This Date In Transactions History

This Date In Transactions History: Jaguars Sign Calais Campbell

Three years ago today, the Jaguars landed one of the top defensive free agents on the market. Defensive end Calais Campbell agreed to a four-year, $60MM deal with the club, bringing even more power to the Jaguars’ potent front seven. 

Campbell was thought to be on the radar for a number of clubs in this cycle, including the Titans, Broncos, Colts, Bears, and Redskins (the reported runners-up). The Cardinals, ideally, would have liked to keep him, but the numbers crunch of the offseason made that nearly impossible. Besides, they traded for Chandler Jones one year prior, making Campbell something of a luxury rather than a must-keep player.

Campbell may have been motivated by the Jones acquisition – in his walk year, the 6’8″, 300-pound force tallied eight sacks en route to his second career Pro Bowl appearance. He also entered the market with a proven record of getting to the quarterback: He registered 56.5 sacks over the course of nine seasons in Arizona, a total that’s even more impressive when you consider that he had zero sacks as a rookie in 2008.

This Jaguars front office was not shy about spending on the defensive front and they did it again with Campbell, even though he was entering his age-31 campaign. Presumably, they placed the high bid on the veteran, and it paid off. Campbell logged a career-high 14.5 sacks in his first season with the Jaguars and earned First-Team All-Pro honors for the first time. In the last two seasons, he’s been a Pro Bowler with a combined 17 sacks in that stretch.

Now, the Jaguars have some decisions to make. This year, he’s entering his age-34 season with a projected cap hit of $17.5MM. The Jaguars could save upwards of $15MM by cutting ties, though it would be in their best interest to hammer out an extension that would smooth out his cap hit. With a new deal, the Jaguars can free some some extra dollars to be spent later this month and potentially lock down Campbell for the rest of his career.

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This Date In Transactions History: Jaguars Extend Blake Bortles

Two years ago today, the Jaguars took themselves out of the quarterback market by committing to Blake Bortles for three more years. The move was widely panned and, ultimately, it did not work out for Jacksonville. 

The Jaguars were fresh off of an AFC Championship Game appearance and their first playoff appearance in nine years. Bortles, meanwhile, tossed a career-low 13 interceptions. Still, his overall body of work did not inspire a ton of confidence – his 60.2% completion percentage actually marked a new career best.

Despite the question marks, Bortles became the first 2014 first-round pick to receive an extension – stars like Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack were still negotiating for their new deals (They all, of course, secured long-term riches, though Mack has to get his elsewhere.)

Reported to be a three-year, $54MM pact, the deal included $26.5MM guaranteed with the potential to reach $66.5MM in total through bonuses. He did not earn those incentives, nor did he get to play out his deal – Bortles was cut loose in 2019, clearing the way for Nick Foles to take over.

Bortles went 3-9 in 12 starts for the Jaguars as head coach Doug Marrone flip-flopped him with Cody Kessler. During his five-year run with the Jaguars, Bortles led the league with 75 interceptions – more than one INT per start.

With his stock at an all-time low, the former No. 3 overall pick hooked on with the Rams last offseason. Playing behind Jared Goff, Bortles appeared in only three games and attempted two passes. Without a real opportunity to play in 2019, Bortles did not get a chance to silence his critics. Next month, he’ll be a free agent once again, and the Rams’ level of interest in bringing him back as their QB2 is unclear.

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This Date In Transactions History: Seahawks Use Transition Tag On Steve Hutchinson

With the NFL taking the rare step to move its window for teams to apply franchise and transition tags, let’s take a look at one of the most pivotal developments in tag history. A fascinating tag-related sequence began 14 years ago today. After Steve Hutchinson reeled off three straight Pro Bowl seasons — two of them producing first-team All-Pro acclaim — the Seahawks placed their transition tag on the standout guard on Feb. 23, 2006.

Hutchinson had just helped Shaun Alexander race to MVP honors during Seattle’s 2005 NFC championship season. Not only did this transition tag not work out for the Seahawks, it set in motion a chain of events that led to a change in NFL offseason procedures.

