Tagged in: NFL

Green Bay Packers, Jaire Alexander finalizing four-year, $84M extension

It was never a question of if the Green Bay Packers were going to sign All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander to a contract extension. It was only a matter of when and for how much.

It happened on Monday, and it included a defensive-back-record signing bonus of $30 million as part of a four-year, $84 million contract, Alexander’s agent, John Thornton, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Alexander’s new deal averages $21 million per year, also a new mark for defensive backs.

Alexander had previously been tied to the Packers for only this season on the fifth-year option to his rookie contract. That would have paid him $13.294 million for 2022, and the whole total would have counted on this year’s salary cap. With the signing bonus prorated and a lower base salary of $1.076 million, the Packers will create significant additional salary-cap space.

Before this deal, they had about $11 million in cap space. Exactly how much cap space was created won’t be known until the full details of the contract become available.

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Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had hinted that an extension for Alexander wouldn’t be far off.

When asked before the draft last month whether they could get a long-term deal done with him, Gutekunst said: “I think we’ll get [through] this draft weekend and we’ll go down that road with some of those players.”

“He’s such a big part of what we’re doing; he’s been such a good player for us since the day he kind of arrived,” Gutekunst said of Alexander earlier this offseason. “We’d love for [an extension] to happen. Certainly we’ve been in communication with his representation and we will continue to be as we go through the year.”

The Packers’ first-round pick (No. 18) in 2018 quickly became a star. He was named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team in 2018, was picked as a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019 and made his first Pro Bowl in 2020 — when he also earned second-team All-Pro honors.

Although he played in only four matches last regular season because of a shoulder injury, he returned after a three-month absence to play in the NFC divisional playoff game versus the 49ers.

He led the Packers in pass breakups in each of his first three seasons and had the fourth-most pass breakups in the NFL from 2018 to 2020 with 42, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. Only James Bradberry (with 45), Stephon Gilmore (43) and Janoris Jenkins (43) had more.

The Packers have made a significant commitment to the cornerback position in the past year. They drafted Eric Stokes in the first round of the 2021 draft and then this March re-signed Rasul Douglas to a three-year, $21 million deal.

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Miami Dolphins reach deal with Melvin Ingram to bolster pass rush

The Dolphins and defensive end Melvin Ingram have agreed to a contract, adding quality depth to a pass rush that ranked as one of the NFL’s most aggressive last campaign.

Ingram agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Earlier this month, the Kansas City Chiefs had placed the unrestricted free agent tender on Ingram, meaning his signing with the Dolphins will count against the NFL’s compensatory-pick formula.

If Ingram had gone unsigned by July 22, the Chiefs would have retained exclusive negotiating rights to him at 110% of his 2021 salary, which would have been $4.4 million.

The three-time Pro Bowler visited the Dolphins before the draft in April. He joins Miami pass-rushers Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips and Andrew Van Ginkel on a rotation that blitzed on 38% of opponents’ dropbacks in 2021 — the second-highest rate in the league. The Dolphins’ sack rate of 7.3% was ranked seventh in the league last season.

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While the majority of the Dolphins’ major additions this offseason have come on the offensive side of the ball, Ingram represents their biggest defensive addition to date.

Miami re-signed most of its defensive free agents, including Ogbah and linebackers Elandon Roberts, Brennan Scarlett and Duke Riley. It spent fourth- and seventh-round picks on linebackers Channing Tindall and Cameron Goode, respectively.

NFL journalist Jordan Schultz was first to report Ingram’s agreement with the Dolphins.

Ingram, 33, joined the Chiefs last campaign after being dealt by the Pittsburgh Steelers shortly before the trade deadline.

After posting one sack in six matches with the Steelers, Ingram added three more in 12 games with the Chiefs.

In one of the biggest defensive plays of the season for the Chiefs, Ingram forced Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon to fumble, which was returned by linebacker Nick Bolton for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 28-24 win in the regular-season finale.

Ingram was drafted by the Chargers in 2012, and in his nine seasons there, he had 49 sacks, including a career-high 10.5 in 2015 and 2017. He was selected to play in the Pro Bowl following the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.

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Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins suspended six games for violating PED policy

Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been suspended six matches for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the league announced Monday.

The suspension comes four days after the Cardinals traded their first-round pick in the 2022 draft to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday for wide receiver Marquise Brown.

Hopkins will be permitted to play during the preseason and practice with the team until the beginning of the 2022 regular season.

Hopkins, a three-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, is set to turn 30 on June 6 and is coming off an injury-riddled season that led to the lowest output of his career.

He missed three games in the middle of last season with a hamstring injury and the final four games of the regular season, plus Arizona’s wild-card loss to the Los Angeles Rams, after suffering an MCL injury in Week 14 on Monday Night Football.

