Thomas Morstead

Extra Points: Bennett, NFLPA, Cap, Kirksey

Although Michael Bennett went through a nomadic late-2010s stretch after the Seahawks traded him in 2018, he remained productive. The veteran defensive lineman has registered 15.5 sacks over the past two seasons and is a free agent for the first time since 2013. Bennett, who signed with the Seahawks in 2013, would like to return to the team to which he’s most linked. Asked if he would want to play for the Seahawks again, the 34-year-old defender said “hard yes.” Bennett, though, has not yet committed to playing a 12th NFL season.

I would love to end my career in Seattle,” Bennett said, via Joe Fann of NBC Sports Northwest. “It’s not up to you, though. It’s up to the team.”

The Seahawks gave Bennett two contracts, including a three-year, $31.5MM extension in 2016. That contract was set to run through 2020, but after the Eagles and Patriots traded him, Bennett and the Cowboys restructured the deal to direct him toward free agency this year. Seattle has most of its pass rushers — including Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed — as impending free agents, so the franchise will have critical decisions to make in the next week and change.

Here is the latest from around the league, moving first to the reconfigured NFLPA:

  • Russell Okung has enjoyed an eventful March, being traded from the Chargers to the Panthers and filing an unfair labor practice charge at the NFLPA staff. As for Okung’s status with the union, he will no longer be part of the NFLPA’s executive committee, Tom Pelissero of tweets. Okung dropped his bid for NFLPA president, throwing support behind Michael Thomas in a race that went to Browns center J.C. Tretter. Both of the players Tretter beat out for the job — Thomas and linebacker Sam Acho — will stay on as executive committee members.
  • Calais Campbell, Malcolm Jenkins and Wesley Woodyard will replace Mark Herzlich, Zak DeOssie and Adam Vinatieri on the executive committee. They will join Tretter, Acho, Thomas, Richard Sherman, Ben Watson, Alex Mack, Lorenzo Alexander and Thomas Morstead on the 11-man committee, the union announced.
  • Rumblings about the salary cap rising to around $230MM by 2021 have surfaced, but the 2020 cap will not move too far from the previously estimated $200MM amount. If the players approve the CBA proposal, the highest the cap would surge to in 2020 would be $206MM, per Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription required). While the salary ceiling could climb significantly by 2023, if the league’s TV negotiations go well, those spikes will not come until at least 2021.
  • Christian Kirksey may have a chance to land on his feet before free agency. Recently released by the Browns, the veteran linebacker has three visits scheduled, Dan Graziano of tweets. Kirksey’s travel itinerary is not yet known, but the 27-year-old defender’s first visit is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
  • The Texans will take a look at a notable wide receiver soon. They will work out former Broncos rotational cog Jordan Taylor, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. Taylor has not played since the 2017 season. He spent 2018 on the Broncos’ PUP list, and though he caught on with the Vikings last year, the 28-year-old target did not see game action.

Saints, Thomas Morstead Agree To Extension

The Saints have signed punter Thomas Morstead to a new five-year contract (Twitter link via Omar Ruiz of Morstead was heading into final year of his old contract, but the new pact will keep him under contract through 2022.

The deal is worth $20MM with roughly $9MM guaranteed. As Ruiz notes, Morstead acted as his own agent in the negotiations, not unlike new 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman.

Last year, Morstead averaged 47.0 yards per punt, good for eighth-highest in the league. His net average of 42.2 yards per attempt placed him sixth amongst all punters, behind Brett Kern, Johnny Hekker, Marquette King, Rigoberto Sanchez, and Michael Palardy.

Saints Rework Contracts For Jordan, Morstead

The Saints have been busy in free agency within the last couple weeks, adding players like Craig Robertson, James Laurinaitis, and Nick Fairley to new contracts while also matching the Bears’ offer sheet for tight end Josh Hill. It wasn’t clear initially how the cap-strapped Saints were creating room for all their new contracts, but Evan Woodbery of The Times-Picayune has shed some light on the subject.Cameron Jordan

According to Woodbery, New Orleans has restructured the contracts for defensive end Cameron Jordan and punter Thomas Morstead to create a little cap space. Woodbery writes that the moves have pushed the Saints back up to $3.03MM in available cap space, after that figure had been reduced to $273K last week. Still, the new figure doesn’t include Fairley, so even if the team has room to squeeze in the defensive tackle’s new contract, additional restructures or releases will eventually be required.

For Jordan, it was the second time in two months that the Saints have tweaked his contract, giving him more money up front. In February, the team created $4.8MM in cap room by converting Jordan’s $6MM roster bonus into a signing bonus. Now the club has also converted most of his $3.5MM base salary into a signing bonus — by reducing his salary to $765K, the Saints create a $2.73MM bonus, which will be prorated over five years, opening up $2.184MM in cap space for 2016.

