Blake Cashman

NFC North Notes: Bears, Vikings, Reader

Coleman Shelton started every Rams game at center last season, and the former UDFA logged a few starts there during the 2022 season. The Bears gave Shelton only a one-year, $3MM deal, however. Already rostering guards Teven Jenkins and Nate Davis, the Bears may view Shelton as a backup. This is because Chicago acquired Ryan Bates from Buffalo. Given a Bears RFA offer sheet in 2022, Bates remains attached to that contract (four years, $17MM). He looks more likely to be the favorite for Bears center duties than Shelton, ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin notes.

Bates, 27, does not have a notable history at center. At Penn State, he primarily played left tackle. The Bills used him primarily at guard, with Mitch Morse previously entrenched at center. Despite Buffalo matching the 2022 Chicago offer sheet, the team added two new guards — Connor McGovern, O’Cyrus Torrence — in 2023. Bates did not start a game for the Bills last season, but the ex-UDFA looks set to have a good shot at taking over at center for the Bears.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Bears’ four-year, $76MM Jaylon Johnson extension features an out in 2026. The deal calls for $10.6MM of Johnson’s $15.1MM 2026 base salary to be guaranteed for injury, but no skill guarantees are in place beyond 2025. KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes $7.6MM of Johnson’s 2026 base will shift to a full guarantee if the Pro Bowl cornerback is on the roster by that date. With no true guarantees on this deal post-2025, the Bears could get out with just $5MM in dead money (in the event of a post-June 1 cut) in 2026.
  • The Vikings have been active in using void years under GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. This practice cost the team when Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Tomlinson departed, but it is turning to cap space-saving measure heavily this year as well. Minnesota included four void years in Sam Darnold, Aaron Jones and Andrew Van Ginkel‘s deals, with three void years used to spread out the three-year, $22.5MM Blake Cashman contract’s cap hits. While this will create some dead money if these players are not re-signed before their contracts officially expire, the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling observes it created some cap space in the event the Vikes need to carry a bigger 2024 cap number for Justin Jefferson, who has been on the extension radar for two years. That said, Jefferson’s 2024 cap figure is already at $19.7MM on the fifth-year option.
  • Looking elsewhere on the Vikings’ payroll, their Jonathan Greenard deal (four years, $76MM) features $42MM in total guarantees. The contract includes $4MM guaranteed for 2026, per Goessling. Though, that money is classified as injury guarantees, providing the Vikes — like the Bears with Johnson — some flexibility down the road on a $19MM-AAV contract.
  • Rounding up some Minnesota contract matters, Goessling adds Shaquill Griffin‘s one-year contract is worth $4.55MM and features $3.99MM fully guaranteed. The Vikings are giving Jonathan Bullard a one-year, $2.25MM deal to stay, per Goessling, who adds Dan Feeney‘s contract to come over from the Bears is worth $1.8MM. Jonah Williams, the defensive lineman, signed a one-year, $1.5MM deal that includes $350K guaranteed, Goessling offers. Jihad Ward‘s one-year accord is worth $1.8MM and includes $1MM guaranteed, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan tweets.
  • Initially labeled as being worth up to $27.25MM, D.J. Reader‘s Lions pact contains $22MM in base value. The Lions are only guaranteeing the veteran nose tackle $7.4MM at signing, per OverTheCap. Coming off his second quad tear in four years, Reader would receive a $4MM roster bonus on Day 3 of the 2025 league year. That date will certainly be pivotal for his Detroit future.
  • Arrested on a fourth-degree DWI charge in December, Vikings OC Wes Phillips pleaded guilty to a lesser charge recently. The third-year Minnesota OC pleaded guilty to a careless driving charge, Fox 9’s Jeff Wald notes. Phillips, 45, agreed to pay a $378 fine and will serve eight hours of community service.

Vikings To Sign LB Blake Cashman

A Texans-to-Vikings pipeline is forming on defense. Hours after Jonathan Greenard committed to leave Houston for Minnesota, the Vikes are poaching another of DeMeco Ryans‘ troops.

