Earlier this week, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pulled himself out of the race to become San Francisco’s head coach. It turns out he might be content to remain an assistant in New England until head coach Bill Belichick retires, at which point he would potentially take over, says Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). There are no indications the 64-year-old Belichick is pondering retirement, however, and Cole adds that McDaniels could leave the Pats after next season if either Tennessee or Detroit fires its head coach. McDaniels’ goal is to work with a general manager with “strong personnel skills,” per Cole, and he’s familiar with both Titans GM Jon Robinson and the Lions’ Bob Quinn. Those two were longtime members of New England’s front office before departing for their current jobs last offseason.
The NFL Players Association has announced all 32 teams’ salary cap carryover amounts for the 2017 season (Twitter link). Next season’s cap figure isn’t yet known, but it’s likely to be in the $165MM range. When that becomes official, it can be added to each team’s carryover amount to determine that club’s official spending room for 2017.
Here are this year’s carryover totals:
- Cleveland Browns: $50,123,269
- Jacksonville Jaguars: $39,314,310
- San Francisco 49ers: $38,708,916
- Tennessee Titans: $24,046,522
- Washington Redskins: $15,055,131
- Carolina Panthers: $13,208,020
- Miami Dolphins: $8,363,708
- Chicago Bears: $8,103,197
- Oakland Raiders: $8,000,000
- Green Bay Packers: $7,984,687
- Philadelphia Eagles: $7,933,869
- Denver Broncos: $7,243,248
- Indianapolis Colts: $6,614,106
- Cincinnati Bengals: $6,578,866
- New Orleans Saints: $5,754,000
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $5,330,779
- New England Patriots: $5,292,335
- Kansas City Chiefs: $5,002,168
- Houston Texans: $4,935,924
- Detroit Lions: $4,725,644
- Arizona Cardinals: $4,405,068
- Pittsburgh Steelers: $3,269,367
- Buffalo Bills: $2,837,222
- Baltimore Ravens: $2,553,126
- Dallas Cowboys: $2,401,553
- Seattle Seahawks: $2,065,865
- New York Giants: $1,800,000
- Atlanta Falcons: $926,541
- Minnesota Vikings: $400,184
- New York Jets: $371,487
- Los Angeles Rams: $304,311
- Los Angeles Chargers: $113,693
Less than a year after swinging a blockbuster trade to give up the No. 1 position in the 2016 draft, Titans general manager Jon Robinson isn’t ruling out more bold maneuverings this offseason. While Tennessee has the fifth and 18th picks in this year’s draft, Robinson told Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com that “it would be a mistake” to assume he’ll end up selecting in those spots. Robinson also implied that, if anything, he’ll move down again. The Titans are without a second-round pick, but they would “love” to have one, Robinson said. “Draft currency is a powerful thing in this league because it gives you a chance to acquire young talent,’’ he added. “They are less expensive players than guys who have played in the league six, seven or eight, nine or 10 years. So to be able to get two of those guys, or one of those guys if we trade, or three of those guys if we trade. … Whatever it is, draft picks are valuable currency as it relates to team building.”
According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.
If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.8MM in 2017. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.
Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2017 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:
Bengals: Russell Bodine, C
Broncos: Michael Schofield, OL
Browns: Christian Kirksey, LB
Buccaneers: Kevin Pamphile, G
Cardinals: John Brown, WR
Colts: Donte Moncrief, WR
Cowboys: Anthony Hitchens, LB
Falcons: Devonta Freeman, RB
Giants: Devon Kennard, LB
Vikings: Shamar Stephen, DT
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are the latest reserve/futures contract signings from around the NFL. These deals will go into effect on the first day of the 2017 league year, with players joining their respective clubs’ offseason 90-man rosters.
- G Clay DeBord
- G Kadeem Edwards
- WR Shaquelle Evans
- LB Jeremiah George
- TE Connor Hamlett
- DE Lenny Jones
- CB Jeremiah McKinnon
- DB Jameill Showers
- CB Sammy Seamster
- RB Rod Smith
- CB Duke Thomas
- LS Zach Wood
- TE RaShaun Allen
- DE Brandon Dunn
- OT Laurence Gibson
- RB Kenny Hilliard
- WR Tevin Jones
- OLB Eric Lee
- ILB Shakeel Rashad
- OG Chad Slade
- C Ross Burbank
- FS Pierre Desir
- RB George Farmer
- DT Tylor Harris
- DT Shaneil Jenkins
- FB Malcolm Johnson
- WR Kenny Lawler
- TE Marcus Lucas
- C/OG Will Pericak
- RB Kelvin Taylor
- CB Tye Smith
- The Titans have added a pair of coaches to their staff. Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com reports that the team has added former Temple passing game coordinator Frisman Jackson as their new wide receivers coach. The team has also hired Craig Aukerman to be an assistant special teams coach. Aukerman served as the Chargers special teams coordinator last season.
- The Titans are not expected to hire any of the wide receivers coaches who have recently been fired around the league, according to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. Tennessee, seeking to replace Bob Bratkowski, has already offered the WR job to Denver’s Tyke Tolbert, who declined the offer in order to remain with the Broncos.
In advance of March 9, the start of free agency in the NFL, Pro Football Rumors will detail each team’s three most glaring roster issues. We’ll continue this year’s series with the Tennessee Titans, who finished with a 9-7 record and narrowly missed out on the AFC South crown.
