Will Levis

AFC South Notes: Titans, Colts, Ryans, Jags

The max-value figure in DeAndre HopkinsTitans deal emerged when he committed to the team, but guarantee numbers had been elusive. No longer, as the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin details Tennessee’s true commitment to its new WR1. The two-year, $26MM pact contains $10.98MM guaranteed at signing (Twitter link). The Chiefs and Patriots preferred incentive-laden contracts that did not come especially close to the guarantee figure the Titans authorized.

The contract also includes three void years. The void numbers allowed the Titans to keep Hopkins’ 2023 cap number low ($3.67MM), and the team can move on — via a post-June 1 cut designation — in 2024 fairly easily. Tennessee could create $14MM in 2024 cap space by using the June 1 mechanism, as it did with Julio Jones last year, should this fit not work out. This decision will likely come in March, as OverTheCap notes Hopkins is due a $4.06MM bonus if on the Titans’ roster by Day 5 of the 2024 league year. That setup stands to prevent Hopkins from another summer free agency stay.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • Careful not to divulge too much about the Colts’ QB plan, Shane Steichen confirmed Gardner Minshew and Anthony Richardson would rotate with the first team during training camp. Minshew began that rotation as the first-teamer to start camp, Mike Chappell of Fox 59 notes. Although Richardson did not gain much seasoning as a Florida starter and is considered a rawer prospect than Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud, his draft slot points to extensive rookie-year work. Jim Irsay confirmed as much earlier this month, indicating Richardson needs to play early. Minshew, who worked with Steichen in Philadelphia, signed a one-year, $3.5MM deal in March.
  • DeMeco Ryans will not work as a CEO-type coach with the Texans, with NFL.com’s James Palmer noting he will call the team’s defensive plays this season (Twitter link). The former Houston linebacker called San Francisco’s defensive plays from 2021-22, becoming a hot HC candidate after the 49ers’ defense ranked first across the board last season. Matt Burke will serve as a non-play-calling Texans DC.
  • Both Joey Porter Jr. and Will Levis were in the mix for fully guaranteed rookie contracts, but neither received such terms. Levis did fare better than last year’s No. 33 overall pick, however, with KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson noting the Titans QB’s four-year deal is 91.5% guaranteed. That is up from the $80.4% guarantee last year’s No. 33 choice (Buccaneers D-lineman Logan Hall) received on his rookie deal. Levis also secured training camp roster bonuses totaling $1.76MM from 2023-26. Those figures are fully guaranteed through 2025, Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger tweets.
  • The Titans’ first-rounder, Peter Skoronski, spent time at guard and tackle during the team’s offseason program. But Mike Vrabel provided some clarity about the No. 11 overall pick’s NFL path. The college tackle is working as a guard right now. Considering the Titans brought in tackles George Fant and Chris Hubbard on visits last week and have Nicholas Petit-Frere set to return to his right tackle post once his six-game gambling suspension ends, it makes sense the Titans would keep Skoronski at guard. Neither Fant nor Hubbard have signed with the team.
  • Evan Engram‘s three-year, $41.25MM Jaguars extension includes three void years, with Wilson noting (via Twitter) the deal will void 23 days before the 2026 league year. Pro Bowl incentives — worth $250K per year — are also present in the tight end’s contract.
  • Veteran tight end Luke Stocker‘s playing career wrapped after 11 seasons (2011-21), and Vrabel said during a recent appearance on Taylor Lewan and Will Compton‘s Bussin’ With the Boys podcast that he is part of the Titans’ coaching staff. Stocker, 35, was with the Titans from 2017-18, overlapping with Vrabel during the latter season. He also played with the Bucs, Falcons and Vikings.

Titans Sign QB Will Levis, Complete Draft Class Signings

Titans rookies are set to report to training camp today, and the front office has made sure they have their entire draft class under contract. According to NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe (via Twitter), the Titans have signed second-round quarterback Will Levis to his rookie pact. Jordan Schultz was first with news of the signing (via Twitter).

Levis’ four-year rookie contract is worth $9.54MM and features a $3.94MM signing bonus. The quarterback was the last of Tennessee’s six rookies to sign his deal, and there were rumors that his camp could have been pushing for a fully guaranteed deal (vs. the standard three-year guarantees that are now standard atop the second round). It will be interesting to see what side ultimately got their way from a contract perspective.

