Carolina is down yet another defensive player this season after announcing the decision to place veteran pass rusher Justin Houston on injured reserve. The loss of another defensive starter just piles on to what is certainly already feeling like a bit of a lost season.
The Panthers got off to an extremely slow start this year, winning only their first game of the season last week. Rookie No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young has piloted a struggling offense that ranks 30th in the league in yardage gained. The offensive struggles also led to head coach Frank Reichceding play calling duties to rookie offensive coordinator Thomas Brown. Combine all the offensive struggles with a litany of defensive injuries and you arrive where the Panthers are now.
The 34-year-old Houston was brought in to start opposite star pass rusher Brian Burns. So far this year, though, through seven starts, Houston has only managed half a sack, two tackles for loss, and three quarterback hits. He’s far removed from his days of leading the NFL in sacks with 22.0, but even last year in Baltimore, Houston led the team in sacks while flirting with double digits.
So far, the Panthers have only activated one player (tight end Stephen Sullivan) from IR, so the team still has the ability to activate seven more players from the injured list. Out of the players listed above, Anderson, who was placed on IR before the season started, is the only one who is unable to be activated, but the severity and nature of Thompson and Christensen’s injuries likely suggest that neither will be able to return either.
With Houston out, second-year defender Amare Barno or rookie third-round pick D.J. Johnson will likely be asked to step up into a bigger role. To supplement the position a bit, the Panthers did elect to bring up practice squad outside linebacker Eku Leota as a standard gameday elevation tomorrow.
Additionally, in order to fill Houston’s vacancy on the roster, Carolina signed practice squad safety Matthias Farley to the 53-man roster. Farley, an eight-year veteran, was once a full-season starter in Indianapolis before bouncing around with the Jets, Titans, and Raiders in backup and special teams roles. He’s already started one game this year in which Chinn and Vonn Bell were unable to play, and Bell is listed as doubtful for tomorrow’s matchup against the Colts.
The Saints made a key tweak to their front office Tuesday, announcing Khai Harley will move into the assistant GM role. Harley has been with the Saints for 16 years, most recently serving as the team’s VP of football administration. Mickey Loomis has credited Harley as being one of the chief architects behind the franchise’s aggressive strategy with regards to the salary cap. Omar Khan used this background to become the Steelers’ GM, and Harley rising to this post may put him on the radar for interviews.
New Orleans also Scott Kuhn as director of football administration, Zach Stuart as director of analytics and Rishi Desai as a scouting assistant. Gaining extensive experience on the analytics front, Kuhn spent 16 years with the Vikings. Stuart spent the past three years as the Jets’ analytics coordinator. Additionally, former safety Matt Giordano is now an assistant on Dennis Allen‘s staff. Giordano, 40, spent one season with the Saints (2010); the 30-game starter also played for the Colts, Packers, Raiders and Rams from 2005-13. Giordano had spent six seasons as head coach of Buchanan High School in his native Fresno, concluding that tenure after the 2021 season.
Here is the latest from the NFC South:
Although Payton Turner carries a first-round pedigree, he is unlikely to beat out Carl Granderson for the starting role Marcus Davenport vacated this offseason. The Saints are more likely to turn to Granderson — a former UDFA — than Turner opposite Cameron Jordan, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com notes. Granderson, 26, has stood out in training camp and has two five-plus-sack seasons over the past three years. Turner entered camp after two iffy years, and while the Saints are likely to give the 2021 first-rounder another shot, a rotational role looks to be how this will play out.
Jordan’s two-year, $27.5MM Saints extension is fully guaranteed, and it will also include sack incentives. Jordan can pick up an extra $500K with a 10-sack season this year, Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football tweets. The 34-year-old defensive end can add $250K by reaching $250K in 2024 and 2025. Sitting 23rd on the official sack list (115.5), Jordan has six double-digit sack slates on his resume — including a 12.5-sack showing in 2021.
