Laremy Tunsil

AFC South Rumors: Tunsil, Colts, Jaguars

Left tackle Laremy Tunsil has truly found a home in Houston. After being traded to the Texans from Miami in 2019, Tunsil has made the Pro Bowl in every season except for last year, when he missed 12 games after undergoing season-ending thumb surgery. After another stellar season this year, Tunsil has his eyes on finishing his career in Houston, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2, an expensive ask for the last place team of the AFC South.

Tunsil will head into a contract year next season and has intensions of resetting the market for NFL tackles. 49ers left tackle Trent Williams currently leads the position in average annual value with a deal worth $23.01MM per year. Tunsil isn’t hurting for money. His most recent deal had an AAV of $22MM. If the Texans intend to keep Tunsil in Houston long-term, they will likely need to reset the market for the position. A new deal for Tunsil could fetch an amount in the neighborhood of $24-25MM per year.

Tunsil is certainly worth it. He has consistently been one of the league’s top blindside blockers since coming to the Texans, saving his best season for just before negotiations for an extension. Tunsil ranked as the 10th best offensive tackle in the league this year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), boasting the best pass block grade of any tackle. That grade was certainly reflected in his production as he only allowed three quarterback hits and 17 pressures on the season.

Tunsil is working towards an All-Pro honor and a record-setting deal this offseason, and he’s put in a strong body of work towards both goals.

Here are a few other rumors from the AFC South, starting with a pair of free agents from the Hoosier State:

  • Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell put himself in a good position heading into free agency this year with his best season to date. After missing 34 games in his first three seasons, the former second-round pick finally got to play a full, healthy season in Indianapolis. He stepped up when the Colts needed receivers behind No. 1 wideout Michael Pittman, finishing second on the team with 63 catches for 623 yards and three touchdowns. While his injury history may cause the Colts to hesitate on a long-term deal, Campbell showed that he has a role in the offense and provided a strong audition for any suitors this offseason. Campbell told Mike Chappell of FOX59 in Indianapolis that he would “absolutely” embrace a second contract with the Colts.
  • Colts linebacker Bobby Okereke also had a strong contract year, finishing second on the team with a career-high 151 total tackles and six tackles for loss. This is the second strong season in a row for the 26-year-old who had 132 total tackles last year and tacked on two of his three career interceptions for good measure. Ranking as the league’s 21st best linebacker, according to PFF, Okereke had his best season since he graded out as the 9th best linebacker playing limited snaps in his rookie season. The changes in the Colts’ coaching staff may provide a hurdle for Okereke’s return, but if he isn’t able to come to an agreement with the team that drafted him, Okereke’s final season with the horseshoe on his helmet should set him up for a decent paycheck with a new team. Okereke spoke with Chappell about the possibility of exploring free agency, pointing out that his former defensive coordinator, Matt Eberflus, has since departed for a windier city.
  • A bright spot in the Jaguars‘ season this year was the performance of key additions to the wide receivers room. After shelling out what many thought was too much money for receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, both players had career years that contributed to the team’s overall success. A key reason for those strong performances was wide receivers coach Chris Jackson who, according to Mia O’Brien of 1010 XL radio station, informed head coach Doug Pederson that he will be accepting the wide receivers coaching position at the University of Texas. Jacksonville will be on the lookout for a new position coach to lead a group next year that may lose veteran Marvin Jones to free agency but should add former Falcon Calvin Ridley following one year of his indefinite suspension.

Texans LT Laremy Tunsil Eyeing Market-Setting Extension

One of the few bright spots for the Texans this season has been the continued high-level play of their top offensive lineman. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil plans to turn his 2022 performance into a noteworthy raise during the coming offseason.

The 28-year-old made it clear that he intends to become the league’s highest-paid left tackle, as detailed by ESPN’s DJ Bien-Aime. That position has consistently been the top-ranked amongst all offensive linemen, with only Colts guard Quenton Nelson joining three blindside blockers at the $20MM-per-year mark. Tunsil is already one of them, owing to his three-year, $66MM extension signed in the spring of 2020.

