Kwon Alexander

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/14/23

Today’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Following a spree of illegal hits, Kareem Jackson was hit with a four-game ban back in October. That suspension ended up getting knocked down to two games, and following that absence, the defensive back has returned to the active roster. While Justin Simmons has long resided as the Broncos’ top safety, Pro Football Focus has graded Jackson as a top-20 player at the position this season.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai suffered a back injury that will require a stint on injured reserve, although there’s a chance the veteran lineman ends up having to miss the rest of the season. After starting all 25 of his appearances for the Lions between 2020 and 2021, Vaitai has started three of his six games in 2022.

Hunter Long was a third-round pick by the Dolphins in 2021 but only lasted two seasons in Miami, hauling in a single eight-yard catch. He was part of the Rams’ offseason trade return for Jalen Ramsey but hasn’t appeared in a game this season. The tight end landed on IR in early September with a thigh injury.

Steelers LB Kwon Alexander Suffers Torn Achilles

The Steelers earned a close victory in Week 10, but it came at the expense of another significant injury on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Kwon Alexander suffered a torn Achilles on Sunday, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

As a result of the injury, Alexander will be out for the remainder of the season. That news is especially significant given the fact fellow linebacker Cole Holcomb suffered a knee injury in Week 9 which required season-ending surgery. The pair comprised two-thirds of Pittsburgh’s three-man rotation at the LB spot, so their absences will be acutely felt for the second half of the campaign.

One of several new faces in the Steelers’ front seven, Alexander signed a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum in late July. That pact didn’t come with any guarantees with respect to playing time, but the 29-year-old provided at least an experienced depth option. Alexander had logged a 61% snap share heading into Week 10, a figure much higher than last year’s during his time with the Jets and one which was in line to increase with Holcomb no longer in the fold.

With Alexander out for the remainder of the year, Pittsburgh will be forced to turn elsewhere at their second inside linebacker spot. Currently, with Holcomb and Chapelle Russell on IR, and Alexander soon to join them, last year’s seventh-round pick out of Ole Miss, Mark Robinson, is the only inside backer on the active roster left to line up next to Elandon Roberts. Robinson spent most of his rookie season inactive before starting the final two games of the year. So far in his sophomore campaign, Robinson has played in every contest, mostly on special teams.

The only other player in the building designated as an inside linebacker on the team’s depth chart is former Packers seventh-round safety Tariq Carpenter. Pittsburgh signed Carpenter to their practice squad when he failed to make Green Bay’s 53-man roster in August and converted him to inside backer. He appeared in 14 games as a rookie last year, playing almost exclusively on special teams.

With so many injuries at linebacker, the Steelers will certainly be pressed to do something. One solution may be converting another safety or an outside linebacker to fill in at the position. Otherwise, Pittsburgh will likely be combing the free agent options for some possible depth or experience to supplement their current beleaguered group.

Contributions provided by Ely Allen

Steelers To Sign LB Kwon Alexander

2023 has already seen a number of changes made at the linebacker position for the Steelers, but the team is still making moves. A deal is in place with Kwon Alexander pending a physical, reports ESPN’s Brooke Pryor (Twitter link).

The veteran visited Pittsburgh in May, signaling that a deal could be close. It took well into July for one to materialize, but it will give the Steelers added depth and experience at a spot which has been heavily renovated in recent months. Alexander spent his first season in the AFC last year by playing with the Jets, and he will likely have a similar role in Pittsburgh to his most recent one..

The soon-to-be 29-year-old logged a snap share of 49% in New York, by far the lowest of his career. Alexander had steadily seen his playing time decrease in recent years, though, so it came as little surprise that he was relegated to rotational duty. He made 69 stops last season, adding six tackles for loss and one forced fumble.

CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets that no guarantees have been made with respect to Alexander’s playing time upon arrival. A strong showing in training camp could earn him a first-team spot, though, something which is in flux given all the additions made at the second level this offseason. Cole Holcomb received the largest investment amongst Pittsburgh’s new linebackers (three years, $18MM), a group which also includes fellow free agent signings Elandon Roberts and Nick Kwiatkoski.

Questions remain regarding how the Steelers’ new-look LB unit will fare, but it appeared to have a sufficient number of new faces heading into camp that further moves may not have been needed. Alexander should nevertheless provide consistent play in at least a rotational capacity as Pittsburgh looks to bolster its front seven as part of the wider effort to return to the postseason.

Latest On Steelers’ ILB Situation

The Steelers will have quite a different look at inside linebacker in 2023 than they had in 2022. Free agency took a toll on the room in the offseason but still helped them to reload a bit at the position. In a mailbag Q&A this week, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic addressed the question of whether or not Pittsburgh did enough to address the position this spring.

