Billy Turner

Broncos Notes: Offensive Line, Veteran CB Search, Javonte Williams

With OTAs and mandatory minicamp finished across the league, organizations and media members alike have had the chance to break down some of the elements of the offseason which have stood out the most to them. In the case of the Broncos, 9News’ Mike Klis has detailed some of his key observations.

Among those is the plethora of variances in the team’s offensive line combinations during practices. Klis notes that the most commonly-used unit comprised Garett Bolles and Dalton Risner on the left side, with Lloyd Cushenberry III at center and Quinn Meinerz and Calvin Anderson occupying right guard and right tackle, respectively.

There are a number of other options being plugged into various positions, though. Included among those is Netane Muti, who has seen work with the other starters while filling in at both guard positions, as well as Graham Glasgow, who recently returned to practice to compete for a starting role. Lastly, Klis lists Billy Turner as a veteran who is “expected to play” somewhere along the o-line. The 30-year-old came back to the Broncos on a one-year, $5MM deal this offseason, but is also the linemen most experienced in working with new HC Nathaniel Hackett. 

Here are a few other notes from that same Klis piece:

  • Cornerback had the potential to be an area of need, at least in terms of depth behind Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby and K’Waun Williams, at this point in the offseason. However, Klis cites the play of Michael Ojemudia during the spring as cause for optimism that the team’s best option for the No. 4 role may already be on the roster. The 2020 third-rounder is set to compete with Damarri Mathis, whom the Broncos drafted in the fourth round this year, for that spot. A number of veteran free agents could still “wind up on GM George Paton’s radar,” Klis notes, however.
  • To no surprise, running back Javonte Williams is expected to “bump up to the 1A role” in 2022. In his rookie season, the North Carolina alum produced over 1,200 scrimmage yards despite splitting carries with Melvin Gordon, who signed a one-year deal to stay in Denver. Given his the former’s efficiency, and the seven-year age gap between the two, Williams is the logical candidate to assume a larger workload going forward.

 

Broncos Sign OL Billy Turner

Billy Turner is returning to Denver. The Broncos are signing the offensive lineman to a one-year deal, according to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (on Twitter). NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets that the one-year pact is worth $5MM.

Turner joined the Broncos during the 2016 season, and he ended up spending the next two-plus seasons with the team. He established himself as a dependable starter during his final year with the team, and he earned a four-year, $28MM contract from the Packers in 2019.

The lineman ultimately spend three seasons in Green Bay, starting all 43 of his games. Following a 2021 campaign where Turner started 13 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury, the veteran was cut.

Now, he’ll land back in Denver. The Broncos were clearly on the hunt for a lineman; earlier this week, the team hosted both Turner and Brandon Shell. Ultimately, Turner’s familiarity with former Packers coaches Nathaniel Hackett (now Broncos HC) and Justin Outten (now Broncos OC) may have won him the gig. Turner will compete with Calvin Anderson and Tom Compton for reps at right tackle.

Packers Release Za’Darius Smith

In an expected move, the Packers are moving on from their other Smith-named pass rusher. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Green Bay has released Za’Darius Smith (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Packers Re-Sign Preston Smith]

ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds that the Packers were willing to keep Smith, 29 at the owed cash amount for the 2022 season, which was $15.75MM. However, this seems to be a mutual parting of ways for both parties, as the Packers get much-needed cap relief and Smith gets to hit the open market for the second time in his career.

While injuries limited him to a single game in 2021, Smith proved his worth to the Packers the previous two seasons he was there. After coming to Green Bay following his time in Baltimore, the former fourth rounder totalled 26 sacks in 2019 and 2020, earning Pro Bowl nods along the way both times. Given that production, as well as his age, he will likely command a lucrative third deal this offseason.

Since he was released prior to the beginning of the league year, Smith will not gain the Packers a compensatory pick when he signs elsewhere. That will add to the number of teams interested in his services, putting Smith at or near the top of a free agent edge rusher class which already includes other established sack artists like Von Miller and Chandler Jones.

