A.J. McCarron

Brandon Beane On Bills’ QB Decision

Second-year Bills GM Brandon’s Beane went through a lot to trade up and land Josh Allen, making two deals — with the Bengals and Buccaneers — to vault the Bills into that No. 7 spot.

When asked about his first-round quarterback’s chances of earning earlier-than-expected playing time, Beane said it could come down to how he looks in the Bills’ first preseason game.

I think you give everybody the fair amount of reps now. Right now we’re going with Nathan (Peterman) and A.J. (McCarron) with the majority of the ones and twos, but giving Josh at least a period a day – at least,” Beane said, via John Kryk of the Toronto Sun. “And we’ll do that through the first preseason game, and then we’ll adjust from there and decide, Are we going to keep it the same? Are we going to give him more reps? Or are we going to give him less? Everything is earned here.”

Buffalo snapped major North American sports’ longest playoff drought last season by booking the AFC’s No. 6 seed in dramatic fashion, and that progress may impact the team’s quarterback decision.

Although the Bills’ offense will look remarkably different, given that Tyrod Taylor and three key offensive linemen are out of the picture, last year’s work may prompt the GM and coaching staff to go with one of the veteran signal-callers while the Wyoming-produced prodigy observes to start the season.

Some people say, ‘Hey, don’t play a rookie at all.’ And some people say go ahead and play him no matter what,” Beane said. “And I think the thing is you’ve got to be fair to the other – when you get your 53-man roster – the other 52 players. Because everybody wants to win now, including Sean (McDermott) and I. And so (the players) see the same practice. They watch the same practices; they’ll watch the same preseason games. And if you’re not putting the best guy out there I think they’re going to lose their respect for you.”

Beane said he will be involved in the decision, along with McDermott and new OC Brian Daboll. Ownership will not steer the team one way or another in this matter, per Beane. Daboll last served as an NFL coordinator for the 2012 Chiefs, who went 2-14, but he served as national champion Alabama’s OC last season.

It will be a group decision,” Beane said. “There’s Sean and I. We’ll obviously talk. There’s Brian Daboll. He’ll be involved. He knows more than everybody who’s hitting everything. He’s in every meeting with these quarterbacks. It’s his offense.

… We’ll talk to (owners Terry and Kim Pegula) about the evaluation process. ‘Hey, this is what A.J. did well in Game 1 … this is what he’s got to improve on.’ Or, ‘This is what Josh did what, and what he’s got to improve on.’ And same with Nathan. So, yeah, we’ll definitely talk.”

Despite his five-interception disaster in Los Angeles last season, Peterman showed well in minicamp. McCarron would seemingly be the best bet for veteran stability, but Allen’s displayed improvement in training camp. Allen was viewed as a longer project than peers Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold coming into the draft.

(Allen) was behind, being in the draft, whereas both A.J. and Nate were already learning Brian Daboll’s system a month-plus before Josh got there,” Beane told Kryk regarding Allen’s summer progression. “But definitely, by the time we left there in June he was mentally there. Now it’s just catching him up physically, knowing all the plays – it’s a big playbook – and getting the guys lined up. But he has done a great job to this point.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Allen, Cooks, Eagles

Bills fans are anxiously looking forward to the inevitable ascension of Josh Allen, and Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News takes a look at the team’s quarterback competition with training camp fast approaching. A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman know that, if either of them start the season under center — and McCarron is generally seen as the favorite to open the year as the starting signal-caller — they would just be keeping the seat warm for Allen. Carucci notes that Allen’s natural talent was on full display throughout spring practices, and he adds that all three competitors have developed a friendship during their time together. The Buffalo News scribe examines each player’s case to start on Week 1, and he notably does not rule out any possibility at this juncture.

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the league’s east divisions:

  • Former Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks just inked a massive extension with the Rams, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says New England had a pretty good idea that Cooks, who was scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2018 season, was going to get that kind of money given the robust state of the wide receiver market. However, the Patriots just did not value him that highly and were approaching this year as though it would be Cooks’ last in Foxborough. So, when presented with the opportunity to get a first-round pick for him this offseason, New England pounced.
  • Earlier today, the Patriots signed No. 31 overall pick Sony Michel.
  • Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com takes a look at 10 Giants who are in danger of being cut because of their salaries, the status of their position groups, or some combination thereof. Dunleavy’s list is headlined by guard John Jerry and defensive end Kerry Wynn.
  • Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has made more trades than any other general manager since 2010, per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, who believes that Roseman will make more trades in the coming weeks. Shorr-Parks puts a potential return on each player on the roster, and he notes that Roseman would likely be open to moving Nick Foles and Brandon Graham, though it would take at least a first-round pick to acquire Foles and a third-rounder to land Graham.
  • In a separate piece, Shorr-Parks offers his take on the locks, longshots, and bubble players on the Eagles‘ roster as it currently stands. As Shorr-Parks has indicated previouslyRonald Darby is another trade candidate if De’vante Bausby continues to play well in training camp.

Poll: Which Team Best Addressed QB Spot This Offseason?

This turned out to be an important year for quarterback acquisitions. Many teams’ short- and long-term futures will depend heavily on the players they added over the past two months.