“I don’t know who’s the highest right now, maybe Trent [Williams] at $23 [million], but I want to top that,” the former first-rounder said. “[I] always want to reset the market. Perfect opportunity to reset the market. Everything is lining up as far as my contract to how I’m playing. Everything lining up perfectly.”

Tunsil has been named a Pro Bowler for the third time in his four seasons spent in Houston. He has played every snap this year, an encouraging sign of durability which comes after he was limited to just five games played in 2021 by a thumb injury. The former Dolphin had strung together three nearly identical campaigns before that in terms of PFF grades, and he has taken a step forward in that regard in 2022.

Tunsil has posted an overall grade of 79.9 this year, the highest mark of his career. That rating places him 12th amongst all qualifying tackles, but his pass protection grade (91.8) is the highest at the position. He has allowed just one sack and 12 pressures this year, though penalties (10 accepted) have once again been an unwanted factor in his performance.

The Ole Miss product has one year remaining on his big-ticket deal, but no guaranteed money remains after this season. Tunsil’s cap hit is scheduled to reach $35.2MM in 2023, and Houston would see $18.5MM in relief by cutting or trading him. Long-term security – along with a figure which sets him ahead of both Williams and David Bakhtiari in terms of annual compensation- will therefore be his target in the spring. The rebuilding Texans are currently projected to have just under $47MM in cap space next year, which should afford them more flexibility than most teams.

Latest On Rams’ Trade Deadline Plans

The Rams certainly bolstered the team which ultimately won the Super Bowl with their midseason moves last year. They are once again being looked at as potential buyers in the 2022 trade market, but appear unlikely to make major additions in the coming days.

The name most closely linked with the team has been Texans wideout Brandin Cooks. The 29-year-old spent two years in Los Angeles, after the Rams traded a first-round pick to the Patriots to acquire him in 2018. He posted a career-high 1,204 receiving yards in the regular season that year, playing a large role in the team’s postseason run to the Super Bowl as well. His numbers dropped off considerably the following year, and he was then dealt to Houston.

Over the past two years with the Texans, Cooks has proven himself to still be one of the top vertical threats in the league (2,187 yards, 12 touchdowns). With Houston residing in the basement of the AFC, though, the Oregon State product also represents a logical trade candidate. He is reportedly willing to lower his 2023 salary (currently a fully-guaranteed $18MM) to facilitate a move back to Los Angeles.

Peter King of NBC Sports notes that the Rams are indeed a candidate to add a speed receiver such as Cooks (provided the financial burden of taking on his contract is lessened). Notably, though, King adds that a move to upgrade the WR room could involve the Rams trading away Allen Robinson. A free agent signing from March, the 29-year-old joined Los Angeles on a three-year, $46.5MM deal. Seen as a Robert Woods replacement to complement Cooper Kupp, Robinson has yet to eclipse 63 yards in a game so far and has scored just two touchdowns.

Elsewhere on offense, King reports that the Rams have little-to-no interest in two other players who could be on the move today or tomorrow: Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil and Browns running back Kareem Hunt. Both positions have emerged as sore spots for Los Angeles this season; Joe Noteboom is out for the season with a torn Achilles, while Cam Akers has fallen out of favor with head coach Sean McVay.

Tunsil could shore up the team’s pass protection, though a 2022 restructure of his deal leaves him with a prohibitive cap hit of over $35MM next year. Hunt, meanwhile, could reportedly be had for a fourth-round pick as he is set to hit free agency in March.

The Rams currently have just under $5MM in cap space, so a deal of some kind could be coming soon. Outside of a reunion with Cooks, however, the defending champions could have a much quieter trade deadline than last season.

Cowboys Unlikely To Trade For Left Tackle?

The Cowboys have very limited time to find a Tyron Smith replacement, but a few avenues by which they could acquire one. Their financial situation could make a trade viable on paper, though it appears the team will look elsewhere while evaluating their options. 

