Kenny Moore

AFC South Notes: Taylor, Rankins, Colts

The Jaguars are retooling their defensive staff after their late-season collapse knocked them out of playoff position, but Jacksonville’s offense submitted a clunky campaign as well. Trevor Lawrence did not take the step forward many expected, battling injuries and producing an inconsistent third season. After finishing 10th in points and yards in 2022, the Jags ranked 13th in both categories (and 18th in DVOA) this season. As Doug Pederson fired most of his defensive assistants, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes some late-season buzz pointed to GM Trent Baalke taking a hard look into the state of the offense.

This effort is believed to have centered around OC Press Taylor, whom Pederson gave play-calling duties before the season. Pederson called plays in 2022. Pederson displayed loyalty to Taylor in Philadelphia, and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was not onboard with the prospect of Press Taylor — the younger brother of Bengals HC Zac Taylor — staying on as Eagles QBs coach and pass-game coordinator for a second season back in 2021. (The Eagles did not employ an OC that year, making Taylor Pederson’s top lieutenant on that side of the ball.) Nearly two weeks after the Jags’ season ended, Taylor remains on track to be the Jags’ OC for a third year. The coming season will be pivotal for the Jags, who may want to see a true leap from Lawrence before extending him.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • Sheldon Rankins has now played out his one-year Texans contract, though the team has exclusive negotiating rights with the veteran defensive tackle until the legal tampering period begins in March. Rankins, however, said (via KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson) he would prefer to re-sign with the Texans rather than leaving in free agency. Working as a full-time starter, Rankins played well in Houston. The former Saints and Jets D-tackle registered six sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown this season. The Texans have part of their DT equation solved, having given Maliek Collins another contract (two years, $23MM) last summer.
  • Kenny Moore‘s Colts contract became an issue back in 2022. With the NFL still not placing considerable value on slot cornerbacks financially — at least, not compared to high-end boundary cover men — Moore expressed frustration about the four-year, $33.3MM deal he signed back in 2019. Moore has now played out his deal and is on track to be a first-time free agent. One of the NFL’s better slot corners over the course of his career, Moore became vital to a Colts team that did not feature consistent perimeter coverage this season. While the prospect of testing the market would seem appealing, Moore said (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson) he wants to stay in Indianapolis. After an injury-plagued 2022, Moore returned to form this season. With Moore intercepting three passes and returning two for TDs, Pro Football Focus ranked the 28-year-old defender 17th at the position.
  • Ryan Kelly attempted to set the record straight recently, indicating (via Fox 59’s Mike Chappell) he is not considering retirement. The eight-year Colts center finished up his age-30 season, ranking as Pro Football Focus’ No. 8 overall center, and is under contract for 2024. The Colts shopped Kelly this past offseason. The final year of the Pro Bowler’s contract includes a nonguaranteed $11.4MM base salary.

Colts To Retain C Ryan Kelly, CB Kenny Moore II

The Colts are planning to retain both center Ryan Kelly and cornerback Kenny Moore II, as Zak Keefer of The Athletic writes (subscription required). GM Chris Ballard recently fielded trade calls on both players, and a report last month indicated that he was actively shopping Kelly, but he clearly did not get an offer to his liking.

“They’re both great Colts, and we’re glad they’re here,” Ballard said. “When you’ve got a good football player that is a great person and a great fit, it makes it hard to move away from those guys.”

Kelly, who will turn 30 in May, was one of the primary culprits in the surprising regression that the Colts’ offensive line experienced in 2022. That group, widely considered one of the team’s greatest strengths, struggled last season, and Kelly himself earned middle-of-the-road grades from Pro Football Focus after surrendering five sacks, 25 total pressures, and failing to generate much push in the run game. Still, he earned Pro Bowl acclaim every year from 2019-21, and as Indianapolis could soon be deploying a rookie quarterback, having an accomplished player at the pivot makes sense.

Moore, who is entering his age-28 season, lobbied for a new contract last year. While the deal that he signed in 2019 set a record for slot corners, Moore argued that his pay should reflect the fact that slot defenders are really starting players in today’s pass-heavy league, and that his ability to line up outside the numbers, make tackles in space, and play behind the line of scrimmage should also be rewarded. Ultimately, the Colts did not make any adjustments to Moore’s contract, and Moore turned in perhaps the worst season of his career.

Although PFF continued to laud his work against the run, it assigned Moore a poor overall grade of 55.7. He failed to record an interception for the first time in his six professional seasons, and he yielded an unsightly quarterback rating of 117.7. In fairness, he was playing through a torn ligament in his left hand and also dealt with a right hand sprain before his season was cut short by an ankle injury, and he did not fit as well in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley‘s scheme as he had in the scheme utilized by former DC Matt Eberflus. Regardless of the reason, though, Moore’s performance took a lucrative new contract off the table for the time being, so his upcoming platform campaign will be especially critical for his future earning power.