Frank Reich is in place as the Panthers‘ play-caller to start his HC tenure, but OC Thomas Brown continues to loom as a future option for the post. The first-year Carolina HC said the long-term goal remains to make Brown the play-caller, Darin Gantt of Panthers.com tweets. This is Brown’s first OC post, but he has already booked HC interviews and received interest from other teams regarding their respective OC jobs. A former Rams assistant, Brown earning play-calling responsibilities this year would enhance his case for a top coaching job.
Deion Jones‘ one-year Panthers agreement is worth $1.17MM, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. That doubles as the veteran minimum, though Wilson adds the former Falcons mainstay will receive a $75K bonus for making the Panthers’ 53-man roster. The Falcons gave Jones a four-year, $57MM extension before the 2019 season, but the team cut bait on that deal before the 2022 trade deadline. The Browns also removed a year from Jones’ contract, and scant interest came his way this offseason. This will be a key year for the 29-year-old linebacker.
The Panthers included four void years in Justin Houston‘s contract, dropping his cap hit to $2.13MM, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Houston signed a fully guaranteed one-year, $6MM deal earlier this month. The contract will include sack incentives, with Wilson adding Houston will receive $500K by reaching 11 sacks and could earn another $500K by hitting 12 (Twitter link). These are classified as not likely to be earned; Houston has one 11-sack season since 2015.
Several weeks after the veteran edge rusher market’s ice began to thaw when Leonard Floyd and Frank Clark found new homes, Yannick Ngakoue and Justin Houston reached agreements to continue their careers. The Bears and Panthers, respectively, signed the veteran sack artists; each team, however, considered both players.
Rumored to be eyeing a veteran edge player opposite Brian Burns for the past two offseasons, the Panthers stood down on that front in the wake of Haason Reddick‘s 2022 exit. They did not do so this year, giving Houston a one-year deal worth $6MM guaranteed. The Panthers gave Houston more money compared to the 12-year veteran’s second Ravens pact (one year, $3.5MM), but they still did not want to meet Ngakoue’s asking price.
Ngakoue ended up collecting $10MM guaranteed from the Bears, and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes the Panthers viewed this as too steep. In Houston, the Panthers will go with a player six years older but one who matched Ngakoue’s 2022 sack total (9.5) during his second Ravens season. Houston also loomed as a Bears consolation prize of sorts, with Fowler adding he was Chicago’s backup plan in case the team could not move Ngakoue’s asking price down to a level it deemed reasonable.
The Bears had eyed Ngakoue for a while, but Fowler adds the team spent time talking the seven-year vet down from a $13MM-per-year price point and had believed he wanted a multiyear deal. When Ngakoue changed agents earlier this year, a multiyear pact was indeed believed to be on his radar.
Marcus Davenport signed a one-year, $13MM deal ($10MM guaranteed) earlier this year, and Ngakoue’s production dwarfs the former first-rounder’s. Ngakoue is the only player riding a streak of seven straight eight-plus sack seasons. The former third-round pick began that surge to start his career in 2016. That said, Ngakoue has been viewed as a pass rush specialist of sorts; his issues in the run game undoubtedly led to the former Jaguars draftee/franchise tag recipient needing to wait until August before catching on somewhere.
Ngakoue, 28, will anchor the Bears’ edge-rushing corps. He had said previously landing with a surefire contender would not be a requirement for his latest free agency. While Ngakoue sought a deal that matched his 2021 Raiders AAV — from a two-year, $26MM contract that ended up being sent from the Raiders to the Colts — he still outperformed Floyd, Clark and Houston on the market. The Bears are not eyeing a designated pass rusher role for the well-traveled sack artist, with Matt Eberflus confirming (via The Athletic’s Adam Jahns; subscription required) he views Ngakoue as an every-down player.
Former Raiders defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, whom Eberflus regards as a mentor, gave the second-year Bears HC a strong Ngakoue endorsement, Jahns adds. Marinelli, who coached Ngakoue in 2021, also factored into the veteran edge choosing Chicago. Of course, the Bears’ eight-figure guarantee likely provided the biggest push here.