The Kentucky signal-caller was expected to be selected at some point during the first round of the draft. Levis ended up spending the entire first night of the draft in the green room, but it didn’t take long for him to hear his name during the second day of the draft. The Titans ended up acquiring the No. 33 pick and ended the quarterback’s fall down the draft board.

Levis put himself on the NFL map after winning 10 games for the Wildcats in 2021, completing 66.01% of his passes for 2,826 yards and 24 touchdowns. Levis also displayed an ability to run the ball that year, compiling 376 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. However, thanks in part to a toe injury and the loss of some key personnel (including Wan’Dale Robinson and OC Liam Coen), Levis took a step back in 2022. When all was said and done, Levis completed 65.37% of his passes for 2,406 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, all without displaying the rushing ability of prior years.

Thanks in part to that underwhelming performance, the Titans were able to slide in and select the quarterback atop the second round. The Titans have made it clear that the rookie quarterback won’t immediately earn the starting gig, with veteran Ryan Tannehill expected to keep his spot atop the depth chart for at least the 2023 season. The team used a third-round pick on Malik Willis just last year, but it remains to be seen if the now-third-string QB will stick around Tennessee.

As noted, today’s signing means the Titans have officially inked their entire draft class to their initial NFL contracts:

QB Malik Willis Not Guaranteed To Make Titans Roster

Despite being selected in the third round of the 2022 draft, Malik Willis isn’t a lock to make the Titans roster. While Jim Wyatt of the team’s website believes the quarterback will ultimately make the squad, he cautions that the “roster spot isn’t guaranteed.”

The Titans drafted Willis as more of a long-term project instead of a definitive successor to Ryan Tannehill, but the Liberty product was thrown into the fire as a rookie. Willis ended up going 1-2 in his three starts, completing 50.8 percent of his passes for 276 and three interceptions. He also added 123 rushing yards and one touchdown on 27 attempts.

Tannehill struggled through injuries and saw a drop in production in 2022, but the Titans will bring him back for at least one more season in 2023. At one time, the organization likely envisioned Willis stepping into a full-time role for the 2024 campaign, but things quickly changed during this past year’s draft.

Will Levis fell out of the first round, and the Titans made a move to acquire the No. 33 pick and select the Kentucky quarterback. Levis is now the clear future at the position for the Titans, leaving Willis on the outside looking in. Coach Mike Vrabel previously labeled Willis as his QB2 and the rookie as QB3, but it now sounds like the second-year quarterback will be fighting for his roster spot.

Passing game coordinator Tim Kelly and quarterbacks coach Charles London reportedly are not sold on Willis, and even with the new rule that provides an extra roster spot for a third QB, Wyatt thinks the 24-year-old will have to earn his way on the team. On the flip side, Wyatt also thinks Willis looked better than Levis during minicamp, and the writer is more confident now than he was before that the team will ultimately carry all three quarterbacks.

Fortunately for the Titans, it doesn’t sound like Willis is distracted by his uncertain roster status.

“I don’t really get into all that,” Willis said (via NFL.com). “I just try to go to work every day. … It’s a results-based business. It doesn’t matter what I think, it doesn’t matter what you think, it just is. I am just focusing on what I can control.”

Top Second-Round Picks In Mix For Fully Guaranteed Contracts

Signing second-round picks continues to be a slow-moving process for many teams. Fourteen second-rounders remain unsigned. That accounts for almost half the unsigned draftees remaining from this year’s class.

No. 39 overall pick Jonathan Mingo receiving three fully guaranteed years and part of his 2026 season locked in has undoubtedly caused the gridlock for teams negotiating with players chosen shortly after the Panthers wide receiver. The Nos. 40-48 picks have not signed their rookie deals. But more clarity came earlier in the round; the Nos. 34-39 players have inked their respective rookie contracts. Three-year guarantees are now the standard in that slot range. But the two players chosen atop Round 2 are likely looking to further adjust the draft pay structure.

Neither Joey Porter Jr. (Steelers, No. 32 overall) nor Will Levis (Titans, No. 33) have signed. Agents for both players are likely aiming to land fully guaranteed deals for their clients, and GOPHNX.com’s Howard Balzer notes others in the agent community view full guarantees as in play for the two second-round leadoff picks. No second-rounder has secured a fully guaranteed deal since the 2011 CBA implemented the slot system.