In related news, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets that the Packers are releasing right tackle Billy Turner. The 30-year-old had spent the past three seasons in Green Bay, but he will likewise begin the search for a new home.

With these two moves, the Packers have trimmed roughly $18.5MM off of their cap. The team has more work to be done to become cap compliant, but the bulk of that effort is now finished.

Whitney Mercilus Designated For Return

The Packers signed Whitney Mercilus in the aftermath of Za’Darius Smith‘s back surgery, but the NFC North champions played without both for the stretch run. A possibility each is back next week now exists.

Green Bay designated Mercilus to return from IR on Thursday, starting his 21-day activation clock. This is a surprise, given Mercilus’ biceps tear occurring in mid-November. DC Joe Barry conceded as much, indicating he was not expecting a return to practice this soon.

Barry’s stance may point to Mercilus being an option ahead of the NFC championship game or Super Bowl LVI — assuming, of course, the Packers’ season extends beyond next weekend — but the conference’s No. 1 seed could look drastically different when it returns to action.

David Bakhtiari missed 16 games this season but returned for the Packers’ Week 18 tilt, while O-line mate Josh Myers played in Detroit as well after being out since Week 6. Smith and Jaire Alexander are also trending toward returning for the divisional round. Ditto Randall Cobb, who must be activated by next week to play again this season. Starting right tackle Billy Turner was also back at practice this week. Turner has not played since suffering a knee injury in Week 14, though the Packers did not place him on IR.

Mercilus coming back would give the Packers a formidable two-deep edge-rushing contingent. The longtime Texans outside linebacker would almost certainly be a rotational rusher behind the likes of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. Mercilus, 31, signed with the Packers after his October Texans release. Used in a part-time capacity by both his 2021 teams, Mercilus has four sacks this season. The former J.J. Watt sidekick has 58 career sacks and has also been productive in the playoffs, having registered seven sacks in eight postseason games.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/4/22-1/5/22

Here are Tuesday and Wednesday’s activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: TE Jared Cook, LB Damon Lloyd (remains on IR)

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Packers Renegotiate Contracts With S Adrian Amos, OL Billy Turner

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst continues to open up cap space. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that Green Bay reworked the contract of safety Adrian Amos. Meanwhile, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports (via Twitter) that Packers offensive lineman Billy Turner also reworked his deal.

[RELATED: Packers Rework Preston Smith’s Contract]

Amos was set to have a cap hit north of $10.3MM, and Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com estimates that the reworked deal will save the Packers around $3MM in space. Turner’s renegotiated deal should see the Packers save at least $500K by converting the player’s roster bonus into a signing bonus; that total could go up based on how much of Turner’s $5.525MM salary was converted into a signing bonus (per Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Twitter). After these two transactions and linebacker Preston Smith’s recent pay cut, Silverstein estimates that the front office managed to get under the cap.

Following four seasons with the Bears, Amos joined the Packers on a four-year, $37MM deal in 2019. He’s started all 32 regular season games for Green Bay over the past two years, averaging 66.5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two interceptions per season. Amos also picked off Tom Brady in the Packers’ loss to the Buccaneers in this past year’s NFC Championship Game.

Turner bounced around the NFL a bit before seemingly finding a home with the Packers in 2019. After starting 25 games through his first five seasons in the NFL, Turner has started all 30 of his games for Green Bay over the past two years. The 29-year-old initially signed a four-year, $28MM deal with the Packers in 2019.

North Notes: Bears, Packers, Tomlin, Browns

The Bears became the latest team to work out Jamon Brown, with SI.com’s Albert Breer tweeting the guard was in Chicago for an audition. The free agent guard, a Falcons cut last month, has already worked out for the 49ers. Brown was a full-time Rams starter in 2017, but a 2018 suspension derailed his momentum. The Rams waived him shortly after he returned from that ban, but he ended the ’18 season as a Giants first-stringer. The Bears are returning four starters from last season and have been trying ex-Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi at guard.