First, let’s address the losses. All three of the team’s top contributors at inside linebacker departed in free agency in the offseason. Myles Jack was heading into the second year of the two-year contract he had signed to join the Steelers last year, but the team, instead, decided to release the veteran linebacker to open up about $8MM of cap space. After being allowed to test his market in free agency, Devin Bush signed a one-year contract in Seattle. Lastly, Robert Spillane, who served as a spot starter and factored heavily into the defensive rotation last year, also found his way to free agency, departing for Las Vegas.

That left three holes atop the roster at inside linebacker, including two starting spots. For one spot, the team signed former Commanders linebacker Cole Holcomb. A fifth-round pick for Washington back in 2019, Holcomb was an immediate starter as a rookie. This wasn’t the first time that Holcomb had surpassed expectations as, in college, he earned a scholarship after initially walking on at North Carolina. He’s now started 48 of the 50 games he’s appeared in, but injuries have kept him from appearing in a possible 16 additional games. Most crucially, he missed 10 games in 2022 due to a knee injury in November and foot surgery that ended his season in December. If healthy, though, Holcomb can certainly perform as the team’s top linebacker. His best season saw him rank as the league’s 23rd best linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), in 2020, and despite his injuries, he ranked 35th in 2022.

Another spot was filled by former Patriots and Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts. An eighth-year veteran, Roberts had a bit of a breakout year in 2022. After seeing his role diminish over his final years with the Patriots, Roberts found a way to improve over each season in Miami. Finally starting in every game of the season in 2022, Roberts recorded career-highs in total tackles (107), tackles for loss (10), and sacks (4.5) and tied a career-high in quarterback hits (6). He’s never graded out highly by PFF standards as a full-service linebacker, but last year, Roberts topped all NFL linebackers with an 89.2 pass rushing grade.

Pittsburgh is planning on filling the third hole internally by putting more responsibility on the shoulders of Mark Robinson to fill Spillane’s role from last year. A seventh-round pick for the team in 2022, Robinson only appeared in four games last season, making two starts in the final two games of the year. The Steelers have taken their time with Robinson, who had only played one season at linebacker in college after switching from running back. The team seems confident in Robinson’s ability to step up in Year 2. They relied on him last year in the team’s last two games against the Ravens and Browns, two run-heavy teams, and he may play a similar role this year.

For depth at inside linebacker, the team brought in Nick Kwiatkoski and Tanner Muse. Kwiatkoski has past experience as a full-time starter but hasn’t started a game since the 2020 season. Muse is primarily a special teamer.

So, did the Steelers do enough to address the losses at the position? It may be too soon to say whether they’ve successfully filled the holes in the roster. They did a lot, and the holes are filled, but whether they’ve been filled effectively has yet to be determined. Kaboly does think that the team has done enough to at least satisfy the demands of the roster. He doesn’t believe that the team will continue to pursue Kwon Alexander or other free agents, barring injury to the three players above. Unless Holcomb, Roberts, and Robinson make it clear that they can’t handle the duties of the position, Kaboly believes that “the 90 they have is the 90 they will bring to camp.”

Steelers Audition LS Nick Boyle, To Host LB Kwon Alexander

The Steelers have already gone through with a linebacker revamp effort. They released Myles Jack, let Devin Bush sign with the Seahawks and did not retain Robert Spillane, who joined the Raiders in free agency. Offseason signings Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts are now in the fold.

A more accomplished veteran is on the team’s radar as well. The Steelers are meeting with Kwon Alexander tonight, Adam Schefter of tweets. Alexander spent last season with the Jets, reuniting with former 49ers DC Robert Saleh. While Alexander remains on the Jets’ radar, the Steelers are interested as well.

Despite a notable injury history and not having signed with the Jets until training camp last year, Alexander played all 17 Gang Green games and started 12. The former Buccaneers standout saw action on 49% of the Jets’ defensive plays, logging 559 defensive snaps — his most with one team since his 2017 Pro Bowl year in Tampa. While Alexander played 667 snaps in 2020, the 49ers traded him to the Saints midway through the season.

Pro Football Focus has graded Alexander as a top-50 linebacker in each of the past three seasons, slotting him 44th in 2022. He joined C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams as the Jets’ primary linebackers, helping the team to a remarkable bounce-back effort in Saleh’s second season running the defense. Alexander finished with 69 tackles (six for loss) and a forced fumble last year.

Both the Saints and Jets have sought Alexander, 28, for his experience; the Steelers could ask him to play a similar role. The eight-year veteran has 86 starts on his resume. Alexander did miss five games in 2021 due to an elbow injury, but he has avoided major maladies since his late-2010s trouble. Alexander suffered a torn ACL in 2017 and missed 18 games between the 2018 and ’19 slates.

