Dolphins Still Shopping WR Jarvis Landry?

When the Dolphins slapped Jarvis Landry with the franchise tag earlier this evening, it was assumed that the wideout would remain with the organization through at least the 2018 season. However, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says the receiver could be shipped out in a trade as early as this offseason.

Jarvis Landry (vertical)A league source told Florio that the “quick tag” can be attributed to the team’s desire to trade Landry. A deal couldn’t be completed until Landry signs his tender, and Florio believes a trade would be unlikely unless the wideout agrees to a long-term contract with his new squad. Either way, a trade wouldn’t be completely unexpected, as there were whispers that the Dolphins were shopping Landry prior to last season’s trade deadline.

After the two sides failed to make any progress following months of negotiations, the Dolphins surprisingly franchised Landry earlier this evening. The one-year tender is estimated to be worth approximately $16.23MM, which should satisfy the wideout for the time being. Landry’s camp was previously seeking $30MM in guaranteed money and an average salary of $14MM, a pair of numbers that would rank in the top-five among receivers.

As our own Zach Links noted earlier tonight, league rules indicate that the Dolphins have until July 16 to agree on a long-term contract with Landry. If there is no compromise, Landry will play under the one-year deal, and the two sides cannot resume negotiations until after the season.

After two straight 1,000-yard campaigns, Landry finished the 2017 season with 987 receiving yards. The 25-year-old did compile a league-leading 112 receptions and a career-high nine receiving touchdowns, earning him his third-straight Pro Bowl nod.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 3 Offseason Needs: Cleveland Browns

In advance of March 14, 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 Cleveland Browns, who have established the NFL futility standard by being just 1-31 over the past two seasons. There are many areas in need of upgrades for a franchise that went 0-16 last season, but one obviously dwarfs the rest.

Depth Chart (via Roster Resource)

Pending Free Agents:

Top 10 Cap Hits for 2018:

  1. Joe Thomas, T: $14,250,000
  2. Kevin Zeitler, G: $12,400,000
  3. Jamie Collins, LB: $12,400,000
  4. Myles Garrett, DE: $6,911,876
  5. J.C. Tretter, C: $6,250,000
  6. Christian Kirksey, LB: $6,200,000
  7. Joel Bitonio, G: $6,000,000
  8. Jamar Taylor, CB: $5,275,000
  9. Kenny Britt, WR: $4,875,000 (dead money)
  10. Danny Shelton, DT: $3,723,895

Other:

  • Projected cap space (via Over the Cap): $110,849,880
  • First and fourth picks in draft
  • Must exercise or decline 2019 fifth-year option for DT Danny Shelton

Three Needs:

1) End a complex QB search with a franchise player: Browns fans know the list of failed quarterback investments by now that there’s no point in rehashing them. But the Sashi Brown-era decisions to trade out of the Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson draft slots did not bode well for the organization. It has a chance to rectify those missteps in April, but the decision won’t be easy.

Unlike past years that featured No. 1-selecting teams making choices between two players — Jared Goff-over-Wentz (2016), Jameis Winston-over-Marcus Mariota (2015), Andrew Luck-over-Robert Griffin III (2012) — the Browns could possibly have four passers on their radar at No. 1. No draft has featured three QBs go in the top five since 1999, which is unique symmetry considering the Browns’ Tim Couch decision set their rebooted franchise on this course.

The Browns are expected to decide between Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield at No. 1. But the franchise is sending some mixed messages about its plans at American sports’ premier position.

Cleveland attempted to unload one of its three second-round picks for Alex Smith, who almost certainly would have been good enough to keep whomever the team selects at No. 1 on the bench throughout the 2018 season. Is that how a franchise that went 0-16 last season and 2-43 in its past 45 games should be operating? Now with A.J. McCarron on the UFA radar, might the Browns be considering him again after being willing to fork over two Day 2 picks for him at the trade deadline?

A bridge quarterback could make sense here. If the Browns go with ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.’s choice and pick Allen, who is considered raw but a player potentially possessing the highest upside of the ’18 passer crop, they would probably need a veteran to take the snaps while the Wyoming prodigy learns. The same could be said for Darnold or Mayfield, with Rosen being viewed as the readiest pro prospect of this quartet. But the Browns approaching this QB market like they need a multiyear starter doesn’t seem logical.