7:25pm: Thanks to Adam Schefter of ESPN, we have some details on Houston’s new deal with the Panthers. After performing on a one-year $3.5MM deal with the Ravens last year, Houston will have the opportunity to make double that in 2024.
Schefter reports that the veteran’s new deal is worth up to $7MM and will include a guaranteed amount of $6MM. This represents the largest contract Houston has played under since 2020, when he was making $12MM per year in Indianapolis.
3:48pm: The Panthers have found their long-awaited edge rushing addition. Justin Houstonhas agreed to a one-year deal with Carolina, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The team has since confirmed the news.
The Panthers have been on the lookout for a compliment to their starting tandem of Brian Burnsand Yetur Gross-Matos and Houston will represent an experienced option in that respect. The latter had spent the previous two seasons with the Ravens, playing on one-year accords both times.
Houston proved to be a highly effective addition for a Baltimore team which has leaned increasingly on young pass-rushers in recent years. The 34-year-old recorded 4.5 sacks in 2021, then upped that total to a team-leading 9.5 last year. The latter figure was produced despite Houston seeing only a 44% snap share, showcasing his continued value as a sack artist.
The Ravens have seen not only Houston, but also fellow veterans Jason Pierre-Pauland Steven Meansgo unsigned in free agency. Houston expressed a desire to remain in Baltimore on what would have presumably been another short-term deal. A raise from his previous earnings would have been called for, though the team entered today with more than $9MM in cap space, suggesting an agreement could have been worked out. Instead, the former third-rounder will now join a new team for the third time in his career.
Houston earned four straight Pro Bowl invitations and his lone All-Pro nod between 2012 and 2015 during his highly-productive tenure in Kansas City. That stint was followed by two-year runs in Indianapolis and Baltimore, and his performances there should lead to expectations as at least a quality rotational rusher in Carolina. His new team has room for depth contributions on the edge rushing front.
Houston’s sack total from last season would have ranked second on the Panthers, behind only Burns’ 12.5. A change to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero is expected to help Gross-Matos take a step forward, and Frankie Luvuhas shown an ability to produce both on the inside and outside at the linebacker spot. Despite the incumbents in place, Joe Person of The Athletic wrote earlier today about the high probability of an addition being made (subscription required).
Houston was among the options Person laid out, headlining a group which was thinned recently by the Bears’ deal for Yannick Ngakoue. That accord came in at a higher price ($10.5MM guaranteed) than many anticipated, and it will be interesting to see how Houston made out with this Panthers pact. The latter will look to repeat his success from last year while helping to lead Carolina back to the postseason.
Cornerback would represent a logical position for the Ravens to make a late-offseason addition at, but the same could be true with respect to edge rushers. That leaves Justin Houston‘s situation as one to watch.
The 34-year-old has been with the Ravens since 2021, signing a pair of one-year deals each of the past two summers to play for Baltimore. His 2022 pact was worth $3.5MM, a figure which proved to be a bargain for the team considering Houston’s production. The former All-Pro recorded a team-leading 9.5 sacks last season, despite logging a snap share of just 44%.
“The way I feel right now – I’ll be back,” Houston said in January when asked about his intentions heading into free agency. “We’ll see if the chips work out, and I’ll be here. That’s out of my control. We’ll see what they do. [But] I’d like to be back here.”
The former Chief and Colt remains unsigned at this point, but Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes that another new Ravens deal “would surprise no one” (subscription required). Houston has not been linked with any other teams up to now, and Baltimore has little in the way of known commodities in their current edge group. Especially if it were to come on another one-year, low-cost deal, a reunion would make plenty of sense.
The Ravens have veteran Tyus Bowserand 2022 second-rounder David Ojaboset to play considerable pass-rushing roles this season, but each were limited last season as they recovered from Achilles tears. 2021 first-rounder Odafe Owehposted five sacks as a rookie, but that figure dropped to three last season as he also saw his playing time get cut slightly. Rookie linebacker Trenton Simpsonis likely to see at least some time playing off the edge in the NFL, as was the case in college, but the only true pass rusher the Ravens drafted this year was fourth-rounder Tavius Robinson.
