Tyreek Hill

Chiefs To Prioritize Extensions For Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones; Latest On Dee Ford

The Chiefs are presently benefiting from having star quarterback Patrick Mahomes playing under his rookie contract, which means they will have some money to sign other key members of their roster to long-term deals. Per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link), Kansas City plans to explore an extension for wide receiver Tyreek Hill this offseason, and a new deal for Hill is perhaps the team’s top offseason priority.

Hill could hardly have had a better start to his professional career, having earned three Pro Bowl nods and two First Team All-Pro selections in his first three seasons in the NFL. The former fifth-round pick out of West Alabama is under contract through the 2019 campaign and will be eligible for an extension for the first time this offseason. His current deal would pay him a $720K base salary next season, which is laughably low for someone of his caliber. Indeed, Rapoport suggests that Hill could become the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, and it would not be surprising to see him land a contract paying him $18MM or more per season with a $40MM+ guarantee.

The Chiefs are also expected to pursue an extension for third-year defensive end Chris Jones, a significant part of the team’s fearsome pass rush who racked up 15.5 sacks this season in a true breakout performance. Given the ever-increasing price tag for quality pass rushers, particularly ones who are just entering the primes of their careers, Jones will also be in line for a major payday.

Another pillar of Kansas City’s pass rush, Dee Ford, is eligible for unrestricted free agency this offseason. Ford had something of an up-and-down career before 2018, but his 13 sacks this year will put him in high demand should he reach the open market. We heard just last week that Ford would have the opportunity to explore free agency, as the Chiefs are not planning to put the franchise tag on him, but Rapoport hears differently. Rapoport says the team has not ruled out putting the tag on Ford, and they certainly have enough cash to do so.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2019 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $2MM in 2019. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2019 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

Bears: RB Jordan Howard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Bengals: LB Nick Vigil

Broncos: G Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, S Justin Simmons

Browns: S Derrick Kindred, LB Joe Schobert

Buccaneers: G Caleb Benenoch, DE Carl Nassib, CB Ryan Smith

Chargers: LB Jatavis Brown

Chiefs: CB Kendall Fuller, WR Tyreek Hill, S Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson

Colts: QB Jacoby Brissett, T Joe Haeg

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown, DT Maliek Collins, QB Dak Prescott

Dolphins: RB Kenyan Drake

Eagles: CB Jalen Mills, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, G Wes Schweitzer

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Jets: LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Rashard Robinson, T Brandon Shell

Lions: C Graham Glasgow

Packers: LB Kyler Fackrell, DE Dean Lowry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Antonio Morrison

Patriots: G Joe Thuney, LB Elandon Roberts

Rams: G Austin Blythe, TE Tyler Higbee

Ravens: DE Matt Judon, OL Alex Lewis, CB Tavon Young

Saints: DT David Onyemata

Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave

Texans: DT D.J. Reader

Titans: S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe

OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 

West Notes: Raiders, Hill, Ekeler, 49ers

The long-anticipated Reggie McKenzie departure leaves the Raiders in search of a replacement, but Jon Gruden is not certain to be involved in the interview process that will lead to his new decision-making partner/lieutenant.

I know Mark (Davis) is going to accumulate a list of names and candidates, and I’m sure we’ll discuss those people later this week,” Gruden said (via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez). “Right now, I don’t have any idea. … I’m not revealing any candidates because I don’t know of any.”

