Courtland Sutton

Restructured Deals: Packers, Broncos, Bills, Patriots, Giants

As free agency continues, teams will keep finding ways to open up additional cap. We’ve had a handful of reworked contracts in recent days, which we’ve compiled below:

  • The Packers opened $10.15MM in cap space by restructuring the contracts of wideout Randall Cobb (which was previously reported) and safety Adrian Amos, per ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). ESPN’s Rob Demovsky tweets that Green Bay turned $5.88MM of Amos’ $7MM base salary into a signing bonus and added four void years.
  • The Broncos opened up some space via a pair of restructured deals. Wideout Tim Patrick converted $6.9MM of his roster bonus into a signing bonus, creating around $4.6MM in cap space, per Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (on Twitter). The Broncos also converted receiver Courtland Sutton‘s $10.5MM roster bonus into a signing bonus, saving $7.875MM in 2022 cap space, per Klis (on Twitter).
  • The Panthers converted $11.765MM of wideout Robby Anderson’s 2022 pay into a signing bonus, creating $5.88MM in cap space, per Yates (on Twitter). Staying in the NFC, Yates also tweets that the Eagles converted $14.88MM of cornerback Darius Slay’s salary into a signing bonus, creating $11.90MM in 2022 cap space.
  • The Giants converted $2.63MM of kicker Graham Gano’s salary into a bonus, creating $1.753MM in cap space, per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan (on Twitter). The team also added a void year to the contract, something GM Joe Schoen was trying to avoid (per Raanan).
  • After getting traded to the Bills, quarterback Case Keenum agreed to rework his contract. Per Yates (on Twitter), Keenum reduced his base salary to $3.5MM. Another AFC East team, the Patriots, also got into the game, reducing defensive end Henry Anderson‘s base salary from $2.5MM to $1.25MM (per Yates).
  • Yates passes along three more restructures (on Twitter): the Vikings opened $6MM in cap space by reworking safety Harrison Smith‘s contract, the Bills opened $5.172MM via linebacker Matt Milano‘s contract, and the Titans opened $6.45MM via linebacker Zach Cunningham‘s contract.

Denver Emerging As Premier QB Destination

We wrote a bit earlier today on the Broncos being among multiple AFC teams who “have trade compensation lined up with the Packers,” in relation to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Well, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Denver has emerged as a prime location for many of the league’s veteran quarterbacks looking for a potential change of scenery.

The Broncos recently hired former Packers’ offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to replace Vic Fangio, who failed to accomplish a winning season in three years with the Broncos. The former Green Bay staffer represents an obvious and strong connection for Rodgers. Should Rodgers decide to move on from the Packers, having a play-caller that he’s familiar with could add some allure to the Mile High City. Another intriguing aspect that could bring a star quarterback to Denver is the addition of former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak as passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Kubiak just helped Kirk Cousins turn in one of his best seasons in Minnesota.

Hackett and company inherit an impressive roster posed to perform. The defense is comprised of veterans like outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, safety Justin Simmons, defensive end Shelby Harris, and cornerback Ronald Darby. There are a number of free agents that Denver would like to bring back like cornerbacks Bryce Callahan & Kyle Fuller, defensive back Kareem Jackson, inside linebacker Josey Jewell, and outside linebacker Malik Reed. Even if they fail to bring some of those names back, the Broncos saw impressive seasons last year for youngsters like cornerback Patrick Surtain II, linebacker Baron Browning, defensive end Dre’Mont Jones, and safety Caden Sterns. The list of defensive players above may not overwhelm you with stardom, but, together, the Broncos defense ranked third in the league in points allowed and eighth in the league in yards allowed.

In addition to a brand new offense and stacked defense, Denver boasts a nice array of young offensive weapons. An impressive receiving corps is led by veteran 26-year-old Courtland Sutton, young star Jerry Jeudy, and Tim Patrick, who has broken out a bit over the past two seasons. The Broncos also have two talented, young receiving tight ends in Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam. Any quarterback looking to join in on the fun would potentially have the benefit of a two-headed rushing attack that was 79 yards short of a combined 2,000-yard rushing season. Running back Javonte Williams enjoyed a healthy dose of carries in his rookie season, and there is mutual interest in bringing back Melvin Gordon.

