New York Giants

East Notes: Pats, Dolphins, Suh

Bill Belichick knocked pretty much every single free agent decision out of the park last year en route to a championship, and Ben Volin of The Boston Globe is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the Patriots perplexing decision to franchise kicker Stephen Gostkowski over safety Devin McCourty. After all, at $9.6MM, that’s a steep price to pay for McCourty and the Rutgers product himself would have been thrilled to get it, even as he seeks a new long-term deal. The Patriots are playing hardball with McCourty and Darrelle Revis now, but there’s still an entire week to hammer out these deals. More from the AFC and NFC East..

  • Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (via Twitter) sees the Dolphins as a wildcard candidate to land coveted defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Earlier today, we learned that Washington has interest in Suh after the Lions opted not to use the franchise tag on him.
  • Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul will command a huge contract once he has the franchise tag removed, Adam Schefter tells ESPN New York’s Michael Kay (audio link).
  • Veteran linebacker Brad Jones was won over by the Eagles‘ culture, prompting him to sign with them, Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com writes. “From the first day you get here … you kind of realize it’s a different kind of thing they got out here,” the former Packer said via conference call. “It’s unique. I wanted to be a part of that.”
  • The Eagles overlooked adding an inside linebacker last offseason and they made sure not to repeat the same mistake this time around when they made Jones their first addition, Zach Berman of The Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.

Giants Release J.D. Walton

A year after inking him to a two-year, $6MM contract, the Giants have parted ways with center J.D. Walton, releasing him today, according to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports (via Twitter). Walton had been slated for a $3.625MM cap hit in 2015, so the move creates $3MM in cap savings, leaving $625K in dead money on the team’s books.

The signing of Walton looked like a curious move for the Giants a year ago, considering he was coming off consecutive seasons that had been wiped out by major injuries. The 27-year-old did manage to stay healthy in 2014, starting all 16 games for New York and playing 1,145 offensive snaps, the most of any center, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Of course, PFF’s data also suggested that Walton’s overall play wasn’t particularly good. The former Bronco ranked as the league’s 38th-best center out of 41 qualified players, recording below-average grades as both a pass blocker and a run blocker.

With Walton out of the picture, second-year lineman Weston Richburg is poised to take over the center job in New York.

Giants Use Franchise Tag On JPP

As expected, the Giants have officially used their franchise tag on Jason Pierre-Paul, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Steve Serby of the New York Post first reported last month that the club would use the non-exclusive franchise tag on JPP if no long-term deal was reached, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com confirmed as much last week.Jason Pierre-Paul

Although Pierre-Paul got off to a slow start in 2014, he finished strong, and his 77 tackles and 12.5 sacks were his best totals since he was a First-Team All-Pro in 2011. The South Florida product – who turned 26 on Saturday – ranked as the seventh-best 4-3 defensive end in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus’ grades (subscription required).

Word of the Giants’ decision to officially place the franchise tag on Pierre-Paul comes on the heels of the NFL’s announcement of this year’s $143.28MM, which solidified the franchise tag amounts. As a defensive end, JPP will be in line for a one-year tender of $14.813MM, though he won’t necessarily sign that offer immediately.

As Paul Schwartz of the New York Post tweets, the Giants and Pierre-Paul are expected to continue working on a multiyear deal, with the hopes of agreeing on something more long-term. Such an agreement would give the 26-year-old some long-term security, and would allow the team to reduce his cap hit for 2015, creating additional flexibility.

Of course, the non-exclusive tag means Pierre-Paul will also have the opportunity to explore the open market when free agency officially begins next week. However, any team interested in signing him would have to do so via an offer sheet, rather than signing him outright. And if the Giants chose not to match that offer sheet, Pierre-Paul’s new team would have to part with two first-round picks. As such, it’s unlikely that he’ll play anywhere besides New York next season.