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The knee was surgically repaired in December.

In February, while making interview rounds at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, Hopkins said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that his rehab was going great and he was ahead of schedule.

Hopkins concluded with 572 yards and eight touchdowns on 42 catches a year after having 1,407 yards. Arizona went 3-4 without Hopkins during the regular season and was then blown out in the playoffs, losing 34-11 to the Rams.

Before his injuries, Hopkins was as good in 2021 as he has been in the past, or better. He had a higher catch percentage, yards per target and yards after catch per reception through Week 8. He was down slightly in yards per route, from 2.1 in his first eight seasons to 2.0 last season.

In two seasons with the Cardinals since they got him from the Houston Texans in 2020, Hopkins has 157 receptions for 1,979 yards and 14 touchdown catches.

Hopkins missed just two games in the first eight seasons of his career before missing seven last season.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft tight end, but GM says that won’t affect potential Rob Gronkowski return

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did select a tight end to start the fourth round of the NFL draft on Saturday — taking Washington’s Cade Otton with the 106th overall pick — general manager Jason Licht stated that would not affect the status of Rob Gronkowski, who remains undecided about playing in 2022.

“I’m still giving him that time,” Licht said Friday night prior to the Buccaneers’ selection.

“We still talk. I think it didn’t matter if we drafted two tight ends. It wouldn’t matter. I think Rob welcomes that; the more the merrier for him. So that doesn’t show our hand on or foretell what’s going to happen in the future.”

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Speaking from his “Gronk Beach” party at the NFL draft in Las Vegas, Gronkowski told TMZ that he was still undecided on his future but that the Buccaneers are the only team he would contemplate playing for next season.

“It’s just the Bucs,” Gronkowski said. “Love that organization, man. Love the guys there. It’s family over there.”

Gronkowski is still living in Tampa, Florida, and has worked out at the Buccaneers’ facility this offseason two days per week to stay in shape.

Otton, who had 695 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 39 matches for the Huskies, helps offset not only the potential loss of Gronkowski but also the loss of former first-round draft pick O.J. Howard, who signed with the Buffalo Bills in free agency.

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LB Robert Quinn says he hopes Chicago Bears don’t trade him

Chicago Bears edge rusher Robert Quinn stated he experienced disbelief and shock when Khalil Mack, the other half of Chicago’s dominant pass rushing duo, was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers last month for a 2022 second-round pick (No. 48) and 2023 sixth-round selection.

The Mack trade was the first major move executed by new general manager Ryan Poles before the start of free agency. The Bears eventually parted ways with more than 25 players in March via expired contracts or roster cuts.

Quinn, who set the franchise’s single-season record for sacks in 2021 with 18.5, has been the subject of trade speculation this offseason after the Bears dealt his Pro Bowl teammate for draft capital while starting a massive overhaul of the roster.

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The defensive end, who turns 32 in May, faces insecurity about his own future in Chicago, even though he remains under contract through 2024 after the Bears gave him a five-year, $70 million extension in 2020.

“The only thing I thought of was hopefully my résumé or my production from last year gives me a little weight to keep my foot in the building,” Quinn said Tuesday after being presented with the team’s Brian Piccolo Award.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business. Again, you see Khalil Mack getting traded. Again, it’s just a business. Don’t dwell on it, too crazy.”

Quinn then reiterated his desire to stay with the Bears in 2022.

“I didn’t expect to go anywhere, or want to go anywhere, but again, this is a crazy business,” Quinn said.

At the NFL owners meetings last month, Poles was asked whether considering trading Quinn was an option.

“That hasn’t come up,” Poles said in March.

For now, Quinn remains with the Bears, but he’s not particularly a fan of the phrase most would use for the state of the Bears: a rebuild.

“I don’t think that’s the right way we should phrase it, because people in — the guys in the building are professionals and I think everyone carries themselves to high expectations,” Quinn said.

“I believe, me personally, no player is better than me, and I believe everyone else should carry themselves the same way. So to say, ‘a rebuild’ is, I guess, a funny word. I think it’s just getting guys to believe who they truly are, and perform at their high level of expectations, because everyone’s talented enough, because they’re here. Now you’ve just got to go prove it.”

Speaking ahead of his first draft as general manager, Poles addressed the situation the Bears are currently in with a roster that only has 64 players under contract and a host of needs they hope to address with the NFL draft this week, most notably along the offensive line and at wide receiver and cornerback.

The way Poles describes it, the Bears view the state of the team as a remodeling project, not a rebuild.

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Russell Wilson ‘feels great’ after first minicamp with Denver Broncos

Year 1 of the Russell Wilson experience for the Denver Broncos officially got underway Monday as the team went through the first day of a three-day voluntary veteran minicamp.