Releasing Moore would create a cap savings of $7.6MM while leaving a minimal dead money charge of $500K, and a trade would remove the dead money hit completely. Still, after the Colts traded Stephon Gilmore and saw Brandon Facyson defect to the Raiders in free agency, the team’s cornerback depth is suspect. Per Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star, Ballard — who concedes the Gilmore deal was partially cap-driven — thinks highly of presumptive boundary starters Isaiah Rodgers and Dallis Flowers, but it makes sense that he would not want to thin the CB room even further by cutting ties with Moore (Twitter link).

Nonetheless, one would expect Ballard to attempt to shore up the position in the coming months, and the draft would be one way to do that. Likewise, new head coach Shane Steichen wants to add reinforcements to the offensive line, as Keefer tweets, and an heir apparent for Kelly could be in the cards. At present, 2022 UDFA Wesley French represents the Colts’ fallback option at center.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/4/23

Today’s minor NFL transactions:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Indianapolis Colts

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

  • Placed on IR: LB De’Jon Harris

Injury Updates: Eichenberg, Smith, Parker, Moore, Bellinger

Dolphins guard Liam Eichenberg was carted off the field in this Sunday’s trip to Detroit. The injury isn’t as serious as initially feared, but it appears Eichenberg has suffered an MCL injury and will miss some time, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Miami will have options to replace Eichenberg. Michael Deiter started eight games at center last year for the Dolphins and 15 games at Eichenberg’s left guard position in 2019. Brandon Shell and Greg Little are also options with plenty of starting experience, albeit at tackle. Robert Jones is also an option after starting a game last year.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the NFL:

  • The Vikings are expected to be down another tight end after Irv Smith suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. With Ben Ellefson on injured reserve, Minnesota will have to rely on veteran Johnny Mundt who came over from Los Angeles in the offseason. Mundt has had limited targets this year with Minnesota’s litany of talented pass catchers, but his 12 receptions are already more than he had during his five years with the Rams. The Vikings will also likely explore the option of signing one of its two practice squad tight ends, Jacob Hollister and Nick Muse.
  • After suffering a knee sprain on the first play of the Patriots’ win over the Jets this weekend, wide receiver DeVante Parker is not expected to miss extended time, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Rapoport reports that if he does miss time, it should only be one game, especially since New England has a bye after next Sunday’s contest against the Colts. He should definitely be back in time for a rematch with the Jets in Week 11.
  • Colts cornerback Kenny Moore suffered a right hand sprain in practice last week, according to James Boyd of The Athletic. As Boyd inquired about the injury, Moore revealed that he has also been playing with a torn ligament in his left hand since the start of the season. Neither injury is expected to hold Moore out of any games, but this interview offered a glimpse into what Moore has been playing through this year.
  • After a gruesome freak accident that saw Jaguars rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd strike Giants tight end Daniel Bellinger directly in the eye on a whiffed attempt to punch the ball out, Bellinger reportedly “underwent successful surgery to correct fractures on (the) lower window of (his) eye socket and damage to (his) septum,” according to Fowler. Bellinger hopes to return in two to six weeks, but other sources indicate that four to six weeks is a much more reasonable timeline.

Colts Targeting August Quenton Nelson Extension; Kenny Moore Deal Tabled To 2023?

Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith each signed their extensions during Colts training camp, the former in September 2020 and the latter in July of last year. The team is hoping to have Quenton Nelson follow that path.

The Colts’ goal is to have Nelson signed by the end of this month, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. All other extension business is on hold. This includes Kenny Moore, who lobbied for a new contract this offseason, and Bobby Okereke, whom Fowler adds has emerged on the team’s extension radar. A 2019 third-round pick, Okereke is entering a contract year.

Nelson, who is 4-for-4 in Pro Bowl nods to start his career, is going into his fifth-year option season ($13.75MM). Neither Kelly nor Smith played a game on an expiring contract, with the former signing ahead of his fifth season and the latter before his fourth. This trio forms the core of what has been one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and Nelson’s looming extension has undoubtedly influenced other Colts moves up front. Eric Fisher is gone, and the team also did not bring back four-year guard starter Mark Glowinski. Low-cost players are now in place at left tackle and right guard, respectively.