As for Morstead, he got a $2.1MM signing bonus, with his $3MM base salary reduced to $900K. That bonus prorates over three seasons, creating $1.4MM in cap savings for 2016. The veteran punter’s 2017 and 2018 cap numbers have increased to $4.7MM and $4.85MM respectively as a result of the restructure.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: E. Rogers, Lions, Cousins, Morstead

Standout CFL receiver Eric Rogers is signing with the 49ers, but it was a visit to the Eagles that helped convince him to choose San Francisco. As he explains to Scott Mitchell of the Calgary Sun, Rogers was impressed at a December workout with the Eagles that head coach Chip Kelly took the time to attend and to meet with him despite Philadelphia having a game to play a couple days later. Kelly’s enthusiasm for the Calgary Stampeders star didn’t dim at all when he became the Niners’ new head coach.

“When he got hired by the Niners, he called me two or three hours after it got announced that they were going to hire him,” Rogers said. “He basically told me, ‘I guess I had to come to Cali to sign you since you’re a Cali boy.’ So he still had that kind of recruitment in him like he was at Oregon. He was like, ‘You’re the first player I called and I want you to be the first player I sign at my new job.'”

As we look forward to seeing if Rogers can earn a roster spot and make an impact for the 49ers this season, let’s check in on a few more items from out of the NFC….

  • During an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, new Lions general manager Bob Quinn said that he approached the decision of whether or not to retain head coach Jim Caldwell with an open mind (link via Tim Twentyman of “We had a series of meetings,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t just one day or one hour. It was over a couple of days and a dozen hours. Really, get to know you sessions. My philosophy and his philosophy meshed.”
  • With Kirk Cousins in line for a new contract, Washington will aim to build its roster around the quarterback, and will have to build its salary cap strategy around his new deal, writes Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post. Former agent Joel Corry tells Tesfatsion that he doesn’t expect Cousins to agree to a team-friendly long-term deal like the ones signed by Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton.
  • Mike Triplett of doesn’t expect the Saints to cut Thomas Morstead this offseason, but says the team will have to consider it, since the veteran punter – who has a $4.45MM cap hit in 2016 – may be a luxury the team can’t afford. I suggested as much back in September in my preview of New Orleans’ cap outlook for ’16.
  • Former Falcons tackle Lamar Holmes continued to work out for NFL teams this week, auditioning on Wednesday for the Cowboys, per Adam Caplan of (via Twitter). Holmes spent most of the 2015 season on the PUP list before being cut by Atlanta with an injury settlement.

Saints To Cut Brandon Fields

After spending two games with the Saints, punter Brandon Fields will return to the free agent market. According to Mike Triplett of (via Twitter), New Orleans is releasing Fields today, a hint that veteran punter Thomas Morstead may be ready to return.

Fields is only two years removed from a Pro Bowl season for Miami in 2013. However, despite restructuring his contract to make his 2015 cap hit more palatable, the 31-year-old was beaten out by Matt Darr for the Dolphins’ punting job. Fields served as the Dolphins’ punter for eight seasons before being let go earlier this year.

The Saints signed Fields to fill in for Morstead as he battled a strained quad, and the ex-Dolphins punter had 10 attempts over the last weeks — he averaged 41.2 yards per punt, which would’ve easily been the lowest mark of his career over the course of a full season.

Because he’s a vested veteran, Fields won’t have to pass through waivers before becoming a free agent.

Saints To Sign Brandon Fields

With incumbent punter Thomas Morstead battling a strained quad, the Saints brought in free agents for a look this week, and have decided to sign former Dolphin Brandon Fields, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Fields’ agent, Ian Greengross, confirmed the agreement, tweeting a congratulatory message to his client.

Fields, 31, is only two years removed from a Pro Bowl season for Miami in 2013. The veteran served as the Dolphins’ punter for eight seasons before being let go earlier this year. Despite restructuring his contract to make his 2015 cap hit more palatable, Fields was beaten out by Matt Darr for the Dolphins’ punting job.

With Morstead only expected to be sidelined for a week or two, Fields may not stick around on New Orleans’ roster for long, but he’ll play until Morstead is ready to return, tweets Marvez.

Joel A. Erickson of The Advocate first reported earlier today that Fields was among the punters to work out for the Saints.

Extra Points: Ravens, Mallett, Colts, Campbell

The Ravens completed a trade over the weekend, acquiring Chris Givens from the Rams for a future draft pick, and Peter King of wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not the last deal for a wide receiver Baltimore makes this season. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun agrees that the Ravens will certainly monitor the market, but notes that GM Ozzie Newsome isn’t the type to panic and trade future assets for a short-term fix.

Here’s more from around the NFL..

  • Texans coach Bill O’Brien told reporters that Ryan Mallett is still the team’s starting quarterback heading into Thursday’s game against the Colts, as Ian Rapoport of tweets. Mallett completed 12 of 27 passes for 150 yards and one interception with a passer rating of 46.8 on Sunday against the Falcons.
  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (on Twitter) wouldn’t be surprised to see the Colts re-sign quarterback Josh Johnson on Wednesday.
  • Dolphins players “love” the newly-appointed interim head coach Dan Campbell but there’s concern about whether the play-calling will improve, Rand Getlin of tweets.
  • After punter Thomas Morstead suffered a leg injury, the Saints are bringing in four punters for tryouts on Tuesday, a source tells Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

Luke Adams contributed to this post.