Month: July 2020

Contract Details: Zuerlein, Bills, Cardinals

Here are the latest details from the second wave of free agency. All links courtesy of the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson, unless otherwise noted.

Titans To Sign DL Jack Crawford

The Titans will add a second member of the past several Falcons defensive lines. They are signing Jack Crawford, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

Crawford joined Vic Beasley in Atlanta for the past three seasons. The 2020 season will be Crawford’s ninth as a pro.

Tennessee saved extensive cap space by trading Jurrell Casey to Denver, and Crawford figures to be part of the team’s patch-up effort on its defensive front. Crawford, 31, has worked primarily a defensive tackle in recent years. Although Crawford finished last season as one of Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded interior defenders, the former fifth-round pick played better in 2018. He registered a career-high six sacks that season.

The former Raiders and Cowboys defensive lineman has 16 career sacks. The 6-foot-5 defender worked as an 11-game starter for the 2018 Falcons and ’16 Cowboys. Crawford will add depth to a Titans D-line that houses 2019 first-rounder Jeffery Simmons and DaQuan Jones.

The Falcons have lost Beasley, Crawford and Adrian Clayborn — also a Tuesday-night signing, with the Browns — from their 2019 D-line.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Chargers, Cardinals, Armstead

In signing Chris Harris, the Chargers now employ three first-team All-Pros (Harris, Derwin James, Desmond King) and a second-team All-Pro (Casey Hayward) in their secondary. Harris resided as the NFL’s slot kingpin for many years, but the injury-depleted Broncos used him almost exclusively on the outside last season. The four-time Pro Bowler confirmed Tuesday the Chargers informed him he will be their primary slot defender, per Daniel Popper of The Athletic (on Twitter). For most of his Broncos career, Harris played outside in base sets and inside in sub-packages.

Harris’ Los Angeles arrival puts King in an interesting position. King has become a high-end slot player for the Bolts, earning All-Pro recognition for the role in 2018. Harris said (video link via Pro Football Focus; h/t Chargers Legion) earlier this offseason the Chargers planned to move King to safety, where he played at Iowa. The contract-year defender being a full-time safety would allow the Bolts to start their four All-Pro defensive backs, but Anthony Lynn has yet to indicate how the team’s new secondary will look.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • On the subject of defensive alignments, the 49ers are not expected to make Arik Armstead a full-time defensive tackle despite trading DeForest Buckner and seeing fellow Super Bowl D-tackle starter Sheldon Day join him in Indianapolis. Armstead is expected to remain a base-downs defensive end and inside pass rusher, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Armstead has shown the ability to be an outside and inside pass rusher, leading the 49ers with 10 sacks last season.
  • Kliff Kingsbury‘s offense did not feature too much from the tight end position last season, though the Cardinals did extend Maxx Williams. Neither he nor Charles Clay reached 250 receiving yards in 2019. The Cardinals, however, are eyeing tight ends in this coming draft class, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com tweets. They had planned to bring in some for pre-draft workouts, but the NFL nixed those early in the process. This draft class is not viewed to be especially deep at tight end, however.
  • The Cardinals also are interested in Utah running back Zack Moss, according to Weinfuss (on Twitter). Moss already went through a FaceTime conversation with Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon, per Weinfuss. Moss ended the 2019 season as the Pac-12’s offensive player of the year, totaling 1,804 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns as a senior.
  • Arizona’s Marcus Gilbert contract is not quite as lucrative as initially advertised. While it is worth up to $3.75MM, the veteran right tackle’s deal will be for the veteran minimum ($1.05MM, in Gilbert’s case), Howard Balzer of SI.com writes. The longtime Steelers starter will see just $150K guaranteed. Gilbert missed all of last season with an injury, one that severely limited him on the open market.
  • The Broncos are guaranteeing Jeremiah Attaochu $500K, per the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter). That includes $250K of his $1MM base salary. Attaochu will be expected to be a backup to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.

Latest On NFL Draft

Despite concerns from GMs, the NFL will barrel ahead with its draft as scheduled. The draft will take place from April 23-25. More particulars of this year’s unusual selection event emerged Tuesday.