[RELATED: Assessing The Colts’ 2022 Offseason]

Colts GM Chris Ballard earmarked this offseason as the point in which a Nelson extension should come to pass, but Nelson’s age (26) and early-career performance do provide some complications here. The Notre Dame product’s second contract should be well north of the current guard salary ceiling (Brandon Scherff‘s $16.5MM-per-year Jaguars deal). Nelson taking the guard market to tackle territory and past $20MM per year should be considered in play.

If the parties cannot agree on a deal this year, the Colts have the option of a 2023 franchise tag. Guards are rarely tagged, as all O-line positions are grouped together on the tag, but the Commanders used this route with Scherff in 2020 and 2021.

With the Colts’ top two skill-position players — Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. — going into contract years in 2023, the team’s offense could become far more expensive by next year. On defense, Moore’s deal will need to be addressed by then. Under contract for two more seasons, Moore skipped some of Indy’s voluntary offseason program. Offseason reports indicated the sides were well apart on terms. Currently tied to an $8.33MM-per-year deal, Moore should be expected to move the slot cornerback position into eight-figure-AAV territory. But he could well have to play another season on his current pact, with Ballard not expected to consider an extension until next year.

The Broncos and Patriots dealt with underpaid corners with two years of team control left in the recent past. Denver gave Chris Harris an incentive package in 2018, while New England authorized a raise for Stephon Gilmore in 2020. (The Broncos gave Harris a raise in 2019, while the Patriots stood pat with Gilmore to lead him off their roster via trade last year.) The latter is now Moore’s teammate and attached to a bigger contract. Moore, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season, has not opted to stage a hold-in measure at training camp.

Kenny Moore Wants To Be Paid As Elite Corner

Colts cornerback Kenny Moore is unhappy with his current contract, and the latest reporting on the matter suggested that negotiations towards a new deal have not gained much traction. Moore, who is due base salaries of $6.5MM and $6.795MM over the next two years, believes those figures are not reflective of his value to the club.

Specifically, as Zak Keefer of The Athletic tweets, Moore wants to be paid as an elite cornerback, not as an elite slot cornerback. “I want to play football … [I don’t] like the whole nickel slot corner thing,” Moore said. “I’m a corner at the end of the day. You guys watch the same games that we play.”

Moore’s current contract, signed in 2019, gave him $30MM in new money, which was a record for slot defenders. That deal was authorized after the former UDFA had accrued just two years of service time, and between that and the fact that the early payout gave Moore an opportunity to hit the open market before he turns 29 — to say nothing of the two years of club control that still remain — the Colts do not seem particularly inclined to offer many concessions.

On the other hand, Moore’s dissatisfaction is understandable. Because teams are deploying nickel packages more and more frequently, a team’s top slot DB is really a starter, and while no one has played more slot coverage snaps than Moore since 2018 — h/t Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus — he has seen plenty of time outside the numbers and has proven adept at tackling in space and playing behind the line of scrimmage. He is also a bonafide playmaker, having notched eight interceptions over the last two seasons (including one pick-six), and he tallied 102 total tackles in 2021, which saw him earn his first Pro Bowl bid.

Still, there is a considerable gap between Moore’s $8.325MM average annual value and the AAVs enjoyed by the game’s elite boundary corners. Jaire Alexander‘s new contract with the Packers made him the first $21MM/year corner in NFL history — though that deal was comparatively light on guaranteed money — and there are ten CBs making at least $16.5MM per year. So even if the Colts agree to address Moore’s contract in some way, he probably should not expect to be catapulted into the top ten earners at the cornerback position.

Perhaps, as our Sam Robinson recently posited, the two sides can come together on some sort of incentive package for the 2022 campaign. And assuming Moore continues to perform at a high level, the Colts will probably be more serious about a lucrative extension next offseason, when Moore will be entering a platform year. The Valdosta State product did attend the team’s mandatory minicamp after skipping voluntary OTAs, so unless talks truly turn sour, it seems likely that he will appear for training camp as well.

Colts, Kenny Moore Not Progressing On Deal

Although two years remain on Kenny Moore‘s contract, the Colts have engaged in discussions with their disgruntled slot standout. Those conversations have not moved the needle.

Moore and the Colts have not made much progress on a resolution, Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star notes. Indianapolis’ front office has continued to communicate with Moore, with the sides having understandably differing viewpoints on this situation.

Named to the Pro Bowl following a season in which he played a career-high 97% of the Colts’ defensive snaps, Moore believes he has outplayed his current contract — a four-year, $33.3MM deal that represented a high-water mark for slot corners at the time of signing (2019). Moore, 26, has operated as one of the NFL’s best slot defenders since, but in playing 1,063 snaps, the former UDFA played outside as well and logged more defensive snaps than any Colt defender save for Bobby Okereke last season.