The Seahawks frequently used their tag in the years leading up to this, franchise-tagging Walter Jones from 2002-04. The Hall of Fame tackle played on the tag in each season but signed a seven-year, $52.5MM extension in February 2005; that figure became important in the Hutchinson proceedings. The Seahawks also franchise-tagged Alexander in 2005, and his status as a free agent loomed large a year later as well.

Seattle opted to use the lesser transition tag, which provides no compensation for successful offer sheets, on Hutchinson. The Vikings then signed Hutchinson to a seven-year, $49MM offer sheet in March, making him the highest-paid guard in league history. But a clause in this contract became the story.

Minnesota’s offer sheet stipulated all of Hutchinson’s $49MM would become guaranteed were he not his team’s highest-paid offensive lineman at the time he signed the contract. With Jones in place on his $7.5MM-per-year deal, Hutchinson would have not been Seattle’s highest-paid O-lineman. That would have triggered the guarantee. Because of the Vikings’ tactic here, the term “poison pill” became a common phrase that offseason. An NFL arbitrator ruled in favor of the Vikings, keeping this language in the contract and sending then-28-year-old lineman to the Twin Cities.

Rather than match the onerous offer sheet, Seattle used that money to give linebacker Julian Peterson a seven-year, $54MM deal. Prior to the Vikings’ Hutchinson contract, the Seahawks had already authorized an eight-year, $62MM deal for Alexander. That decision burned the Seahawks quickly, while Hutchinson continued his prime with the Vikings.

As a revenge measure in this unique offseason feud, the Seahawks then pilfered Vikings restricted free agent wide receiver Nate Burleson for the same amount — seven years and $49MM — despite Burleson never making a Pro Bowl. But Seattle’s “poison pill” was even weirder. That RFA offer sheet stipulated Burleson’s $49MM would become guaranteed if he played five games in the state of Minnesota. The Vikings naturally passed on this offer sheet.

While both teams were admonished at the ensuing league meetings, the Vikings got the better end of these transactions. Hutchinson played six seasons with the Vikings, made four more Pro Bowls while helping Adrian Peterson‘s rise and was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this year. Alexander’s production fell off considerably in 2006, and he was out of the league by 2009. A Seattle native, Burleson was a Seahawk from 2006-09. The NFL discontinued “poison pill”-type clauses in offer sheets in 2012.

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This Date In Transactions History: Ravens Sign Shannon Sharpe

Twenty years ago today, Shannon Sharpe began a memorable NFL second act. After 10 seasons with the Broncos, the future Hall of Fame tight end opted for a change and signed with the Ravens.

Baltimore added the then-31-year-old Sharpe on a four-year, $13.8MM deal with a $4.5MM signing bonus. This offer eclipsed what Denver was proposing by around $1MM per year. This turned out to be a seminal transaction, based on where the Ravens were headed.

Sharpe suffered a broken collarbone early in a down 1999 season for the Broncos, who went 6-10 after losing both Sharpe and reigning MVP Terrell Davis that October. Those injuries came months after John Elway‘s retirement. Sharpe later returned to the Broncos but did so after being a critical component on the best team in Ravens history.

Sharpe proved to be a key get for the Ravens, then a fifth-season franchise without a playoff berth. Baltimore in 2000 featured one of the NFL’s all-time great defenses, but Sharpe led that team with 810 receiving yards. A four-time All-Pro in the 1990s, Sharpe came up big during Baltimore’s playoff run. He caught a 58-yard touchdown pass in the Ravens’ 21-3 win over the Broncos in the wild-card round, and his one reception against the Raiders two weeks later became a 96-yard score in a 16-3 Raven road win. The Ravens routed the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, giving Sharpe a third Super Bowl ring.

The Ravens were not as successful in 2001, having made a Trent Dilfer-for-Elvis Grbac offseason quarterback change. But Sharpe delivered nearly identical numbers — doing so after a memorable role on the maiden voyage of Hard Knocks — in amassing 811 receiving yards. However, the Ravens used a first-round pick on Todd Heap in 2001 and released Sharpe the following February. Sharpe made his eighth and final Pro Bowl in 2001 and broke then-Ravens executive Ozzie Newsome‘s records for most career receptions and yards by a tight end that season.