Jaguars player personnel director Chris Polian, Lions exec Jimmy Raye III and former Gruden Buccaneers coworker Mark Domenik have been loosely connected to the Raiders’ vacancy thus far. The team may want an executive who can push back against Gruden when necessary, per SI.com’s Albert Breer. College scouting director Shaun Herock is now filling in for McKenzie as GM, and Davis views Herock as a key organizational piece going forward. Gruden stopped short of proclaiming McKenzie’s right-hand man, player personnel director Joey Clinkscales, would have a long-term role. But Clinkscales remains in his post following McKenzie’s firing.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • With a home game against the Chargers and a road tilt in Seattle, the Chiefs have a tough back-to-back assignment coming up. Their top wide receiver likely will not be 100 percent for those games. Tyreek Hill said Sunday, via NBC Sports’ Peter King, his foot was “bad.” Hill left Sunday’s overtime win because of injury but returned, and Andy Reid expects the deep threat to play against the Bolts on Thursday. The Chiefs possessed a top-flight skill-position quartet, powering Patrick Mahomes‘ MVP candidacy, this season. But they are now without Kareem Hunt and Sammy Watkins, the latter likely out until the playoffs. Hill has not missed an NFL game due to injury. A Hill absence would make Kansas City vulnerable against a Chargers team that would move into an 11-3 tie atop the AFC West with a win. That said, the Chiefs would still hold the divisional-record tiebreaker and keep the top spot.
  • Chances for a Thursday recovery for Austin Ekeler aren’t as good. The second-year Chargers running back suffered a bruised nerve in his neck, per Eric Williams of ESPN.com, and although he played through similar discomfort earlier this season, Ekeler not playing appears to be the most likely scenario. “It’s football, yeah, but there’s a lot of life after football, too,” Ekeler said Monday. Melvin Gordon is expected to return from his MCL injury, however.
  • The 49ers drafted N.C. State’s Kentavius Street shortly after he tore his ACL in a pre-draft workout with the Giants, but the rookie defensive end may be on the verge of practicing, Kyle Shanahan said Monday. Street is on the 49ers’ NFI list and will not play in a game this season, though, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports (on Twitter). Still, practice work would help as Street prepares for a hopefully healthy 2019 offseason.
  • In case you missed it, Doug Baldwin is inactive for tonight’s Seahawks-Vikings game. Baldwin, who’s battled a knee injury most of this season, is now dealing with a hip problem.

Reactions To Kareem Hunt’s Release

Less than an hour after the NFL placed Kareem Hunt on the Commissioner Exempt list, the Chiefs cut the Pro Bowl running back last night. The transaction followed the release of a TMZ video that showed Hunt pushing a woman to the ground and kicking her while on the floor in an incident at a Cleveland hotel this past February.

“Earlier this year, we were made aware of an incident involving running back Kareem Hunt,” the Chiefs said in their statement. “At that time, the National Football League and law enforcement initiated investigations into the issue. As part of our internal discussions with Kareem, several members of our management team spoke directly to him. Kareem was not truthful in those discussions. The video released today confirms that fact. We are releasing Kareem immediately.”

Predictably, there have been a number of reactions and observations following the transaction, which we’ve compiled below:

  • Yahoo’s Terez Paylor believes the Chiefs’ statement was “unusually firm,” noting that team chairman and CEO Clark Hunt was presumably acting in the best interest of the NFL. The writer says it wouldn’t have been much of surprise if the organization held on to Hunt and let him sit on the exempt list until there was some kind of resolution. Ultimately, Paylor believes the Chiefs were trying to avoid the narrative that they had “an indifferent attitude about violence against women,” especially following their selection of wideout Tyreek Hill and the tragic death of Jovan Belcher.
  • Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com dives more into the different approaches the Chiefs took with Hill and Hunt. Hill was involved in a 2014 domestic violence case that saw him getting kicked off the Oklahoma State football team and being removed from a number of subsequent draft boards. Hill eventually pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation, and he was slapped with a three-year probation. The Chiefs still selected the wideout in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, and Smith surmise’s that their decision (especially when compared to the Hunt transaction) was attributed to a lack of video evidence. The writer notes that the Ray Rice case proves that “video makes things different,” and he also notes that Hill was already sentenced before he was selected.
  • Following the NFL’s decision to suspend Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games following an alleged domestic violence incident, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wonders if the league has “softened its stern, unforgiving approach to off-field misconduct.” If the NFL didn’t actively pursue video of the Hunt video, the writer believes it’s an indication that the league is looking for a middle ground between the Elliott and Hunt ordeals.
  • Judy Battista of NFL.com writes that Hunt’s waiver status creates a “moral quandary” for the other 31 NFL teams. The writer says a potential waiver claim can’t be dismissed, especially after the Redskins claimed Reuben Foster (who was waived by the 49ers following his arrest for an alleged domestic violence incident). Battista ultimately believes that the biggest difference between Hunt and Foster is the presence of a video; a team can be willfully ignorant to any indiscretions if there isn’t any footage of an alleged incident.
  • NESN’s Doug Kyed points out one “messed up” aspect of Hunt being waived: assuming the running back passes through waivers and signs a deal before next season, he’ll end up earning more than the $667K and $735K he was set to make via his rookie deal (Twitter link). Kyed adds that if Hunt is claimed on waivers, it’d end up being worse for him financially, and if a team plans on eventually signing Hunt, it may be in their best financial interest to claim him.

Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill Hires Drew Rosenhaus

Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill has hired Drew Rosenhaus as his new representation, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.Tyreek Hill (Vertical)

NFL draft picks can’t negotiate extensions until the completion of their third season in the league, so Hill isn’t eligible for a new deal until the end of the 2018 campaign. Hill, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, is scheduled to carry cap charges between $550K and $800K from 2016-18 before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Because he wasn’t a first-round choice, Hill can’t be kept in Kansas City in 2019 via a fifth-year option.

Instead of working on a new deal immediately, Hills hopes to “further his brand via involvement in community activities and to parlay his on-field performance into marketing deals,” reports Florio. Hill, notably, pleaded guilty to domestic violence against his pregnant girlfriend in advance of last year’s draft, and while he’s stayed out of trouble since that time, his off-field image is still somewhat tarnished.

On the field, Hill has picked up where he left off last season. Through four games as the undefeated Chiefs’ new No. 1 wide receiver, Hill has posted 21 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also rushed the ball six times and handled six punts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Hill, Ingram, Boyle

Tyreek Hill was a revelation for the Chiefs last year, and his success as a rookie is one of the reasons the club was comfortable making the surprise decision to release Jeremy Maclin. And as Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star writes, Hill’s role with Kansas City this year will evolve accordingly.

For one, Hill will not be used on kickoff returns, as the team cannot afford to risk his health any more than is strictly necessary (though he will still be deployed on punt returns). Secondly, because Hill is fairly small — Paylor says the 185-pounder is closer to 5-8 than the 5-10 he is listed as — the Chiefs will need to limit his workload to some degree, although head coach Andy Reid, who was generally successful in managing the workloads of players like DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook, is unconcerned about that aspect of Hill’s development. Finally, the team expects Hill to step into Maclin’s “Z” receiver spot, the spotlight position in Reid’s offense. The Chiefs believe Hill’s abilities make a Steve Smith-like trajectory — i.e. a small but electric return man becoming a similarly prolific wideout — a strong possibility.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • The Chargers are still negotiating a long-term deal with Melvin Ingram, who is one of two franchise-tagged players yet to sign their tenders or reach a long-term deal with their respective teams (Le’Veon Bell is the other). However, given that Ingram is likely looking for an Olivier Vernon-esque contract (five years, $85MM), Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com says it is more likely Ingram plays under the tag in 2017. That may end up being the best result for both sides, as Ingram would still collect a nice payday this year ($14.55MM), and he would hit the open market at age 29 next year, as Los Angeles is unlikely to tag him again. The Chargers, meanwhile, would get the benefit of Ingram’s services this season, and there is a good chance new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley can adequately develop one of the team’s young pass rushers to replace Ingram’s production in 2018.
  • Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believes the Browns may get more involved in the Jeremy Maclin sweepstakes if he does not sign with either Baltimore or Buffalo — which seems like a long shot at the moment — and she says Cleveland will likely at least inquire on Eric Decker, which the team has done with every quality veteran receiver hitting the market.
  • Even without Dennis Pitta, the Ravens have a crowded tight end corps., but Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com believes little-known Nick Boyle could be the player to emerge as Joe Flacco‘s go-to target at the position. Boyle has size and good hands and is a capable blocker, and though he has already been suspended twice in his brief career for PED violations, health has not been an issue for him, as it has been for his fellow tight ends on the roster. The team has also discussed using him as a fullback.
  • We rounded up a number of Jets-related notes earlier today.