Rodgers is obviously a name to keep an eye on as the decision on his future in Green Bay looms on the horizon. He has said that he will let the Packers know of his intentions before the franchise tag deadline so they can figure out how to deal with free agent wide receiver Davante Adams. In addition to Rodgers, though, keep an eye out for Denver to make moves on other quarterbacks searching for greener pastures. Russell Wilson has long been rumored to be interested in moving on from Seattle, and Deshaun Watson is still searching for a new home.

Whether Rodgers, Wilson, Watson, or some other under-the-radar name, look for the Broncos to make a move for a star quarterback. If they are able to find the right fit, the move could bring them into contention for what could easily turn into the toughest division in football.

Broncos Place Bradley Chubb, Jerry Jeudy On Reserve/COVID-19 List

Already favored before the Broncos’ run of positive COVID-19 tests, the Chargers keep learning of more Denver starters who will miss Sunday’s game.

The Broncos will be down Bradley Chubb, Jerry Jeudy and linebacker Baron Browning on Sunday due to positive coronavirus tests. They also placed rotational edge rusher Jonathan Cooper and backup defensive lineman McTelvin Agim on their reserve/COVID-19 list Friday.

[RELATED: Broncos To Start Drew Lock In Week 17]

Additionally, the Broncos could also be without Courtland Sutton. Vic Fangio said the recently extended wideout could soon be moved to the team’s virus list, though that has not happened as of Friday afternoon (Twitter links via 9News’ Mike Klis). If Sutton ends up being shelved, the Broncos will likely be down to Kendall Hinton as their top wide receiver in Los Angeles. The team placed Tim Patrick on its virus list Wednesday.

Thirteen Broncos have been placed on the virus list over the past three days. Defensive line coach Bill Kollar also will miss Sunday’s game after a positive test. Chubb and Jeudy have each missed extensive time this season. A second 2021 ankle surgery sidelined Chubb for much of the year, while Jeudy missed most of the season’s first half because of a high ankle sprain sustained in Week 1.

The NFL moved three Week 15 games to new dates but has since altered its protocols twice in order to limit player unavailability. No games have been moved since, with the NFL playing Dolphins-Saints as scheduled despite New Orleans’ run of positive tests, and it should be expected the Broncos-Chargers rematch will be played Sunday.

While the Broncos are not technically eliminated, their losses to the Bengals and Raiders all but buried them in the AFC wild-card race. The Chargers have a 35% chance to qualify for the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.com.

Details On Broncos WR Extensions

The Broncos have been busy handing out money to their wideouts recetnly, extending both Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick over the past few weeks. Thanks to Mike Klis of 9News in Denver, we’ve now got some details on those new contracts.

[RELATED: Sutton Extension | Thomas Extension]

Patrick’s contract was reported as a three-year pact worth a max value of $34MM, including $18.5MM in guaranteed money (via Twitter). In 2021, Patrick will earn a $3MM signing bonus and a $1.5MM base salary (prorated from $3.3MM), all of which is guaranteed. The wideout will earn a $6.96MM roster bonus and $1.53MM base salary in 2022, with the entire $8.5MM guaranteed. Patrick’s 2023 and 2024 earnings are relatively similar; he’ll have $500K in game-day bonuses in both 2023 and 2024, along with $8MM (2023) and $9.4MM (2024) base salaries. His 2023 salary includes a $5.5MM injury guarantee.

Sutton’s new deal was reported as $60.8MM total, with $34.9MM guaranteed. Sutton’s new deal includes a $6MM signing bonus (via Twitter). He’ll earn another $10.5MM via a 2022 roster bonus (along with a $1.5MM base salary in 2022). In 2023, he’ll earn a $14MM salary with $500K worth of roster bonuses, and he’ll get similar bonuses in 2024 (along with a $13MM salary (of which only $2MM is guaranteed for injury only)). 2025 is the final year of the wideout’s contract, with Sutton earning a $13.5MM salary (and a $500K bonus).

Broncos, Courtland Sutton Agree To Extension

The Broncos have agreed to a brand new deal with wide receiver Courtland Sutton (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero). Sutton will receive a four-year re-up worth $60.8MM in total, including $34.9MM guaranteed. 

This comes on the heels of a similar extension for fellow WR Tim Patrick. Between those deals and the presence of Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, the Broncos now have their receiver group locked up for the long haul.

