James Harrison Looking For Two-Year Deal

Pending free agent James Harrison is searching for a two-year deal, his agent Bill Parise told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported yesterday that a new agreement between the Steelers and Harrison could be finalized in “a matter of time,” but Fowler says that talks between the two sides are in fact preliminary.James Harrison (vertical)

[RELATED: Steelers Working To Extend Alejandro Villanueva]

It’s unclear if Pittsburgh is willing to go to two years for Harrison, but they’ve done so in the past — after Harrison came out of retirement prior to the 2014 campaign, he signed a two-year, $2.75MM deal to return to the Steel City. At this point in his career, it seems unlikely Harrison would want to leave the club with which he’s spent all but one year of his 14-season NFL tenure, and Parise tells Fowler that “of course” Harrison prefers to remain with the Steelers.

Harrison, who will be entering his age-39 season, was as effective as ever in 2016, playing on roughly 56% of Pittsburgh’s snaps and grading as the league’s No. 11 edge defender, according to Pro Football Focus. Although he put up five sacks, Harrison’s production wasn’t all in the pass rush, as he scored high marks against the run and ranked as the NFL’s best 3-4 ‘backer in pass coverage.

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Saints, Sterling Moore Have Mutual Interest

Pending free agent Sterling Moore wants to re-sign with the Saints and is certain mutual interest exists between he and New Orleans, as he told SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier today (Twitter link).Sterling Moore (Vertical)

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — New Orleans Saints]

Moore, 27, has bounced around a bit in recent years, as he’s played for three clubs — the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Saints — over the past three seasons. 2016 marked the first time that Moore was asked to serve as a full-time starter, however, as injuries to New Orleans’ defensive backfield forced Moore to start 12 games. Moore posted two interceptions, 13 passes defensed, and graded as the Saints’ best corner, per Pro Football Focus, which ranked Moore as the No. 65 CB league-wide.

After earning only $760K last season under the terms of a minimum salary benefit contract, Moore could be in for a raise in 2017, although he may not play such a key role on the Saints defense. Thanks to that aforementioned rash of health issues in the secondary, Delvin Breaux, Damian Swann, P.J. Williams, and Kyle Wilson (like Moore, a pending free agent) combined to play only 240 snaps last year, so if that group returns to full strength, Moore could theoretically see his snaps reduced.

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Bears QB Jay Cutler Nearing Full Health

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is working to recover from shoulder surgery and is likely to be able to pass a physical by March, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Chicago is reportedly working to trade Cutler, and a clean bill of health could give interested clubs a bit more confidence in pursuing the veteran signal-caller.Jay Cutler (vertical)

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — Chicago Bears]

Although the Bears are attempting to deal quarterback Cutler, they aren’t expecting much in return, as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports Chicago would accept a 2019 seventh-round pick in exchange for its embattled signal-caller. That’s probably a bit of hyperbole on the part of La Canfora, but it’s evidence of just how difficult it will be for the Bears to find another team to accept Cutler and his current contract. An acquiring club would take on four years and more than $72MM by trading for Cutler, although none of that money is guaranteed.

Cutler, 33, spent most of the 2016 campaign sidelined by injuries, and wasn’t effective when he was on the field. In five starts, Cutler tossed four touchdowns against five interceptions, and posted a Total Quarterback Rating of just 33.1. He’s been loosely to linked to a couple of clubs this offseason, but no team has expressed any known solid interest.

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Chiefs Could Part Ways With Alex Smith?

Alex Smith has averaged nearly 11 wins per season during his four-year run with the Chiefs, but that won’t stop Kansas City from exploring other quarterback options this offseason, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link), who notes a “growing sense” among NFL executives that the Chiefs could move on from Smith. However, Kansas City will likely only part ways Smith if it’s able to acquire another signal-caller such as the Cowboys’ Tony Romo or the Patriots’ Jimmy Garoppolo, per Cole.Alex Smith

[RELATED: Chiefs Likely To Decline Nick Foles’ Option]

Smith’s potential ouster has been a topic of conversation before, as has possible mutual interest between the Chiefs and Romo. A prospective Kansas City acquisition of Garoppolo, however, has not, although the New England signal-caller figures to be a desirable item in the coming weeks, as the Browns, Bears, and 49ers are all expected to make a push for Garoppolo (and have more attractive draft picks to offer).

A “strong feeling” exists within league circles that the Chiefs have plateaued with Smith, but Kansas City won’t acquire Romo — or presumably, Garoppolo — without cutting ties with Smith first. While the Chiefs could look to trade Smith to a quarterback-needy club, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported earlier this month that Kansas City would likely release Smith if they landed Romo. The Chiefs would save $9.7MM by cutting Smith, or $13.3MM by designating him as a post-June 1 release.

