NFL Notes: Donald signs $135 million extension

The Sports Xchange

August 31, 2018 at 7:38 pm.

The Los Angeles Rams and Aaron Donald finalized terms on a contract extension that will make the star tackle the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, the team announced Friday.

Financial terms of the contract were not released by the team, but according to multiple media outlets, Donald will make $135 million on the six-year extension. The deal features a staggering $87 million guaranteed, including a $40 million signing bonus.

The average annual salary of a little more than $22 million enables Donald to eclipse Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller as the NFL’s top-paid defender. Miller makes $19 million per year and received $70 million in guaranteed money.

The 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Donald is tied to the reigning NFC West champion Rams through the 2024 season. Donald’s salary for the upcoming season is $6.892 million as part of the fifth year on his rookie contract.

Donald has yet to report to training camp and skipped all of the Rams’ voluntary and mandatory offseason workouts while he was waiting for the team to negotiate a long-term extension.

The 27-year-old Donald also missed the preseason a year ago but still registered a career high-tying 11.0 sacks and amassed a league-high 91 quarterback pressures despite sitting out two games.

The former University of Pittsburgh standout was selected first-team All-Pro for the third straight year and to the Pro Bowl for the fourth year in a row.

The 6-foot-1, 280-pound Donald, the No. 13 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, was named the league’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after collecting 9.0 sacks in 2014.

Donald has 148 solo tackles and 39 sacks since entering the league. He is one of four players with at least 8.0 sacks in each of the last four seasons and has an NFL-best 88 tackles for loss in that span.

The Rams open the season against the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 10.

–Pro Bowl defensive end Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders, holding out for a massive new contract, broke his silence on Thursday night on Twitter.

Mack responded to a tweet from Ted Nguyen of The Athletic by saying: “I miss it.”

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr replied to Mack in another Twitter post: “I miss you.” (BFF’s forever. Heart emoji. #AintThatCute.)

The question is whether Mack, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, will decide to rejoin his teammates before their opener a week from Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams.

Mack will lose game checks of about $800,000 for every regular-season game he misses. The two sides reportedly have not had contract talks for several months.

Teams contacting the Raiders about a possible trade reportedly have been told that Oakland wants at least two first-round draft choices in exchange for the NFL’s 2016 Defensive Player of the Year.

There is speculation that the Rams’ signing of defensive tackle Aaron Donald on Friday might lead to an end to the Raiders-Mack stalemate because it sets a new bar for defensive players of that caliber.

–Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, bothered by tight hamstrings, will practice Monday, but there is no guarantee he will play in the opener next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Gordon missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons plus all but five games last year because of suspensions related to violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The 27-year-old Gordon also missed most of training camp this year while on the non-football injury list as he completed a health treatment program, and only recently was cleared by the NFL to play this season.

Browns coach Hue Jackson said Gordon will be back on the practice field Monday but told Tom Withers of the Associated Press that he should be “a little more than limited.”

Gordon, selected by the Browns out of Baylor in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft, caught 87 passes for a league-leading 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013 despite being suspended for the first two games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

A first-team All-Pro selection that season, he has played in only 10 games since.

Gordon has 179 receptions for 3,089 yards and 15 touchdowns in 40 games during his NFL career.

Jackson also said safety Damarious Randall will return to practice on Monday after being sidelined by a knee injury.

–The Houston Texans released punter Shane Lechler, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The 42-year-old Lechler was beaten out for the starting job in Houston by rookie Trevor Daniel.

During Thursday’s final preseason game, Lechler averaged 29.2 yards on five punts in a 14-6 win over Dallas. Conversely, Daniel averaged 38.8 yards on four punts.

Lechler was re-signed to a one-year contract by the Texans in March. The deal was worth a reported $1.4 million and included a $600,000 signing bonus.

A former fifth-round draft pick of Oakland in 2000, Lechler spent his first 13 seasons with the Raiders before playing with Houston the last five years.

Lechler finished second in the NFL with a 49.0-yard gross average last season, trailing only Brett Kern (49.7) of the Tennessee Titans. He was ninth in the league with a 41.3-yard net average.

A seven-time Pro Bowl selection during his career, Lechler also was a six-time first-team All-Pro pick, including his rookie campaign.

Lechler is the NFL’s all-time leader in gross punting average with a career mark of 47.6. He led the league in gross punting average five times, including three consecutive seasons from 2003 to 2005. He set a career high with a 51.1 average in 2009.

Daniel spent his last three seasons at the University of Tennessee. He established a career high with an average 47.5 yards per kick in 2017.

–The New England Patriots traded defensive back Jordan Richards to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons sent a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to New England in exchange for Richards, Atlanta announced on its official website.

Richards appeared in 16 games, making five starts, for the Patriots in 2017 and had a career-high 22 tackles. He had one forced fumble and one pass defensed. He also played in all three postseason games and added five total tackles and one special teams tackle.

