Redskins Rumors: Orakpo, Jackson, Williams

The Redskins’ deal with safety Akeem Davis was on and off before being on again this week. Washington agreed to sign the Memphis product on Thursday but the deal was nixed by the league office on Monday. Later in the afternoon, the Redskins and the NFL cleared up whatever the issue was and the contract became official. The latest out of D.C..

  • Brian Orakpo told reporters, including Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com (via Twitter), that he’d be disappointed if the Redskins didn’t sign him to a long-term extension. Washington has a few months before the July 15th deadline for franchised players. The defensive end’s one-year tender for 2014, signed in late March, grants him a $11.455MM salary. Orakpo started 15 games for Washington last season, recording 60 tackles, 10 sacks, and returning an interception for a touchdown.
  • The NFLPA has decided that Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson owes agent Drew Rosenhaus $516K+ in unpaid loans and agent fees, tweets Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports. Rosenhaus had been seeking nearly $778K for loans, interest, credit card charges, and insurance premiums from Jackson (link). Part of what the wide receiver owes to Rosenhaus came in the form of a $375K interest-free loan he received from the agent when he signed and of that $375K, the agent said he’d forgive $175K if DeSean allowed him to negotiate his then-upcoming contract with the Eagles (Twitter links).
  • John Keim of ESPN.com stacked up the salaries of the Redskins‘ offense versus the rest of the NFL. For the most part, the Redskins have more bargains offensively in part because they’ve found younger contributors through the draft or they landed players such as Jackson after they’d been cut, thereby lowering their price. The Redskins have only one player who will count among the top five at their position in 2014 – left tackle Trent Williams.

Jets Sign Chris Johnson

4:28pm: Johnson gets $3MM to sign with a $1MM escalator between the two seasons, tweets Albert Breer of the NFL Network.

3:36pm: Johnson’s two-year deal has a base value of $8MM with another $1MM available in incentives based on yardage, tweets Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

3:22pm: The Jets tweeted a picture of Johnson signing his contract, signaling that the agreement is now official.

2:22pm: The Jets and Chris Johnson have reached agreement on a two-year deal, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The veteran tailback will put pen to paper later today, Schefter adds (on Twitter). Financial terms of the deal are not yet known.ChriJohnson

The acquisition of Johnson gives the Jets a major splash in what has been a relatively quiet offseason since the signings of Michael Vick and Eric Decker back in March. Of course, the 28-year-old has lost a bit of his luster in recent years, but a change of scenery and system could potentially rejuvenate his career. The once dominant back registered just 1,077 yards off of 279 attempts with six touchdowns in 2013, leading to his release in early April.

Johnson’s so-so stat lines in recent years only tell half of the story. Even though he cracked 1,000 yards in 2013, he graded out as the league’s 42nd-best running back out of 55 qualified players last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

The addition of Johnson will have reverb effects on the rest of the Jets roster. For starters, as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (on Twitter) points out, Johnson’s arrival will likely spell the end of Mike Goodson‘s strange and short-lived time in green. Meanwhile, the Jets may choose to change their draft strategy next month. They’ve been (rightfully) pegged as a team in desperate need of an offensive playmaker, but the Johnson signing could allow them to go in a different direction.

As our own Luke Adams explained earlier this month, Johnson had a number of factors working against him in free agency. The Titans cut him loose late in the offseason at a point when many teams had already filled their running back vacancies. On top of that, it appeared to be a depressed market at the position overall. This offseason, no free agent back received more than the $3.5MM the Jaguars and Chargers committed to Toby Gerhart and Donald Brown, respectively. Other notable running backs on the market included Ben Tate ($3.1MM guaranteed with the Browns), Knowshon Moreno ($3MM, Dolphins), Rashad Jennings ($2.5MM, Giants), and Maurice Jones-Drew ($1.2MM, Raiders).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Raiders Want To Trade Terrelle Pryor

The Raiders hope to trade quarterback Terrelle Pryor before the start of the offseason program on Monday, a league source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. The Raiders are intent on moving on from him one way or another which leaves the possibility of an outright release on the table.