Denver brought Sharpe back in 2002, and he wrapped up a 14-year career a year later. Sharpe, who caught eight touchdown passes on a Broncos team that returned to the playoffs in 2003, also retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in TDs (62) by a tight end.

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This Date In Transactions History: Roddy White Retires

Three years ago today, an Atlanta Falcons legend decided to hang up his cleats. We learned on February 15th, 2017 that wideout Roddy White was calling it quits.

Similar to most professional athletes, it didn’t sound like White necessarily went out on his own terms. After having one of the least-productive seasons of his career in 2015 (43 receptions, 506 yards, one touchdown), the receiver struggled to find his next gig. After getting cut by Atlanta, there were rumblings that he’d catch on with the Patriots, but the team ended up opting for Nate Washington (kind of ironically, the Falcons and Pats would meet up in that season’s Super Bowl).

He was approached by the Vikings midway through the 2016 campaign, but the team was out of the playoff picture by the time White was in game shape. The Titans and Buccaneers also expressed interest, but the veteran was content on only signing with a contender. White ultimately sat out for the entire 2016 season, leading to his retirement decision.

White retired having compiled 808 receptions for 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns. The 2005 first-rounder spent his entire career with the Falcons, making four Pro Bowls and earning a First-Team All-Pro nod in 2010. He also owns a number of franchise records, both for a career (receiving touchdowns, receptions) and for a single game (including most receptions in a playoff game (11)). White was was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor this past December.

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This Date In Transactions History: First NFL Draft

If you’ve read any of our “This Day in Transactions History” entries, you’ve probably realized that the transactions are somewhat recent. Well, thanks to analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gil Brandt (on Twitter), we’re going to go back all the way to 1936.

On this date 84 years ago, the first NFL Draft took place. The event was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philly, with 81 selections being made over nine rounds. The draft ultimately produced four Hall of Famers: offensive tackle Joe Stydahar (1.6 by the Bears), fullback Alphonse “Tuffy” Leemans (2.18 by the Giants), tight end Wayne Millner (8.65 by the Boston Redskins), and offensive guard Dan Fortmann (9.78 by the Chicago Bears).

However, the most amusing anecdote from the 1936 NFL Draft revolved around the first-overall pick. After winning the inaugural Heisman Trophy following a standout campaign at the University of Chicago, running back Jay Berwanger was selected as the first-overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. However, Berwanger was demanding around $1K per game. The Eagles weren’t confident that they could meet those monetary demands, so they ended up trading the halfback to the Bears for offensive tackle Art Buss.

Berwanger didn’t immediately sign with Chicago, but that decision didn’t have much to do with money; rather, the athlete wanted to maintain his amateur status so he could compete in the decathlon at the 1936 Olympics. After being eliminated from Olympics contention, it was back to negotiating, with Berwanger requesting $15K. Bears owner George Halas‘ top offer was $13.5K, and the two sides refused to find common ground.

Berwanger ended up walking away from the NFL, joining the University of Chicago coaching staff before spending time as a sportswriter. Unfortunately, he never made an NFL appearance, emphasizing that these stubborn financial disputes have basically been occurring throughout the league’s history.

This Date In Transactions History: Pats Sign Player To Unprecedented Futures Deal

When we add entries to the “This Date in Transactions” series, we generally don’t focus on players without an NFL appearance, especially when said transaction is a usually-anonymous futures deal. However, on this date in 2013, one of the more unusual futures contract was signed.

On February 1st, 2013, the New England Patriots officially signed Armond Armstead to a futures contract. The defensive tackle had once been a top prospect at USC, but the school’s medical staff refused to clear him for the 2011 campaign after learning of a major heart issue (Armstead would later sue the school, saying the team doctors’ use of painkillers contributed to the heart issue and ultimately compromised his earning potential). With the lineman being forced to miss his senior season, he ended up going undrafted in the 2012 Draft.

Armstead later took his talents to the CFL, where he earned an All-Star nod after compiling 43 tackles and six sacks en route to a Grey Cup Championship. Following his standout campaign, the lineman requested (and was granted) his released so he could pursue an NFL gig.