A second-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Stanford, Richards started two of 11 games as a rookie, collecting 20 tackles. He was a sparse contributor in 2016, not making a tackle in 11 games.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Richards appeared in at least 13 games in each of his four seasons at Stanford.

Richards had three interceptions in each of his last three seasons with the Cardinal and established a career high with 80 tackles as a senior.

For his career at Stanford, Richards notched 245 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, nine pass defenses, nine interceptions, two forced fumbles and a sack.

The Falcons open their season Thursday night at defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia.

–New York Jets wide receiver Jermaine Kearse might not be available for the regular-season opener.

Kearse has been sidelined because of an abdominal injury and recently underwent a medical procedure, the New York Daily News reported Friday, citing sources.

Entering his seventh NFL season overall and second with New York, Kearse missed the final two preseason games because of the injury.

Jets coach Todd Bowles was vague on Kearse’s condition, telling the newspaper recently that he was “getting better every day.”

As far a potential timetable for Kearse’s return, Bowles labeled him “day to day, week to week.”

Kearse was acquired from the Seattle Seahawks just before the 2017 season in a trade that sent defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson to the Pacific Northwest.

The 28-year-old Kearse appeared in 16 games, making 14 starts, for New York last season, hauling in a career-best 65 receptions to go with five touchdowns.

“He does all the little things,” Bowles told the newspaper.” He does all the things right and he’s a gamer. He shows up on Sunday — every Sunday — and I think he’s been a good guy for the young guys, young receivers to follow after from a work ethic standpoint.”

Kearse is part of a crowded wide receiver corps with the Jets that includes Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Terrelle Pryor.

That unit was thinned out Friday when wide receiver Charles Johnson was among seven players reportedly cut by New York.

–Baltimore Ravens cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste sustained a broken arm in the final preseason game.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced the injury after the team’s 30-20 exhibition win over the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.

With final roster cuts set for this weekend, Jean-Baptiste is a likely candidate to be placed on injured reserve.
“It looks pretty serious,” Harbaugh said, per the team’s official website. “We’ll see tomorrow, but it looks like a broken arm.”

Jean-Baptiste was injured in the first half. He exited the field clutching his right arm and was in a cast and a sling at the end of the game.

“It’s a tough thing, but I believe everything happens for a reason,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I can’t put my mind around it, why it’s happening. But it is. I just have to take it a day at a time.

“I got some encouragement from my teammates because they knew it was pretty serious, so they were trying to keep my head up.”

Jean-Baptiste, 28, appeared to be a good bet to make the active roster, particularly with top cornerback Jimmy Smith facing a four-game suspension to open the season.

The 6-foot-3, 216-pound Jean-Baptiste was having a strong preseason, intercepting passes on consecutive games against Indianapolis and Miami.

A second-round pick of New Orleans in the 2014 NFL Draft, Jean-Baptiste appeared in four games with the Saints as a rookie. He did not play in the next two seasons.

Jean-Baptiste started 2017 on Jacksonville’s practice squad and was signed to the Ravens’ practice squad in October. He was signed to the active roster in December and played in one game.

–Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was taken off the physically unable to perform list on Friday.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson announced the move after Philadelphia wrapped up its preseason with a 10-9 victory over the New York Jets on Thursday night.

Jeffery has been rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, but Pederson told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the veteran wide receiver is considered day to day.

Earlier this week, Pederson said Jeffery is “progressing well” but declined to speculate on whether he’d be available for the season opener. ESPN reported that Jeffery will miss at least the first two games of the regular season.

Jeffery was bothered by the shoulder injury last season but still had 57 catches for 789 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season. He added 12 receptions for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles’ three postseason games en route to winning the Super Bowl.

He had surgery to repair the shoulder problem last season, which was his first with the Eagles.

For his career, the 28-year-old Jeffery has 361 receptions for 5,338 yards and 35 touchdowns in seven seasons. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2013.

–Former Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek announced his retirement on Friday.

Celek, who spent his entire career with the Eagles before he was released in March, made the move on the team’s official website.

An 11-year veteran, Celek was the longest-tenured player for Philadelphia at the time of his release, which came just more than two months after the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

Although the 33-year-old Celek missed only one game in his career, his role declined with the emergence of Zack Ertz at tight end.

Celek finished with a career-low total in catches (13) and receiving yards (130) last season. He had only 14 receptions for 155 yards in 2016.

A fifth-round draft pick of the Eagles out of Cincinnati in 2007, Celek had his best season in 2009, setting career highs with 76 receptions for 971 yards and eight touchdowns.

For his career, Celek has 398 catches for 4,998 yards and 31 scores. He had 237 of those receptions with 18 scores during a four-year span (2009-2012).