Pryor, the last player drafted by the late Al Davis, has been on the trading block since the beginning of the calendar year. The Raiders amped up their efforts to move the signal caller in March and it sounds like they’re getting ready for one final push over the next several days. The speedy Pryor played sparingly in his first two years before appearing in 11 games with nine starts in 2013.

While Pryor has shown some serious playmaking ability, it’s unclear if he has the poise or overall makeup to succeed as a full-time option. Pryor saw undrafted Penn State quarterback Matt “Moxie” McGloin steal the No. 1 job last season.

Bengals Sign T.J. Conley

The Bengals have signed T.J. Conley, according to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter). The second year punter didn’t see the field in 2013.

Conley was tapped to be the Jets’ punter heading into the 2011 season but didn’t last very long on the roster. He also had camp stints with the Vikings and Browns last offseason but wasn’t able to make the cut with either club. It’s a safe bet that Conley’s deal is non-guaranteed.

Lions To Re-Sign Rashean Mathis

WEDNESDAY, 1:57pm: It’s a veteran’s minimum contract for Mathis, but along with his $65K signing bonus, $500K of his base salary is guaranteed, tweets Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

MONDAY, 10:23am: Free agent cornerback Rashean Mathis is returning to Detroit, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who reports (via Twitter) that the veteran is signing a new one-year contract with the Lions.

Mathis, 33, joined the Lions last season after spending the first 10 years in Jacksonville, where he racked up 30 interceptions and earned an All-Pro spot in 2006. While the former second-round pick didn’t grab an interception last season, he logged 47 tackles and defended 16 passes. Mathis also ranked as Detroit’s top cornerback, the only one to record a positive grade according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required).

While terms of Mathis’ one-year agreement haven’t been reported yet, it figures to be a minimum salary contract. Mathis’ minimum deal in 2013 didn’t include a signing bonus, but perhaps this year’s will, after his strong first year for the Lions.

49ers Sign Brandon Lloyd

WEDNESDAY, 1:22pm: Lloyd’s deal includes no guaranteed money, a source tells Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. However, the wide receiver can earn $1.005MM on the deal. He’ll get a $955K base with $50K available through a workout bonus. The deal doesn’t have a signing bonus or incentives.

TUESDAY, 12:17pm: The 49ers have signed free agent wide receiver Brandon Lloyd to a one-year contract, the team announced today in a press release. Terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

Lloyd, who is just two years removed from a 74-catch season, reportedly received inquiries from at least six teams last fall, including the 49ers, but rejected all overtures. A Pro Football Talk report at the time suggested Lloyd was “neither physically nor mentally ready” to continue his playing career at that point, but it seems the 32-year-old has changed his stance since then.

The 49ers pursued receivers like Julian Edelman and Emmanuel Sanders earlier in the offseason, but were only able to lock up their own free agent wideout, Anquan Boldin. That left San Francisco with a solid 1-2 punch of Boldin and Michael Crabtree, but the club was clearly looking for alternatives at the No. 3 spot. Lloyd, who was originally drafted by San Francisco in 2003, will presumably have the upper hand for that third receiver role over players like Quinton Patton and Jonathan Baldwin.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com first reported last week that the Niners were in talks with Lloyd about a possible comeback.