Extra Points: Chiefs, Lynn, Draft, Crawford

Andy Reid plans to use Tyreek Hill more next season. After the rookie began the year as mostly a special teams-only presence, he became featured as a frequent part of the Chiefs‘ offense, and Reid wants to increase his involvement.

He was averaging 35 plays a game [in 2016],” Reid said on a SiriusXM NFL Radio appearance (via Alex Marvez of the Sporting News). “Maybe he can double that or at least take it up a couple notches and allow him to get in more in a starting role. … I’d expect him to learn that whole [playbook] by the end of all the OTAs and training camp and then be even more of a threat.”

Hill scored 12 touchdowns and became a unanimous All-Pro selection as a return man. The polarizing speedster emerged as Chiefs’ best No. 2 receiver candidate in years by catching 61 passes for 593 yards. Hill becoming a bigger part of the Chiefs’ offense lessens their need for pass-catching help. During previous Reid years, the team relied on a committee approach to fill that role.

Here’s more from the Chiefs and the rest of the league.

  • Reid addressed Eric Berry‘s status as well, wanting the Chiefs to retain the decorated UFA safety. “We love E.B. I think everybody in our building would ditto that,” Reid said. “If we can get this thing done, that’s obviously a priority in the offseason. It’s been a good marriage.” It would cost the Chiefs nearly $13MM to apply the franchise tag to Berry again, but Tyrann Mathieu‘s $12MM-AAV+ deal raised the bar for safeties since the Chiefs’ last negotiations with Chiefs management. Berry acknowledged earlier this week he believed his agent has spoken with the Chiefs about a deal. Kansas City is projected to possess $4.6MM in cap room but can create over $16MM more by releasing Jamaal Charles and Nick Foles.
  • Prior to the Chargers entering the race, Anthony Lynn saw the Bills as the best opportunity for him. The newest Los Angeles HC was connected to every team in need of a coach, save for the 49ers. “To me, [Buffalo] was the best place for me to be because I knew the personnel, I knew all the people I was working with and I think that was the quickest turnaround,” Lynn said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Although, after the Chargers became interested, Lynn said he quickly pivoted to their situation. “They have a quarterback; they have key players at every position, at skill positions, and a young, talented defense, I thought that right there was a great opportunity,” he said. “And that’s where I put all my focus, was in that job after the season was over, and thank God it came through.”
  • Senior Bowl executive director and former Browns GM Phil Savage did not speak highly of this year’s quarterback class. “It’s probably not a good year to say, ‘We’ve got to have one,’ ” Savage said, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “You never know, but there’s questions with more guys this year.” Savage isn’t the first to cast doubt on the Deshaun Watson-, DeShone Kizer– and Mitch Trubisky-fronted class. Multiple execs expressed similar sentiments recently.
  • Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford underwent shoulder surgery for the second straight offseason, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Crawford faces an uncertain future as a starter, Hill writes. The veteran lineman, though, cannot be realistically cut this year. The Cowboys, who signed him to a five-year deal in 2015, would be saddled with $10.4MM in dead money.
  • Busy retooling their defensive staff, the Saints also interviewed Redskins assistant special teams coach Brad Banta for their special teams coach opening, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets.

