Cory Littleton

Texans To Sign LB Cory Littleton

DeMeco Ryans‘ team has been active during the first week of free agency, and the Texans will add another experienced starter to the mix.

Cory Littleton met with the Texans and will sign a one-year deal, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes. The former Rams, Raiders and Panthers linebacker agreed to terms on a $2.2MM contract Tuesday, Wilson adds, indicating $500K in incentives are present in the deal. Littleton’s paragraph 5 salary will check in at $1.3MM.

Houston will be Littleton’s third destination in three years. The Raiders shed his lucrative contract from their payroll last year, designating him as a post-June 1 cut, and the Panthers gave the former Super Bowl starter a one-year contract. Littleton is now going into his age-30 season, but he will supply the Texans with considerable experience.

The Texans have added numerous midlevel veterans on short-term deals during Nick Caserio‘s GM tenure. Two of those — Christian Kirksey and Blake Cashman — remain in Houston’s linebacker mix. Littleton will bring 71 starts’ worth of experience to this group, which also includes 2022 third-round pick Christian Harris.

The Panthers reduced Littleton’s playing time last season, starting him in seven of the 15 games he played. Littleton logged just a 36% defensive snap rate — his lowest since 2017 — and finished with 47 tackles and two pass deflections. The Raiders gave Littleton a three-year, $35.2MM contract in 2020, bringing in the two-year Rams starter who entered free agency that year with a strong reputation in coverage. After Littleton played 90% of Las Vegas’ defensive snaps in 2020, Gus Bradley reduced his workload — following an August 2021 trade for Denzel Perryman, Bradley’s ex-Chargers pupil — the next year.

Prior to the Las Vegas letdown, however, Littleton combined for 259 tackles, 7.5 sacks and five interceptions from 2018-19 in Los Angeles. Coming into his 2020 free agency, Littleton had been one of the league’s most productive linebackers. The Texans will kick the tires on the ex-Rams standout and 2018 Pro Bowler.

This Littleton addition comes after the Texans met with Perryman, who had been a Raiders regular in 2021 and ’22. Perryman remains unsigned, though both the Texans and Titans expressed interest. Littleton likely carries a lower price tag by comparison, given Perryman’s momentum. But this year’s linebacker market included numerous first-stringers; most of them have found homes and most have done so on lower-level deals. Perryman, 30, will probably not end up with the kind of contract he sought.

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Saints, Brate

Even after the Panthers traded Robbie Anderson, they are still being linked to moving key pieces. The team still wants to keep its defensive core together, according to’s Charles Robinson (on Twitter). That said, Robinson adds that while the Panthers are not going to conduct a fire sale, they will likely aim to unload more players viewed as “Matt Rhule guys.”