Blake Cashman has a past in the Twin Cities, however, and the Eden Prairie, Minn., native is returning home. Cashman is coming back to Minnesota on a three-year deal worth up to $25.5MM, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero.

Brought in as a special-teamer in Houston, Cashman became a defensive regular on the team’s divisional-round-qualifying team last season. He was expected to generate a market, and that came to fruition. This will give the Texans another defensive cog to replace.

The Texans expected Cashman to draw a notable market, which differs from where his value was before last season. Houston had employed the ex-Jet fifth-rounder as a special-teamer, but Ryans gave him a much bigger defensive role in 2023. Cashman started 13 games — after totaling just eight starts from 2019-22 — and made 106 tackles, intercepting a pass and adding two sacks. The Texans used Cashman, Christian Harris and Denzel Perryman extensively; only Harris is signed for 2024.

The Vikings have both Jordan Hicks and Troy Dye unsigned for the ’24 season. With change coming on the edge in Brian Flores’ defense, it can be expected more ILB moves are on tap as well. Hicks and UDFA Ivan Pace led the way in LB snaps for the ’23 Vikings; Pace appears set to team with Cashman on a low-cost linebacking corps.

LB Azeez Al-Shaair Interested In Joining Texans; Latest On Jonathan Greenard

Two ex-49ers decision-makers moved to the AFC South last year, creating opportunities for unattached San Francisco cogs. Azeez Al-Shaair took one of them, landing with Ran Carthon‘s Titans on a one-year deal. After excelling in 2023, the former 49ers linebacker looks to have a chance at another reunion in the division.

Following a 163-tackle season, Al-Shaair is back on track for free agency. The former Fred WarnerDre Greenlaw sidekick is believed to be interested in rejoining DeMeco Ryans in Houston, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson.

Al-Shaair’s tackle total doubled as the most in a season in Titans history (1999-present). After seeking to be an every-down player, Al-Shaair should see his Tennessee stint generate a better market than he saw in 2023. The Titans nabbed Al-Shaair for just $5MM. With the 49ers extending Greenlaw in 2022, Al-Shaair’s path out of San Francisco seemed clear. But Ryans both coached him during both his seasons as the 49ers’ DC and as San Francisco’s inside linebackers coach in the two years prior.

The Texans used Christian Harris and Blake Cashman as their regular linebackers last season. Whereas Harris was a former third-round pick, Cashman had primarily worked as a special-teamer leading up to last season. The former Jets fifth-rounder enjoyed a productive year under Ryans, totaling 106 tackles, two sacks and an interception. Cashman is expected to generate some interest as a free agent, Wilson adds. Al-Shaair promises to cost more than Cashman in free agency, and the former 49ers UDFA has far more experience under Ryans.

Cash has done a lot of great things for us,” Texans GM Nick Caserio said. “We’ll work through the process. If we have the opportunity to bring him back, I think he’ll have a good role on the team.

With C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson tied to rookie contracts through at least 2025, the Texans have opportunities to bolster their roster. Caserio only has notable payments on the offensive and defensive lines at present, opening the door for payments elsewhere this offseason. Houston holds more than $67MM in cap space, which sits sixth in the NFL as of Thursday.

Jonathan Greenard stands as the Texans’ top free agent, and while both parties are interested in a second contract, the young edge rusher’s expected price tag may impede that. Greenard could draw offers in the $22MM-per-year neighborhood. Teams across the league are monitoring this situation, Wilson adds, noting Greenard’s price — which may well have risen now that the cap has settled at $255.4MM — may override a Texans desire to re-sign him.

Greenard led the team in sacks last season, notching a career-high 12.5. Greenard joins Danielle Hunter and Bryce Huff as top edge players set to be available. The Texans have until 11am CT on March 11, when the legal tampering period begins, to keep him off the market.

Houston also wants to retain kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn, Wilson adds. That contract will not be a particularly expensive one to finalize. The Texans burned through all their IR activations before the regular season ended, using a number of them early. Saving one for Fairbairn, who came off the injured list in December, illustrated the team’s view of its veteran kicker.