The Steelers did add Tanner Muse this offseason and are also carrying ex-Giants starter Tae Crowder as a potential backup option. Alexander would obviously represent an upgrade and could certainly emerge as a starting option in the team’s 3-4 look.

Pittsburgh also brought in former Baltimore tight end Nick Boyle, per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (on Twitter). Boyle attended the Steelers’ rookie minicamp over the weekend but did so as a long snapper. The longtime Ravens tight end is attempting to continue his career as a long snapper. This low-profile job can allow players to play into their late 30s or even early 40s, though it is the NFL’s lowest-paying on-field role. The Steelers have Christian Kuntz in place as their deep snapper, a role he has played over the past two seasons.

Jets Could Re-Sign LB Kwon Alexander

The Jets are open to re-signing linebacker Kwon Alexander, as ESPN’s Rich Cimini tweets. Cimini adds that the two sides have remained in touch throughout the offseason.

Alexander, who is entering his age-28 season, agreed to a veteran-minimum contract with New York last July. In his first season as a member of Gang Green, the LSU product appeared in all 17 games (12 starts) and posted 69 tackles. Pro Football Focus assigned him an overall score of 63.0, which positioned him as the 44th-best LB among 81 qualifiers.

With Aaron Rodgers now in the fold, the Jets profile as legitimate championship contenders in 2023. Though the club missed the postseason last year, it still fielded the fourth-best defense in the league in terms of both yards allowed and points allowed, and after re-signing Quincy Williams in March, it stands to reason that the Jets would want to keep the third member of their C.J. Mosley/Williams/Alexander linebacker triumvirate intact. The fact that Alexander could likely be had for another modest contract — there have been no public reports of outside interest in him this offseason — makes him more attractive.

Plus, the draft did not do much to bolster New York’s LB corps. GM Joe Douglas did add a linebacker, Western Michigan’s Zaire Barnes, in the fifth round, but Barnes does not profile as a player that will immediately command significant snaps on the defensive side of the ball. He joins 2021 Day 3 draftees Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen and reserve/futures signee Chazz Surratt as the only other ‘backers on the roster. That group combined to play 42 defensive snaps in 2022.

Another selling point for Alexander is that he holds up well in coverage. having yielded QB ratings of 81.5 and 89.5 over the past two seasons. He may not be the same player he was in 2017, when he earned his first and only Pro Bowl nod, but he remains a capable defender who is already familiar with Robert Saleh‘s high-end defense.

Contract Details: Godchaux, Reiff, Alexander

Some recent deals and extensions have been signed around the NFL. We’ve provided some updates on those contracts below:

  • Davon Godchaux, DT (Patriots): Two-year, $20.8MM extension, including $17.85MM guaranteed. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter), Godchaux got a $10.5MM signing bonus, and he’ll have a base salary worth $1.5MM in 2022. The extension reduced the defensive lineman’s cap hit from $10.25MM to $8.75MM.
  • Riley Reiff, OT (Bears): One-year deal worth a maximum amount of $12.5MM ($10MM likely to be earned). Per ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), the Bears structured Reiff’s contract in such a way that it will count for just $3MM against the cap next season. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune provides more details on Twitter, noting that the lineman will earn a $3MM base salary, and he’ll earn another $4.5MM if he’s on the field for 10% of his team’s offense snaps. There are also incentives tied to offensive categories and a playoff appearance.
  • Kwon Alexander, LB (Jets): One-year deal. Contract is worth $1.12MM with a $152K signing bonus, according to Connor Hughes of The Athletic (on Twitter). His cap hit will be around that $1.12MM mark for the 2022 campaign.

Jets To Sign LB Kwon Alexander

The Jets had a standing offer out to Kwon Alexander, and the veteran linebacker will accept it. Alexander agreed to terms with the Jets on Thursday, Adam Schefter of tweets. It’s a one-year deal.

A former Buccaneers starter, Alexander has moved to the 49ers and Saints over the course of his seven-year career. The 49ers stretch is rather pertinent here, with current Jets HC Robert Saleh having coached the off-ball ‘backer during his stay as San Francisco’s DC.

Alexander, 28 next week, visited the Jets back in April. It is unclear how long the Jets’ offer has been on the table, but no other teams have been connected to the former Pro Bowler this offseason. The Saints made Alexander a cap casualty in March, and he will head to a fourth NFL organization shortly after the start of training camp.