The Broncos completed the blockbuster trade to obtain Wilson in March, and he has since quickly found his way around the city at sporting events and the Children’s Hospital. His purchase of a suburban Denver mansion became a viral sensation.

But Monday was the first time Wilson and the rest of his teammates were on the field with Broncos first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett and the team’s staff.

It was a heavyweight battle of enthusiasm and energy with Hackett filling in at running back to work through some play-action scenarios when many of the team’s players were in special-teams drills.

“I told him at the end, congratulations on our first practice together,” Wilson said. “… To give him little handoffs here and there, somebody called him ‘White Lightning,’ I don’t know, but he looked good over there.”

“I always wanted to play running back,” Hackett said. “… There was some special teams going on … we’ve got to get out there and give them a look, I feel like I have it a realistic look.”

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Asked about his 40 time, Hackett added “let’s not talk about that.”

Wilson has spent time with the team’s pass-catchers and running backs in recent weeks, first at throwing sessions in San Diego shortly after the trade to go with some workouts locally as the Broncos opened their offseason program April 16.

But the existing minicamp, though still limited by the league’s offseason practice rules, was the first practice with all of the coaches mingling with all of the players. And it was clear Wilson’s presence has changed the dynamic of things.

“This guy loves practice, out there at there at the end, he’s like ‘We’re done, can’t we do more?’ I’m like, ‘Man, I’d love to, but baby steps,'” Hackett said of Wilson.

“To be here, standing right here, now that I’m here, it feels right,” Wilson said. “It feels great, I’m excited about it, and also too, at the same time, there’s a lot more to do.”

Hackett stated the Broncos are in the beginning of the installation of the playbook on offense.

“[Monday] was just kind of the very basics of what we do,” he said. “Then we’ll slowly start expanding that with the guys through Phase 2 and the OTAs.”

The Broncos have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, and Wilson, when he starts Week 1, will be the 11th different quarterback and 12th different player to start a game behind center for the Broncos since Peyton Manning retired after the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 win.

Running back Phillip Lindsay started behind center versus the New Orleans Saints during the 2020 season. “Been an amazing experience so far,” Wilson said. “… If I was going to go somewhere, I had to go somewhere that wanted to win. And this is one of those places that definitely wants to do that.”

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WR DeVante Parker says he ‘chose’ to be traded from Miami Dolphins to New England Patriots

DeVante Parker was granted his wish; the Miami Dolphins received the draft capital they were looking for; and the New England Patriots got a player they hope will be a top wide receiver for quarterback Mac Jones.

That’s how the primary people involved in the rare intradivision trade — the Dolphins shipping Parker and a 2022 fifth-round pick to the Patriots for a 2023 third-rounder — described what unfolded. There have been just six intradivision trades in the NFL over the last five years, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“I chose to get traded here,” Parker said Thursday in his first interview since the April 2 deal. “My agent [Jimmy Gould] hit me up, just telling me what the situation was, and the options I had for the teams to go to. The first on my list was the Patriots. I’m just excited we were able to get everything done.”

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier confirmed Wednesday that that’s how it went down, noting that once Miami traded for Tyreek Hill after signing free-agent receiver Cedrick Wilson, Parker’s status with the team changed.

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“When you have an opportunity to do right by the player and the organization — both sides feel good about it. This was never anything where we [had] planned to trade DeVante,” Grier said, highlighting how trading for Hill altered the dynamic.

“Multiple teams called; the Patriots were the most aggressive. We worked with the agent, talked to DeVante, we wanted to do right by him as well. Getting that third-round pick was very important to us. We were fine if it was this year or next year.”

Parker, who played the first seven years of his career with the Dolphins, has spent the past week participating in the Patriots’ voluntary offseason program.

He stated he enjoyed playing in front of Patriots fans as an AFC East rival and said that is one reason he decided being in New England was “just something I want to be a part of.”

The 6-foot-3, 219-pound player added that he likes playing different spots, which is a staple of the Patriots’ offense, and that he hopes to add a down-the-field presence who can high-point deliveries from Jones, the second-year quarterback.

Parker has previously spent time working with Jones in Tampa, Florida, along with fellow Patriots receivers Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers.

“My impressions of Mac: He has a nice arm on him. He was zipping it,” Parker said. “It was a great workout for all of us. It was good for me to come down and start throwing with him early, get the timing down.

“Mac is a good quarterback. The way he throws the ball, it’s not tough. He throws a catchable ball. It’s something I’m looking forward to during the season.”

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Cleveland Browns make Denzel Ward NFL’s top-paid CB with five-year, $100.5 million extension

The Cleveland Browns are signing Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward to a five-year, $100.5 million contract extension that includes $71.25 million guaranteed, Tory Dandy of CAA Sports, who negotiated the contract, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

At age 24, Ward is now the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. The $20.1 million average annual salary puts him ahead of Jalen Ramsey, who had been the highest-paid cornerback at $20 million per campaign on the deal he signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020.