Smith is expected to be sidelined until at least December due to an avulsion fracture of the knee and subsequent hamstring tear. Dallas doesn’t have a replacement on hand with anywhere near the pedigree of the eight-time Pro Bowler, of course, but promoting from within remains an immediate solution. Playing first-round rookie Tyler Smith at left tackle – his college position – is a possibility, though he was thought to be a guard candidate early in his career. Fellow rookie Matt Waletzko and 2021 fourth-rounder Josh Ball could also step in on the blindside.

Indeed, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports that the Cowboys are turning to the aforementioned “in-house players” while also “working through” potential free agent additions (Twitter link). That is in line with reporting from yesterday indicating that a signing could be coming soon. A number of veterans remain on the open market, including Super Bowl champion Andrew Whitworth; Anderson adds, however, that the retired 40-year-old is not among Dallas’ considerations.

Adding further to the sense that the Cowboys will not be executing a trade for a stop-gap solution, Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network tweets that the Texans are not expected to make Laremy Tunsil available to Dallas (or any other club). The two-time Pro Bowler has two years remaining on his contract, including a $17.7MM cap hit the Cowboys could absorb given their current financial situation. Beside his talent level, Wilson cites the dead cap charge (over 16.6MM) which would be generated by a trade as the reason such a move is unlikely on Houston’s end.

With final roster cuts just days away, more options could surface for the Cowboys to consider. A recent release, or an aging veteran still available remains the likeliest way the team augments its unproven stable of incumbents.

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Offense

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the second reduction in NFL salary cap history last year, the 2022 cap made a record jump. This year’s salary ceiling ($208.2MM) checks in $25.7MM north of the 2021 figure.

While quarterbacks’ salaries will continue to lead the way, a handful of blockers and skill-position players carry sizable cap numbers for 2022. A few of the quarterbacks that lead the way this year may not be tied to those numbers once the regular season begins. The 49ers, Browns and Ravens have made efforts to alter these figures via trades or extensions.

Here are the top 2022 salary cap hits on the offensive side of the ball:

  1. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $38.6MM
  2. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $35.79MM
  3. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $31.42MM
  4. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $31.15MM
  5. Aaron Rodgers, QB (Packers): $28.53MM
  6. Carson Wentz, QB (Commanders): $28.29MM
  7. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $26.95MM
  8. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $24MM
  9. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $23.02MM
  10. Kenny Golladay, WR (Giants): $21.2MM
  11. Garett Bolles, T (Broncos): $21MM
  12. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $19.73MM
  13. Derek Carr, QB (Raiders): $19.38MM
  14. D.J. Humphries, T (Cardinals): $19.33MM
  15. Keenan Allen, WR (Chargers): $19.2MM
  16. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $18.9MM
  17. Sam Darnold, QB (Panthers): 18.89MM
  18. Baker Mayfield, QB (Browns): $18.89MM
  19. Matt Ryan, QB (Colts): $18.7MM
  20. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $18.55MM
  21. Donovan Smith, T (Buccaneers): $18.4MM
  22. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Cowboys): $18.22MM
  23. DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Cardinals): $17.95MM
  24. Cooper Kupp, WR (Rams): $17.8MM
  25. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $17.71MM
  • The Chiefs’ cap sheet looks a bit different this year, with Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu off the roster. But Mahomes’ cap number rockets from $7.4MM in 2021 to the league’s second-largest figure in 2022. This marks the first time Mahomes’ 10-year contract is set to count more than $10MM toward Kansas City’s cap, with the AFC West champs not yet restructuring the deal this year.
  • Tied to a few lucrative extensions since relocating to Minnesota, Cousins’ third Vikings deal dropped his cap number from $45MM. The fifth-year Vikings QB’s cap number is set to climb past $36MM in 2023.
  • Prior to negotiating his landmark extension in March, Rodgers was set to count more than $46MM on the Packers’ payroll.
  • The 49ers are aiming to move Garoppolo’s nonguaranteed money off their payroll. That figure becomes guaranteed in Week 1, providing a key date for the franchise. San Francisco is prepared to let Garoppolo negotiate contract adjustments with other teams to facilitate a trade.
  • Wilson counts $26MM on the Seahawks’ 2022 payroll, due to the dead money the NFC West franchise incurred by trading its 10-year starter in March.
  • Jackson, Darnold and Mayfield are attached to fifth-year option salaries. Jackson’s is higher due to the former MVP having made two Pro Bowls compared to his 2018 first-round peers’ zero. The 2020 CBA separated fifth-year option values by playing time and accomplishments. The Browns and Panthers have engaged in off-and-on negotiations on divvying up Mayfield’s salary for months, while a Jackson extension remains on the radar.
  • Golladay’s cap number jumped from $4.47MM last year to the highest non-quarterback figure among offensive players. The Giants wideout’s four-year deal calls for $21MM-plus cap hits from 2023-24.
  • Prior to being traded to the Colts, who adjusted their new starter’s contract, Ryan was set to carry an NFL-record $48MM cap hit this year. The Falcons are carrying a league-record $40.5MM dead-money charge after dealing their 14-year starter.
  • The Texans restructured Tunsil’s deal in March, dropping his 2022 cap hit from $26.6MM to its present figure. Because of the adjustment, Tunsil’s 2023 cap number resides at $35.2MM