A fourth of the NFL made major investments in outside talent at the quarterback position this offseason. Which team did you think is in the best position after all the dominoes fell?

Three teams acquired their unquestioned starters via trade or free agency. The Redskins’ trade for Alex Smith ensured they were not going to pick a quarterback in the draft. As did the Vikings’ subsequent Kirk Cousins agreement. The Broncos entered the draft as a borderline QB destination, but John Elway valued Bradley Chubb more than Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, eschewing a Bills offer that would have given his team extra first- and second-round picks. So, Case Keenum is going to be Denver’s starter.

Four of the five teams that used first-round picks on quarterbacks made sure to add bridge-type solutions, with the Browns moving first to get Tyrod Taylor. The Jets and Cardinals then respectively proceeded to bring in Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. And the Bills made the final stopgap addition in A.J. McCarron. But these players, for the most part, are 2018 placeholders — at best.

Was Baker Mayfield worth the No. 1 overall pick? Or did the Browns make what could turn out to be the costliest of their spree of modern quarterback misjudgments last month? Several Cleveland executives independently rated Mayfield as the draft’s premier passer, going against the grain of the many teams that viewed Sam Darnold as this year’s top passing prospect. The Jets appear to have appreciated this bold move, and Darnold is almost certainly going to see extensive time in 2018. PFR readers believe he will.

The Bills worked the phones relentlessly in an effort to install Allen behind McCarron, and the Cardinals reportedly had the Wyoming prodigy rated as their top QB as well. But Allen could need extensive seasoning, and as of now, a returning playoff team has a fifth-year player with 133 career pass attempts set to open the season and possibly close it as the starter.

Conversely, the player the Cardinals invested in was tabbed by many draft experts as the readiest pro. And Bradford being in front of Rosen for 16 games may be asking a lot from the injury-prone veteran. The Ravens are already planning Jackson packages, and although the player whom some teams wanted to work out as a wide receiver may need a season to develop, this draft’s most dominant college QB resides in Baltimore behind Joe Flacco.

Armed with one of the league’s most talented rosters, Minnesota had the most obvious case to pursue a veteran. And the Vikings made history by authorizing a $28MM-AAV fully guaranteed deal for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Cousins, who may be the safest option among all of these players. But he’s now the league’s second-highest-paid passer and tethered to the Vikings through 2020. Smith is coming off his best NFL season, but his Chiefs teams disappointed in two home playoff opportunities. Washington could also be much further away from contention than Minnesota, and the Redskins have now brought in quarterback who for all the stability he offers is four years older.

It’s debatable the Broncos’ contention window could still be open, with many of their core Super Bowl 50 performers still on the team and having played the past two seasons without much help at quarterback. But a 5-11 team armed with only its second top-five pick since 1992 passing on two coveted QB prospects to pursue the 30-year-old Keenum, a late-blooming talent or a player who benefited from better circumstances, could also be classified as a bold choice as Rosen and Allen’s careers unfold. The Broncos only committed to Keenum for two years and are paying Football Outsiders’ No. 4 2017 DYAR passer $10MM less per year than Cousins commanded.

So, with all things considered, which of these franchises is best set up after this offseason? Did one of the teams that spent a first-round pick on a QB ensure a decade and then some of stability and promise? Or did the teams that went strictly for vets get this right? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Notes: McCarron, Draft, Free Agency

After trading Tyrod Taylor to the Browns before free agency opened, the Bills suddenly had a need for a starting quarterback. They filled that void with Bengals backup A.J. McCarron, who was among the last signal-callers remaining after the deals of Case Keenum, Kirk Cousins and Teddy Bridgewater.

Though McCarron is a relative unknown as a starter, the MMQB’s Albert Breer believes it was a great deal for the Bills (via Twitter). Breer notes that McCarron’s contract — $5MM base salary in 2018 with $2MM in incentives — helps save the team between $9-11MM. Not only did the team save considerable coin, it also picked up the No. 65 pick, which can be used to move up in the NFL Draft in search of the team’s quarterback of the future.

It’s hard to disagree with Breer. The team and Taylor were on the outs, and the fact that the team landed a presumably solid starter, save money and acquire draft capital in the process can only be viewed as a win.

Here’s more with the Bills:

Bills Notes post (bulleted)

  • Bills general manager Brandon Beane said they are now in the range of Top 15 prospects, and “it’s not necessarily quarterback,” ESPN’s Mike Rodak tweets. Though the team could definitely stand to upgrade at multiple positions, it’s had to see the team passing on one of the top quarterbacks should they fall.
  • With all the team’s assets, the general consensus is that the team will attempt to move up in the draft. That fact is not lost on Beane, who said via WKBW’s Joe Buscaglia (Twitter link): “Everybody assumes that we’re going to go higher [in the draft]… I don’t know that yet.” It’s not surprising that he doesn’t know that yet, seeing how the draft is still over a month away. But all the signs still point to some kind of move.
  • One thing is for sure, the team will not be adding many more impact free agents. From Rodak (via Twitter), Beane said, “We’re very low on money. We can do some lower-level things, but nothing that’s going to hit the ticker.” If they want impact players, the Bills will more than likely have to address it in April.