Here is the latest from the North divisions:

  • The Steelers will let Mike Tomlin enter a contract year. Signed through 2021, Tomlin will not be extended this year, Art Rooney II said (via The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette, subscription required). The Steelers gave Tomlin his most recent extension last July, and he managed an eight-win season despite the largely Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers ranking 32nd in offensive DVOA. Rooney said he plans to address the contracts of Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert, who just signed a one-year extension, in 2021.
  • One of the league’s healthiest teams last season, the Packers may be down a starter in Week 1. Billy Turner suffered a knee injury during a scrimmage and is uncertain for Green Bay’s opener, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. Turner played guard for the Packers last season but is competing with free agency addition Ricky Wagner at right tackle this year. Lane Taylor, who missed all of last season, is expected to play right guard opposite emerging talent Elgton Jenkins on the left side.
  • For the second time in three weeks, the Browns brought in Cody Parkey for a visit. The veteran was part of a kicker group to work out for the Browns in August, though it was reported at the time the team was organizing a COVID-related emergency kicker list. Parkey briefly kicked for the Titans last season.
  • Bears training camp coaching intern Henry Burris will stay on the team’s staff all season, Matt Nagy announced. Known mostly for his 17-season CFL run, Burris also was a Bears quarterback for a short time in the early 2000s. This will be his first NFL coaching gig.
  • Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith underwent successful open-heart surgery recently, according to the Associated Press. Mike Zimmer said the second-year defender, who landed on Minnesota’s IR list, will remain in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future to recover.

Packers Eyeing David Bakhtiari Extension

Aaron Rodgers‘ longtime blindside protector, David Bakhtiari, is entering the final year of the four-year extension he signed with the Packers just before the 2016 campaign. He has more than lived up to that contract, earning two Pro Bowl nods and one First Team All-Pro bid over the past four seasons.

He is unquestionably one of the best left tackles in the league, and as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network observes, Green Bay would love to get an extension finalized before Week 1 (Twitter link). After all, the LT market is rapidly heating up, and Bakhtiari’s deal now places him outside of the top-10 in terms of average annual value.

When asked back in June if there were any ongoing negotiations with the Packers, the soon-to-be 29-year-old was tight-lipped. Though he did commit 12 penalties in 2019, including a career-high five false starts, he chalked that up to learning a new offensive system. Indeed, he did not commit any penalties in the final four games of the campaign, and if he turns in a typical performance in 2020, he will have every right to demand a contract similar to the monstrous three-year, $66MM pact ($50MM guaranteed) that Laremy Tunsil recently signed with the Texans.

The Packers certainly would like to get Bakhtiari tethered to something a little more team-friendly, so it stands to reason that they would try to lock him up sooner rather than later. That is especially true in light of the expected salary cap decrease in 2021.

In other OL news for Green Bay, offseason acquisition Ricky Wagner left practice with a left arm injury yesterday, as Tom Silverstein and Jim Owczarski of PackersNews.com write. If Wagner misses an extended period of time, look for the club to line up 2019 right guard Billy Turner at right tackle and Lane Taylor at right guard.

Contract Details: Paradis, Saffold, Jackson, Packers

Following another busy day around the NFL, let’s check out some contract details:

Packers To Sign OL Billy Turner

The Packers’ shopping spree isn’t over yet. On Tuesday morning, the Packers agreed to sign offensive lineman Billy Turner, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (on Twitter). Turner’s deal with Green Bay is for four years and $28MM, with a max value of $29.5MM, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. The contract calls for him to receive $11MM in the first year.

Turner, 27, has spent the last two years and change with the Broncos. He was discussing a new deal with Denver this week, but the addition of Ja’Wuan James probably squeezed him out of Denver. Turner now turns his attention to the Packers, where he can offer help at both tackle and guard.

The former Dolphins third-round pick has 25 career starts to his credit, including 11 last year. After suffering a rash of injuries up front, the Packers can use all the help they can get in protecting Aaron Rodgers.

Of course, Turner’s signing isn’t the real attention grabber in Green Bay. On Tuesday, the Packers also agreed to sign safety Adrian Amos, linebacker Preston Smith, and pass rusher Za’Darius Smith. Given all of the expenditures, it seems unlikely that the Packers will be serious suitors for Le’Veon Bell.