Thanks to the help of another former Mountaineer, ex-West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski has found a comfortable landing spot in NFL free agency.
The Las Vegas Raiders — freshly moved from Oakland — signed Kwiatkoski to a three-year contract worth up to $21 million, of which $13.5 million is guaranteed. Kwiatkoski was on the market for the first time after playing primarily as a backup in Chicago for three seasons.
The man who helped Kwiatkoski land in Vegas? John Thornton, who played at West Virginia from 1995-98 before a 10-year NFL career.
Thornton, whose son Jalen is currently a redshirt freshman defensive lineman for WVU, is now an agent for Kwiatkoski and a handful of other NFL players.
“It was important to find a team that viewed him as a starter,” Thornton said in a Tuesday night appearance on MetroNews SportsLine. “He gets a chance to be a full-time starter, and hopefully in two years they say ‘Let’s redo your deal.’
“It’s a win-win. The Raiders see him as an up-and-coming player, and they don’t have to pay like a top-of-the-line player.”
Primarily a special teamer in his first two seasons, Kwiatkoski came into his own last year when he filled in for injured Bears starter Danny Trevathan. Kwiatkoski finished the year with 76 tackles, three sacks and an interception.
“The Bears never even offered him a contract,” Thornton aid. “They could do a deal, but they were negotiating with the guy that got hurt.”
With the Bears electing to keep Trevathan, Kwiatkoski was ready to go somewhere that he could start.
“I felt like we had to align ourselves with teams that saw him as a starter, and then the money would be about the same,” Thornton said. “And it was.”
Thornton said the Raiders and one other team showed the most in pursuing his client as a starter.
“We had two teams that were very aggressive, and it was up to Nick at the point about where he wanted to play,” Thornton said.
Kwiatkoski wasn’t the only former West Virginia to sign a new deal at the beginning of the free agency period. Offensive lineman Quinton Spain re-signed with Buffalo on a three-year deal that is worth $4.5 million guaranteed with a potential for $15 million.