It didn’t take long for him to find his next deal, as he inked a futures deal with the Patriots on February 1st. So what’s so unusual about the contract? Well, let’s first review the standard futures deal. These contracts tie players to a teams’ roster throughout the offseason, and it counts towards the salary cap and 90-man camp roster for the subsequent season. These deals are usually one-year, minimum-salary, non-guaranteed deals. In fact, in 2011, the NFLPA filed a collusion suit against the league claiming that front offices were conspiring to keep these values especially low (among other, more notable salary-cap machinations).

Armstead’s deal was one of the few futures contracts that offered anything of substance, with the total value being practically unprecedented. The team signed the lineman to a three-year futures contract that included $655K in guaranteed money (the deal could have been worth up to $1.48MM). This kind of commitment by the Patriots proved that the organization was high on the prospect and there was probably some competition for his services.

Unfortunately, the deal didn’t end up working out. Armstead required surgery to treat an infection during the 2013 offseason, leading to his placement on the reserve/non-football injury list. He didn’t see the field during his rookie campaign, and he ended up announcing his retirement during the 2014 offseason.

While Armstead’s NFL career didn’t work out, he still has this interest footnote (as well as $655K) to fall back on.

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This Date In Transactions History: Chiefs Trade Alex Smith To Redskins

On this date in 2018, the Chiefs traded Alex Smith to the Redskins in blockbuster move that had wide-ranging implications across the entire NFL. The deal brought the Redskins a proven quarterback who was coming off of, arguably, the best season of his career. For the Chiefs, the trade gave them a 2018 third-round draft pick, a promising young cornerback in Kendall Fuller, and a clear path to elevate Patrick Mahomes to the starting lineup. 

Even as Smith led the league in passer rating (104.7) and finished third in adjusted net yards per attempt, the football world was buzzing about the potential of Mahomes. The Chiefs didn’t see much of the youngster in live action, outside of some time in the meaningless 2017 regular season finale, but they saw enough of him on the practice field to know that he was special and that he was ready. Smith, meanwhile, had one year remaining on his deal. The Chiefs opted to turn his salary into draft capital, support for the secondary, and extra cash that they could spend elsewhere.

After Smith set career-highs in completion percentage (67.5), yards (4,042), and touchdowns (26), the Redskins saw him as a fitting replacement for Kirk Cousins, who was on his way out after years of friction and botched extension talks. The acquisition of Smith ruled out any possibility of a reconciliation and officially set Cousins on course for free agency, where he found a fully-guaranteed multi-year deal with the Vikings.

The Chiefs’ side of the swap made total sense – they were parlaying their surplus into extra ammunition. For the Redskins, the deal raised some eyebrows. Even after Smith posted a career-low interception rate of 1%, many doubted that he would be an improvement over Cousins. Keeping Cousins would have been more costly in terms of guaranteed dollars (and would have required a whole lot of fence-mending), but there was plenty of cost that came with Smith – Fuller, valuable draft capital, and the four-year extension given to him the day after the trade. That deal, taking Smith through 2022, gave Smith $23.5MM per year, making him the sixth-highest paid QB in the NFL at the time of signing.

Two years later, it’s hard to get a true read on the Redskins’ end of this blockbuster deal. Smith led the club to a 6-3 start in his first season with the Redskins, but a gruesome leg injury in Week 11 changed everything. The compound and spiral fracture to his tibia and fibula required complicated surgery, and the post-surgery infection that he developed led to 17 more operations. Smith missed all of 2019 and no one knows when, or if, he’ll return to football. For his part, Smith says he still wants to play.

I still have dreams of getting back to where I was and getting back out there,” Smith said in January. “This has been a crazy ride with a lot of unforeseen turns, but without a doubt, that’s still my goal.”

Smith, now 35, is set to count $21.4MM against the Redskins’ cap this year. No cap savings can be gained by releasing him until 2021.

In Kansas City, Mahomes lit the NFL on fire, leading the league with 50 passing touchdowns against just 12 interceptions. He was unstoppable again in 2019 – even a fairly serious knee injury could only limit him for a few weeks. This week, he’ll lead the Chiefs into the Super Bowl, where they’ll aim for their first championship since 1970.