Saleh has already signed ex-49er charges D.J. Reed and Solomon Thomas this offseason. Alexander played for the 49ers from 2019-20, though his tenure did not go so well. Given a lucrative deal to leave Tampa for San Francisco, Alexander went down with a torn pectoral muscle early in his first 49ers season. This came after an ACL tear ended his Bucs tenure midway through the 2018 season. Despite the ACL tear, the 49ers gave the ex-fourth-round pick a four-year, $54MM deal. That pact preceded the Jets’ decision to hand C.J. Mosley a market-topping — by a wide margin, at the time — five-year, $85MM pact.

The 49ers moved on with Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw as their three-down linebackers, trading Alexander during the 2020 season. In New Orleans, Alexander started 15 games — including eight last season. The 2021 campaign involved more Alexander injury trouble, with an elbow injury sidelining him for an early-season stretch. He rebounded to make 50 tackles (seven for loss) and tally 3.5 sacks. Pro Football Focus graded Alexander just inside its top 50 at linebacker, though the advanced metrics site viewed him as a plus coverage ‘backer.

The Jets have Mosley and Quincy Williams poised to be their three-down linebackers, but a significant experience void existed between the full-timers and the backups. The Jets view Alexander as an option to work alongside the full-timers in base sets, Rich Cimini of tweets. Alexander, whose Pro Bowl nod came back in 2017, will be in position to bridge that gap and carve out a decent role for himself in New York.

Riley Reiff, Kwon Alexander Remain On Jets’ Radar

With training camps looming, several big names remain free agents. Two paid visits to the Jets earlier this offseason. While neither Riley Reiff nor Kwon Alexander signed with the team after their respective meetings, both have the option to join ahead of camp.

The Jets made offers to Alexander and Reiff, according to Connor Hughes of The Athletic, who notes both still have the option to accept and sign on with the rebuilding team (subscription required). The Jets have set their prices here, however, with Hughes adding that — as was the case with the team’s Larry Ogunjobi interest — GM Joe Douglas is not prepared to deviate from his initial offers to either player.

It is understandable, at this point in the offseason, Douglas will not follow through with a perceived overpay for players not expected to be starters. The Jets are uncertain which positions their starting tackles will play, but George Fant and Mekhi Becton are in line to be the team’s first-stringers. Ditto for C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams as three-down linebackers. With neither Reiff nor Alexander having been connected to other teams this offseason, they may need to revisit the Jets’ offers at some point.

That said, the Jets lost out on a few marquee wide receivers this year after showing interest and/or making major offers. Tyreek Hill chose the Dolphins, while Amari Cooper went to the Browns for the cost of two Day 3 picks. The 49ers may not have been ready to trade Deebo Samuel during the draft, but the Jets’ proposal involving the No. 10 overall pick included the 49ers’ second-round choice coming back. Granted those were higher-stakes negotiations than those involving late-offseason UFAs, but Hughes adds that if offers are equal, players should be considered unlikely to commit to the Jets over a team with legitimate playoff aspirations.

Reiff, 33, makes sense for a few teams as a potential starter option, having worked as a first-stringer for almost all of his 10-year career. He would represent Becton insurance in New York. Alexander, 27, played for Saleh for parts of two seasons (2019-20) before a midseason trade to the Saints. But he did not pan out in San Francisco. Alexander’s 2019 49ers contract may well have had an impact on the Jets’ previous regime needing to pay Mosley a then-record (for off-ball linebackers) $17MM per year. Alexander started eight games for the Saints last season.

Jets Still Eyeing Kwon Alexander

The Jets’ defense has undergone plenty of changes this offseason, but the unit could see a few other additions in the near future. One free agent the team is still keeping tabs on is linebacker Kwon Alexander

According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, the Jets are still “interested” in the veteran. This isn’t the first time the two parties have been connected, meaning that New York eyeing Alexander even after the draft comes as little surprise.

The Jets hosted Alexander on a visit in mid-April, signalling the potential that they could add him to their linebacking corps. The 27-year-old was at his best with his initial team, the Buccaneers. It was in Tampa Bay in 2017 that he was named a Pro Bowler for the first and only time in his career.

That led to plenty of optimism when he joined the 49ers on a big-money deal. The LSU product wasn’t able to live up to the expectations that came with that deal, however, and he only suited up for 13 contests in San Francisco. Most recently, he was in New Orleans after the Saints traded for him. Registering eight starts in 12 games this past campaign, he totalled 50 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

That obviously wasn’t enough to earn him a deal in the initial waves of free agency, but it generated at least some interest from the Jets. If he were to end up in the Big Apple, he would once again play under Robert Saleh, and add a veteran presence to the team’s LB room. New York has C.J. Mosley on a lucrative contract; he would currently project as a starter alongside Quincy Williams – who is heading into a contract year. Other, younger, options remain slated for rotational roles after the team elected not to draft another option.