Pierre-Paul becomes the fourth player to be franchised today. Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Justin Houston were also franchised by their respective clubs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Murray, Manning, Eagles

The Cowboys entered the offseason knowing that two of their best players, wide receiver Dez Bryant and running back DeMarco Murray, were unsigned and scheduled to become free agents March 10. Dallas will solve one of those problems, at least temporarily, when it officially places the franchise tag on Bryant on Monday. Doing so will enable the Cowboys to keep Bryant for the 2015 season at approximately $12.8MM. That figure will take a significant portion from the team’s cap space, which will affect Murray, writes the Dallas Morning News’ David Moore. The 27-year-old Murray led all NFL rushers in yards (1,845) and tied for first in touchdowns (13) last season, and he’ll soon test the open market as one of the top skill players available.

“I think DeMarco wants to be in Dallas. We want him here,” said Cowboys COO Stephen Jones, according to Moore.

Regardless of what Dallas wants, it’s tough to envision the club matching any potential mega-offers Murray might receive. Nevertheless, if an enticing offer for Murray to sign elsewhere comes, Jones hopes the four-year veteran gives the Cowboys an opportunity to keep him.

“There’s an expectation that he will get back to us before he signs with another club,” Jones said. “But that would be unfair to him and for other clubs to say he’s going to bring something back.”

While Murray’s time in the NFC East could be on the verge of ending, here’s more from his current division:

  • Dan Graziano of ESPN.com answered fans’ questions in a Twitter mailbag. One of the subjects Graziano touched on was the future of Eli Manning, who is due to count a team-high $19.75MM against the cap in 2015 – the last year of his contract. Per Graziano, if the Giants sign Manning to an extension this offseason, it could save them as much as $11MM on the cap. However, given their sufficient spending space (roughly $25MM) and “no big-money necessities outside of Jason Pierre-Paul,” it might not be necessary. The Giants are “comfortable” with Manning taking up a large chunk of their cap, according to Graziano, and could wait to sign or tag the two-time Super Bowl winner until next year.
  • In a series of pieces highlighting potential free agent targets for the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com examined whether the team should have interest in two safeties – Da’Norris Searcy (Bills) and Tyvon Branch (whom the Raiders recently cut) – and Browns linebacker Jabaal Sheard. Frank and Mosher had differing opinions on Searcy, while they both endorsed signing Branch to a short-term deal and expressed no interest in Sheard.
  • Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com took a look at possible free agent outside linebacker options for Washington. El-Bashir doesn’t think new general manager Scot McCloughan will pay big money for a free agent OLB, but he could see the team re-signing Brian Orakpo to a “prove-it deal.”

East Notes: McCown, Dez, Parnell, Bush

Josh McCown‘s free agent tour appears to have come to an end, and after drawing interest from the Bills, Jets, Bears, and Browns, the veteran quarterback has engaged in contract discussions with Buffalo, according to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Carucci cautions that it’s not known how many other teams are talking to McCown about a potential contract, or if the Bills are the favorites to land him, but the club is very much in the hunt, and the signal-caller may finalize his new deal – with Buffalo or another club – by Friday.

For what it’s worth, Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 notes (via Twitter) that the Bills view McCown as an upgrade over Kyle Orton, and that the former Buccaneer is the club’s preferred target in this free agent class. While we wait to find out whether a deal with the Bills materializes as a result of Buffalo’s interest in McCown, let’s check in on a few more items from around the NFL’s two East divisions….

  • As Monday’s franchise tag deadline nears, the rumors surrounding Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant continued to swirl today. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com passed along word – and a police report – about an incident that took place outside of a Walmart in Lancaster, Texas; Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk attempted to break down what this new info means; and Jason Cole of Bleacher Report suggested that sources close to Bryant believe the alleged video of that Walmart incident does, in fact, exist.
  • Cowboys tackle Jermey Parnell should be a popular free agent next month, according to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com and Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports (Twitter links). When I examined the free agent market for offensive tackles earlier in February, I singled out Parnell as a player who hasn’t seen much action as a reserve in Dallas, but pointed out that he has been very good when he has played.
  • In response to the Lions’ release of Reggie Bush, Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com explores whether the Patriots would be interested, and how Bush’s availability may affect the market for free-agent-to-be Shane Vereen.
  • Nick Powell of NJ.com takes a look at whether or not the Giants will have interest in Bush, concluding that the former USC star could fit as a complement in the backfield for Rashad Jennings, particularly since Tom Coughlin is fond of veteran players.