This Date In Transactions History: Travis Kelce Signs Extension

Travis Kelce will check off another career milestone this weekend when he makes his first Super Bowl appearance. Four years ago today, he achieved one of the first major accomplishments, inking a five-year extension with the Chiefs.

Back when the deal was signed in 2016, Kelce was an up-and-comer at the tight end position. The former third-rounder had compiled 850-plus receiving yards and five touchdowns for the second-straight season, and he earned his first Pro Bowl nod. Despite the production, Kelce was still working to endear himself to the organization. Kelce missed his entire rookie season recovering from knee surgery, and coach Andy Reid referred to him as “immature” following an incident during his sophomore campaign.

Still, the organization believed in him enough to give him a market-setting five-year, $46MM extension (with a bit more than $20MM guaranteed). In hindsight, that deal ended up working out brilliantly for the Chiefs. Kelce has evolved into the league’s premier tight end, averaging 92 receptions, 1,182 receiving yards, and 6.75 touchdowns over the past four seasons.

That extension is set to expire following the 2020 season, and assuming Kelce remains relatively healthy, he should earn another lucrative payday. The $46MM deal is still the highest at the position, but the veteran has predictably been surpassed in guaranteed money (where Trey Burton, Jordan Reed, and Zach Ertz top Kelce) and average value (Jimmy Graham is the leader).

Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry, and Eric Ebron are among the players hitting free agency this offseason, so there’s a chance the market could reset. Kelce will surely have his eye on those various deals as he prepared for the 2021 offseason. For now, the tight end is going to prepare for the biggest game of his life, although he may briefly think back to four years ago today when he inked his extension with the Chiefs.

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This Date In Transactions History: Russell Wilson’s First Extension

A Seahawks quarterback. A self-imposed deadline. A new average annual value that ranks among the NFL’s highest. No, we’re not talking about Russell Wilson‘s recent extension with Seattle. We’re looking back at the 2015 deal Wilson inked with the Seahawks, a four-year, $87.6MM pact that contained $31.7MM in full guarantees.

Just as he did before his 2019 extension, Wilson put a deadline on his 2015 negotiations with Seattle. The former third-round pick told the Seahawks that he’d close down talks if a new deal wasn’t agreed to by the start of 2015 training camp. Similar to 2019, it’s unclear how serious Wilson was about his proposed deadline, but the gambit seems to have worked on both occasions. Although a report just a day before the 2015 extension was reached indicated that no deal was close, Wilson and Seattle agreed to fresh pact on July 31, 2015.

While he didn’t quite reach his goal of becoming the NFL’s highest-paid player at the time, Wilson did come close. His annual average value of $21.9MM came up just short of Aaron Rodgers‘ $22MM/year salary. In terms of fully guaranteed money, however, Wilson didn’t approach Rodgers, trailing the Packers signal-caller’s $54M in true guarantees by nearly $22MM.

At the time of his extension, Wilson had led the Seahawks to a 36-12 regular season record and posted a Super Bowl victory. During his first three years in the NFL, Wilson put up a 98.6 quarterback rating, 6.93 adjusted net yards per attempt, and averaged 3,316 yards, 24 touchdowns, and nine interceptions per 16 games. Seattle’s winning percentage has dropped in the four seasons since, but Wilson’s production has remained consistent. From 2015-18, he posted a 101.5 quarterback rating, 6.97 ANY/A, and a 3,918/31/9 line per 16 contests.

As in 2019, Wilson’s 2015 extension was followed by a new deal for linebacker Bobby Wagner. But while Wagner was retained, the Seahawks — who no longer had the benefit of Wilson on a cheap rookie contract — had to get rid of other veterans. Significant members of Seattle’s Super Bowl roster, such as Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin, and James Carpenter were either allowed to walk via free agency or traded.

Wilson’s current annual salary takes up 18.6% of the Seahawks’ salary cap, which could potentially affect Seattle’s ability to retain talent down the line. Clearly, when you’re lucky enough to have a quarterback like Wilson, you pay him whatever he’s worth. But as Wilson’s 2015 extension showed, there likely will be ripple effects that permeate the rest of the Seahawks’ roster.

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