[RELATED: Broncos, Tim Patrick Agree To Extension]

Sutton, a 2018 second round pick under the Broncos’ old regime, is still held in high regard by new GM George Paton. Even after his 2020 ACL tear, Paton prioritized and completed a new deal for the 26-year-old midway through the year.

The Broncos could have deployed the franchise tag for 2022, but that could have cost them upwards of $17MM. Instead, they’ve hashed out a longer arrangement at just over $15MM per year.

Sutton broke out in 2019 with 72 catches and 1,112 receiving yards, capturing his first ever Pro Bowl nod in the process. Although his encore was wiped out by a serious knee injury, he’s bounced back this year to lead the team with 43 catches and 617 yards.

The 6-foot-4 target is now locked up through 2025 while Patrick is under club control through 2024. Jeudy and Hamler, meanwhile, are tied to rookie deals through the 2023 season, though Jeudy’s first-round status means he can be kept through 2024 via the fifth-year option.

It’s been an expensive couple of days for the Broncos, but they had the cap room to make it all work. Before Patrick’s extension, the Broncos were in the league’s top five for projected 2022 space. Even after these deals, the Broncos still have enough capital to pursue trades for top-end quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson.

Broncos Eyeing Courtland Sutton Extension

Although the Broncos extended Tim Patrick on Friday afternoon, they did not view this as an either/or situation regarding he and Courtland Sutton. The latter remains in the team’s plans.

Denver still views keeping Sutton as a priority, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. Despite not being with the Broncos when the team drafted Sutton in the 2018 second round, George Paton identified him as a cornerstone player. Sutton has returned to action this season, after an ACL tear wiped out most of his 2020 campaign. He is scheduled to be a free agent in March.

[RELATED: Extension Candidate: Courtland Sutton]

The Broncos have the franchise tag to use on Sutton if they choose, though that price could surpass $17MM in 2022. Leading the team with 43 catches for 617 yards, the 6-foot-4 target looms as the team’s top 2022 UFA. Sutton reeled off a 1,000-yard season in 2019, doing so as the Broncos used three below-average quarterbacks in starting roles at various points, and is on pace for another.

Should the SMU alum avoid more injury trouble, he will be on track for big money in free agency — if the Broncos let him hit the market. It does not sound like they intend to do so. Denver has invested considerably at the receiver position over the past two years, becoming the first team since 2003 to select wideouts in Rounds 1 and 2 and then extending Patrick today. Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler are tied to rookie deals through the 2023 season, with Jeudy controllable through 2024 because of the fifth-year option.

While the Broncos’ quarterback salary future is again uncertain, the team is in good shape with the cap. Much can change between now and free agency, but the Broncos reside in the top five for projected 2022 cap space, per OverTheCap. Having Sutton in the fold would also be attractive for QBs, and a few high-end arms — Aaron Rodgers, whom the Broncos pursued this year, and Russell Wilson among them — figure to be in trade rumors again in 2022.

AFC Rumors: Bates, Sutton, Dolphins, Texans

The Bengals and Jessie Bates did not agree on an extension ahead of his contract year, and the veteran defender expressed frustration a deal did not commence. Bates previously hoped he would land a contract that kept him in Cincinnati long-term. With his future up in the air, the former second-round pick admitted he let his contract talks cloud his on-field performance to start the season.

So caught on to proving the wrong people right and the main thing I should be focusing on is proving the right people right as far as my coaches, my teammates, my family and not worry about all of the other stuff,” Bates said, via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I know that’s going to work out; I know what type of player I am; that stuff’s going to work out regardless.”