Contract information courtesy of Over The Cap 

Texans Rework OL Laremy Tunsil’s Contract

Laremy Tunsil is staying in Houston. The veteran offensive lineman has agreed to a restructured deal with the Texans, reports Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com.

The Texans converted Tunsil‘s base salary into a signing bonus, opening $8.4MM in cap space. The team also reduced the player’s cap number from $26.1MM to $17.7MM. The lineman’s $18.5MM salary for 2023 remains unchanged. Tunsil inked a three-year, $66MM extension with the Texans in 2020.

Tunsil had been mentioned as a trade candidate, and reports confirmed that the two-time Pro Bowler was on the block. That was partly due to Tunsil’s salary, but former first-round pick Tytus Howard showed promise when playing at tackle last season, making the veteran expendable.

Tunsil was traded from the Dolphins to Houston in 2019 for a pair of first-round picks. He earned Pro Bowl nods in each of his first two seasons with the organization, but he missed out in 2021 after he was limited to only five games thanks to a thumb injury.

 

Latest On Texans OL Tytus Howard, Team’s OL Plans

Texans offensive lineman Tytus Howard, a 2019 first-round pick, spent the first two years of his career almost exclusively at right tackle. In 2021, he was shifted inside to left guard, and he played 11 games there, but he also suited up for four games at left tackle due to an injury to starting LT Laremy Tunsil. As Brooks Kubena of the Houston Chronicle writes, Howard’s role for the 2022 campaign remains unclear.

Per Pro Football Focus, Howard was much more effective at left tackle (73.75 pass-blocking grade) than left guard (47.7). However, former OC Tim Kelly and OL coach James Campen both praised Howard for his versatility and indicated he was improving as a guard, and new OL coach George Warhop concurs.

“I thought he did a nice job at guard,” Warhop said. “I mean, so to have that flexibility going into the season, to manage to get the five best on the field, I think that’s good for us.”

Assuming the Texans really do think Howard can be effective outside or on the interior, his versatility gives GM Nick Caserio a little more flexibility with his offseason strategies. Tunsil has been mentioned as a trade candidate, and Kubena confirms that the two-time Pro Bowler could be on the move, which would add more draft ammo to a stockpile that could become seriously impressive if Caserio is able to deal QB Deshaun Watson. Houston would then be able to slide Howard to LT — which was the intent when he was originally drafted — and would not necessarily have to use a high draft choice or FA dollars on an immediate Tunsil replacement.

On the other hand, as Kubena notes, Max Scharping and Justin McCray are the only interior linemen aside from Howard who started at least one game last year and who remain under contract through 2022. So depending on how the Texans’ offseason shakes out, the club may have no choice but to keep Howard at LG.