Given the question marks surrounding the team’s other options at the position, it would indeed not come as a shock if Houston were to find himself in Baltimore (a team which currently has $9.9MM in cap space) by the start of training camp. A repeat of last year’s production could help his value heading into free agency in 2024, or allow him to close out his career on a high note.
“We’re interested in a lot of guys at all positions right now,” head coach Matt Eberflus said. “We’re just excited about being able to look at those guys and potentially add as we go through camp and getting closer to the season.”
The Bears finished last season with a league-low 20 sacks, and the team’s only notable addition on the edge was DeMarcus Walker, who had a career-high seven sacks for the Titans last season. The team also returns some depth at the position; Trevis Gipson has compiled 10 sacks over the past two seasons, and Dominique Robinson showed some promise during his rookie campaign.
“I’m focused on the guys we have here,” said defensive line coach Travis Smith. “That’s not my job to go look outside. That’s for Mr. Poles and [Eberflus] to decide. If they come ask me a question, I’ll offer my opinion on it. But the guys that we have, the 15 guys in the room that we have, coaching every day to get better.”
As Finley notes, the Bears have plenty of connections to the remaining crop of free agent edge rushers. Justin Houston played for Eberflus when the two were in Indianapolis, while Yannick Ngakoue played under Smith when they were in Las Vegas. Bears GM RyanPoles also has connections to Melvin Ingram and Frank Clark from his Kansas City days.
The Bears are willing to give at least one of the current free agent edge rushers a one-year deal, per Finley. The team will probably wait out the market as they look at add to the position on their financial terms.
This year’s deadline, however, has not led to a thaw in the edge defender market, which is free agency’s deepest at this point. A number of accomplished veterans — some still in or close to their prime — remain unsigned. Teams often use OTAs, minicamp and training camp to determine where roster flaws are, leading to summer veteran additions. As of last week, no such moves affect teams’ 2024 compensatory picks. Some clubs will also pick up some cap space after June 1, when they will see the money saved from previous cut designations emerge.
A few longtime starters figure to receive another chance before teams configure their final depth charts. Ahead of OTAs, here are the top options available:
The Chiefs cut Clark in March, separating from their most prominent edge player of the Patrick Mahomes era. While Clark did not live up to the five-year, $104MM pact he signed upon being acquired from the Seahawks in 2019 and ultimately took a pay cut to return in 2022, he did continue producing in the playoffs. Clark’s 2.5 sacks during this past postseason give him 13.5 for his career. In the official sack era (1982-present), that total ranks third. Of course, the ex-Seattle second-rounder was arrested twice in 2021 and never eclipsed eight sacks during a Chiefs regular season. He remains a starter-caliber player.
Perennially unable to secure a long-term deal, the former No. 1 overall pick will likely end his NFL career without landing one. Injury trouble has plagued Clowney, who missed eight games during his two-year Browns tenure. Since the Texans traded Clowney to the Seahawks in August 2019, he has taken his time before reaching a free agency accord. Clowney signed with the Titans in September 2020, inked his first Browns deal in April 2021 and re-signed in May of last year. Clashes with Cleveland’s coaching staff will lead him elsewhere. Clowney only totaled two sacks and 12 QB pressures last season, though he collected nine sacks opposite Myles Garrett in 2021.
With the Rams moving on from their four-year, $64MM agreement in March, two teams have now cut Floyd in his career. The Bears picked up his fifth-year option but, back when teams were allowed to do this, ditched it free of charge a year later back in 2020. Floyd has both displayed durability and production since that Chicago separation, showing a new gear in Los Angeles. Teaming with Aaron Donald and Von Miller certainly boosted Floyd’s chances of drawing a favorable matchup, but he kept going after Donald’s shutdown last season. Four of Floyd’s 9.5 sacks came during the six games Donald missed. Floyd’s 31 QB pressures ranked 17th last season.