Since being acquired prior to the 2013 campaign, Smith has averaged 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions per season while completing 64.5% of his passes for the Chiefs. Smith, 32, has led Kansas City to three postseason appearances during that span, but the Chiefs have never advanced past the Divisional Round.

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49ers Sign CB K’Waun Williams

It’s official. The 49ers have signed free agent cornerback K’Waun Williams to a one-year deal, according to a team announcement.K'Waun Williams (Vertical)

[RELATED: DeMeco Ryans Joins 49ers Staff]

In addition to the 49ers, the Jets, Dolphins, Vikings, and Lions all expressed interest in Williams, while the Jets are known to have offered the 25-year-old a free agent pact. The Niners have landed Williams, however, and will add him to a cavalcade of cornerbacks that already includes Tramaine Brock, Jimmie Ward, Keith Reaser, Rashard Robinson, and others.

Williams, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Pitt in 2014, appeared in 26 games (10 starts) with Cleveland from 2014-15. Playing mostly in the slot, Williams didn’t manage any interceptions, but did post 10 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and two sacks during his time with the Browns.

Cleveland waived Williams in the midst of a spat regarding an ankle injury, and though he was subsequently claimed by the Bears, Williams failed his physical in Chicago and hit the free agent market once again. Williams never played in 2016, and still has an outstanding grievance against the Browns.

The pact was first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com first reported that San Francisco had offered Williams a contract.

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NFL Draft Rumors: Guards, Foreman, Griffin

Here’s a look at some interesting NFL Draft buzz, via DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline:

  • The general belief is that this year’s offensive line crop is weak, and that will lead to some of the better prospects in this year’s class to be overdrafted. Right now, it seems like as many as three guards could be taken in the first round. Dorian Johnson of Pittsburgh is generally regarded as this year’s best guard with Indiana’s Dan Feeney behind him. If a third guard sneaks into the first round, it’ll be Forrest Lamp of Western Kentucky, multiple insiders tell Pauline. Lamp played left tackle for the Hilltoppers but he is commonly projected to guard or possibly center.
  • Texas running back D’Onta Foreman of Texas has been running in the low-to-mid 4.5s in the 40-yard-dash, a solid time for a 235-pound RB. Pauline believes that he is an underrated pass-catcher and can offer more than just his powerful downhill running skills.
  • Central Florida cornerback Shaquill Griffin is ready to run “an elite time,” trainers tell Pauline, which means clocking in under 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard-dash. At 6’1″, Griffin also has the height to succeed as an NFL cornerback.
  • In other draft news, Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II has received a second-round grade from the league’s advisory committee. This comes on the heels of talk that he could be in the mix as a top three overall pick.
  • Last week, we learned that Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly will not be among the players invited to the combine.

Patrick Mahomes Gets Second-Round Grade

Patrick Mahomes II’s stock appears to be on the rise. Today, the Texas Tech quarterback said that he received a second-round grade from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee (via Mike Florio of PFT). Patrick Mahomes II (vertical)

[RELATED: 2018 QB Draft Class Also Has Question Marks]

For a while, the consensus seemed to be that UNC’s Mitch Trubisky would be the first QB off the board in this year’s draft with Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer following afterwards. Now, it seems like Mahomes could crack the top three at the position and, according to one report, possibly go inside of the first three overall picks. The Browns, 49ers, and Bears hold the first three picks and they could all be in search of a QB come draft time. If Mahomes doesn’t hear his name called that early, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com says that the Texans at No. 25 likely represent his floor.

The scouting combine in Indianapolis should give us a better idea of where Mahomes might go in April. In a draft class that has no slam dunks at the quarterback position, we could see lots of board shuffling between now and the spring.

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Top 3 Offseason Needs: Baltimore Ravens

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 Baltimore Ravens, who have now missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the John Harbaugh era. Despite calls for their dismissal, Harbaugh and his top assistants will be back in 2017 in what will likely be a do-or-die year for them. There is enough of a foundation for the club to make a playoff push in 2017, but they will need to have a strong offseason in order to return to the postseason.

Depth Chart (via Roster Resource)

Pending Free Agents:

Top 10 Cap Hits For 2017:

  1. Joe Flacco, QB: $24,550,000
  2. Jimmy Smith, CB: $12,600,00
  3. Marshal Yanda, G: $9,125,220
  4. Elvis Dumervil, LB: $8,375,000
  5. Mike Wallace: $8,000,000
  6. Dennis Pitta: $7,700,000
  7. Lardarius Webb, S: $7,500,000
  8. Terrell Suggs, LB: $6,950,0000
  9. Eric Weddle, S: $5,750,000
  10. Shareece Wright, CB: $5,333,333

Current Projected Cap Room (via Over the Cap): $15,387,844

Other:

  • Must exercise or decline 2018 fifth-year option for LB C.J. Mosley

Three Needs:

1) Wide Receiver Help: GM Ozzie Newsome’s greatest weakness has been his ability to draft difference-making wide receivers. Breshad Perriman, whom the team selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, missed his entire rookie campaign due to injury, and though he was able to stay healthy throughout the entire 2016 season and showed some flashes of his potential, the jury is decidedly out on the UCF product. As it stands now, ex-Raven Torrey Smith is the best receiver the club has ever drafted, and though he had a productive career in Baltimore, he does not belong in the same conversation as AFC North elites like Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon (88) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As such, the team has been forced to rely on acquiring veteran possession receivers on the downside of their careers. Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Derrick Mason all enjoyed some success with the Ravens, and now that Smith has retired and Kamar Aiken appears to be on his way out, Baltimore will likely need to turn to free agency yet again. The market for veteran wideouts is fairly underwhelming, as the Ravens will likely not be in play for the biggest fish in the free agent pool, Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery will probably get a Green-esque contract, and the Ravens simply cannot afford to spend that much (nor is it their practice to make such a splash in free agency).

Pierre Garcon seems like a perfect fit, as he is a quality possession receiver who would nicely complement Perriman and Mike Wallace (the latter of whom has been discussed as a potential cap casualty, though given his production in 2016 and Baltimore’s dearth of receiver talent, it would be shocking if the Ravens were to part ways with Wallace). However, the Redskins would reportedly like to have Garcon back, and even if he does not return to Washington, the Ravens will face stiff competition for his services.

That leaves less appealing options like Kenny Britt and Brandon LaFell, as Terrelle Pryor will likely stay in Cleveland or will be too pricey for the Ravens’ liking, and Kenny Stills’ skill-set is too similar to that of Wallace and Perriman. Of course, the Ravens could always pounce on an intriguing cap casualty like Brandon Marshall — if he is released — or Victor Cruz, though such players come with plenty of question marks.

Unfortunately for the Ravens, who hold the No. 16 overall selection in the 2017 draft, this year’s rookie class of wide receivers is lacking in top-end talent. Clemson’s Mike Williams, the consensus No. 1 wide receiver in the class, has a nice combination of size and speed but could be off the board by the time the Ravens are on the clock. Western Michigan’s Corey Davis or USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster should still be available, with Davis looking like the better all-around prospect (Smith-Schuster projects as a possession receiver at the next level).

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Extra Points: Garoppolo, Belichick, Williams

Three executives tell Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report that they believe several teams will be making blockbuster offers for Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Ultimately, they think that will result in an offer the Pats cannot refuse.

Freeman also hears from Patriots sources that Bill Belichick likely plans to stay on as coach for at least five more years. Those same sources believe that Belichick wants to continue coaching after Brady retires to show that he can win without the best quarterback of all time.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Arrelious Benn‘s new contract with the Jaguars is a two-year, $1.765MM deal that contains $100K guaranteed, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Although he didn’t contribute much to the Jacksonville offense (just five receptions for 116 yards), Benn was a regular on special teams duty, as he saw action on 63% of the Jaguars’ ST plays.
  • Cornerback K’Waun Williams‘ grievance against the Browns will be heard on May 16, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Williams, who played for Cleveland from 2014-15, contends the Browns waived him while he was still dealing with an injured ankle. As such, Williams is seeking the entirety of his 2016 base salary ($600K), plus the cost of his surgery.
  • Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara has fired VaynerSports and hired Damarius Bilbo of Revolution Sports Group as his new representation , according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter links). Kamara, a committee back with the Volunteers, managed less than 1,300 yards rushing during two years in Tennessee, but also averaged more than six yards per carry during that time. Largely viewed as a Day 2 prospect, recent buzz has indicated Kamara could sneak into Round 1.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

Julius Thomas Passes Dolphins Physical

All deals are contingent on players passing a physical exam, but it is often just a formality. In the case of tight end Julius Thomas, who has missed eleven games in the past two years, the physical was nothing to be scoffed at. On Tuesday, Thomas was given a clean bill of health by doctors, paving the way for a deal to be finalized between the Jaguars and Dolphins on the first day of the league year, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. 

Teams cannot officially make trades until March 9, but everything is now in place for the swap to go through. The intra-state deal will send the tight end to Miami in exchange for a 2017 seventh-round pick. Then, in a separate deal, left tackle Branden Albert will go to Jacksonville in exchange for a 2018 seventh-round pick. Initially, it looked like the veterans would be exchanged within the same trade. Effectively, of course, they are being traded for one another.

Thomas has a history with Dolphins head coach Adam Gase and he is expected to pick up the offense rather quickly. If he can stay healthy, he could prove to be a serious weapon for Miami. Between 2013 and 2014, Thomas tallied 108 catches and 24 touchdowns under Gase’s guidance. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have secured their replacement for left tackle Kelvin Beachum, though Albert comes with plenty of question marks himself.

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