The first round has featured fully guaranteed deals for just two years. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, the No. 32 overall picks in 2020 and ’21, received partial fourth-year guarantees. But last year’s 32nd pick — Vikings safety Lewis Cine — effectively closed the book on the partial guarantee era for first-rounders, receiving all his money ($11.494MM) guaranteed. As such, this year’s final first-rounder — Chiefs defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomahsigned a fully guaranteed $11.818MM deal. The tide now appears to be rising toward Round 2, putting the onus on the Steelers and Titans to offer more player security.

Since the NFL stripped the Dolphins of their first-round choice, Porter has a clear case for a fully guaranteed pact. Had the Sean PaytonTom Brady tampering matter not removed Miami’s slot from the equation, Porter’s draft slot would have arrived in Round 1. As a quarterback, Levis has some additional leverage as well. Levis securing a buttoned-up deal may be more notable going forward, due to his No. 33 slot, but he will probably need Porter’s help.

A drop-off in guaranteed cash took place after Cine in 2022; Buccaneers No. 33 overall selection Logan Hall only received $225K of his $1.98MM 2026 base salary guaranteed. This year’s 34th overall choice — Lions tight end Sam LaPorta — has already done better, securing $408K of his 2026 salary guaranteed. Porter and Levis look to be aiming to follow Cine in moving the bar forward for picks in this range, though the gap between Anudike-Uzomah’s guaranteed money and LaPorta’s overall guarantee ($9.47MM) does provide a reasonable bridge for the Pittsburgh and Tennessee rookies to cross.

This can be considered a fairly minor development; the 2011 CBA’s slot system removed much of the haggling and ensuing holdouts involving rookie contracts. But any second-rounder securing a fully guaranteed deal will represent a notable hurdle cleared, as the slot system has now been in place for 13 drafts. It will also be worth watching to see if the Steelers and Titans attempt to hold the line, thus bringing holdouts into play this year. Titans rookies report to camp July 22, with Steelers opening July 26.

QB Notes: Ravens, Levis, Colts, Richardson, Rams, Bennett, Hurts, 49ers

The Ravens hosted Anthony Richardson on a pre-draft visit, and GM Eric DeCosta did not shoot down the idea of taking a first-round quarterback. Of course, the Ravens squashed any such contingency plan by agreeing to terms with Lamar Jackson on his record-setting extension. Had that not happened, the team is believed to have been intrigued by Will Levis. The Ravens would have considered Levis with their first-round pick had Jackson not signed, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. Baltimore had pursued Baker Mayfield as well and entered draft week with neither of its top QBs signed beyond 2023. Tyler Huntley is on an RFA tender.

Selecting a quarterback at No. 22 would have both been a leverage play and certainly would have cost the team its best opportunity to add weaponry around Jackson, thus weakening the 2023 Ravens edition. A number of teams were connected to Levis coming into the draft, and trade rumors — centered around teams eyeing a move up for the falling Kentucky prospect — emerged in the late first round and early second. The Ravens now loom as a Levis “what if?” Though, they will probably not be the first team mentioned as a near-miss regarding the strong-armed prospect. Considering Jackson’s contract, Levis may barely be a footnote for the team.

Here is the latest news from the quarterback position:

  • Seeing as the Colts and Titans are in the same division, Indianapolis will probably be the top Levis “what if?” team. The Colts were tied to Levis for weeks ahead of the draft, but they successfully masked their Richardson interest. Even though Richardson’s ceiling enamored Colts brass, Fowler adds Levis had a few fans in Indy’s building. The Penn State transfer might be readier to play compared to Richardson, a one-year Florida starter, though Ryan Tannehill‘s presence in Tennessee may ensure Richardson begins his QB1 run first. Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds was a Richardson skeptic at first, but fellow seventh-year Indy front office staffer Morocco Brown — who primarily scouted the Gators talent for the Colts — made near-weekly trips to Gainesville to chart the athletic prospect’s progress. Ex-Shane Steichen Eagles coworker Brian Johnson, Florida’s OC during Richardson’s freshman year (2020), also vouched for Richardson, per Fowler.
  • The Rams did not consider Levis, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, who notes they came into the draft with a goal of landing a Day 3 passer (subscription required). Despite Levis having played for 2022 Rams OC Liam Coen in 2021, team brass was split on the prospect. Los Angeles ended up with Stetson Bennett via the No. 128 overall pick. This came after the Rams hired one of their former QBs, Kellen Clemens, as a consultant to evaluate Bennett and other arms, Rodrigue adds. Clemens met with Bennett in Georgia before the draft, but even though Bennett is a 26-year-old rookie, ex-Broncos backup Brett Rypien may begin as Matthew Stafford‘s backup.
  • The EaglesJalen Hurts extension (five years, $255MM) laid the groundwork for Jackson’s, and the Ravens QB scored more fully guaranteed money ($135MM to $110MM). But Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio notes the Hurts deal jumps to $157.3MM fully guaranteed by 2025. This is because Hurts’ 2026 option bonus ($49.8MM) becomes guaranteed in stages. Hurts will see $16.5MM of that bonus become guaranteed in 2024, and $30MM of that payout locks in by 2025. These guarantees vest in March 2024 and ’25, SI.com’s Albert Breer tweets. The Eagles ditched Carson Wentz‘s contract less than two years after authorizing it, but they moved back into the QB-paying business with this megadeal.
  • Former Detroit and Washington practice squad QB Steven Montez spent the weekend in San Francisco auditioning at the 49ers‘ rookie minicamp, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The Colorado alum served as the Seattle Sea Dragons’ backup, behind Ben DiNucci, who has since signed with the Broncos. The 49ers have four QBs rostered and have not signed Montez.

Latest On Cards’ Trades With Texans, Titans

A key party in a few teams’ early-round draft machinations, the Cardinals played a particularly important role in what could be long-term AFC South roster construction. They made deals with both the Texans and Titans, equipping each with potential 2020s pillars.

Both teams discussed prospective trades with the Cardinals before the draft. The Titans did not have to give up what it would have cost to move from No. 11 to No. 3 — a climb Tennessee was continually connected to attempting — but they had C.J. Stroud in mind. The new Texans quarterback was the Titans’ target at No. 3, with Albert Breer of SI.com confirming the team dropped out of trade talks after Houston took the Ohio State passer at 2.

The Titans were viewed as high on Stroud, and with the Texans believed to be planning to take a momentous risk — tabling their quarterback need yet again to select an edge rusher — it looked like Tennessee could have a clear path to trading up for its preferred passer. But Nick Caserio confirmed (via NBC Sports’ Peter King) his team had decided on Stroud at No. 2. That decision ran counter to just about every Texans-centric report leading up to the draft. Though, reports of Houston’s defensive end intent were not entirely inaccurate, given how the team proceeded at No. 3.

Although Caserio taking Stroud at No. 2 removed a buyer for 3 in the Titans, the Texans still traded a monster haul to land the Cardinals’ No. 3 choice. Houston gave up No. 33, along with first- and third-round picks in 2024. The Texans held two 2024 firsts, thanks to the historic Deshaun Watson package, and Houston’s first — not Cleveland’s — now belongs to Arizona. The Texans’ lengthy rebuild process has involved top-three draft real estate in each of the past three drafts, running a risk the team gave a prime draft asset for a non-quarterback in Will Anderson Jr. Two of the three Browns first-rounders acquired in the Watson trade ended up going toward Anderson.

Caserio and former Patriots coworker Monti Ossenfort had engaged in pre-draft talks about a trade involving the Nos. 3 and 12 picks, Breer adds, and King confirms the Cards and Texans agreed to the swap with “close to a minute left” on the clock.

It helped that I had a personal relationship with Nick Caserio in Houston,” Ossenfort said during an appearance on the Dave Pasch Podcast (via AZCardinals.com). “… There was some back and forth there and the clock’s going, the clock’s going, and I think it was around two-and-a-half minutes where we have a couple of [different] deals up written up on the board [with] a couple of teams and it’s ‘OK, Nick, I think we’re at a spot where we are close here. It’s this and this for this, this and this. Are you in?’ ‘Yeah, I’m in.’ And it’s ‘OK, great, call it in.'”

Ossenfort had planned on trading back up and called multiple teams in order to secure Paris Johnson draft real estate. After talks with fellow former coworker Dave Ziegler did not produce a deal with the Raiders, Ossenfort found a taker in the Lions, allowing them to avoid taking Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 6.

