Nick Kwiatkoski

Falcons To Sign LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Nick Kwiatkoski met with the Falcons last week and huddled up with the Raiders’ new staff this week. The former Bears and Raiders linebacker is going with his first visit.

The Falcons are signing Kwiatkoski to a one-year deal, Tom Pelissero of tweets. This will reunite Kwiatkoski with former Bears GM Ryan Pace, who joined the Falcons’ front office this offseason. The then-Pace-run Bears used a fourth-round pick on Kwiatkoski in 2016.

Given a three-year, $21MM deal in 2020, Kwiatkoski worked as a Raiders starter that year but operated as a depth piece last season. The Raiders added multiple new pieces on their defensive second level, one that already included fellow 2020 signing Cory Littleton, and Kwiatkoski did not start any games in 2021. With the Raiders transitioning from their Jon GrudenMike Mayock power structure, it led Kwiatkoski back to free agency. Las Vegas’ new regime cut Kwiatkoski and Littleton this offseason, though it showed interest in reuniting with the former. Littleton signed with the Panthers.

Atlanta has addressed its off-ball linebacker spots extensively this offseason, signing ex-Titans starter Rashaan Evans and using a second-round pick on Troy Anderson. Although the team is in the early stages of a rebuild, it still rosters highly paid inside ‘backer Deion Jones. Kwiatkoski, 29 this month, stands to represent depth, at worst, for the Falcons. He made 81 tackles in 2020 and has started 34 career games.

Raiders Host Nick Kwiatkoski

Nick Kwiatkoski was thought to be on his way out of Las Vegas, but a re-signing could still be a possibility. The Raiders hosted the veteran linebacker yesterday, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). 

The 29-year-old was released by the Raiders at the beginning of free agency. That brought an end to his two-year tenure with the team – at least, under the contract he signed in 2020, which was restructured twice. As a result of cutting Kwiatkoski, the Raiders created $5MM in dead money.

The team is apparently willing to bring him back at a reduced rate, given this news. In his first year in Vegas, the former fourth rounder took on the largest workload of his career, starting all 12 games he played in. He registered a career-high 81 tackles, adding an interception and four pass breakups. An ankle injury limited him to just eight games in 2021, though.

Kwiatkoski’s first free agent visit was with the Falcons last week. The team’s front office would have some familiarity with him, as recent hire Ryan Pace was the general manager in Chicago when the Bears drafted Kwiatkoski in 2016. However, it was reported at the time that the meeting with Atlanta was the first of multiple sit-downs; on that point, Pelissero adds that Kwiatkoski “has at least one more visit scheduled”. By the end of that third meeting, it may become clearer where he will ultimately land.

Falcons Host Nick Kwiatkoski

Veteran linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski may be close to finding his next NFL home. He met with the Falcons today, reports NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). 

Kwiatkoski, who will be 29 by the start of the season, began his career with the Bears in 2016. He was drafted by then-general manager Ryan Pace, who has since been hired by the Falcons, in the fourth round that year. In four years in the Windy City, he totalled 184 tackles and six sacks while registering 22 starts.

That led him to the Raiders, who signed him to a three-year, $21MM deal in 2020. Kwiatkoski’s first year with the team was a productive one; he made a career-high 81 tackles, adding an interception and four pass breakups. He also started all 12 games he played in, logging a much higher snap percentage than he had in any previous year. However, he was limited to eight games in 2021 campaign due to an ankle injury.

The West Virginia product had his contract restructured twice by the Raiders, but it wasn’t enough to avoid his inclusion in the team’s numerous front seven changes this offseason. He was cut at the onset of free agency, leaving a dead cap charge of $5MM. That left him on the open market again, pointing him, eventually, to the Falcons. In Atlanta, he could help fill the void left by the departure of 2021 NFL tackle leader Foyesade Oluokun.

As Pelissero notes, however, Kwiatkoski does have two other visits scheduled. Whether with the Falcons or one of those clubs, he adds, Kwiatkoski “should sign somewhere soon”.