Coming off the worst season in this contingent, Golden is two years removed from an 11-sack campaign. The former second-round pick agreed to a one-year extension that covered the 2023 season, but the Cardinals’ new regime ditched that contract in March. Golden has three double-digit sack seasons on his resume, though they have come in nonconsecutive years. An early-career ACL tear threw the Mizzou alum off track, but Golden has missed just one game over the past four seasons.
The second-ranked edge defender in PFR’s free agent rankings back in March (behind only Marcus Davenport), Ngakoue has consistently produced sack numbers while generating a reputation as a hired gun and run-game liability. He did not come close to reaching the May compensatory deadline in the past, however, being franchise-tagged in 2020 and signed to a two-year, $26MM Raiders deal in March 2021. The Colts took on that contract last year, via a straight-up trade for Ya-Sin, and Ngakoue reeled off a 9.5-sack season. The former Jaguars third-round pick is the only player to post at least eight sacks in each of the past seven seasons.
One of the bright spots of the Jaguars’ Urban Meyer year, Smoot finished the 2021 season with 30 pressures. The former third-round pick accumulated 22.5 sacks from 2019-22, finishing that stretch on a two-year deal worth $10MM. He likely would have a third contract in place — either from the Jaguars or another team earlier in free agency — had a December ACL tear not occurred. The Jags did not re-sign Arden Key or use a first- or second-day pick on an edge rusher. While that potentially keeps the door open to Smoot returning when cleared (or on the homestretch toward clearance), he remains an intriguing complementary option for teams.
Although Van Noy has operated as a hybrid of sorts, his sack consistency qualifies him for such a list. Van Noy’s one-year Chargers deal ended up requiring considerable edge work, with Joey Bosa lost for much of the season. As he had done for years in New England, Van Noy made an impact in a pass-rushing capacity. He finished with five sacks, marking the fifth time in the past six seasons he has reached that number. Van Noy’s age and versatility make him one of the better options left. After signing with the Chargers in May of last year, Van Noy expressed interest in staying on another accord.
The Chiefs waited until July to add Dunlap last year, bringing in the longtime Bengals sack artist — on a one-year, $3MM pact — to replace Melvin Ingram as a Clark complement. Kansas City has since added younger UFA Charles Omenihu and used first-round picks on edges (George Karlaftis, Felix Anudike-Uzomah) in each of the past two years. The Bengals’ all-time sack leader, Dunlap finished with four last season after amassing 8.5 with the Seahawks in 2021. The Chiefs used the 13-year veteran on 39 defensive plays in Super Bowl LVII.
The Ravens re-signed Houston to a one-year, $3.5MM deal last July. The former Chiefs first-rounder ended up being by far the most productive edge player in Baltimore, tallying 9.5 sacks and 17 QB hits despite starting just one game. The rotational rusher, who has totaled at least eight sacks in five of the past six seasons, should be able to garner another opportunity after his 2022 display. Houston said in January he wanted to stay in Baltimore.
Like Houston, Ingram is accustomed to being without a team late into the offseason. The Steelers signed the former first-rounder in July 2021, and the Dolphins brought him in last May. The Dolphins signed the ex-Chargers Pro Bowler after the Chiefs gave him a UFA tender. The Ravens had done the same with Houston, but Kansas City opted to let Ingram walk. The 11-year veteran totaled six sacks and a forced fumble, adding a return touchdown.
JPP joined the Ravens in-season, bypassing the practice squad-to-active roster route many veterans have taken over the past few years. Signed directly to Baltimore’s 53-man roster, Pierre-Paul started over Houston but posted just three sacks in 14 games. He still parlayed a September signing — on an incentive-laden deal worth $1.35MM — into 526 defensive snaps. The resilient two-time Super Bowl champion is obviously approaching the end of the line but resides as a potential rotational option for teams.