This is interesting considering the two players who have been most closely linked to trades — Christian McCaffrey and Shaq Thompson — were brought in before Rhule arrived. Rhule did greenlight McCaffrey’s extension; Thompson’s deal came under Marty Hurney‘s leadership. Carolina’s Temple contingent remains strong, even post-Anderson. Matthew Ioannidis, Cory Littleton and P.J. Walker remain in key roles, though Rhule-backed players cannot only be limited to the ones he coached in college. Littleton and Ioannidis are on one-year deals, making them interesting trade candidates.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • David Tepper bought the Panthers in 2018. The two football-related storylines most closely associated with the owner are Rhule’s seven-year, $62MM contract and the team’s Deshaun Watson pursuit. With the Panthers not having a winning season during Tepper’s time, is safe to say the owner’s stock has dipped. In the wake of Rhule’s firing, multiple NFL personnel men did not speak highly of Tepper, whom they classify as emotional and “difficult” to work for, per CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones. Descriptions like these, along with Carolina’s quarterback situation, stand to make it harder for Tepper to hire his next coach. Then again, he could simply throw out another monster contract. Rhule was believed to prefer the Giants to the Panthers in 2020, but money certainly talked.
  • Although the Panthers designated Sam Darnold for return from IR, Steve Wilks said Walker will be his starter in Week 7. Jacob Eason will back up the former XFLer. Walker started in Week 6 and struggled, but the Panthers’ top three options (Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Matt Corral) are injured. Mayfield did return to practice Thursday, suggesting a possible Week 8 return is in play. But Mayfield and Darnold are set to wage another competition — several weeks after Mayfield prevailed in the training camp battle — following the former’s woeful start. The Panthers have three weeks to activate Darnold from IR.
  • The Saints will go with Andy Dalton again tonight. The 12th-year vet will make his fourth start this season, while Ed Werder of notes (via Twitter) Jameis Winston will be the emergency No. 3 QB. Dalton supplanting Winston as the Saints’ full-time starter entered the equation recently, though Dennis Allen said Winston is not yet fully healthy. Winston, whom Dalton initially replaced due to spine fractures, re-signed on a two-year, $28MM deal this offseason. The Saints guaranteed Winston $15.2MM; Dalton is making $3MM this year.
  • Cameron Brate left the Buccaneers‘ Week 6 game on a stretcher, but Todd Bowles provided relatively good news on the veteran tight end. Brate sustained a sprained neck and did not suffer any loss of feeling or nerve damage. It is not clear when the ninth-year Buccaneer will be able to play again. The Bucs drafted two tight ends — Cade Otton and Ko Kieft — this year before signing Kyle Rudolph. Otton, a fourth-round pick out of Washington, worked as Brate’s primary replacement against the Steelers.

Nine Teams Gain Cap Space From Post-June 1 Cuts

Although early June no longer serves as a stretch in which a wave of veterans are released for cap-saving purposes, June 2 still serves as an important calendar date for certain teams annually. Nine teams qualify as beneficiaries this year.

Eleven players were designated as post-June 1 cuts this year, via CBS Sports’ Joel Corry. Due to a longstanding CBA provision, teams that designate players as post-June 1 releases see the dead-money burden lessened for that year. Teams can designate up to two players as post-June 1 releases each year.

Here are 2022’s post-June 1 cuts, along with the belated cap savings the teams picked up Thursday:

Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Las Vegas Raiders

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

As detailed in PFR’s glossary, post-June 1 cuts spread dead-money hits over two years. These teams will be taking on dead money this year and next. A few of the 2023 hits are substantial, but the league’s cap-space hierarchy changed significantly Thursday as well.

Because of multiple restructures, Raiders will carry $9.9MM in Littleton dead money next year. The Cowboys will take on $8.7MM in 2023 for cutting Collins, while the Titans will be hit with $8.4MM for their Jones release. Cleveland, which just gave David Njoku a $14.2MM-per-year deal, will carry a $7.5MM dead-money cost next year due to shedding Hooper’s eight-figure-AAV deal early. The Eagles will be tagged with $11.5MM for their Cox cut, with Corry noting that is the net difference because of a $3.2MM salary cap credit regarding Cox’s 2022 bonus proration. Philadelphia re-signed the perennial Pro Bowler on a one-year, $14MM deal.

Hooper’s release pushes Cleveland’s cap space to beyond $40MM; the Browns’ overall cap-space edge is now a whopping $15MM. That should help the team address multiple needs ahead of training camp. Other teams have more options now, too. As of Thursday, the Raiders hold the NFL’s third-most cap space ($22.5MM, per OverTheCap). The $10MM the Cowboys saved moves them up to fourth in cap space ($22.49MM), while the Bears ($22.2MM), Commanders ($18.4MM) and Seahawks ($17MM) now sit fifth, sixth and seventh.

A handful of this year’s post-June 1 cut crop joined Cox in taking advantage of the modern setup, which allows these cap casualties to become free agents immediately — rather than waiting until June to hit the market. In place since the 2006 CBA, this adjustment let veterans loose early while keeping their cap figures on teams’ payrolls through May. Collins quickly joined the Bengals, while Littleton landed with the Panthers, Hooper signed with the Titans, and Phillips returned to the Bills. The remainder of this group remains unsigned. The savings this lot of teams inherited Thursday may help some of these players’ causes in free agency.