The Browns’ insane amount of cap space would put them in position to outgun any Kirk Cousins suitor, but that doesn’t really make much sense given Cousins’ preferences and the team’s trajectory. Even a deal for McCarron, who could be viewed by some as a Cousins backup plan, may be too steep for this franchise’s purposes. If the Browns do go after a starter-level veteran as Hue Jackson has said he may want (possibly to increase his chances at keeping the HC job beyond next season?), it should be a player whose market did not meet expectations. Injury-risk Vikings Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater come to mind here.

For their short-term mentor type, it would make sense for the Browns to target a veteran with experience but someone who doesn’t profile as a multiyear starter. It’s difficult to envision, barring an over-the-top offer, a starter-level UFA choosing the Browns over a comparable proposal from another team. But high-level backup types like Chase Daniel — a John Dorsey addition while he was in Kansas City and Smith’s backup for three years — or Matt Moore would make sense. An agreement with a nearing-retirement player like Ryan Fitzpatrick or a reunion with Josh McCown, would make more sense as a groomer for the No. 1 pick-to-be.

None of these options are as exciting as Cousins or even McCarron. But if the team is going to pick a quarterback at No. 1, over-investing here to help only the 2018 team seems short-sighted, as the 2017 Bears’ plan showed.

Since the sports media landscape has expanded significantly since the Couch/Donovan McNabb/Akili Smith trio went Nos. 1-3 in 1999, the next two-plus months should be flooded with headlines involving Darnold, Rosen, Allen and Mayfield. As of now, not much appears to be separating these passers, making the Browns’ decision all the more interesting. After misfiring on Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel, Cleveland will face pressure to get this one right.

Darnold’s been mentioned as a Browns pick, with Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson reporting multiple evaluators believe it will be a Darnold-or-Mayfield decision by late April. The USC product left two college seasons on the table to leave but has been deemed a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick since his redshirt-freshman campaign. He’s viewed as a better athlete than Rosen but a player whose delivery might need some ironing out before becoming a starting professional passer.

Rosen may be the safest pick from a pure passing standpoint, but the outspoken former UCLA centerpiece hasn’t made a secret of the fact Cleveland might not be the best place for him. And his interviews and visits may be critical leading up to the draft. But the polished signal-caller would probably be the least likely of these quarterbacks to require a bridge passer, and with Jackson wanting to have such a setup in place, maybe the Browns do opt for one of the others over the outspoken signal-caller. However, the longtime offensive coach has been reportedly enamored with the ex-Bruin. Again, it’s too early in the process to make a prediction here.

A high-level personnel executive — one that said in early 2016 the Browns would be set for 15 years if they took Wentz — told cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot that Allen-to-Cleveland would be the most likely scenario unfolding. Allen has been compared to Wentz and Ben Roethlisberger, and the high-ceiling/possibly low-floor talent will obviously be a player to monitor here as the workout season commences.

Mayfield’s path may be the most interesting. The most accomplished college quarterback of this group, the Heisman Trophy winner has turned off some execs with his attitude and drawn Manziel comparisons from scouts and execs. He also is seen as more of a developmental player and one whose 6-foot stature could steer Dorsey and Jackson elsewhere.

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Dolphins To Franchise Tag WR Jarvis Landry

The top wide receiver in this year’s free agent class is off of the table. The Dolphins will place the franchise tag on Jarvis Landry, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The official numbers are not out yet, but it is believed that the one-year tender will be worth approximately $16.23MM. The Dolphins have since confirmed the transaction via press release."<strong

It’s a surprising turn of events considering the lack of fruitful negotiations between the two sides. For months, all indications have been that the Dolphins would not tag Landry, preferring instead to negotiate with him up until March and potentially allow him to explore the open market.

In December, Landry’s agent Damarius Bilbo asked the Dolphins for a contract worth roughly $14MM per year with $30MM in guarantees. It’s expected that he’ll enter the coming round of negotiations with a similar ask. The Dolphins, who are looking to preserve what limited cap space they have, will push back and potentially open up talks with Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal from last offseason as a starting point.

At one point, the Dolphins were wary of giving Landry a bloated multi-year deal because they wanted to preserve room for locking up DeVante Parker down the line. After a so-so injury-ladened season from the former first-round pick, they’re probably less concerned on that front. The Dolphins have Parker under contract through the 2018 season at a reasonable $3.46MM charge. If he breaks out in 2018, they can use the fifth-year option to control him through 2019.

Landry has topped 1,100 yards in two of his NFL seasons and nearly reached 1,000 yards in 2017. He also scored a career-high nine touchdowns and broke his own franchise record with 112 receptions. However, his yards per catch average dipped to a career low 8.8 per contest. At the end of the day, Landry presents a difficult conundrum for the Dolphins. There’s no denying that he is a lethal slot receiver, but is a slot receiver worth a potentially market shifting contract?