Ramsey congratulated Ward on his new deal, tweeting: “I been waiting on somebody else to touch that 100 club & you DEFINITELY DESERVE IT @denzelward … congrats.” Ward is now under contract with the Browns for six more years, through the 2027 season. He is under contract for $13.294 million this season after the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on his contract last year.

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The Browns selected Ward fourth overall in 2018, the same draft the team selected quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall. Ward got a second contract from the Browns, but Mayfield and the franchise are headed for a separation after Cleveland traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson and signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension.

The Browns have spent $340.5 million in guaranteed money on all contracts this offseason, the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

That involves extensions, not only the money given to free agents, and $301.25 million of that total was given to Watson and Ward.

Ward tweeted thanks to the Browns “for continuing to believe in the home grown kid and allowing me to represent this organization and city of Cleveland where I’m from.” He also thanked Dandy for the work he put in to finalize the deal.

Ward has been selected to two Pro Bowls in his first four seasons — his rookie year in 2018 and in 2021. He has 10 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and 50 passes defended in 52 games.

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Green Bay Packers sign veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins

The Green Bay Packers are finally adding to their receiver room by signing veteran Sammy Watkins.

The team revealed the deal on Thursday but didn’t reveal terms. A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Watkins’ contract is for one year and worth up to $4 million.

The Packers have lost three of their top receivers this offseason, headed by All-Pro Davante Adams in a trade to the Las Vegas Raiders. They also lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Chiefs) and Equanimeous St. Brown (Bears) in free agency.

The Packers’ top remaining receivers are Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers.

They haven’t used a first-round pick on a receiver since 2002 (Javon Walker) but have two picks in each of the first two rounds after the Adams trade, putting them in position to address that spot high in the draft.

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Packers head coach Matt LaFleur coached Watkins with the Rams in 2017, and Packers receivers coach Jason Vrable was in Buffalo when the Bills drafted him fourth overall in 2014.

Watkins, 28, has had difficulty staying healthy throughout his career.

He continued to struggle with injuries in his only season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, ending with career lows in receptions (27) and receiving yards (394).

He has missed 30 matches over the past seven seasons, and he hasn’t played a full season since his 2014 rookie season.

He made two of the biggest catches of the season for Baltimore, setting up winning scores versus the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, but Watkins had no catches — and just three targets — in his final four games as he fell behind Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay on the depth chart.

In his eight-year career, Watkins has totaled 348 receptions for 5,059 yards receiving and 34 touchdown catches for the Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and Ravens.

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Derek Carr agrees to 3-year, $121.5 million extension with Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a multiyear contract extension Wednesday.

The Raiders did not disclose terms of the deal, but a source confirmed to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Carr agreed to a three-year, $121.5 million extension that contains a no-trade clause and runs through the 2025 season.

Carr also mentioned Wednesday that he will be with the Raiders for “four more” years and stated he would have understood had the new regime of general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels wanted “somebody new” at quarterback.

“But the fact that they keep believing in me and watching the tape and saying, ‘Wow, we want you to be here for some more years or some more time,’ that means more to me, way more to me than any of the other stuff it has to do with,” Carr said. “It was very clear to me how they felt about me from day one.”

Carr, 31, is arranged to make $19.87 million in base salary in 2022. He signed a five-year, $125 million extension in 2017 that was, at the time, the richest contract in NFL history.

His new money average per year of $40.5 million (for the extension only) ranks fifth among NFL quarterbacks.

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“Derek Carr has been the leader of this franchise for a long time and we are thrilled to continue that relationship moving forward,” McDaniels said in a statement released by the team.

“He has been a great example of someone who always puts the team first and we appreciate his desire to keep doing that while leading on and off the field. It is clear how much Derek cares about this organization, his teammates and winning. I look forward to the opportunity to work with him this season and beyond.”

Carr reiterated Wednesday that he only wanted to be a Raider and was “crazy enough” and willing to play out the final year of his deal in 2022.

“I told my agent, ‘I’m either going to be a Raider, or I’m going to be playing golf. I don’t want to play anywhere else,'” he said. “That’s how much this place means to me.

Carr is coming off a season with a career-best 4,804 passing yards and had 23 touchdowns, a career-worst 14 interceptions and 40 sacks, the second-highest total of his eight-year career.

The Raiders went 10-7 and played in the postseason for the second time since 2002 despite a turbulent season marked by the resignation of coach Jon Gruden, the arrest of receiver Henry Ruggs III and the release of cornerback Damon Arnette.

Las Vegas lost in the wild-card round at the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals 26-19 as Carr threw a fourth-and-goal interception in front of the goal line with 12 seconds left.

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