NFL News & Analysis

NFL Rumor Roundup: Patriots' Nelson Agholor a potential trade candidate, Roquan Smith's contract situation with Bears and more

Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) runs with the ball during the second half against the Buffalo Bills in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

• One source indicated that New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor could be the odd man out of the team's receiver room, although his $14.9 million cap hit this season will be hard to ship off.

• Roquan Smith and the Chicago Bears remain far apart in their contract talks, with the linebacker pushing to become the highest-paid player at the position.

• The New York Jets are working on replacing tackle Mekhi Becton, who is likely out for the season after injuring his knee in training camp, with free agent Duane Brown.


LB ROQUAN SMITH AND BEARS FAR APART IN CONTRACT TALKS?

Smith is pushing to become the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in the NFL, surpassing Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard.

Leonard signed a five-year, $98.5 million deal with $52.5 million in total guarantees. The cash flows throughout the deal are consistent, as he earns $78.8 million over the first four years, exactly in line with the $19.7 million per year average of the total contract.

Smith wants at least $20 million per year — and without the reported salary de-escalators and heavily backloaded final year to artificially inflate the value, which are included in the most recent offer from Chicago, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. The Bears have come up from their initial offer, and general manager Ryan Poles said in a press conference Tuesday that certain parts of the deal are “record-setting,” but the base value and specific terms are still not where Smith would like them to be.

Smith is representing himself in negotiations, which Poles also noted has caused some complications, though the linebacker has sought and received advice from several people he trusts.

Ultimately, there is still optimism a middle ground can be found and a deal can get done before Week 1, but the two sides have significant work to do to close the gap.

Smith is currently scheduled to make $9.735 million on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. The Bears activated him from the physically unable to perform list Wednesday.


PATRIOTS WR NELSON AGHOLOR A TRADE CANDIDATE?

Entering the spring, the New England Patriots were viewed as an attractive landing spot for a veteran wide receiver. Not so much now.

The Patriots currently have five wide receivers taking regular first-team reps with starting quarterback Mac Jones and the top offensive line in Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker and rookie Tyquan Thornton. Even recently it appeared that Thornton was a tier below Meyers, Bourne, Agholor and Parker, but a team source told PFF that the Patriots believe the rookie has earned first-team reps, and they’d like to see how he responds to the increased workload.

If Thornton proves himself with more reps in the first-team offense, then New England simply has too many high-priced wide receivers, especially since they’re expected to deploy more packages in 12 personnel with two wide receivers and two tight ends on the field. The Patriots invested heavily in tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in free agency last offseason.

A source close to the situation expects one of the Patriots’ veteran wide receivers to be traded or released, and that source believes Agholor is the prime candidate. Agholor counts for $14.9 million against the salary cap this season. New England would save $9.9 million by trading him and $4.9 million by cutting him. The cap-strapped Patriots could save money by cutting or trading their other veteran receivers, as well. Doing so with DeVante Parker would save $6.1 million, with Bourne would save $5 million and with Meyers would save $4 million.

The team is optimistic about Agholor's progress this offseason after a disappointing first year in the system, however. The Patriots believe schematic changes to the offense have allowed him to play faster in training camp, and he's been productive through two weeks.

We reached out to one personnel executive of a wide receiver-needy team who didn’t believe the Patriots would be able to trade Agholor’s contract. A team acquiring Agholor via trade would take on his $9 million base salary. That same source believed the Patriots would hold onto Agholor at his current cap hit if he was one of the team’s best six wide receivers, which he undoubtedly is. New England does have proficient depth at the position. Kristian Wilkerson, Tre Nixon and Lil’Jordan Humphrey all are young players who have not looked out of place on an NFL practice field this summer. Ty Montgomery has primarily worked at running back this summer but has experience at wide receiver, as well.

The Patriots might only truly have 2.5 starting wide receivers this season if they play half of their snaps with either two tight ends or two running backs on the field. Barring injury, one or two of these wide receivers — Meyers, Bourne, Parker, Agholor or Thornton — will be buried on the depth chart. New England has just over $5 million in cap space, according to Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan.

Nothing appears imminent with New England moving on from a wide receiver, and it’s worth seeing if the group can stay healthy through the summer. But cutting or trading a wideout could create valuable cap space for the Patriots to use during the season. As it stands, the Bears, Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys could use help at wide receiver.


MORE WR TRADE CANDIDATES?

A source close to the situation believes the New York Giants could trade Darius Slayton this summer. Slayton was taking third-team reps in a recent team scrimmage. He’s playing behind Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Wan’dale Robinson, and Sterling Shepard has yet to return from an Achilles injury.

Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported this week that the Miami Dolphins have talked to other teams about trading wide receivers Preston Williams and Lynn Bowden Jr.


KAREEM HUNT’S HOLD-IN WAS SHORT-LIVED

Hunt sat out of Browns team drills for just two days last week as he seeks a contract extension or trade. His base salary stands at $1.35 million and he already earned a $1 million roster bonus this offseason. He’s set to earn another $500,000 roster bonus if on the team in Week 1. He can earn another $3.4 million in per-game roster bonuses this season.

Hunt preferred the option of an extension over a trade prior to training camp, and the Browns want to hold onto Hunt because they envision a big role for him in 2022.

Right now, Cleveland is getting its way by having Hunt practice since the team can fine him for sitting out of drills.


HOW WILL JETS REPLACE INJURED OT MEKHI BECTON?

Free-agent offensive tackle Duane Brown visited the New York Jets over the weekend. Jets general manager Joe Douglas said Tuesday that “the wheels are in motion” between Brown and the team.

With Becton likely out for the season due to a knee injury, it would make a lot of sense for New York to sign Brown to pair him with fellow offensive tackle George Fant.


ROGER GOODELL PROVIDES UPDATE ON BROWNS QB DESHAUN WATSON PUNISHMENT

It’s no mystery the NFL wants Watson suspended for an entire season. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday at a league meeting that “there was multiple violations here, and they were egregious, and it was predatory behavior.”

Goodell has called on former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to rule on the NFL’s appeal of Watson’s six-game suspension handed down by NFL-NFLPA jointly appointed disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson.

The Browns open their preseason Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Currently, Watson is permitted to practice and play during the preseason. ProFootballTalk reported Wednesday that the NFLPA “is not ruling out” a decision from Harvey by Friday night that would keep Watson from playing in Week 1 of the preseason.

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