The Cardinals and Titans revisited their talks Friday, and GM Ran Carthon pivoted to the freefalling Will Levis. The Titans had discussed a deal to move back into Round 1, with Levis as the target, with Breer adding they discussed the move with the Bills — at No. 27 — late Thursday night. The Titans were one of many teams trying to move back into the first round, and teams also made offers to the Steelers for 32. The Titans may well have been one of those to send the Steelers a proposal for 32, but they ended up trading 2023 and 2024 third-rounders to climb eight spots to 33 for the Kentucky QB.

This draft brought some notable what-ifs regarding the non-Jaguars wing of the AFC South, seeing as the Colts were tied to Levis for weeks only to have been preparing an Anthony Richardson pick for a while. Should Stroud, Richardson and Levis become surefire starters, this will certainly go down as one of the most pivotal drafts in the AFC South’s 22-year history.

Latest On Titans’ QB Situation With Addition Of Will Levis

There were two levels of surprise when the 33rd pick of the 2023 NFL Draft was announced: 1) surprise that Kentucky quarterback Will Levis had slid back this far and 2) surprise that it was the Titans who felt they needed him badly enough to trade up to draft him. We have a bit more information today as we’ve moved on into the later rounds of the draft.

There were likely several factors that culminated in Levis falling out of the first round, but one of the sticking points was reportedly a potentially lingering toe injury that gave a few teams pause. According to Titans staff writer Jim Wyatt, Levis has let the team know that “his toe feels good” and, currently, there are no plans for follow-up procedures. Any concerns about the previous ailment should be put to rest, especially when considering that he won’t be expected to start any time soon.

That is straight from the mouth of head coach Mike Vrabel, who confirmed this morning that Levis is not expected to be the new starter in Tennessee, according to Bobby Kownack of NFL.com. With incumbent starter Ryan Tannehill returning for at least one more year and Malik Willis back after a turbulent rookie season, Levis has a few depth chart spots to overcome before he’s running with the first-team on a consistent basis.

“Ryan will be the starting quarterback on Monday,” Vrabel confirmed at a press conference last night. “Malik will be the backup. Will will be the third quarterback. And what I’ve told them is whatever happens after that will be up to the players. That’s what it’s always been here. That’s what we always want it to be.”

Tannehill returns after a season that saw him struggle with a lack of production and with injuries. When Tannehill missed time, Tennessee attempted to turn to Willis, a third-round rookie out of Liberty who was expected to be a long-term development project. With Willis seemingly overmatched in his early days as a pro, the team eventually signed local veteran product Joshua Dobbs for two late starts to help close the season.

The Titans shuffled their offensive staff a bit in the offseason, promoting passing game coordinator Tim Kelly to offensive coordinator and bringing in Charles London from Atlanta to serve as passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The new coaches reportedly are not sold on Willis and may not be committed to sticking with the project passer. With Dobbs returning to Cleveland, it makes much more sense for Tennessee to invest a number of draft picks in securing a potential quarterback of the future.

Levis, much like Willis, has many physical tools that can lead to success at the NFL-level but will have some mental development to undergo before taking the reins in Tennessee. His decision making was often called into question as he threw 25 interceptions in Lexington.

Willis and Levis presumably still have some time to work on their respective developments. Tannehill has one more year on his contract and should be the starter in 2023. What happens after that will be determined in camps and practices in Nashville.

Titans Obtain No. 33 From Cardinals, Select QB Will Levis

While the Steelers rebuffed trade offers, the Cardinals are making their third trade of the draft thus far. Arizona will send No. 33 to Tennessee, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. With the pick, the Titans are taking Will Levis.

Levis visited the Titans during the pre-draft process. While the Kentucky quarterback did not opt to attend the draft tonight — after his full-night green room stay last night — he will go off the board quickly in Round 2.

The Titans are sending the Cardinals Nos. 41 and 72 this year for Levis; the Cardinals will also pick up a 2024 third-rounder in this swap, Rapoport tweets. The Cards will send the Titans No. 81 this year as well. This will move a first-round-caliber quarterback onto the Titans’ roster. One season remains on Ryan Tannehill‘s four-year contract.

A cannon-armed talent, Levis both brought questions regarding injury (a late-emerging big toe concern) and performance. Levis fared better in 2021, breaking into the mix as a first-round-caliber player. With Wan’Dale Robinson and OC Liam Coen leaving for the NFL in 2022, Levis regressed. But he was not believed to have fallen too far. Oddsmakers slotted him as a good bet to be drafted in the top 10. After the Colts took Anthony Richardson, Levis slipped out of the first round.

