that he wanted to be traded although the wideout denied it.

If it is indeed the end, the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft had an incredible run in Cincy. He’s set all sorts of franchise records while making seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. He had a reduced role this past season, catching only 47 passes for 523 yards in 16 games. Now 32, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of interest he gets on the open market.

Although he doesn’t treat it with nearly as much certainty, Dehner also doesn’t think cornerback William Jackson III is too likely to return. He thinks one or more teams will be willing to give him a big contract and “the Bengals won’t be one of them.” Jackson has started at least 13 games in each of the past three seasons, and had 11 pass breakups in 2020.

AFC Notes: Watt, Green, Chiefs, Gordon, Pats

Vocal about his frustration with the Texans‘ situation, J.J. Watt is on track to play in 16 games for just second time in the past five seasons. Although a midseason report tabbed the future Hall of Fame defensive lineman as a “virtual lock” to be traded in the offseason, Watt has one season remaining on his Texans deal. He acknowledged his contract — a six-year, $100MM 2014 pact that has since been lapped by a few younger D-linemen — will need to be addressed in 2021.

There’s a whole lot of unknowns in that situation. We’ll see what happens,” Watt said, via Fox 26’s Mark Berman (video link). “I don’t have any guarantees left in my contact, so something’s got to happen one way or another. I’m not sure. There’s too many unknowns.”

Thanks to the Laremy Tunsil deal, the Texans do not have first- or second-round picks in next year’s draft. Despite Watt’s contributions, Houston’s defense ranks near the bottom of the NFL. And the team does not have many long-term cornerstones on offense beyond Tunsil or Deshaun Watson. Watt, 31, would be an interesting 2021 trade chip — should the Texans attempt to collect assets for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year — but the prospect of a new Watt contract in a year when the cap is set to decline would seemingly affect his market.

Here is the latest from the AFC heading into Week 17:

  • Another superstar from the 2011 draft class, A.J. Green may be set for his final Bengals game Sunday. The former perennial Pro Bowler has seen his role in Cincinnati’s offense reduced, despite playing on the franchise tag, and acknowledged Sunday might be it for him in western Ohio. “If this is my last game, I had an unbelievable 10 years here,” Green said (via ESPN.com’s Ben Baby, on Twitter) Thursday. The Bengals did not let Green test free agency this year, which understandably led to frustration from the veteran, and 2021 figures to be a crowded marketplace for wideouts. Green, 32, stayed healthy this year but has just 47 receptions for 523 yards — a distant third among Bengals.
  • The Broncos will have a decision to make at running back soon. They have Phillip Lindsay looming as an RFA, and Melvin Gordon‘s DUI arrest has him facing a three-game suspension — one that would stand to void the remaining guarantees on his two-year, $16MM deal. “Hopefully I did enough for them to want to keep me here,” Gordon said, via 9News’ Mike Klis. Gordon has rushed for 893 yards in 14 games but has a career-low 141 receiving yards.
  • A back injury ended Mitchell Schwartz‘s iron-man streak at 134 games; the Chiefs‘ All-Pro right tackle has been out since Week 6. Andy Reid said the veteran right tackle is making progress but was vague on a return timeline, per the Kansas City Star’s Herbie Teope (on Twitter). Another report, via the Star’s Sam Mellinger (on Twitter), indicated Schwartz is not expected to return this season. Schwartz, 31, has long been one of the NFL’s top right tackles. His absence would obviously make a Chiefs repeat championship more difficult.
  • Brandon Bolden was one of the eight Patriots to opt out because of COVID-19 concerns, but the longtime backup running back/special-teamer plans to play in 2021. The 30-year-old back tweeted he wants to return next season, though it is not certain if the Patriots will bring him back. Thanks to Bolden’s 2020 money tolling, he is under contract next year on a $1.3MM base salary.