West Notes: Donald, Seahawks, Monroe, Rams

Agent Todd France believes that Rams lineman Aaron Donald will soon be in line for a monster contract extension a la fellow defensive tackles Fletcher Cox, Ndamukong Suh, and Marcell Dareus (Twitter link via Alex Marvez of SiriusXM). Donald, 25, was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the year in 2014 after a stellar freshman campaign. Last year, he played in all 16 games for the Rams and amped up his overall production, notching 11 sacks and 69 total tackles.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • The Seahawks have been linked to free agent tackle Eugene Monroe, but Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times doesn’t see it happening and envisions some other team paying him the ~$5-6MM he’s probably seeking. Some observers feel that the Seahawks could use a boost on the O-Line, but Condotta writes that they are more content with what they have than some may think. As the Seahawks’ page on Roster Resource shows, the Seahawks are currently slated to trot out Garry Gilliam at left tackle, Mark Glowinski at left guard, Justin Britt at center, Germain Ifedi at right guard and J’Marcus Webb at right tackle.
  • Chiefs fifth-round receiver Tyreek Hill has the most unusual contract of any rookie in the 2016 class, Ben Volin of The Boston Globe writes. Hill received the slotted $218K of guaranteed cash, but KC slashed his signing bonus to $70K. In exchange, Hill received guaranteed money in the form of 2017 base salary and offseason roster bonuses and gave him a total of ~$150K in roster bonuses over the length of the deal for staying on the team each year.
  • More from Volin, who writes that other NFL teams can’t be happy with the Rams‘ refusal to include offset language in their rookie contracts. Offset language, of course, prevents a player from collecting on two salaries in the event that he is cut and signed by another squad. In cases where there is offset language, the team only owes the difference between the old and new salary. The Rams and Jaguars, however, are not putting this provision in deals and the Rams specifically are setting a bad precedent for other teams by doing things this way with No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff.

Chiefs Sign Entire Draft Class

The Chiefs have now signed their entire 2016 draft class, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter link) that the club has inked the lone holdout, third-round defensive back KeiVarae Russell. Russell was chosen with the 74th overall pick, which Kansas City picked up in a draft day trade with the Buccaneers.KeiVarae Russell (Vertical)

Kansas City didn’t make a selection in the first round of the draft, trading down with the 49ers in order to a acquire a second-, fourth-, and sixth-round pick. The Chiefs were reportedly interested in quarterback Paxton Lynch, but after the Broncos traded up to select him at pick No. 26, KC decided to move back and pick up more draft capital. The club also didn’t originally have a third-round pick, as that selection was forfeited as a result of a tampering incident (though, as noted, the Chiefs did eventually pick up a third-rounder).

The class in its entirety:

Kansas City Chiefs

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Fournette, Colts, Dolphins, Chiefs

LSU running back Leonard Fournette is expected to a high draft choice in 2017, but he’ll be financially covered in the event that something goes awry. As Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com details, Fournette’s parents have purchased two $10MM insurance policies — one that would cover a career-ending injury, and another that would kick in if Fournette falls in next year’s draft. The entire article is well-worth a read, as Dodd excellently reports on the largely unregulated industry of NCAA athlete insurance.

Here’s more from around the league…

  • Former New Orleans scout Brendan Prophett is reportedly set to join the Lions as the team’s new director of pro scouting, and Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (Twitter link) hears that Prophett chose that position over a similar role in the Colts‘ front office.
  • Elsewhere in front office news, Marvez reports (Twitter link) that the Dolphins are promoting scout Adam Engroff to college scouting director. According to Miami’s media guide, Engroff has worked for the club since 1999, and has spent the past four years as a national scout.
  • Tom Reed of Cleveland.com takes a look at Browns undrafted rookie free agent Mike Matthews, a former Texas A&M center who is brother to Jake Matthews and cousin to Clay Matthews. Mike, for his part, says Cleveland was his first choice when identifying potential landing spot.
  • The Chiefs selected West Alabama receiver Tyreek Hill in the fifth round despite his having a domestic violence arrest in his past, but general manager John Dorsey told Pro Football Talk Live that Hill is not guaranteed a roster spot.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.