Levis won 10 games for the Wildcats in 2021, completing 66.01% of his passes for 2,826 yards and 24 touchdowns. Levis also displayed an ability to run the ball that year, producing 376 yards and nine touchdowns. In 2022, injuries and the loss of his top targets led to a down year in which Levis completed 65.37% of his passes for 2,406 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, all without displaying the rushing ability of prior years.

This pick comes a year after the Titans chose Malik Willis in the third round. The Liberty product did not appear ready as a rookie, and the Titans canned the GM — Jon Robinson — who selected him. The Titans are believed to have soured on Willis, and the Levis investment certainly reflects it. Now, Ran Carthon has a potential long-term option under center. The new Titans GM also trekked to Levis’ pro day last month.

It will be interesting to see if the Titans make an attempt to move on from Tannehill early. The team dangled its four-year starter in trades earlier this year. Finding a destination might depend on where the rest of this draft’s QBs are dispersed. That said, Tannehill is a proven starter who has piloted the Titans to three playoff berths. He is coming off an injury-shortened season, one in which the team traded away his top receiver (A.J. Brown), and would be far readier to step in next season compared to Levis. But the writing appears on the wall for Tannehill in Tennessee.

Steelers Mulling Offers For No. 32 Overall

2:20pm: This interest has progressed to offers. The Steelers have received multiple offers to move down from 32, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Mike Tomlin‘s .500-or-better streak has restricted the Steelers from the kind of access they have tonight. During Tomlin’s tenure, the team has never made a second-round pick higher than 46th. The team will need to weigh the offers against this rare Day 2 real estate.

Pittsburgh has done well despite mid- to late-Round 2 draft windows during Tomlin’s tenure. George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Le’Veon Bell, Marcus Gilbert and LaMarr Woodley have gone to Pittsburgh in the second round since Tomlin’s 2007 arrival. Current GM Omar Khan was on Kevin Colbert‘s staff throughout, but this marks his first draft in the GM chair.

9:59am: As the No. 32 overall pick is part of this year’s second round, the Steelers will have a decision to make. Will Levis was steadily rumored to land in the top 10, but the Kentucky product’s Kansas City stay has not yet produced an NFL destination.

Levis remaining unattached Friday has generated interest, and NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports the Steelers were fielding calls before Round 1 ended. Other teams holding picks near the bottom of the first round received interest for Levis-related trades, Pelissero adds (on Twitter). Four teams have contacted the Steelers about a trade, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweets. This sets up an interesting scenario to start Day 2.

The Colts passing on Levis at No. 4, after being consistently tied to the two-year Wildcats starter in the weeks leading up to the draft, began a tough night for the latest player to hover atop “best available” boards for an extended stretch. Teams with quarterback interest (or reported QB interest) went with value elsewhere. The Raiders, Seahawks, Falcons, Lions, Titans, Commanders and Buccaneers all chose position players, with running backs Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs going in the top 12. But teams with long-term QB questions or those with shaky 2023 situations can circle back to Levis ahead of Round 2.

The Steelers obtained the 32nd pick by moving Chase Claypool to the Bears at the trade deadline. Pittsburgh reversed course on the 2020 second-round pick and chose Chicago’s offer over a Green Bay proposal, expecting the Bears’ record to produce a better draft slot. That bet paid off, as Chicago sank to 3-14. The Steelers have a chance to fill a key need, and a legacy option — Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. — joins Levis as being unexpectedly available. Porter visited his father’s former team early in the pre-draft process. The Steelers filled a tackle need, trading up three spots for Broderick Jones, but met with a few corners ahead of the draft. The team losing Cameron Sutton and being set to experiment with Patrick Peterson at safety points to corner being a point of emphasis tonight.

Should the Steelers go with Porter or stay at 32 and select another player, the Cardinals would seemingly be prepared to deal down. They moved back from No. 3 to No. 12 on Thursday night, and while Monti Ossenfort‘s team was hit with a tampering penalty just before Round 1 began and climbed back to 6 for Paris Johnson, the rebuilding squad still holds No. 33 and acquired first- and third-rounders in 2024. Both the Lions and Seahawks passed on Levis twice; each team holds a pick early in Round 2 (Nos. 34 and 37, respectively). The Titans hold No. 41; the Falcons sit at 44, Commanders at 47 and Bucs at 50. The Vikings do not have a second-round pick.