“Brent Celek defines what it means to be a Philadelphia Eagle. His dedication to his profession and this organization is unmatched and he will go down as one of the best tight ends in franchise history,” the team said in a statement at the time of his release. “Brent embodied the City of Philadelphia’s temperament and character with his toughness and grit. He has been a huge part of everything we have been building over the last decade and it is only fitting that he was able to help us win our first Super Bowl last season. … Brent will always be an Eagle.”

–Rookie Jason Sanders appears to have won the kicking competition for the Miami Dolphins.

Sanders beat out undrafted free agent Greg Joseph, who was cut by the Dolphins on Friday, the Miami Herald reported.

A seventh-round choice in this year’s NFL Draft, Sanders capped the preseason by converting a 56-yard field goal in Thursday’s 34-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The Dolphins open the regular season on Sept. 9 versus Tennessee.

The kicking game has been an issue for Miami during the last few seasons. Sanders will mark the third time in as many years that the Dolphins enter the season with a new kicker.

Sanders was successful on 25 of 35 field goal attempts in three seasons at New Mexico. He converted 10 of 15 in 2017 after nailing 12 of 13 during the 2016 season.

He was almost automatic on extra points at the college distance, missing only one of 112 attempts.

Joseph converted his only field goal attempt in Thursday’s game, a 34-yarder, and made both of his extra points.

In four seasons at Florida Atlantic, Joseph had a 69.5 percent success rate, making 57 of 82 attempts. He fnished 15 of 21 during his senior season and was 10 of 14 as a junior.

–Barring a late trade, the Arizona Cardinals will go into the season with three quarterbacks on the roster.
The Cardinals decided to keep Mike Glennon along with starting quarterback Sam Bradford and highly touted rookie Josh Rosen, the NFL Network reported.
Glennon signed a two-year contract with the Cardinals in March, agreeing to terms on the same day Bradford was signed to a one-year deal.

With Bradford’s long injury history, Arizona apparently wasn’t willing to go into the season with Rosen as the lone backup. Rosen was selected with the 10th overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft.

Glennon, a former third-round pick of Tampa Bay in 2013, certainly didn’t hurt his chances in the Cardinals’ preseason finale against the Denver Broncos on Thursday night.

Making the start with Bradford and Rosen sitting out, Glennon played the first half and completed 8 of 10 passes for 69 yards and a 2-yard touchdown pass to Greg Little.

“When he had time to go through his progressions, he was precise,” Arizona coach Steve Wilks told reporters after the game. “He did some good things.”

Glennon also has ample experience, starting 22 of his 25 NFL games with Tampa Bay and the Chicago Bears. He signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Bears in March 2017 but lasted only four games as the starter before losing the job to rookie Mitch Trubisky.

Last season, Glennon finished 93 of 140 (66.4 percent) for 833 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions with three lost fumbles. For his career, he has passed for 4,933 yards and 34 touchdowns with 20 interceptions.

–Veteran safety Ron Parker of the Atlanta Falcons announced his own release in a Twitter post.

The 32-year-old Parker became expendable when the Falcons acquired safety Jordan Richards from the New England Patriots earlier in the day, giving Atlanta a surplus at the position.

Parker’s Twitter post read: “I would like to thank the @AtlantaFalcons for the opportunity they gave me to play for a class act organization! Back on the road again.. #notmy1strodeo”.

Parker signed a one-year contract with the Falcons in the offseason after spending the last five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs before being released at the end of last year.

Parker, signed by the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of Newberry College in 2011, and has had three stints with Seattle during his career.

Last season, Parker started all 16 games for the Chiefs, making 67 tackles and two interceptions. He had 318 tackles, nine interceptions and seven sacks in 80 games with the Chiefs.

The 6-foot, 206-pound Parker also has spent time with the Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers, logging 320 tackles, 43 pass deflections, nine interceptions, seven sacks and five forced fumbles during his seven seasons in the NFL.

–The Arizona Cardinals will place defensive end Arthur Moats on injured reserve, Pro Football Talk reported.

Moats was injured in Arizona’s third preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. He sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament and the initial diagnosis was a recovery period of two-to-four weeks.

If the Cardinals put Moats on injured reserve before reducing their roster to 53 players this weekend, he will not be eligible to return this season.

Moats was signed to a one-year contract late last month on the same day Arizona brought in defensive end Jacquies Smith. The Cardinals are switching to a 4-3 defensive alignment this season under first-year head coach Steve Wilks.

The 30-year-old Moats spent appeared in 14 games with Pittsburgh in 2017, his fourth season with the Steelers and eighth in the NFL. Moats had only five tackles and did not register a sack last season after making 11.5 in his first three years with Pittsburgh.

A sixth-round draft choice of Buffalo in the 2010 draft out of James Madison, Moats spent his first four seasons with the Bills.

The 6-foot, 246-pound Moats set career highs in starts (12) and tackles (54) for Buffalo in 2013.

In 121 career games (45 starts), Moats has registered 191 tackles (112 solo), 16.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and six passes defensed.