The Texans’ kicker since 2017, Fairbairn played out a four-year, $17.65MM deal last season. He made a career-best 96.4% of his field goal tries (27 of 28). Fairbairn’s deal voids on March 13, tagging the Texans with $1.96MM in dead money if they do not re-sign him by then.

WR Notes: Watson, Metchie, Chark, McLaurin, Smith-Njigba

Jordan Love‘s tenure as the Packers‘ full-time starting quarterback will have a bit of a hurdle to navigate this week. In his first start since November 2021, Love will be without the team’s top returning receiver Christian Watson, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.

Watson is dealing with a hamstring injury that could potentially lead to an extended absence. Head coach Matt LaFleur claimed that he doesn’t think Watson will reach a three- or four-week absence but classified the second-year wideout as week-to-week.

The top target in Watson’s absence, fellow sophomore receiver Romeo Doubs, is also dealing with a hamstring injury but is only listed as questionable heading into the weekend. Rookie wideout Dontayvion Wicks is the third such receiver on the team dealing with a hamstring injury, but he managed to avoid the injury report altogether. Star tackle David Bakhtiari is also available after staying off the injury report.

Here are a few more reports on wide receiver injuries from around the league heading into Week 1:

  • The world will have to continue to wait for the NFL debut of Texans wide receiver John Metchie III, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC2. Despite making a recovery from both a torn ACL and leukemia, Metchie is still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. Houston is being patient, taking a “big-picture approach” to Metchie’s return. The team will be without safety Jimmie Ward and linebacker Blake Cashman for Week 1, as well.
  • The Panthers are slowly working their way back to full health in their receiving corps, according to Panthers writer Augusta Stone. Back ups Terrace Marshall and Ihmir Smith-Marsette are now fully participating in practice after recent injury trouble. Starters Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark Jr. both returned to practice today in a limited capacity. While Thielen was listed as questionable and could still play, Chark has been ruled out for the team’s season opener.
  • The Commanders drew lots of criticism when leading receiver Terry McLaurin sustained an injury as the team played its starters fairly deep into a preseason game in an effort to end the Ravens’ preseason win streak. They’ll dodge a bullet, though, as McLaurin will be active this week after making good progress from his turf toe injury, according to Commanders senior writer Zach Selby. He’s had a couple of full participation practices and should be good to go for Week 1. Defensive end Chase Young has been listed as questionable, though. Head coach Ron Rivera claimed that “if (Young’s) cleared, he’ll go.”
  • Despite undergoing wrist surgery just two and a half weeks ago, Seahawks rookie first round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba is expected to play in the team’s season opener against the Rams this Sunday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Head coach Pete Carroll, who was optimistic on the recovery timeline, confirmed as much this week.

Texans To Retain LB Cory Littleton, RB Mike Boone

AUGUST 30: While Kirksey has a deal lined up to join the Bills’ taxi squad, the same is not true of Littleton. The latter is remaining in Houston on the team’s 53-man roster, Wilson reports. Littleton has re-signed with the same terms he originally agreed to; that will allow him to max out his 2023 earnings at $2.7MM.

The same release-and-re-sign move has been employed with running back Mike Boone, Wilson adds. Boone will carry on under the terms of the two-year, $3.1MM pact he signed this offseason.

AUGUST 29: Multiple veteran linebackers are receiving their walking papers from the Texans this week. Following the Christian Kirksey cut, the Texans are releasing Cory Littleton, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets.

Littleton joined Denzel Perryman in signing with the team in March. Even without Kirksey, the Texans’ roster includes a number of notable linebackers. Christian Harris, a 2022 third-round pick, joins veterans Blake Cashman and Neville Hewitt. The latter, a special-teamer, re-signed this offseason. The team also drafted Alabama’s Henry To’oTo’o in the fifth round.

Big on midlevel veteran additions and short-term contracts under GM Nick Caserio, Houston added Littleton on a one-year, $2.2MM deal. The former Rams, Raiders and Panthers defender received $600K guaranteed, representing the dead money set to come from this release. The Texans are retooling on defense once again, returning to a 4-3 scheme under HC DeMeco Ryans. This has led to some offseason adjustments.