Panthers Sign Cory Littleton

Cory Littleton has found his third NFL home. The Panthers announced on Sunday that they have signed the veteran linebacker. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero adds (on Twitter) that the deal is for one year and $2.6MM, with $2MM guaranteed. 

[RELATED: Panthers Re-Sign CB Jackson]

Littleton, 28, started his career with the Rams in 2016. After two seasons playing primarily as a special-teamer, he took on a starting role the following year. Given the new opportunity, he put together two highly productive campaigns, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2018. In his final two years in Los Angeles, the former UDFA totalled 259 tackles and 7.5 sacks.

That production earned the former Washington Huskie a three-year contract worth over $35MM with the Raiders in 2020. However, his deal was re-worked three times during his two seasons with the team. As a result of the complicated financial situation that created – along with his solid, but unspectacular production – Littleton was released earlier this month.

In Carolina, Littleton will reunite with former college teammate Shaq Thompson and provide a veteran presence to an otherwise relatively young defense. Looking to rebuild his value closer to the level it was at two years ago, the short-term deal could give him an opportunity to do just that as the Panthers look to improve a unit which ranked second in the league in terms of yards per game allowed, but just 21st in scoring defense.

Raiders To Release LB Cory Littleton

One of the top free agent signings two years ago, Cory Littleton will be back on the market. The Raiders have informed the veteran linebacker he will be released, Tom Pelissero of tweets.

The Raiders brought in multiple veteran linebackers last year and have since hired a new head coach and GM. Although it is not certain, Littleton is certainly a candidate to be designated as a post-June 1 cut. If not, the Raiders would save just $1MM and see $14MM in dead money.

A post-June 1 designation would bring just a $4MM dead-cap hit this year. Las Vegas reworked Littleton’s contract three times over the past year and change, leading to the sizable dead-money number. Indeed, the Raiders are using this designation, Tashan Reed of The Athletic tweets. While the team will not be able to use the cap savings until June, it avoids this eight-figure dead-money sum hitting in 2022.

Despite his production with the Rams, Littleton did not live up to his contract with the Raiders, who signed him to a three-year, $35.25MM deal in 2020. After Littleton played 90% of Las Vegas’ defensive snaps in 2020, one-and-done DC Gus Bradley limited his work to 57% last season. Littleton, who impressed in coverage as a two-year starter with the Rams, made 98 tackles last season and 82 in 2020. He topped 120 stops in both his final two Rams slates.

The Raiders brought in both K.J. Wright and Denzel Perryman at the position. With Patrick Graham now in the DC role, it will be interesting to see how the Raiders address this group. Wright and Nicholas Morrow are free agents, while Perryman and Nick Kwiatkoski remain under contract for 2022.

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

Here are the New Year’s Day activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: G Oli Udoh

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Bryce Hall

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Raiders, Cory Littleton Restructure Contract

The Raiders converted $4.25MM of Cory Littleton‘s base salary into a roster bonus (Twitter link via Field Yates of Now, the Raiders have created $3.4M in cap space for the current year.

This marks the third restructure for Littleton, who saw his contract reworked in September of 2020 and again in March this year. The Raiders initially signed the former Rams linebacker to a three-year, $35.25MM pact. For all intents and purposes, the deal remains the same. The only real difference is that the Raiders have carved out extra space in this year’s pandemic-altered cap while kicking the can down the road to next year, when the salary max will increase.

Littleton, 28 in November, has 15 stops through two games this year. He’s looking to bounce back from a weak debut season with the Raiders, when he struggled in Paul Guenther’s defense. Now, under the tutelage of new DC Gus Bradley, Littleton is eager to turn back the clock and showcase his old Rams form.

That’s everything for me,” Littleton said recently (via the Las Vegas Review-Journal). “At the end of the day, nobody wants to have a bad performance. That’s not why we play. We just want to do our best.”

Littleton’s next chance at redemption will come on Sunday when the Raiders take on the Dolphins in Vegas.

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 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.

