Month: April 2018

Eagles’ Brandon Brooks Restructures Deal

For the second time in five months, Eagles guard Brandon Brooks has amended his contract, as ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets. This time around, the offensive lineman has reworked his deal to accommodate teammate Nick Foles.

The revision to Brooks’ deal will create $6.37MM in cap space by converting his base salary into bonuses. The adjustment drops his cap number to $4.768MM in 2018, allowing the Eagles to give Foles a raise this season, plus extra incentives.

If [you’re] wondering about the restructure, I get $4MM now [and] $4MM by Sept. 1 with a couple hundred thousand over the season,” Brooks tweeted. “The reason I did it was because the [expletive] SUPER BOWL MVP DESERVED MORE MONEY. Love you bro.”

Brooks, 29 in August, earned his first career Pro Bowl selection last year. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 ranked guard in the entire NFL in 2017, behind only Zack Martin of the Cowboys, David DeCastro of the Steelers. and Andrew Norwell of the Jaguars (formerly of the Panthers).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Willie Snead To Join Ravens

Willie Snead is officially a member of the Ravens. The Saints informed the wide receiver on Monday morning that they will not be matching his offer sheet (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). 

The Saints used the low level tender on Snead this offseason, which tagged him with only a one-year, $1.907MM placeholder. The move came as something of a surprise, but the Saints did not want to pay him upwards of $2.9MM via the second round tender after a forgettable 2017.

Right at the deadline for restricted free agents, the Ravens inked Snead to a two-year, $7MM offer sheet with another $3.4MM in incentives. After the Saints signed an RFA wide receiver of their own in Cameron Meredith, there was no real scenario in which they would have matched.

The Ravens upgraded their wide receiver stable by adding Michael Crabtree and John Brown in March. They were expected to target a WR3 type in the draft this weekend, but the addition of Snead will allow them to prioritize other areas of need.

Snead virtually disappeared from the Saints’ offense last year, but he averaged 70 catches for 940 yards and four touchdowns between 2015 and 2016. He won’t turn 26 until October, so the Ravens see serious potential in the former UDFA.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Exercise Bud Dupree’s Option

The Steelers have exercised the fifth-year option on linebacker Bud Dupree, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Dupree’s option was considered likely to be exercised, but it was not a slam dunk decision. 

[RELATED: PFR’s 2019 Fifth-Year Option Tracker]

Dupree, 25, had a career highs in sacks (6) and total tackles (40) last season. However, he missed more than half of 2016 with a groin injury and was inconsistent as a rookie. They now believe the former 2015 first-round pick is on track for a solid career, so they’ll extend his deal through 2019. Should he suffer another setback due to injury, the Steelers can terminate the deal before having to pay him $9.232MM in 2019.

Dupree is slated to return as the Steelers’ starting left outside linebacker with J.J. Watt on the opposite side and Vince Williams and offseason pickup Jonathan Bostic in the middle. The Steelers could target an ILB in the draft to start ahead of Bostic, but Dupree’s spot is secure.

For what it’s worth, the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus have never been high on the Kentucky product. Last year, his 49.0 overall score ranked him as the eighth-worst qualified edge defender in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Exercise Byron Jones’ Option

It’s officially a done deal. The Cowboys have exercised Byron Jones‘ option for 2019, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The move was actually formalized on Friday, but was not reported until Monday morning.

Jones will be moving to cornerback from safety this season, but his salary will reflect his former position. The Cowboys now have the defensive back under contract for $6.2MM, though his salary is guaranteed for injury only.

Jones, 26 in September, has started every game for the Cowboys over the last two years and has tallied 130 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one touchdown in that span. Last year, his performance dipped a bit, as evidenced by his 76.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus (ranked No. 54 amongst safeties), down from 83.7 in 2016. The hope in Dallas is that he will get back on track at cornerback.

Since the fifth-year option was implemented under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have exercised the additional year on every first round pick except for Morris Claiborne, the No. 6 overall selection in the 2012 draft.

You can keep track of all fifth-year option decisions using PFR’s tracker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Work Out Lamarr Houston

The Jets are exploring options in the front seven. Gang Green will work out edge rusher Lamarr Houston and defensive tackle Chris Jones, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero. Former Rams defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker and former Browns defensive lineman Lavar Edwards will also be a part of the workout, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Colleague Mike Garafolo (on Twitter) adds that the Jets brought in former Chiefs defensive tackle Jaye Howard for a visit recently. 

The Jets have already added a number of new linebackers this offseason, including ILBs Avery Williamson, Kevin Minter, and Micah Awe and outside linebackers Kevin Pierre-Louis, Brandon Copeland, and Neville Hewitt. However, they have done little to bolster the defensive line behind projected starters Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, and Mike Pennel.

After sacrificing two second round picks in this year’s draft (plus a second rounder in next year’s draft) to move up from No. 6 to No. 3 overall, the Jets may want to fill out the D-Line depth chart through veterans in order to focus on other needs this weekend. The Jets still have six picks in the draft, but their second choice won’t come until No. 72 overall.

Houston, 31 in June, recently auditioned for the Raiders but left Oakland without signing a deal. Howard, 29, put himself on the map with 5.5 sacks for the Chiefs in 2015 but was slowed by a hip injury in 2016 and did not play last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Rumors: Richardson, Steelers, Ravens

The $3MM incentive package for Sheldon Richardson will center on the interior defender’s sack production. Richardson’s one-year, $8MM Vikings deal will include a $667K bump if he reaches six sacks, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes. Should Richardson register eight sacks, that number spikes to $1.3MM. It rises to $2MM for a 10-sack slate. These benchmarks will be difficult to hit. The former first-round pick has only exceeded six sacks once in five seasons (eight in 2014). Richardson can also earn $500K if he makes the Pro Bowl, which he has done once (in that ’14 season). That will increase to $1MM if a first-team All-Pro nod follows the Pro Bowl acclaim, per Goessling.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions.

Community Tailgate: Giants’ Barkley Fit

With the draft four days away, the prospect of Saquon Barkley becoming the first running back to go off the board in the top two since Reggie Bush has steadily increased. The Giants/Barkley noise has intensified.

The Giants hold their highest pick since 1981, when they chose Lawrence Taylor at No. 2, and have a quarterback who is set to play his age-37 season in 2018. With all but one QB likely to be available to Big Blue at No. 2, it could be argued — as some in the organization appear to have done — the Giants should not forgo a chance to add a possible Eli Manning successor only to draft this year’s best running back prospect. They have not held a top-five selection since the Manning trade 14 years ago, so it can’t be considered a lock they’ll have this opportunity again soon.

New York also has needs on its offensive line, at cornerback and on its front seven, putting a trade-down decision in play. A Bradley Chubb pick would go about meeting need and value if he is the No. 2 choice, but Barkley may well be the No. 1 prospect on the Giants’ board. And Dave Gettleman, who held key decision-making positions when the Giants used a No. 7 pick on Ron Dayne (2000) and a No. 32 choice on David Wilson (2012), does not look to believe running backs aren’t the commodities they used to be. (At least, he’s not saying so publicly.)

The Giants also need a better answer in the backfield. Jonathan Stewart is nearing the end of his career, and Paul Perkins and Wayne Gallman may be backup types. As a player who’s been rated by some high-profile draft experts as being a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley would surely take care of that and join an offense that would have Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram (and if Dez Bryant gets his way, Dez Bryant) at the skill spots. The Penn State superstar being in that mix could change the equation for the Giants, who ranked 26th in rushing offense and scored just 15.4 points per game (31st in the league) last season. Elliott sure made an impact for the Cowboys as a rookie, but he had a much better offensive line in front of him.

The Jaguars invested a No. 4 overall pick in Leonard Fournette a year ago. He’s Jacksonville’s unquestioned starter going forward, but the Jags saw third-rounders Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt have superior rookie seasons. Devonta Freeman was just a fourth-round pick, and Jordan Howard went in the 2016 fifth round. Le’Veon Bell, a second-rounder, is gunning for a No. 1 receiver-level contract And this running back class is viewed as another strong group, and intriguing ball-carriers will be available on Day 2.

ESPN’s Todd McShay was definitive in his stance that Barkley will be a Giant, and the franchise’s interest in him appears to be genuine. PFR readers overwhelmingly believe that’s what will happen. The Giants had one of the 2000s’ best backfield options in Tiki Barber, but they won a Super Bowl the year after he retired and won another four years later when they ranked last in rushing. This franchise has deployed successful backs since Barber, in Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, but Big Blue has shown it hasn’t necessarily needed a top-tier back to thrive in the recent past.

So, should the Giants use their top offseason resource to draft Barkley? Is he worth the team bypassing a possible long-term quarterback option when the running back position has seen its value take numerous hits this century? Or would the Giants be reaching if they took a quarterback who might not play until 2020 over a well-reviewed running back who could have an Elliott-esque effect on their offense this season? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: Seahawks, Thomas, 49ers

Despite the Seahawks expecting Earl Thomas not to hold out, they still have him on the trade block, John Clayton of ESPN said during a radio appearance with KESN in Dallas (via the Dallas Morning News). Clayton added that the Seahawks would likely be willing to move their three-time All-Pro safety for less than a first-round pick, indicating they would probably trade Thomas for a package featuring second- and fourth-round selections and perhaps something in the 2019 draft. Clayton indicates the Cardinals could use a free safety but that the Seahawks were not going to trade Thomas to an NFC West team. The Cowboys moving Byron Jones to cornerback would open a spot there, and Thomas was vocal about being receptive to a Dallas deal, and they strike Clayton as the top suitor for the 28-year-old defender’s services.

Here’s the latest from Seattle, along with other West-division locales, heading into draft week:

  • Pete Carroll said this week the door wasn’t closed between the Seahawks and Colin Kaepernick, but Clayton said this partnership will be unlikely. The longtime ESPN reporter added the Seahawks did work out Kaepernick last year when he visited but did not offer him a contract because Carroll exited the interview with the impression the former 49er still wanted to be an NFL starter rather than a backup.
  • The 49ers covered their linebacker bases this week. After hosting Roquan Smith on a top-30 visit, they welcomed Tremaine Edmunds to the Bay Area for a 30 summit, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports. The 49ers scheduled the Smith and Edmunds visits weeks ago and not in light of the charges levied against Reuben Foster, per Barrows.
  • Foster’s plea hearing is scheduled for Monday, April 30, and Barrows reports that if no delays occur, jury selection for this case would transpire in late July. With the 49ers barring Foster from their workouts until this matter is resolved, that’s going to essentially nullify the second-year linebacker’s offseason. However, the alleged victim has hired representation, which could cloud this case.
  • The Cardinals visited Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk recently.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Colts, Patriots

Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area looks at four running backs the Raiders could target in the upcoming draft. Though the Raiders have Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin and DeAndre Washington on their roster, Bair believes there’s still a strong chance the team will target a running back at some point.

The Raiders are unlikely to take a running back until at least the second round, where they hold the No. 41 overall pick, and Bair looks at four running backs the team could have its eyes on.

Leading off the list are Georgia’s Sony Michel and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, who are both projected to go in the second round (per NFL.com). Penny could also help the team in its return game, with the trade of Cordarrelle Patterson to the Patriots.

Closing out the list are Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson and Northwestern’s Justin Jackson. Johnson is projected to go in either the second or third round and Jackson is expected to go in the sixth or seventh round, with both projections coming from NFL.com.

The Raiders ranked 25th in the league with 1,554 team rushing yards last season. They were in a tie at No. 11 with 13 rushing touchdowns. Lynch and Martin are slated to become free agents next offseason.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Colts will have four selections inside the first 49 picks in the upcoming draft, which is good because they could use help at nearly every position outside of quarterback and their specialists. Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star breaks down where the team is in most need, though, with wide receiver, linebacker and offensive line ranking as the top three. Rounding out the top five were defensive line and defensive back. The Colts moved back to the No. 6 overall pick in the first round in a trade with the Jets.
  • ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported in May of last year that the Patriots were looking to provide depth in their interior line in the form of Indiana guard Dan Feeney before he was selected by the Chargers. The Patriots have a solid core in their interior line, with guard Joe Thuney, guard Shaq Mason and center David Andrews, but Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston wonders if they’ll again look for depth on the inside. He points to Iowa’s James Daniels, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn, Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow and Ohio State’s Billy Price as a few options that could be available if the team elects to go that route.
  • Earlier Sunday, we learned that the Raiders plan to pick up the fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper.

North Notes: Mayfield, Lions, Bengals, Browns

In an inbox piece, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com informs that the Browns have not shut down the idea of taking Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. But few reports have linked the team with drafting the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma.

Cabot notes that Pro Football Focus has ranked Mayfield as its top quarterback in the 2018 draft class and that her sources indicate the Jets are likely to take him at No. 3 if the Browns elect to pass on him at No. 1. She also reminds fans that Browns draft consultant Scot McCloughan entered the draft process extremely high on Mayfield.

While it appears the Browns haven’t closed the book on Mayfield, the likes of USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen could lead the team to go elsewhere with the first overall pick.

Here’s more from around the AFC/NFC North:

  • Kyle Meinke of MLive wonders if Matt Cassel might beat out Jake Rudock for the team’s backup quarterback job. The ties between Cassell, 35, and the Lions are fairly obvious, with new coach Matt Patricia. He was an assistant coach with the Patriots in 2008 when Cassel had arguably his best season as a pro, in place of the injured Tom Brady. The Lions took Rudock in the sixth round of the 2016 draft out of Michigan and he’s appeared in three games through two seasons, compared to 106 career appearances and 81 starts in Cassel’s career.
  • The Bengals didn’t have much trouble getting ahold of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson to bring him in for a visit, per Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, which had been a knock on the former Heisman Trophy winner. Owczarski also reports that the visit was merely due diligence in the hopes that Jackson may fall to them at No. 21.
  • Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal points to USC running back Ronald Jones as a potential fit for the Browns in the second round. It’s unlikely the Browns would get a crack at taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley unless they select him with the No. 1 overall pick. Jones is viewed as a “clone” of veteran running back Jamaal Charles, who new general manager John Dorsey worked with during his four seasons as the general manager of the Chiefs. The Browns have three picks in the second round (Nos. 33, 35 and 64).