A $14MM/year deal would put Landry in line with Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant, putting him just outside of the league’s top five wide receivers in terms of average annual value. The request of $30MM in full guarantees would give him the fifth-highest total among WRs, behind only DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Thomas, and Bryant (If you’re wondering where Antonio Brown is in all of this – he has the highest AAV at $17MM, but trails the aforementioned players in those other categories).

Per league rules, the Dolphins have until July 16 to hammer out a long-term contract with Landry. Otherwise, Landry will play under the one-year deal and the two sides cannot resume negotiations until after the season.

With Landry off the board, Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins are now positioned to be the best available wide receivers in free agency. Of course, the Jaguars and Rams could change that by also using the franchise tag on them. If Robinson and Watkins don’t reach the open market, then there will be a serious dearth of quality wide receivers available. In that scenario, Marqise Lee of the Jaguars could wind up as the belle of the ball.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans, Ryan Succop Agree To Extension

The Titans have signed Ryan Succop to an extension. Succop was scheduled to reach unrestricted free agency in March. Instead, he’s now under contract with the team for the next five years, a source tells ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe (on Twitter). The deal is worth $20MM in total with $7.25MM guaranteed at signing. He’s slated to earn $8.25MM over the first two years, which signifies a healthy cash flow."<strong

According to Over The Cap, Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots has the league’s most lucrative contract in terms of average annual value at $4.3MM. With an AAV of $4MM, Succop slots in as the fourth-highest paid kicker in the league, behind only Gostkowski, Justin Tucker of the Ravens ($4.2MM/year), and Mason Crosby of the Packers ($4.025MM). Succop’s total guarantee of $7.25MM trails Gostkowski ($10.1MM) and Tucker ($10.8MM), but puts him ahead of all other NFL kickers.

Succop, 32 in September, connection on 83.3% of his field goal tries in 2017. He also set an NFL record with 56 consecutive made field goals from inside the 50-yard line and edged out Al Del Greco for the team’s single-season scoring record (136 points).

Although Succop hit those milestones, it wasn’t a perfect year for him from start to finish. His field goal percentage was his lowest since 2013 and he missed two extra points. Succop will work to get back to his usual self this year – he made 88.7% of his FG tries from 2014-2016 in Tennnessee and 96% of his extra point attempts.

In other Titans news, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com recently speculated that the team could part ways with DeMarco Murray this offseason. Murray is a potential cap casualty thanks to his $6.75MM charge and the presence of Derrick Henry.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Chiefs, Peters, Raiders

Chatter that Marcus Peters may not be long for the Chiefs continues to circulate in league circles, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). That talk figures to pick up next week at the combine, JLC notes, and that could spur action on a deal.

If the Chiefs are serious about dealing the cornerback, now would be the time to do it, opines Mike Florio of PFT. For now, the complete details surrounding Peters’ late-season suspension are unknown, and that’s ideal for the team if they want to unload him. The more time that goes by, the more likely it is that teams will dig in to his locker room behavior and possibly uncover something they don’t like. Peters’ talent is undeniable, but if the Chiefs are unwilling to make a big commitment to him beyond his fifth-year option in 2019, now is the time to act.

How serious are the Chiefs are about moving Peters? That’s not immediately clear, but this is telling: while no one has confirmed to Mike Garafolo or Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) that Peters is on the block, no one has shot down the possibility either.

While we wait to see how things play out with the 25-year-old, here’s more from the AFC West:

  • In a conversation with a fan, Raiders coach Jon Gruden indicated that he wants Marshawn Lynch to be fully committed to his conditioning this year. “We’re not going to have that,” Gruden said (via S.L. Price of The MMQB). “No. I said to him: ‘I need Marshawn Lynch. I don’t need this part-time Lynch. I need full-time Lynch.” Lynch is signed through the 2018 season and with a cap number of $6MM, so there is some speculation as to whether he’ll be a part of Gruden’s second go ’round in Oakland. It sounds like Gruden will be gauging Lynch’s health as the team weighs the decision.
  • Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin is scheduled to carry a $7MM cap charge this year and the Bolts could save $4.5MM by cutting him with just $2.5MM in dead money. That may be tempting for L.A., but Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com feels that he is worth the cost. Benjamin has scored nine touchdowns for the Chargers since coming on board in 2016 and his speed opens things up in the short/medium range for Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, and Hunter Henry. Williams argues that Benjamin’s salary – which puts him No. 29 amongst WRs at the moment – is something the Bolts could live with. That’s reasonable, but it stands to reason that the Chargers could ask the veteran to accept a mild pay cut this offseason.
  • Peter King of The MMQB expects Kirk Cousins to wind up with the Broncos.