The Colts believe this was a fair contract, Erickson adds. By paying Moore early, the Colts both authorized a lucrative deal that replaced his league-minimum pact and gave him an opportunity to enter a contract year ahead of his age-28 season. However, the team gave Stephon Gilmore a two-year, $20MM pact this offseason. Moore’s AAV now sits 27th among corners.

The Division II product showed for the first week of Colts OTAs but stayed away last week. He reported to the team’s facility for this week’s minicamp, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, though it is not known if on-field participation is in the cards. The Colts are transitioning to a new defensive scheme, under DC Gus Bradley, and Moore should again be expected to play an every-down role.

Moore’s deal remains atop the salary hierarchy among pure slot corners, narrowly outflanking Taron Johnson‘s 2021 Bills extension. A broader argument can be made that slot defenders are underpaid, given the value and versatility the top-tier inside cover men provide. Moore’s camp may be making that case, but with two years left on his deal, the Colts will not give in easily.

A compromise could be reached, however. The Broncos gave Chris Harris an incentive package in the penultimate year of his second contract (2018) and handed the All-Decade slot corner a true raise in the final year of his deal. One of these solutions could be salvageable for Moore, who would only be 28 as a free agent in 2024. It will be interesting to see if the Colts hold the line here, refusing to do an extension until 2023, and if Moore would consider a hold-in measure absent a true extension by training camp.

Latest On Colts CB Kenny Moore

Among the many notable absentees from ongoing OTAs is Colts cornerback Kenny Moore. As is the case with a number of other players skipping the voluntary program, he is doing so in the hopes of landing a more lucrative contract, as detailed by Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star (Twitter link). 

Moore, 26, has experienced quite the upward career trajectory. Beginning his tenure in Indianapolis as a former UDFA in 2017, he quickly emerged as a starter and key contributor to the team’s secondary. As a result, he was given a four-year extension in 2019; the $30MM in new money he received as a result of the deal was a record for slot corners.

He still has two years remaining on that contract, with salaries of $6.5MM and $6.795MM. His cap hits over that span are $6.75MM and $7.545MM, which represent solid value given his level of play. Between Moore’s continued ascension – which included a Pro Bowl nod after a career year in 2021 – and the fact that there is no more guaranteed money left on his contract, though, he is now among the players attempting to leverage a new deal.

Everything’s voluntary at this point,” Frank Reich said, via The Athletic’s Stephen Holder (subscription required). “You guys obviously know how we feel about Kenny. Every player’s got to make his own decision. We love Kenny. We’re going to continue to work hard and get the guys ready who are here. I’m glad he’s here. I know he didn’t get to work today. But I’m thankful he’s here and seeing everything that’s going on.”

As Erickson states, Moore is “upset and feels like he’s underpaid” relative to his contributions to the team. If he were to negotiate a new contract, it would represent another significant move made by the Colts with respect to their CB room. That said, the Colts are likely to resist negotiating with a player who has more than a year remaining on his contract, Holder adds, due to the precedent it would set. That is not an uncommon stance, though Moore is arguably the team’s most valuable defensive back.

The team traded away Rock Ya-Sin and signed Stephon Gilmore in free agency this offseason. The situation with Moore could now become more complicated than many would have expected.

Colts, Kenny Moore Agree To Extension

The Colts and cornerback Kenny Moore have agreed to terms on a four-year extension, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal will make him the highest paid slot cornerback in NFL history in terms of new money. 

Before the add-on, Moore had one year remaining on his contract. The Colts also had the option of keeping Moore via the restricted free agency tag beyond 2019, but the new deal will provide the Colts with long-term cost certainty and give security to the former undrafted free agent.

After earning his scheduled $645K salary in 2019, Moore will earn $30MM in new money between 2020 and 2023, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Through incentives and bonuses, he can earn up to $36MM over the course of the extension.

The Colts claimed Moore off waivers from the Patriots just prior to the 2017 season. He made the cut as the team’s No. 5 cornerback, but proved to be much more valuable than that late in the season when he took over for the injured Rashaan Melvin later in the season.

In 2018, Moore won a starting role and truly took off. He graded out as the No. 32 ranked corner in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, and finished out with three interceptions and 77 tackles.

Outside of Darius Leonard, Moore was probably the Colts’ most effective defensive playmaker last year. The Colts didn’t necessarily have to extend Moore, who was still under club control for two more years, but they had the cap room to get a deal done after a quiet offseason.

Sunday NFL Transactions: AFC South

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC South teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the Texans, Colts, Jaguars, and Titans are noted below.

Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC South transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans