The free agent period opens in less than one month, but at least front office staff isn’t enthralled by the prospect of adding players from the 2017 open market. “It’s a brutal free agent class,” an AFC executive tells Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. “You’ve got to hope some guys get cut who can fill a role at a decent price. We’re more interested in seeing who gets released than where these free agents sign.” While this year’s crop of players may not feature the depth of other free agent classes, there is still some intriguing talent at the top of the market, as exhibited in the latest edition of PFR’s Free Agent Power Rankings.
- NFL front offices are more willing than ever to employ the franchise tag, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link), who notes that the franchise tender allows clubs to retain elite-level talent without worrying about large signing bonuses. Those bonuses become prorated onto teams’ salary caps, making it difficult to release players down the road, while the franchise tag — while expensive — only ties a club to a player for a single season. PFR’s Zach Links examined candidates for the 2017 franchise tag earlier today.
- The Cowboys coaching staff is “much higher” on free agent Terrance Williams than the rest of the league, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, who notes Dallas’ decision-makers respect Williams’ consistency and availability. Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones has already expressed an interest in re-signing Williams, who finished the 2016 campaign with 44 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns, but Archer believes another club with more financial wiggle room will likely swoop in and steal Williams away from Dallas.
- Pending free agent safety Barry Church sounds open to giving the Cowboys some sort of hometown discount, but like most players reaching the open market for the first time, Church wants to capitalize on his next contract. “It’s definitely a business decision, but … the Cowboys … were the team that gave me that gave me the opportunity coming out of the draft, being undrafted,” Church told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Everybody else kind of passed up on me. But it’s definitely a business decision.” Church, 29, managed two interceptions and four passes defensed in 12 games with Dallas last season, and now joins a free agent safety class that includes Eric Berry and Tony Jefferson.
- The Falcons will likely place a second-round restricted free agent tender on wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, and a first-round offer isn’t out of the question, writes Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. The second-round tender should be worth roughly $2.8MM in 2017, while a first-round tender will come in around $4MM. Using a high tender would dissuade a club like the 49ers, which now employs former Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, from stealing Gabriel. In his first season with the Falcons, the 25-year-old Gabriel posted 35 receptions for 579 yards and six scores.