Inside Linebacker Market

There are many inside linebackers waiting patiently on the open market. A wild first week of free agency has come and gone with other positions seeing record deals and big names moving. The market for inside linebackers, however, has been quiet and less than lucrative.

In years past, we’ve seen monster deals to players like C.J. Mosley, whose contract has an average annual value of $17MM and guaranteed him $43MM at signing, and Darius Leonard, whose contract has an average annual value of $19.7MM and guaranteed him $33MM at signing. The largest payout we’ve seen this offseason to an inside linebacker was when the Packers kept De’Vondre Campbell from entering free agency with a five-year, $50MM deal, with a guaranteed $15MM. It’s certainly an impressive deal, and one the esteemed linebacker deserves, but no other deals have come close.

After being cut by the Jaguars, Myles Jack signed a two-year, $16MM deal to become a Steeler. Josey Jewell remained with the Broncos after signing a two-year, $11MM deal. Minnesota’s new inside linebacker, Jordan Hicks, joined the Vikings on a two-year, $10MM contract. Christian Kirksey signed a similar deal to remain with the Texans. We’ve seen a few other small deals like Zaire Franklin signing a three-year, $10MM deal to remain in Indianapolis and Alex Anzalone signing a one-year, $2.25MM contract to play another year with the Lions.

While that may sound pretty active, there are many big names who have yet to find deals. The biggest of these names is Bobby Wagner. Cut after ten outstanding years in Seattle, Wagner was expected to be a highly sought after free agent. While there have been many teams who’ve voiced interest in the eight-time All-Pro, there has been no word of negotiations. Any deal Wagner signs will likely top the numbers posed by Campbell and the Packers, but the fact that he has yet to find a home may hint at the fact that the money he’s looking for isn’t being offered.

There are many other impact names on the open market: Kwon Alexander, Jayon Brown, Jarrad Davis, Dont’a Hightower, Anthony Hitchens, Nick Kwiatkoski, Reggie Ragland, Joe Schobert, and Danny Trevathan.

Due to the low spending we’ve seen thus far and the plethora of names available, these players will likely have to search for the right fit and accept a decent deal if offered. They may end up having to wait until injuries provide an opportunity for them to fill in on a roster. The exception, of course, is Wagner, who can afford to be patient. Wagner will have the luxury of being able to wait and see how rosters form throughout the league, biding his time until he’s sure he’s joining a contender. Look for the others to give up on looking for a lucrative payday and settle for decent deals from teams with schemes they like.

Raiders Cut LB Nick Kwiatkoski

The Raiders have released another defender. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic (on Twitter), the team has cut LB Nick Kwiatkoski.

After spending the first four seasons of his career with the Bears, Kwiatkoski joined the Raiders in 2020 on a three-year, $21MM deal. The linebacker will ultimately leave behind a $5MM cap hit.

Kwiatkoski was productive during his first season with the team, collecting a career-high 81 tackles in 12 games. However, he was limited to only eight games in 2021 thanks in part to an ankle injury, and he collected only 21 tackles and one forced fumble when he did see the field.

As Tafur points out, the new Raiders front office was quick to move on from Cory Littleton, Carl Nassib, and Kwiatkoski, and the trio will ultimately account for $25.6MM in dead cap over the next two years.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/8/21

Today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Designated for return: G D’Ante Smith, CB Trae Waynes

Denver Broncos

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Washington Football Team

Raiders Rework LB Nick Kwiatkoski’s Deal

The Raiders have made multiple moves to bolster their linebacking corps over the past two weeks, trading for Denzel Perryman and signing K.J. Wright. They have also done some contractual maneuvering to help create cap space for these additions.

In addition to freeing up $8MM in cap room by restructuring Yannick Ngakoue‘s recently agreed-upon deal, the Raiders moved past $10MM in new space by reworking Nick Kwiatkoski‘s contract. Las Vegas created $2.31MM in cap space with its latest base salary-to-bonus adjustment, Field Yates of tweets.

This marks the second adjustment to Kwiatkoski’s deal this year. The team made a previous tweak in March, doing so along with its second revision to Cory Littleton‘s contract. Together, the two 2020 linebacker acquisitions’ deals have been redone four times. Kwiatkoski signed a three-year, $21MM pact in March 2020 and started a career-high 12 games last season. The Raiders added void years to the deal in March, creating some cap room, and did a more traditional restructure this week.

While the terms of Wright’s agreement are not in yet, the Raiders’ latest adjustment to the Kwiatkoski contract helped their linebacking corps add an experienced piece. The team now has Wright (140 career starts), Perryman (51), Littleton (51) and Kwiatkoski (34) on its active roster. Nicholas Morrow (29 starts) is on IR to begin the season. But this quintet gives the Raiders, whose defensive struggles followed them to Nevada last year, one of the NFL’s most experienced off-ball linebacker groups.

Raiders Restructure Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski Deals

Via releases, trades and restructures, the Raiders have made several moves over the past week and change to create cap space. They continued to do so Friday.

Las Vegas will restructure two deals from the 2020 free agency period, rearranging some funds in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski‘s deals, Ian Rapoport of tweets. Together, these moves will create more than $7MM in cap space for the Raiders.

[RELATED: Raiders, Nicholas Morrow Discussing Deal]

This marks the second restructure for Littleton, who initially saw his contract reworked in September of last year. The Raiders initially signed the former Rams linebacker to a three-year, $35.25MM pact. Kwiatkoski signed a three-year, $21MM pact last March, completing an overhaul of the Raiders’ linebacking corps.

Over the past week and change, the Raiders have released Gabe Jackson, Richie Incognito and Lamarcus Joyner to clear up more than $25MM in cap space. They traded Trent Brown to the Patriots, adding another chunk to that total. They have climbed into the top 10 in cap space, now holding more than $30MM.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/23/20

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

AFC West Notes: Chiefs, Mahomes, Raiders, Broncos

Patrick Mahomes could be the NFL’s first $200MM player if he takes full advantage of his leverage, Joel Corry of writes. However, Corry suggests that the Chiefs star should be less fixated on that figure and more focused on a similarly lucrative three-year extension. With a shorter deal, the quarterback could land an even bigger payday, thanks to the expected rise in revenue from the addition of a 17th regular season game.

There’s also been lots of chatter about a clause in the later years of Mahomes’ deal that would tie his contract to the salary cap as it escalates. It doesn’t seem out of the question for the NFL’s brightest star, but Corry isn’t sure if the Chiefs will be willing to set a radically new precedent in the game.

The salary cap percentage clause would be a game-changer, but I’d imagine that it’s in the realm of possibility for Mahomes, especially after Kirk Cousins secured a fully-guaranteed deal with the Vikings.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Raiders newcomer Nick Kwiatkoski will play middle linebacker in the Raiders 4-3 scheme, according to Scott Bair of NBC Sports. Kwiatkoski played on the inside of the Bears’ 3-4 layout and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther believes that he can be the team’s field general at the position. Kwiatkoski – signed for three years thanks to his $21MM deal – will be joined by fellow free agent addition Cory Littleton.
  • Raiders rookie Lynn Bowden Jr. had his home searched by the DEA this week, but his agency says that the running back was not arrested or charged afterwards (via Tashan Reed of The Athletic). Barring league discipline, the Raiders plan to open the year with Bowden as one of their supporting tailbacks behind starter Josh Jacobs. Devontae Booker, Jalen Richard, and Rod Smith are also on hand. On the field, Bowden has impressed – he ran for nearly 1,500 yards at Kentucky last year with an eye-popping average of 7.9 yards per carry.
  • After the departure of safety Will ParksBroncos defensive back Alijah Holder says he’s ready to step up for whatever role he’s assigned. “I’m a quick learner and wherever they put me, I’m going to learn the position,” Holder said (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post). “In dime, I feel I could take on that role. In practice last year, I played dime and nickel so I’m pretty familiar with most of the stuff. I really would love the chance to play dime if [defensive coordinator Vic Fangio] if goes that way.”