Pro Football Focus ranked Bates as its No. 1 safety in 2020; through nine games this season, the Wake Forest product slots in at No. 75 at the position. He has allowed a 79% completion rate when targeted — well north of the 54% mark of last season. While Bates should still be expected to generate considerable interest in free agency, should no extension agreement or franchise tag come to pass before that point, this season’s second half suddenly becomes pivotal for his long-term prospects.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Courtland Sutton joined Bates as a 2018 second-rounder, and the ex-SMU standout also joins him in being uncertain about his long-term status with his NFL team. Sutton has played in all 10 Broncos games this season, after tearing an ACL last September. The 6-foot-4 target is on pace for his second 1,000-yard season, but his production has been somewhat inconsistent — particularly in games when Jerry Jeudy has been active. The Broncos also have Tim Patrick going through a quality contract year, creating a decision. The franchise tag may be in play for Sutton in March, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post writes. This year’s tag figure came in at nearly $16MM for wideouts, during the pandemic-affected offseason. New GM George Paton called Sutton one of the team’s core players this offseason. The Broncos have used the tag frequently and have a long track record in extending those players — though, Justin Simmons played on the tag in 2020 before his re-up earlier this year.
  • After trying Lonnie Johnson at safety over the past two seasons, the Texans are changing the young defender’s position again. They are moving Johnson back to cornerback, David Culley said (via Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson). Houston drafted Johnson in the 2019 second round as a corner but tried him at safety over the past two seasons. The pivot resulted in Johnson being benched at that spot. The Texans also shopped Johnson ahead of the deadline. The team has vets Desmond King and Terrance Mitchell stationed as its outside starters, but in a rebuilding year, Johnson — who entered the draft with a 4.36-second 40-yard dash time despite a 213-pound frame — figures to see an opportunity to rebound at the position.
  • The Dolphins have shuffled their offensive line on a few occasions this year, tinkering with just about every starter’s role. The highest-profile move came recently, when the team moved 2020 first-round pick Austin Jackson from left tackle to left guard. While that could be a temporary fix, Brian Flores said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) the team likes the USC product at guard. Second-round rookie Liam Eichenberg is currently Miami’s left tackle.

Teddy Bridgewater Clears Concussion Protocol

Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater has cleared the concussion protocol, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter). With that, the veteran passer will start Denver’s Week 5 matchup against the Steelers this afternoon.

Bridgewater, acquired in an April trade with the Panthers, bested Broncos’ 2019 second-rounder Drew Lock in this summer’s quarterback competition, and he led Denver to a 3-0 start to the 2021 campaign. The three teams he defeated — the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets — boasted a combined 0-9 record going into last week, so the early-season success for Bridgewater and the Broncos came with something of an asterisk, but the QB and his team did exactly what they needed to do against weaker competition.

Their winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Ravens last week, a game that Bridgewater was forced to leave early due to a concussion. Prior to that, he completed seven of 16 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Although Bridgewater did not do much in his time on the field, Lock’s relief performance did nothing to make head coach Vic Fangio think twice about turning the reins back over to his QB1 as soon as he cleared protocol. Lock appeared indecisive and could not generate any momentum, finishing 12 of 21 for 113 yards and an interception. Denver ultimately lost by a 23-7 score.

It is still unclear whether Bridgewater will have one of his top receiving weapons, wide receiver Courtland Sutton, joining him on the field in Pittsburgh today. Sutton, who rolled his ankle at practice on Thursday, will be a game-time decision, per Schefter.

Extension Candidate: Courtland Sutton

Having fully transitioned at wide receiver following the in-season trades of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos have assembled an interesting group of pass catchers. Denver’s quartet consists of a first-rounder (Jerry Jeudy), two second-rounders (Courtland Sutton, K.J. Hamler) and a contract-year UDFA (Tim Patrick) — all tied to rookie contracts or an RFA tender.

Joining Patrick in entering a contract year, Sutton is in line to be the first Broncos wideout to sign a lucrative extension since Sanders’ September 2016 re-up. A Sutton deal would top Thomas’ five-year, $70MM pact as the richest the Broncos have given a receiver. But a few factors complicate the 25-year-old playmaker’s status going into his fourth season, making him one of the more interesting 2021 extension candidates.

Sutton’s rookie-year form prompted the Broncos to trade Thomas, and the SMU product built on that in 2019. Despite Denver using three starting QBs in Sutton’s second year, the jump-ball standout served as the top weapon in an offense lacking other notable targets. The 6-foot-4 pass catcher’s 72-reception, 1,112-yard season — with an aging Joe Flacco, rookie Drew Lock and inexperienced backup Brandon Allen targeting him — garnered a Pro Bowl nod and opened the door to the prospect of an extension.

The Broncos then became the first team since the 2003 Cardinals to select receivers in the first and second rounds of a draft, but Sutton’s ACL tear — after just 31 snaps — changed the club’s plans to have the draftees develop in a Sutton-centered attack. Denver will now give its hopeful Sutton-Jeudy-Hamler trio, with Patrick mixing in, another try.