Giants Release Peyton Hillis

The Giants have parted ways with a backup running back, announcing today that they’ve released Peyton Hillis. Hillis had one year remaining on his deal, but will hit free agency a year early, and with a head start on the players eligible for free agency next month.

After averaging about 118 carries per year in his previous four seasons, Hillis carried the ball just 26 times in 2014, for 115 yards. While the former Browns running back had been the Giants’ primary backup – and occasional lead rusher – for part of the 2013 season, he was pushed down on the depth chart last season after the arrivals of Rashad Jennings (via free agency) and Andre Williams (via the draft). Hillis’ season officially ended in November when he was placed on the IR after suffering a concussion.

Hillis had been set to earn a base salary of $870K, along with a $25K workout bonus and a $50K roster bonus that was due in a couple weeks. While the Giants’ will clear his $945K cap number from their books, they won’t clear quite that much cap space, since Hillis will be replaced in the team’s top 51 by a minimum-salary player.

As a vested veteran, Hillis will be immediately eligible to sign with a new club.

Tuesday Roundup: Cassel, Winston, Peterson

Vikings GM Rick Spielman said that nothing definitive has been decided about bringing Matt Cassel back to the team, but Spielman was complimentary of his veteran signal-caller when discussing him earlier this week. “We went through our process, we evaluated all of our players,” Spielman said, according to Brian Hall of FOXSportsNorth.com. “We looked at everything from what they bring to our football team, in the locker room, off the field, what they bring to us on the field. But we also have to look at where they’re at from a standpoint of their contract, where we’re at from a cap standpoint…Matt’s done a great job. Came in and has won some games when he had to play. He’s a great locker-room guy. Matt has a lot of value to us.” Cassel is signed for the 2015 season at a salary of $4.15MM, and he’ll count $4.75MM against the cap.

Now for some more links from around the league on this Tuesday evening:

  • Tahir Whitehead filled in capably for Stephen Tulloch when Tulloch went out last season, and that leaves the Lions with an interesting choice this offseason, as Kyle Meinke of MLive.com writes. Detroit could continue to roll with Whitehead at middle linebacker and carve out some space by parting ways with Tulloch. The 30-year-old is slated to count $5.8MM against the cap next season. Whitehead, meanwhile, costs just $713K.
  • The consensus around the league is that the Buccaneers will draft Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick, according to a tweet from the NFL Network (citing its own Ian Rapoport).
  • The Colts are in dire need of a running back, and Mike Wells of ESPN.com writes that the team will be closely monitoring the Adrian Peterson situation. If Peterson and the Vikings part ways, Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson, a noted risk-taker, may pull the trigger.
  • Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora has no plans to retire, writes Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Umenyiora, 33, will become a free agent on March 10, and he said he would like to play at least one more season. If he could choose, Umenyiora stated that he would like to finish his career where it started: with the Giants.
  • Packers fullback John Kuhn is one of the last members of a dying breed, but the impending free agent reaffirmed his importance to the Green Bay offense in 2014, earning first team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. As Weston Hodkiewicz of PackersNews.com writes, there is mutual interest in Kuhn’s return to the Packers.
  • Former Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne, who has garnered interest from at least a dozen teams, is expected to sign with a club this week, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (writing for the National Football Post).
  • Bill Williamson of ESPN.com believes middle linebacker Nate Irving could be a fit with the Raiders if the impending free agent is not re-signed by the Broncos.
  • Parys Haralson, who signed a one-year deal with the Saints in February, hopes to end his career in New Orleans, writes Katherine Terrell of the Times-Picayune.
  • Jason Fitzerald of OverTheCap.com provides the Panthers‘ salary cap outlook for the 2015 season.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

 

East Notes: Jets, Maclin, Spiller, Pats, Giants

We’ve heard that the Jets plan to be aggressive in free agency, and now Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net offers a little more clarification on what areas New York might be targeting next month. In addition to outside linebackers, the Jets will look to sign “younger, taller corners” — Pauline suggests Davon House, Chris Culliver, and Kareem Jackson as players who fit that mold. Pauline adds that Gang Green will also look for defensive line depth and help at guard, but won’t pay for someone like Mike Iupati, who is expected to command ~$8MM per year.