  • While NFL staffs are currently operating remotely, teams will be permitted to assemble modified war rooms during the draft. Teams can have up to 10 staffers in their respective war rooms, but they must follow the social distancing guidelines that have been recommended nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. The staffers must stay six feet apart, NFL executive Peter O’Reilly notes (via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, on Twitter). This will be a significant adjustment for teams, but a draft taking place without a main-stage component will certainly overshadow it.
  • Another change the NFL is considering: expanding the time teams will have to make picks. The competition committee will debate giving teams a one-time-only option to extend their clock by one or two minutes, Pelissero tweets. This is in response to GMs who voiced concerns about completing trades under this unusual format. Normally, teams have 10 minutes to make their first-round pick; those numbers steadily decrease throughout the weekend. This could be a way of throwing GMs a bone. After all, the NFL disregarded front office staffers’ concerns and has threatened to punish those who speak out against the league’s plan.
  • National Football Scouting, which works the Combine for the league, has instituted a voluntary medical recheck process, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports (on Twitter). Teams can no longer visit with prospects, work them out or attend pro days before the 2020 draft. While a recheck process would provide additional clarity for teams regarding prospects with medical issues, La Canfora notes it has placed additional pressure on players. Not voluntarily submitting to a recheck would naturally arise suspicion.
  • The NFL has implemented new rules regarding virtual communication. It will allow teams to speak with more prospects leading up to the draft.

Vikings Pursuing Anthony Harris Extension

Linked to being a tag-and-trade candidate early in free agency, Anthony Harris now appears likelier than not to suit up for the Vikings again. The expectation is for the franchise-tagged safety to play in Minnesota in 2020, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

The Vikings had dangled Harris in trades for a return as low as a late-round pick, but Tomasson notes they are now discussing an extension for the breakout defender. Harris would welcome a Minnesota re-up but wants to be one of the league’s highest-paid safeties, Tomasson adds.

Minnesota already employs one of the NFL’s highest-paid players at this position, with Harrison Smith still tied to the five-year, $51.25MM deal he signed in 2016. Devoting extensive cap space to two safeties is out of the ordinary, but Tomasson notes the Vikings now view keeping Harris as key for its defense’s success.

While the Vikings have valued continuity, building their defensive core for years through pricey extensions, they have seen many pieces of its defense stripped away this month. They released Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph and will not re-sign Everson Griffen. Minnesota also is starting over at corner, having seen Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander defect to Cincinnati. Safeties Jayron Kearse and Andrew Sendejo also left for Detroit and Cleveland, respectively. Keeping Harris may be more important now than it was at free agency’s outset.

Pro Football Focus graded Harris as one of the NFL’s best safeties over the past two years. He will turn 29 this summer, making his next contract critical for his earning potential. The 2020 safety tag is worth $11.4MM, but five safeties now earn north of $14MM per year. It is also possible a new Harris deal would prompt Smith to seek a raise, given his 5-0 Pro Bowl edge on his safety sidekick, but nothing is known on that front yet.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns, DE Adrian Clayborn Agree To Deal

The Browns continue to add role players to their defense. They have agreed to terms with veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

The parties reached an agreement on a two-year, $6MM deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, adding the pact’s max value is $7MM.

Clayborn worked as a part-time player for the Falcons in four of the past five years and won a Super Bowl with the 2018 Patriots. He makes sense as a rotational cog who could work behind Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon.

New Browns GM Andrew Berry has spent extensive time augmenting the Browns’ defensive depth in free agency. Cleveland has now signed Clayborn, Andrew Sendejo, Karl Joseph, Kevin Johnson, B.J. Goodson and Andrew Billings this month.

Playing 42% of the Falcons’ defensive snaps last season, Clayborn graded as a top-40 edge defender last season (per Pro Football Focus). He saw action on more than 50% of the Falcons’ snaps from 2015-17 and topped out in ’17 with a 9.5-sack season, aided by a six-sack day against a Cowboys team missing Tyron Smith.

The 2020 season will be Clayborn’s age-32 campaign. Formerly a Buccaneers first-round pick, Clayborn has 36.5 career sacks and 10 forced fumbles. Five of those strips have occurred since 2017. Clayborn registered at least 13 quarterback hits each year from 2015-18 but, despite collecting four sacks, tallied just seven QB knockdowns last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Broncos’ RB Plans

Before the Broncos decided on a Melvin GordonPhillip Lindsay backfield, they had another veteran standout on their radar. Denver was interested in trading for David Johnson, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic reports (subscription required).