Pending Free Agents:
- Antonio Andrews, RB (RFA)
- David Bass, LB
- Byron Bell, T
- Antwon Blake, CB
- Matt Cassel, QB
- Anthony Fasano, TE
- Rashad Johnson, S
- Karl Klug, DE
- Marc Mariani, WR
- Nate Palmer, LB
- Brian Schwenke, C
- Sean Spence, LB
- Daimion Stafford, S
- Phillip Supernaw, TE (RFA)
- Chance Warmack, G
- Kendall Wright, WR
Top 10 Cap Hits for 2017:
- Brian Orakpo, LB: $9,000,000
- Jurrell Casey, DL: $8,520,000
- Derrick Morgan, LB: $8,000,000
- Jason McCourty, CB: $7,000,000
- Da’Norris Searcy, S: $6,750,000
- Marcus Mariota, QB: $6,603,811
- DeMarco Murray, RB: $6,250,000
- Rishard Matthews, WR: $5,833,333
- Wesley Woodyard, LB: $5,500,000
- Delanie Walker, TE: $5,333,333
- Projected cap space (via Over the Cap): $70,583,022
- Fifth and 18th picks in the draft
- Must exercise or decline 2018 fifth-year option for T Taylor Lewan
1) Build a new secondary: The Titans’ 2016 pass defense was, in a word, poor. Tennessee ranked 25th in DVOA against the pass and allowed the third-most yards in the league, finishing ahead of only the Saints and Packers in that regard. In the midst of a dismal year against opposing passers, the club even unloaded veteran cornerback Perrish Cox, who had just signed a three-year deal worth $15MM prior to the 2015 season. The Titans had evidently decided that dropping Cox and accepting $5MM in dead money in 2018 was preferable to demoting him to a lesser role.
The defensive back crew set to return in 2017 doesn’t offer much confidence, as none of Tennessee’s cornerbacks rated among the top 30 in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus (2016 free agent acquisition Brice McCain earned the highest grade at No. 38). Antwon Blake, who did most of his work on special teams rather than the defensive side of the ball, is an unrestricted free agent, while Jason McCourty — the most high-profile of the Titans’ CBs — isn’t the player he once was. 2016 rookies Kalan Reed and LeShaun Sims, Curtis Riley, and D’Joun Smith currently comprise the rest of Tennessee’s projected cornerback depth chart.
Armed with more than $70MM in cap space (good for third in the NFL), the Titans have no excuse not to bring in a free agent corner this offseason, especially given that the market with be flush with options. The club’s No. 1 target should be the Texans’ A.J. Bouye, who graded out as the NFL’s second-best corner (per PFF) and will only be 26 years old when the 2017 campaign gets underway. Not only would Bouye give Tennessee the shutdown cornerback that its secondary so desperately needs, but the Titans would be severely weakening a division rival by poaching one of Houston’s best defensive players.
Of course, the Texans probably have no desire to let Bouye get away, and will likely employ the franchise tag if no long-term deal can be reached. Instead, one other interesting avenue for the Titans could be pursuing Patriots restricted free agent Malcolm Butler. New England will almost assuredly place a first-round RFA tender on Butler, meaning that any club that signs him away would have to part with a first-round pick to do so (while giving the Pats the right to match the agreed-to deal). One note on this potential scenario: The Titans would only be forced to relinquish the 18th overall pick to New England, not the fifth overall selection they acquired from the Rams.
A player such as Butler — one of the best cornerbacks in the league entering his age-27 season — is certainly worth the 18th pick in the draft, but the Titans would have to craft an offer sheet in such a way that the Patriots wouldn’t be able to match. That could be tough to do, especially since New England has nearly as much cap space (~$68MM) as Tennessee and has already traded away some of its impending free agents in Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins. Additionally, most NFL clubs avoid the restricted free agent market given that it entails essentially negotiating a deal for another club to take advantage of. In other words, the Titans could spend valuable man hours putting in the hard work of talking numbers with Butler’s agent, only to have the Patriots swoop in and match the deal.
Admittedly, there are impediments to acquiring either Bouye or Butler, but there are other solid cornerbacks who should be available in the next few months. Trumaine Johnson, Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Morris Claiborne represent the best options on the free agent market, while Logan Ryan could also intrigue the Titans as a versatile second-tier corner. The draft offers another pipeline of cornerback talent, and the 18th pick is probably the area where Tennessee could target someone like Florida’s Teez Tabor, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, or the Ohio State duo of Marshon Lattimore or Gareon Conley.
Of course, cornerbacks aren’t the only part of a secondary — the Titans used a rotation at safety last season, with Kevin Byard, Daimion Stafford, Da’Norris Searcy, and Rashad Johnson all playing more than 500 defensive snaps. Both Stafford and Johnson are free agents, and Stafford should probably be the priority given that he’s a key part of Tennessee’s special teams unit. Byard, meanwhile, is a favorite of NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell, and should see an even larger role in 2017. If the Titans do want to add a top-notch safety early in the draft, there are seemingly two options: LSU’s Jamal Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker.
- With all of the changes to the Broncos coaching staff, there will be at least one member sticking around. Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post reports (via Twitter) that Tyke Tolbert will continue on as the team’s wide receivers coach. Tolbert reportedly turned down an offer from the Titans for the same role.
- Broncos receivers coach Tyke Tolbert could join the Titans, thereby enabling him to reunite with head coach Mike Mularkey, writes Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. Tolbert was once the receivers coach in Buffalo under Mularkey, and has also held that post with three other clubs.