Here’s more from the East:

  • Before Jeremy Maclin changed agents in November, ESPN’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter) believed it was a near-lock that the receiver would re-sign with the Eagles. Now, Caplan isn’t so sure, saying that the odds of the two parties getting a deal done is less certain.
  • Many have linked C.J. Spiller to the Jets thanks to the presence of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, but speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio today, Spiller said there is a possibility he remains with the Bills, but noted the “ball was in [Buffalo’s] court” (link via Kevin Patra of NFL.com).
  • The Patriots worked out former Packers receiver Kevin Dorsey today, reports Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. Dorsey, a 2013 draft pick, was waived by Green Bay a week ago. The Maryland product has been on injured reserve during most of his first two seasons in the league.
  • Per the terms of his deal with the Giants, offensive lineman Dallas Reynolds will earn a $660K base salary, a $25K signing bonus, and a $15K workout bonus, according to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com (Twitter link).

Giants Release Mathias Kiwanuka

4:36pm: Kiwanuka’s release was listed with a failed physical designation, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.

3:04pm: The Giants have confirmed Kiwanuka’s release via a press release.

2:23pm: The Giants will release veteran defender Mathias Kiwanuka, according to Kimberly Jones of the NFL Network (Twitter link). The 31-year-old had been with New York for each of his nine seasons in the NFL, winning two Super Bowls during that time.

Kiwanuka has shown a great deal of versatility in his career, spending time at both defensive end and outside linebacker in the Giants’ 4-3 scheme. He’s played at end the prior two seasons, racking up 8.5 sacks in 21 starts in that span. The former first-round pick has nearly 40 sacks in 82 starts during his career. Advanced metrics have soured on Kiwanuka’s performance, as Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked him as the third-worst 4-3 DE in the league last season.

Entering the final year of his contract, Kiwanuka was scheduled to count $7.45MM against New York’s cap in 2015. By cutting him, the Giants are now only on the hook for his prorated bonus money, meaning they’ve saved $4.825MM in the process. According to Over the Cap’s data, the club should now have roughly $25MM in cap space.

Kiwanuka will now join a free agent edge defender market that is flush with talented options. As a veteran player who has dealt with injuries (he ended last season on injured reserve), he could have trouble garnering any type of significant guarantees in free agency. The Giants, meanwhile, probably aren’t done making moves, as Dan Graziano of ESPN.com speculated yesterday that Big Blue could look into releasing J.D. Walton and/or Jon Beason.

East Notes: Allen, Odrick, Bills, Giants

Eagles safety Nate Allen, who is set to reach the open market next month, has been cleared of any wrongdoing after being detained by police in Fort Myers, Florida last week, according to a report from ABC 6 in Philadelphia. Allen was adamant at the time that the accusation of indecent exposure was false, and encouraged police to continue investigating to clear his name.

Here’s more the East:

  • Charles Clay isn’t the only Dolphins free-agent-to-be whose next deal could be in the range of $6MM per year. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes that Jared Odrick‘s camp believes the defensive lineman has a floor of $6MM annually in free agency. Salguero also tweeted that the club would like to keep Odrick if the cost isn’t too prohibitive.
  • The Bills are interested in bring back both defensive end Jarius Wynn and linebacker Larry Dean, but there’s been “no movement” in talks with guard Erik Pears, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Pears spent the entire season as Buffalo’s starting left guard, while Wynn and Dean were reserve defenders.
  • The Giants will probably look to move a few veterans off their roster before free agency begins, and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com guesses (via Twitter) that linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, offensive lineman J.D. Walton, and perhaps linebacker Jon Beason could be among that group. PFR’s Zach Links identified Kiwanuka and Beason as possible cap casualties in his preview of New York’s offseason.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.