Since Sutton’s injury, the Broncos hired a new GM. But George Paton identified Sutton as a core player the Broncos want to keep around long-term. They have an opening for a veteran receiver contract, with Jeudy and Hamler not extension-eligible for a while and only one skill-position player — Melvin Gordon, whose roster spot may not be assured — making midlevel money. Sutton’s production with suboptimal quarterback play points to untapped potential for when/if the Broncos acquire a long-term passer.

Waiting makes some sense for both parties. Sutton is not expected to begin camp on the active/PUP list and will be on track to lead or co-lead Denver’s receiving corps this season. The Broncos making an offer before they determine Sutton’s fit alongside the younger receivers in Pat Shurmur‘s offense would be a bit of a gamble, but the team could also reap some value if Sutton wanted to lock in a slightly lower AAV now as protection against a sluggish season following ACL rehab. The Broncos certainly have the cap space to do a deal now or in the fall; their $28MM in room ranks behind only the Jaguars.

An in-season extension could be in play, too. That would make for an interesting middle ground — similar to Garett Bolles‘ November 2020 deal — and avoid a situation where this forces the Broncos to use their franchise tag for a third straight year. Of course, if Sutton proves willing to bet on himself going into a post-injury contract year, it would take a big offer to convince him to bypass a potential free agency bid or — in the more likely scenario — the leverage that comes with being tagged.

Sutton picking up where he left off would be a good problem for the Broncos, who have not featured this kind of depth at receiver since the mid-2010s. This has likely caught the attention of Aaron Rodgers, though that situation has produced little of consequence in months. A return to form would put Sutton on the radar to land a deal in the Kenny Golladay range — four years, $72MM — with perhaps some upside from this salary place, as the cap balloons over $200MM after 2021’s dip.

Sutton’s production alongside Jeudy will illustrate how the Broncos view him. With the fifth-year option allowing the Broncos to table Jeudy’s payday — if the impressive route runner proves worthy — until 2024, a window for a Sutton extension should be open. Given the Rodgers connection and the receiving corps’ new look since Sutton’s last full season, his contract status will be monitoring in the coming weeks and/or months.

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Sutton, Chubb

When the Raiders selected Damon Arnette 19th overall last year, it marked the second straight year the Jon GrudenMike Mayock regime stunned draft viewers in Round 1. Despite multiple thumb issues and a placement on the Raiders’ reserve/COVID-19 list, Arnette started seven games as a rookie. Pro Football Focus graded Arnette as a bottom-10 cornerback, however, and the Raiders may not have the Ohio State product in their lineup plans this year. Arnette has nearly drifted off the Raiders’ radar, Vic Tafur of The Athletic notes, adding that Casey Hayward is expected to line up as Las Vegas’ outside corner starter opposite Trayvon Mullen (subscription required). While a few lower-profile corners’ names surfaced during Raiders minicamp this week, Arnette’s was conspicuously absent, Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal adds. Talk surfaced last month of Arnette moving into the slot, but Tafur adds that job looks like Nevin Lawson‘s to lose. Arnette did not practice in the slot during minicamp.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • Yannick Ngakoue is in search of a new agent. The recently signed Raiders defensive end left the Wasserman agency this week, according to the Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen (on Twitter). This is not a first for the former Jaguars, Vikings and Ravens pass rusher. He left his first NFL agent in May 2018 and made another change last August. Ngakoue’s next agent will be his fourth as a pro. Ngakoue signed a two-year, $26MM deal with the Raiders in March; that pact featured $21MM fully guaranteed.
  • Numerous key players missed extensive time for the Broncos last season, but the team received good news as it prepares for its next training camp. One of the biggest names to miss Denver’s 5-11 2020 slate, Courtland Sutton is not expected to start camp on the team’s active/PUP list, Vic Fangio said this week. The Pro Bowl wide receiver suffered an ACL tear in Week 2 of last season. Neither Sutton nor Bradley Chubb, who is rehabbing offseason ankle surgery, are likely to miss camp time, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes. Chubb needed bone spurs removed from his ankle.
  • Bashaud Breeland moved on from the Chiefs after two seasons, signing with the Vikings. But the veteran cornerback initially wanted to re-sign with the Chiefs.