FA Kicker Nick Folk Medically Cleared

After spending the majority of the 2017 campaign on injured reserve, pending free agent kicker Nick Folk has been medically cleared to resume kicking, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Nick Folk (vertical)

The Buccaneers signed the 33-year-old Folk to a one-year, $1.75MM deal last spring after former second-round pick Roberto Aguayo struggled mightily during his rookie season in 2016. Folk handily won the Tampa Bay kicking competition, allowing the Buccaneers to waive Aguayo in mid-August.

However, Folk performed nearly as poorly as Aguayo had, converting only six-of-eleven field goal attempts and seven-of-nine extra points before the Buccaneers replaced him with Patrick Murray. Tampa Bay placed Folk on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, and he remained there for the rest of the season.

Now healthy, Folk — who has also spent time with the Cowboys and Jets during his 11-year career, will hit the free agent market alongside Adam Vinatieri, Matt Bryant, Graham Gano, and a host of other available kickers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Decline Option For Josh Sitton

The Bears will decline their 2018 option on guard Josh Sitton, meaning he’ll become a free agent next month, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).Josh Sitton (Vertical)

Sitton had been scheduled to collect $8MM cash in 2018: $7.4MM in base salary, $500K in roster bonus, and $100K in workout bonus. All told, Sitton would have counted for roughly $8.573MM on the Bears’ 2018 salary cap. By declining Sitton’s option, Chicago will create nearly $8MM in additional cap space.

The 31-year-old Sitton originally joined the Bears in 2016 after surprisingly being released by the division rival Packers. Although minor health issues have been a concern, Sitton has been outstanding in the Windy City. Just last season, Sitton ranked as the the fifth-best guard in the league, per Pro Football Focus, and his marks have remained steady throughout the duration of his career.

Going forward, the Bears will have a hole to fill at left guard without Sitton in tow. Chicago has the option of moving 2015 third-round pick Hroniss Grasu to guard, or shifting 2016 second-rounder Cody Whitehair back to guard and allowing Grasu to play the pivot. Alternatively, the Bears might look to replace Sitton with another free agent, or a draft pick who is not yet on the roster.

Although Sitton is over the age of 30, it’s hard to argue he’s not one of the best guards available on the open market. He likely won’t command the sort of years or dollars that Andrew Norwell will, but Sitton could make for a sensible veteran option for a number of clubs with issues along the interior.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars Decline Option On Mychal Rivera

The Jaguars have declined their 2018 options on tight end Mychal Rivera and wide receiver Arrelious Benn, the club announced today.Mychal Rivera

Rivera, 27, signed a two-year deal with the Jaguars prior to the 2017 campaign, but was placed on injured reserve in September and never saw the field in Jacksonville. He’d been scheduled to earn $1.25MM base salary next year, but the Jaguars will now incur $250K in dead money by cutting ties. Rivera’s high water mark came back in 2014, when he collected 58 passes and 534 yards for the Raiders.

Benn, meanwhile, was active for the Jaguars’ first nine games in 2017 before being placed on injured reserve. The former second-round pick played only 80 offensive snaps and managed just a single reception, but he did see time on 180 special teams snaps. Had his option been picked up, Benn would have earned a $790K base salary next year.

Although Rivera and Benn’s options have been declined, they will not immediately become free agents. Instead, they will hit the open market on March 14 like the majority of free agents.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Exercise Option For DT Steve McLendon

The Jets have exercised their 2018 options for defensive tackle Steve McLendon and linebacker Josh Martin, reports Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).Steve McLendon (Vertical)

McLendon, 32, will now earn a $3.125MM base salary and a $250K roster bonus while counting for $4.25MM on the Jets’ cap. His option was fully expected to be picked up, as he helped New York field one of the best defensive lines in the NFL a season ago. Gang Green ranked sixth in adjusted line yards in 2017, and McLendon — who graded as the league’s No. 29 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus — was a large part of the club’s success.

Martin, meanwhile, only played 489 defensive snaps last year, but his playing time steadily increased as the season progressed. By the end of the 2017 campaign, Martin was a starter, and had collected 31 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 14 total games. Martin, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2013, will now earn a $1.8MM base salary in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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