Draft Notes: Swoope, Clowney, Bucannon, Long

As if NFL teams didn’t have enough players to consider when they’re on the clock in next month’s draft, one player who recently declared his eligibility didn’t even play college ball. Instead, Erik Swoope of the University of Miami played for the Hurricanes’ basketball team, but nonetheless hopes to catch on with an NFL team this summer, as ESPN.com details. Swoope, who aims to play tight end, had a private workout with the Broncos earlier in April, according to the report.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the league, with a focus on the draft:

  • A Hurricane who actually played football for Miami this past season, quarterback Stephen Morris, is drawing some interest from the Dolphins, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
  • Dismissing the idea that Jadeveon Clowney is “lazy” and “spoiled,” as one anonymous scout suggested, agent Bus Cook also told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that his client may conduct one more pre-draft workout for an NFL team. A previous report indicated Clowney was done with workouts, and Cook concedes that if the defensive end does work out again, he won’t do anything “that will risk injury.”
  • Washington State safety Deone Bucannon visited the Colts earlier this week and is currently visiting with the Patriots, writes Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. According to Wilson, Bucannon will visit the Vikings tomorrow, then the Eagles, Jets, and Giants next week.
  • Nebraska guard Spencer Long will have pre-draft visits with the Eagles, Dolphins, Falcons, and Chargers, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com.
  • Having previously met with the Chargers and Patriots, MTSU defensive end Jimmy Staten is scheduled to work out for the Packers and Chiefs this week, says Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean (via Twitter).

Giants To Sign Josh Freeman

11:29am: Freeman’s contract with the Giants will be a one-year pact, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Caplan adds, as a sidenote, that the Packers would have been interested in signing Freeman if the Giants had landed Flynn (Twitter link).

11:08am: Freeman has agreed to terms with the Giants, tweets Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports.

11:04am: The Giants and Josh Freeman are working toward a deal and are expected to reach an agreement within the next day or so, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Freeman was one of two veteran free agent quarterbacks said to be visiting the team this week, but the second – Matt Flynn – ended up re-signing with the Packers instead, leaving Freeman as the apparent top target for New York.

Freeman, 26, was Tampa Bay’s full-time starting quarterback from 2009 to 2012, but saw the wheels come off last year and was cut by the team. In his first four seasons, the former 17th overall pick completed 58.8% of his passes and tossed 78 touchdowns to go with 63 interceptions, as well as throwing for more than 4,000 yards in 2012. In 2013 though, Freeman’s completion percentage in four starts with the Bucs was just 45.7%, a number which declined even more after he joined the Vikings and performed poorly in his lone start.

Still, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report recently suggested (via Twitter) that general managers feel like Freeman was “thrown to [the] wolves” in Minnesota. And at age 26, with multiple strong seasons under his belt, there’s room for the former Buccaneer to turn things around.

For the Giants, Freeman figures to provide veteran insurance for Eli Manning, who recently had surgery on a troublesome left ankle. Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib are also under contract with the club.

AFC Notes: Pats, Browns, Sam, Chargers

Let’s round up a few Wednesday updates from across the AFC….

  • Within his latest piece at Bleacher Report, Mike Freeman writes that the Patriots are considering adding a receiver earlier in the draft and that the Browns “really love” Derek Carr, who is a strong candidate for the club’s second first-round pick.
  • The Browns aren’t set on Carr yet though — Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter) that the club is privately working out Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron today, and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer adds (via Twitter) that McCarron will also have a formal visit with the Browns next week.
  • Five of the six teams that have expressed the most interest in Missouri’s Michael Sam are AFC clubs, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, who identifies the Ravens, Patriots, Colts, Browns, Jets, and Falcons as suitors for the edge defender.
  • Meanwhile, in a piece for the National Football Post, Wilson reports that Illinois State defensive end Colton Underwood has visited the Chargers and Chiefs, and also worked out for the Patriots.
  • After having visited the Cowboys yesterday, Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton is visiting the Broncos today and the Chargers tomorrow, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
  • The Chargers are hosting Indiana wideout Cody Latimer and Montana linebacker Brock Coyle today, according to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter links). Coyle will visit the Seahawks next, Gehlken notes.
  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk attempts to discern what we can learn from the Alex Mack saga when it comes to future offer sheets for transition players.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Chris Johnson

It’s now been more than five weeks since free agency opened, and most of the noteworthy free agents have long since come off the board. For players that entered the free agent pool late, like Chris Johnson, who was released earlier in April by the Titans, that means there are fewer potential suitors with roster holes and cap space.