The oft-traded veteran’s production nosedived last season. After setting a Bears single-season record with 18.5 sacks in 2021, Quinn recorded just one last season. The Eagles sent a fourth-round pick to the Bears for Quinn, with Chicago eating most of his salary to increase the compensation. Philadelphia also reached an agreement with Quinn to remove the final two seasons from his five-year, $70MM deal. Given his 2022 showing in Chicago and Philly, Quinn’s days of commanding notable contracts may be over.
In a press conference this past Thursday, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta spoke to the future of several Ravens players as the team heads into the offseason. Although the free agency of quarterback Lamar Jackson is obviously the main headline of Baltimore’s offseason, DeCosta still has plenty on his plate from key free agents like cornerback Marcus Peters and offensive guard Ben Powers to veterans flirting with retirement like defensive tackle Calais Campbell.
Peters is headed towards free agency this offseason after three seasons in Baltimore. The Ravens have been fairly top-heavy at the cornerback position in the past few years with Peters and Marlon Humphrey. They invested some draft capital in the position last year, selecting rookies Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams, but due to experience and injuries, they were still forced to rely on contributions from the likes of Daryl Worley and Kevon Seymour. The team signed free agent Kyle Fuller in the offseason, but a Week 1 knee injury knocked him out for the year. DeCosta hinted that the team will continue to try and add more talent at cornerback regardless of whether or not they are able to re-sign Peters.
Powers continued his play this year as a full-time starter and had his best NFL season in a contract year. He may follow the likes of former Ravens’ linemen like Ryan Jensen and Kelechi Osemele, who priced themselves out of a new contract in Baltimore in the past.
The Ravens were able to sign trade acquisition Roquan Smith to a long-term deal and now are faced with the contract situation of fellow linebacker Patrick Queen. Queen’s play elevated substantially while playing alongside Smith and has the Ravens considering his future going into this offseason. DeCosta said he isn’t ready to announce that they will pick up Queen’s fifth-year option, but he made sure to clarify that Smith’s contract won’t preclude them from signing Queen long-term.
Lastly, the Ravens have two esteemed veterans that could consider hanging up their cleats. Campbell mulled retirement last season and will likely kick the idea around a bit once again this offseason. Pass rusher Justin Houston is under contract for another season but could potentially call it a career. He stated recently that he does intend to keep playing, and both athletes met with DeCosta before leaving town for the offseason.
Here are a few more rumors from around the AFC North, starting with the main storyline for the offseason in Charm City:
Ryan Clark referenced a debate on ESPN’s first take recently about the details of offers made to Jackson. A source provided knowledge that the Ravens’ initial offer had $113MM in guaranteed money and that offer was eventually upped to $133MM. That guaranteed amount doesn’t come anywhere close to Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s $230MM guaranteed contract, but the second offer would be the most guaranteed money to any quarterback in the NFL besides Watson.
The Steelers’ coaching staff is set to undergo some changes this offseason. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one coach on his way out is assistant wide receivers coach Blaine Stewart who is set to join the staff at West Virginia University. Stewart’s father, Bill, served as head coach of the Mountaineers from 2008-10.
The Buccaneers parted ways with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich at the end of this season. The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly speculated that, unless Leftwich finds work elsewhere as an offensive play caller, the former Steelers quarterback could find a role as an offensive assistant on Mike Tomlin‘s staff. Kaboly posits that a role as senior offensive assistant/passing-game coordinator could be in play for Leftwich. Leftwich would essentially be a coordinator-in-waiting as current offensive coordinator Matt Canada is in the final year of his contract.
Baltimore’s offseason will be dominated by their contract decision with respect to quarterback Lamar Jackson, but a number of other notable players face uncertain futures as well. Two of the team’s key defenders have expressed their desire to remain with the Ravens for 2023.
One of those is safety Chuck Clark, who drew plenty of headlines last offseason with respect to his desire to stay with the team. The 27-year-old represented a logical trade candidate in the wake of Baltimore signing Marcus Williamsto a big-money free agent deal and using their top draft pick on Kyle Hamilton. In the summer, he confirmed that he had in fact asked to be moved, though the Ravens held onto him throughout the campaign.