Tennessee entered Round 1 as the team most closely connected to moving up for a quarterback and held pre-draft trade talks with Arizona about moving to No. 3. But the Texans, after weeks of reported QB skepticism, went with C.J. Stroud — a player the Titans were believed to be targeting. If the Steelers pass on a trade at 32, the Titans and Cardinals could resume trade talks. Tennessee hosted Levis on a pre-draft visit. Which team will ultimately end up with the freefalling QB tonight?

Falcons, Raiders, Titans, Pats, Rams Tried To Trade Into Round 1; Eagles Fielded Calls

1:30pm: The Patriots and Rams also made efforts to trade back into the first round, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Levis visited the Pats just before the meeting deadline last week, driving some intrigue around a team that is not in a great place with its quarterback. The Bill BelichickMac Jones relationship encountered some turbulence last season.

The Rams may not have been trying to land a QB, given Matthew Stafford‘s contract situation, but the veteran has run into a few injury issues as of late. The Rams hold the No. 36 overall pick; the Pats’ first Day 2 choice arrives at No. 46.

1:05pm: Will Levis might end up leaving Kansas City with some bad memories, but his freefall may have a market forming ahead of the draft’s second night. Teams were interested in coming back into Round 1, with Levis being the most likely reason for the efforts.

Specifically, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio notes the Falcons, Raiders and Titans “desperately” tried to trade back into Round 1 (Twitter link). While these teams were not desperate enough to offer a trade that made one of last year’s playoff teams move out of the first, it does set up a fascinating backdrop for the draft’s continuation tonight.

The Eagles were one of the teams to receive calls about moving down — from No. 30 — and NFL.com’s James Palmer adds (on Twitter) teams were interested in trading back into the first round to secure a fifth-year option on a quarterback. Multiple teams called the Eagles about their second first-round pick, but the defending NFC champions stood pat and selected Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith.

Teams were believed to already be calling the Steelers about No. 32 last night, and those conversations look to be continuing today. Although No. 32 is normally a first-round slot, a team convincing the Steelers to move down would not secure a fifth-year option. Only players chosen in Round 1 have those clauses in their contracts. Prospects chosen from the second round and down are tied to four-year rookie deals. This matters a bit more with quarterbacks, and Levis will be the center of attention going into the second round.

A report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen indicated teams had concerns over a toe injury Levis previously battled, though the veteran reporter did not confirm this was the sole reason Levis fell (Twitter link), it may provide a bit more clarity as to why every team with a first-round pick passed on the high-profile Kentucky prospect. Not every team buys into this sudden toe concern, with one GM expressing considerable skepticism (via Florio) that is the reason everyone passed. Mortensen also notes multiple teams tried to trade back into Round 1.

The Titans, who are not exactly committed to Ryan Tannehill as their 2023 starter, discussed trading up to the Cardinals’ No. 3 spot; Tennessee was believed to have targeted C.J. Stroud, whom Houston ended up taking. When the Cardinals found a taker to move ahead of the Colts, it was the Texans with a Will Anderson Jr. aim. The Titans hold the No. 41 overall pick tonight. That sits behind the Raiders’ second-round pick (No. 38) but ahead of the Falcons’ (No. 44). The Levis matter may end up being decided via trade-up and not by the draft order.

Las Vegas gave Jimmy Garoppolo a three-year deal, though the guarantees would allow the team to escape the contract with a modest dead-money hit after one season. But after Jarrett Stidham chose the Broncos, only 37-year-old Brian Hoyer resides behind Garoppolo on the Raiders’ depth chart. The Raiders hosted Levis and Hendon Hooker on pre-draft visits; the Silver and Black were believed to be impressed with Hooker, who expects Week 1 clearance from ACL surgery. Hooker enjoyed late momentum but did not sneak into the first round. The Falcons, who have pledged support for 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder, also hosted Levis. Atlanta rosters a capable backup in Taylor Heinicke but was connected to QBs ahead of the draft.

ESPN’s Scouts Inc. slotted Levis as the 11th-best prospect in this draft; every other player in the database’s top 18 is off the board. Levis figures to be picked early in Round 2, and the Steelers have likely heard from this trio of teams about a trade. If the Steelers stay at No. 32, the Cardinals — at 33 — would have another opportunity collect future assets.