That’s not the only factor working against the former Titan as he navigates the free agent waters. The increasing devaluation of the running back position will also limit Johnson’s potential earnings on his next contract. This offseason, no free agent back received more than the $3.5MM the Jaguars and Chargers committed to Toby Gerhart and Donald Brown, respectively. Other notable running backs on the market included Ben Tate ($3.1MM guaranteed), Knowshon Moreno ($3MM), Rashad Jennings ($2.5MM), and Maurice Jones-Drew ($1.2MM).

While those modest contracts are bad news for Johnson, it’s also fair to point out that none of the players listed above possessed Johnson’s combination of upside and previous track record. Jones-Drew certainly has a nice resumé, for instance, but he has struggled with health and performance over the last two seasons and only has three 1,000-yard seasons. Similarly, Tate brings a nice combination of age and upside to the table, but he has never proven he can be a full-time back, while Johnson has accumulated more than 1,000 rushing yards in each of his six NFL seasons.

Adrian Peterson, asked by Mark Carig of the Star Tribune about the declining cost of running backs, offered his thoughts on the matter: “Unfortunately for the guys who were in free agency this year didn’t have incredible numbers or incredible seasons to be able to get the type of [money] they wanted in free agency. I feel like that’s it. I feel like me and a couple of other guys are going to keep it alive as far as running backs being able to come out and keep the running back position at a top level.”

Peterson’s comments suggest that he believes the right running backs will still be able to land big deals in free agency, but that this year’s class just didn’t have any of those top-tier options. If he’s right, the question is whether or not Johnson qualifies as one of those top options. Given the factors in play on both sides of the equation, it’s not hard to see why the former 2,000-yard rusher would be seeking more guaranteed money than his fellow free agent running backs, and it’s not hard to see why there won’t be many clubs left willing to pony up that sort of money. The 28-year-old was expected to be snapped up quickly once he was cut by the Titans, but so far, the rumor mill hasn’t been overly busy, which suggests a disconnect between the way Johnson and NFL teams weigh his value.

Still, Johnson is drawing interest from at least a handful of clubs, and he visited one – the Jets – to start this week. As Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes, the veteran running back left the meeting without a contract and doesn’t have any other visits lined up yet.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time, taking my time, and whatever decision I make it’ll be the best decision,” Johnson said yesterday, adding that the Jets were an attractive option and that New York is a “fun city.”

According to Mehta, there are at least three teams in the mix for Johnson. The East Carolina product is recovering from a torn meniscus, and even though he got to 1,000 yards in 2013, those yards were hard to come by — he graded out as the league’s 42nd-best running back out of 55 qualified players last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). As such, a one-year deal to rebuild his value may be in Johnson’s best interests. That would allow him to prove his health and hit the open market again in a year, when he can talk to teams before April.

So what would a one-year contract for Johnson look like? Hakeem Nicks‘ one-year pact with the Colts might provide a blueprint. Nicks received a little more than $2MM in guaranteed money on a deal with a base value of about $4MM. However, the receiver can also earn another $1.5MM if he reaches various incentives related to total receptions, touchdowns, and a Pro Bowl spot. An incentive-laden deal for Johnson, which would reward him for a big 2014, could be beneficial for both the player and team.

As for Johnson’s future team, the Jets look to me like the favorites for now, but I wonder if there might be a better situation for the running back to improve his stock. New York’s offense will be incorporating several new pieces, including Michael Vick and Eric Decker, so there could be some growing pains while the club works out the kinks. I think Johnson would find a better fit splitting carries as a home-run threat on a bona-fide contender. However, based on the rumors we’ve heard so far, it doesn’t sound like many of those clubs are interested in the former first-round pick. Teams like the Bills, Falcons, Giants, and Cowboys have been mentioned as potential landing spots, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say the Jets reach an agreement with Johnson in the coming days.

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