Williams essentially played on an every-snap basis when healthy, but the same was also true of Clark. That came as little surprise early on in the season, but many predicted Hamilton would gradually take over his role as (primarily) a box defender later on. Instead, the latter wound up with a 53% defensive snap share, operating as part of the team’s three-safety packages. That left Clark on the field full-time, where he totaled 101 tackles and four pass deflections.
The veteran is on the books for one more season, but he acknowledged (via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, on Twitter) that there is once again “uncertainty” regarding whether or not he will continue his career in Baltimore. Clark is scheduled to carry a cap hit of just over $6.2MM in 2023, and Hamilton could presumably take on his role as a hybrid defender (if not the unit’s play-caller). Clark’s desire to remain nevertheless represents a notable departure from his stance last year.
His intention was echoed by pass rusher Justin Houston. The 34-year-old started only one contest in 2022, his second with the Ravens, and saw a rotational role on the edge. Despite his 44% snap share, Houston led the team in sacks with 9.5, demonstrating his continued ability to be a disruptive presence in the latter stages of his career. He is, to little surprise, then, eyeing a deal which allows him to play at least one more season.
“The way I feel right now – I’ll be back,” the pending free agent said, via Clifton Brown of the team’s website. “We’ll see if the chips work out, and I’ll be here. That’s out of my control. We’ll see what they do. [But] I’d like to be back here.”
Much of Baltimore’s cap situation will be dictated by Jackson’s cost on either a franchise tag or a long-term deal. When they have established more financial clarity, though, the degree to which Clark’s and Houston’s desire to return is reciprocated will be a notable subplot.
December 30th, 2022 at 10:47am CST by Sam Robinson
As we head into Week 17, a number of players still have key incentives available. Here is a handful of the notable escalators in reach — many involving Smiths — courtesy of SI.com’s Albert Breer.
Justin Houston, OLB (Ravens): Already collecting $1MM by reaching 7.5 sacks, the 12th-year pass rusher (nine sacks) can move that number to $1.5MM by getting to 10.
Christian Kirk, WR (Jaguars): The big-ticket Jags signing can collect $500K by hitting 80 receptions, with another $500K available if he reaches 90. Kirk has 76 catches. The ex-Cardinal (988 receiving yards) can also collect $1MM by surpassing 1,100.
Raheem Mostert, RB (Dolphins): The offseason addition will almost certainly add $1MM to his 2022 earnings. By clearing 900 scrimmage yards, Mostert needs only the Dolphins to stay in the top 25 in total offense. Considering Miami ranks ninth, it is a good bet the ex-49er — who signed for one year and $2.2MM — will cash in.
Geno Smith, QB (Seahawks): After already collecting $1MM for hitting playing-time incentives and $500K by making the Pro Bowl, Smith is likely to add another $1MM by eclipsing 4,000 passing yards for the first time. Smith, who signed for one year and $3.5MM, has 3,886 yards through 15 games.
Preston Smith, OLB (Packers): Sitting on 8.5 sacks, the veteran edge rusher can collect $1MM by ballooning that number to 10. Another $1MM would be in play for Smith if he reached 12 sacks this season.
Za’Darius Smith, OLB (Vikings): The 2022 Minnesota signee can up his incentive package to either $750K by hitting 10.5 sacks or $1MM by reaching 12.5. The veteran edge has 10 sacks through 15 games.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (Chiefs): Leading Chiefs wideouts in receiving yards (877) by a wide margin, Smith-Schuster is likely to enhance his already-impressive incentive collection by topping 900 receiving yards. That would put the ex-Steeler at $3MM in total incentives earned. Signing a one-year deal worth $3.76MM, Smith-Schuster has already collected $2.5MM in escalators.
J.J. Watt, DL (Cardinals): Lastly, the retiring D-lineman collected $900K by reaching nine sacks (9.5); he can bump that number to $1MM by tallying a 10th sack over the team’s final two games.