COVID-19 Latest: Ravens, Williams, Browns

Earlier Wednesday, the NFL took the Ravens-Steelers rematch off its Thanksgiving schedule. That game is now on tap for 12:15pm CT Sunday. More is emerging on why the Steelers will see another of their games delayed. The Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach for “conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff.” The Ravens are levying the discipline because the unnamed staffer did not report symptoms or consistently wear a mask or a contact tracing device, according to’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). This is believed to have contributed to the Ravens’ outbreak — one that comes nearly two months after a Titans outbreak altered the Steelers’ schedule. Seven Ravens players and at least five staffers have tested positive for COVID. This will not only weaken Baltimore against Pittsburgh but potentially deplete team’s roster for its Week 13 Thursday game against Dallas.

Several teams shuffled their rosters because of COVID on Wednesday. Here is the latest:

  • 49ers left tackle Trent Williams tested positive for COVID-19 last week, per’s Dan Graziano (on Twitter). A cancer survivor, Williams has not experienced issues with the virus yet, Graziano tweets. Williams, who landed on the 49ers’ COVID list earlier this month as a high-risk close contact, is on track to miss San Francisco’s Week 12 game in Los Angeles.
  • Six players remain on San Francisco’s virus list. The 49ers removed Arik Armstead and center Hroniss Grasu on Wednesday.
  • Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki tested positive Wednesday, according to Mary Kay Cabot of (on Twitter). Takitaki played against the Eagles and returned an interception for a touchdown. The Cleveland starting linebacker’s positive test follows Myles Garrett‘s. Neither they nor Denzel Ward (injury) will be available for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. The Browns closed their facility Wednesday, but their Jags game remains on schedule.
  • The Bengals placed wide receiver Auden Tate and recently acquired offensive lineman B.J. Finney on their reserve/COVID-19 list. Cincinnati has seen staffers test positive, with D-line coach Nick Eason being the most recent. Eason was alerted of his positive test Tuesday. The Bengals now have five players on their reserve/COVID list.
  • Christian Wilkins is off the Dolphins‘ COVID list. Wilkins was not reported to have tested positive, but the second-year defensive lineman still missed two games after landing on the team’s virus list.
  • The Raiders activated Cory Littleton from their COVID list. The high-profile free agent addition has been out for two weeks due to a positive coronavirus test. Las Vegas’ defense remains shorthanded due to virus issues, with Clelin Ferrell testing positive last week and Lamarcus Joyner missing Sunday’s Chiefs game because of his status as a close contact.
  • Dante Fowler also tested positive two weeks ago and missed the Falcons‘ Week 11 game, but the big-ticket free agent addition is off the list now and on course to return to Atlanta’s lineup Sunday.
  • The Vikings and Chargers also removed players from their respective virus lists Wednesday. Minnesota activated guard Dru Samia; Los Angeles activated cornerback Brandon Facyson.

Cory Littleton Lands On Raiders’ Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Raiders continue to run into issues with the coronavirus. They placed top tackler Cory Littleton on their reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday.

An offseason addition, the former Rams linebacker has registered 48 tackles this season. He joins Trent Brown on the Raiders’ COVID list. While Brown is out for Sunday’s game against the Broncos and is without a firm return timetable, Littleton’s status will come down to when he last came in contact with someone who contracted the virus.

The NFL requires players who land on the reserve/COVID list to isolate for five days, even if they did not test positive. This in-season policy change resulted in the Raiders practicing without their first-string offensive line prior to their Week 7 game against the Buccaneers.

While the Titans led the NFL in players placed on a reserve/COVID list, the Raiders have incurred the stiffest punishment for violating coronavirus protocols. The NFL docked the team a sixth-round pick and has levied more than $1MM in fines against the organization this season.

One of the NFL’s top coverage linebackers over the past two seasons, Littleton opted to sign with the Raiders this offseason. Pro Football Focus has not viewed Littleton’s Raiders debut as a success so far, interestingly rating him as one of the league’s worst coverage ‘backers through Las Vegas’ eight games.