One way or another, Caserio will have to make a decision on Howard’s fifth-year option no later than May 2. If exercised, that option would lock in a $12.735MM fully-guaranteed salary for 2023, and while that sum would be more than reasonable for a starting-caliber LT, Howard’s small sample size at that position in the pros and his general lack of effectiveness at RT and LG seem to indicate that 2022 will serve as his contract year.

Texans LB Zach Cunningham On Trade Block

While the Deshaun Watson rumors have placed the Texans at the NFL’s trade forefront throughout this year, the rebuilding club has other pieces that could move ahead of the Nov. 2 deadline. Last season’s tackles leader is one of them.

The Texans have made Zach Cunningham available, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes (ESPN+ link). Considering Cunningham’s recent role reduction, this certainly is not a surprise. Should Cunningham be dealt, he would follow longtime inside linebacker mate Benardrick McKinney out the door.

Houston traded McKinney to Miami in March, though McKinney was later cut and has made his way to the Giants. McKinney missed much of last season, but Cunningham was on the field throughout. The plus run defender led the NFL with 164 tackles (106 solo — also an NFL-high tally), this production coming shortly after he signed a four-year, $58MM extension. The previous Texans regime authorized that deal, but Cunningham has seen his playing time dramatically reduced this year.

After playing 100% of Houston’s defensive snaps in Weeks 1 and 3, Cunningham checked in with a sub-30% workload over the past two games. David Culley referred to him as a two-down player recently. Having such a player attached to a $14.5MM-per-year contract is not ideal. The Texans would need to eat more than $15MM in dead money to trade Cunningham, though they made a potential deal easier with a restructure earlier this year. Cunningham is playing on a $990K base salary this season.

Cunningham’s stock drop under the Culley-Nick Caserio regime aside, the Texans are not planning to trade their two high-priced players on offense — Laremy Tunsil and Brandin Cooks — barring big offers, Fowler adds. Houston’s bevy of veterans on short-term deals could generate interest this week, but it appears the new regime still views Tunsil and Cooks as useful for the long-term mission.

Deshaun Watson Would Not Be Placed On Exempt List If Traded

Multiple teams are still interested in trading for Texans QB Deshaun Watson, as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports (video link). Critically, Rapoport says Watson would not be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list if he were to be dealt.

Of course, Watson has no interest in playing for the Texans, and the Texans have no interest in trying to force their best trade asset to suit up. So he has effectively been on paid leave all season, but we have heard all along that if another club were to trade for the three-time Pro Bowler, the league could step in and park him on the exempt list until his legal situation is resolved, thereby making a trade difficult to consummate.

Rapoport, citing the provision of the NFL’s personal conduct policy that states that a player can be placed on the exempt list if he has been charged with a felony or violent crime, says Watson — who has not been criminally charged at this point — should be eligible to play for any team that acquires him. And, RapSheet hears that a deal is expected to be completed prior to the November 2 deadline.

A recent report indicated that the Panthers and Eagles were no longer involved in the Watson sweepstakes and that the Dolphins were the only team left standing. However, Rapoport says the Dolphins are not alone in their pursuit, and that in addition to Carolina, Philadelphia, and the Broncos, there are other clubs sniffing around.

That report could have been leaked by the Texans in an effort to get Miami to increase its offer. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that no team has been as motivated as the Dolphins to get a deal done, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that the Texans have told another club that they have to beat Miami’s offer (via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald on Twitter). Plus, it’s unclear if Watson will waive his no-trade clause for any team other than the Dolphins.

In addition to Watson, there are other Texans players that could be on the move in the next week or so. La Canfora hears that LT Laremy Tunsil could have been a trade candidate if he had not suffered a serious thumb injury earlier this month, and other players that GM Nick Caserio might seek to trade include QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Phillip Lindsay, LB Christian Kirksey, and CB Desmond King.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/16/21

The Week 6 Saturday minor move blitz:

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team