Perryman and Cashman are listed as starters in Houston, Wilson adds. Littleton, 29, has been unable to stick around with a team since his productive Rams tenure ended. Still in their all-in mode when Littleton’s free agency year transpired, the Rams let the starting linebacker walk in 2019. While the Raiders gave Littleton a nice contract (three years, $35.25MM), they restructured it a few times and shed it from their payroll — via a post-June 1 cut — last year. Littleton caught on with the Panthers but only started seven of the 15 games he played last season.

Texans To Extend LB Blake Cashman

After acquiring Blake Cashman via trade in March, the Texans reached an agreement to keep him around beyond 2022. They are extending the fourth-year linebacker, Aaron Wilson of KPRC tweets.

The new Houston role player, who was playing out his rookie contract, agreed to a one-year deal. This marks the Texans’ first extension this season.

The Texans obtained Cashman for a sixth-round pick just as the 2022 league year began. After starting five games as a rookie with the Jets, the former fifth-round pick out of Minnesota did not see much game action over the next two seasons. Injuries plagued Cashman throughout his Jets tenure, however. A shoulder issue shut him down in October 2019, and IR stays also commenced in 2020 and 2021, leading to four- and three-game seasons, respectively, to close out his Jets tenure.

Since the trade, Cashman, 26, has mostly stayed healthy. He has played in a career-high 10 games and become one of the Texans’ top special teams contributors. While the one-time Jets starter has only logged 94 defensive snaps, he has seen action on 73% of the Texans’ special teams plays. As a defender this season, Cashman has notched a sack, a pass deflection and two quarterback hits.

Texans GM Nick Caserio has handed out many two-year contracts during his two-year Houston stay, and Cashman now joins veteran linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Christian Kirksey in being signed through 2023.

Jets Notes: Jones, Draft, Cashman

The Jets could still use an edge rusher, and many assume they’ll look to the draft for pass-rush help. However, ESPN’s Rich Cimini writes that the team flirted with the idea of adding veteran defensive end Chandler Jones.

Jets fans are plenty familiar with Jones thanks to his time with the Patriots, but it’s been a while since he was in the AFC East. The defensive end compiled a whopping 60 sacks through his first four seasons in Arizona, and after being limited to only one sack in five games in 2020, he returned with a 10.5-sack campaign in 2021. So, naturally, he was a popular name in free agency, and while the Jets considered a pursuit, the veteran defender ended up landing in Las Vegas on a three-year, $51MM deal.

At the moment, the Jets have Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers slotted in at defensive end. While they’re a fine duo, Cimini notes that Lawson is coming off a major injury and Franklin-Myers may be better suited for defensive tackle.

Ultimately, Cimini opines that the Jets will take a pass rusher with either the No. 4 or No. 10 pick, suggesting Travon Walker, Jermaine Johnson II, and Kayvon Thibodeaux could all be options.

More notes out of New Jersey…

  • As Cimini writes, the Jets are one of only four teams without a former 1,000-yard receiver (or tight end) on their roster, but the only significant move they’ve made at the position is re-signing receiver Braxton Berrios. The writer believes that the front office will ultimately add a “midlevel free agent” wideout while considering using one of their first-round picks on the draft’s top receiver, perhaps USC’s Drake London or Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson. Cimini also notes that the team was monitoring the Robert Woods situation, but the front office ultimately thought his age was a “turnoff.”
  • The Texans acquired linebacker Blake Cashman from the Jets last week, and we’re now learning what the Gang Green got in return. According to Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com (on Twitter), the Jets acquired a 2023 sixth-round pick. The sixth-rounder originally belonged to the 49ers.
  • Jets offensive line coach John Benton was arrested and charged with DUI last Thursday in New Jersey, according to Cimini (on Twitter). A New York Jets spokesperson said “We are aware of the situation and have no further comment” (via NFL.com).

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/16/22

Today’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions:  12/6/21

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: OL Trent Scott

Cleveland Browns

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/9/21

Here is Week 5 Saturday’s minor move spree:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

  • Promoted: TE Shane Zylstra

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team