The Broncos expressed interest in the former Cardinals All-Pro at the Combine but did not wish to meet Arizona’s asking price, Jhabvala adds. Johnson is now a member of the Texans, set to collect his full $10.2MM base salary despite Duke Johnson also on tap to earn $3.6MM in 2020. While the latter’s salary is non-guaranteed, Houston’s backfield has become quite expensive. After two years of using rookie-contract running backs, Denver’s has as well.

John Elway and Vic Fangio came to an agreement on needing a better 1-2 punch in the team’s backfield compared to what it possessed in its Lindsay-Royce Freeman setup of the past two years, Fangio said. New OC hire Pat Shurmur sought a “bellcow” back, per Jhabvala. Given that David Johnson was on the radar, the Broncos were undeterred by a large salary in their backfield.

This has created a situation in which Gordon is on track to displace Lindsay as the Broncos’ top running back. Gordon is also attached to a two-year, $16MM contract. Lindsay will make $750K in 2020. Despite becoming the first UDFA to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Lindsay denied he will seek a trade or prioritize a new deal. Elway confirmed Tuesday a new Lindsay agreement is not out of the question, but the 10th-year GM appeared to be more optimistic on this front at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

I’ve talked to Phillip’s agent and we’ll see what happens and what we can do later on,” Elway said. “That’s not a guarantee either way, but we’ll see what we can do later on.”

Lindsay’s agent, Mike McCartney, said (via Jhabvala) he hopes the Broncos will “do right by” his client after he “exceeded expectations.” No Lindsay extension discussions have occurred, however, Jhabvala adds. Lindsay cannot become an unrestricted free agent until 2022; he will be an RFA next March.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets To Re-Sign QB David Fales

David Fales is back with the Jets. The well-traveled backup/No. 3 quarterback reached an agreement to return to the Jets on Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. It’s a one-year deal.

Despite having zero career starts, the former sixth-round pick is entering his seventh year as an NFLer. He has previously worked with Adam Gase and Jets OC Dowell Loggains with two other franchises — the Bears and Dolphins — and will reprise his role as one of Sam Darnold‘s backups.

Following Trevor Siemian‘s season-ending injury, the Jets added Fales last September. Siemian played out his one-year deal and is a free agent. The Jets also turned to Luke Falk over Fales to replace Darnold last season but waived the struggling passer and kept the latter on board as Darnold’s QB2 when he returned from his mono bout. Darnold, Fales and former Cowboys UDFA Mike White are the three quarterbacks tethered to the Jets presently.

Fales, 29, played under Gase during the 2015 season — when Gase was the Bears’ OC — and in 2017-18 with the Dolphins. His knowledge of the second-year Jets coach’s system figures to be critical in an offseason that likely will not feature any on-field work until at least training camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cards, DeAndre Hopkins Discuss Contract

After the Texans received extensive scrutiny for the haul they received for three-time All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, it became known the accomplished wide receiver sought either an extension or a raise. Three years remain on Hopkins’ deal, which makes that process trickier.

Hopkins’ new team has addressed this situation with the seven-year veteran. Cardinals chairman Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim had engaged in conversations with Hopkins about his contract, ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss notes (on Twitter).

When Hopkins signed a five-year, $81MM extension in August 2017, he became the NFL’s highest-paid wideout. As is the case with most positional markets, the receiver salary landscape has changed since. On a market now topped by Julio Jones‘ $22MM-per-year deal, Hopkins’ $16.2MM-AAV contract sits ninth among wideouts. Amari Cooper, who has yet to land on an All-Pro first or second team, just signed to a $20MM-per-year deal with $60MM guaranteed. Hopkins received $49MM guaranteed when he signed. The Cardinals have Hopkins under contract through 2022; no guarantees remain on that deal.

Kyler Murray‘s rookie contract makes veteran extensions easier for the Cards; the Texans taking David Johnson‘s deal off Arizona’s payroll helps as well. Teams are not big on redoing deals with three years remaining, but the Cardinals are in a position to accommodate their prized trade acquisition.

Hopkins is set to count just $12.5MM against Arizona’s cap this season, and his cap charges over the remainder of his deal do not exceed $14MM. This deal obviously represents a bargain for the Cardinals; how the sides proceed will be a key offseason matter for the franchise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.