Contract Details: McCarron, Green, Jones, Bushrod, Davis

Let’s take a look at the details from the latest contracts signed in the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

  • A.J. McCarron, QB (Bills): Two years, $10MM. $3MM in 2018, $7MM in 2019. $1.1MM of ’19 salary guaranteed for injury. 2019 salary fully guaranteed on Day 5 of 2019 league year. Bills would incur $2MM dead-money charge by cutting McCarron after one season (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
  • DaQuan Jones, DE (Titans): Three years, $21MM, $14MM fully guaranteed at signing. $6MM base salary for 2019 fully guaranteed (per Caplan).
  • Virgil Green, TE (Chargers): Three years, $8.6MM, $5.9MM fully guaranteed, which covers the first two years of this deal (per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com, on Twitter).
  • Cody Davis, S (Jaguars): Two years, $5MM, $2.5MM fully guaranteed. Deal contains option bonus due 22 days before the start of the 2019 league year (via Caplan).
  • Jermon Bushrod, OL (Saints): One-year deal (via Herbie Teope of NOLA.com)

Bills To Sign A.J. McCarron

The Bills have signed A.J. McCarron, per a team announcement. It’s a two-year deal for the former Bengals signal caller. ProFootballTalk.com reports (via Twitter) that it’s a two-year deal worth $10MM, with $6.5MM “upside based on playing time.”

McCarron, for now, projects as the Bills’ new starting quarterback following the trade of Tyrod Taylor to the Browns. The 27-year-old only started three career games playing behind Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, but the quarterback certainly looked capable during his time on the field.

In 11 career games, McCarron has completed 64.7-percent of his passes for 920 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. During his brief starting stint in 2015, the quarterback also compiled 31 rushing yards on 14 carries. That season, McCarron started the Bengals’ playoff loss to the Steelers, throwing for 212 yards, one touchdown, and one pick.

Despite his starting inexperience, McCarron was still one of the top-ranked quarterbacks available in free agency. The Broncos and Cardinals had previously been connected to the former fifth-rounder, but both of those teams ultimately added other players at the position. McCarron was ranked 12th in our list of the top-50 free agents, and he was listed fourth in our positional rankings. Earlier today, Zach Links ranked him as the sixth-best remaining free agent.

The Bills presumably signed McCarron as their starting quarterback next season. Other than the free agent addition, Buffalo is rostering Nathan Peterman.

[RELATED: Bills Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The Top 25 Remaining NFL Free Agents

Many of this year’s top free agents came off of the board during the legal tampering period, including Kirk Cousins, Trumaine Johnson, Sammy Watkins, and Allen Robinson. Still plenty of the names from our list of the Top 50 Free Agents remain, including some new additions. Here’s a rundown of the players to keep an eye on as free agency officially begins, ranked roughly by their expected contract value:

1. Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): The Dolphins bailed on Suh’s mega contract midway through, freeing him up to sign another high-priced contract. He won’t get anything close to a six-year, $114MM deal this time around, but he should settle in at an AAV that keeps him among the best compensated players at his position. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Suh fifth among 122 interior defenders. 

2. Tyrann Mathieu, S (Cardinals): The Cardinals worked feverishly to hammer out a new contract with the Honey Badger, but the two sides could not come to terms on a deal to lessen his 2018 cap hit. He has been released, allowing him to hit free agency as the best safety available. The Jets are not believed to be interested, despite his connection with head coach Todd Bowles. The other tenant of the Meadowlands, however, could have interest thanks to the presence of former Arizona DC James Bettcher.

3. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson may have lost some luster following the trade that sent him from the Jets to the Seahawks, but he among the best defensive tackles currently available. With plenty of cap space remaining, Richardson should find a lucrative deal, though it probably won’t come from Seattle. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will fetch about $9MM/year.

4. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe missed out on a big payday last year when teams shied away from him due to lingering back issues. After turning in his second consecutive 16-game season, things could be different this time. For the record – Poe has missed only two regular season games over the course of his career, so he boasts a better attendance record than a lot of other veterans on this list. He’s unlikely to circle back to Atlanta.

5. Josh Sitton, G (Bears): With Andrew Norwell off of the board, Sitton stands as the best guard on the market. He’s missed six games over the last two years, but he has four Pro Bowl appearances to his credit. He’s set to meet with the Dolphins.

6. A.J. McCarron, QB (Bengals): It’s difficult to peg McCarron’s value heading into free agency. Outside of some quality starts in 2015, there isn’t much film out there on McCarron, despite that fact that he has spent four years in the NFL. Hue Jackson was itching to reunite with McCarron, but the Browns no longer seem a likely destination for him after the acquisition of Tyrod Taylor. It’s also hard to see him landing with the QB-needy Jets after they re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater. McCarron will find a home, but it may not be as a starter. [UPDATE: McCarron has signed with the Bills]

7. E.J. Gaines, CB (Bills): Injuries in the fall limited Gaines to just 11 games last season, but he proved to be a quality return for the Bills in the Watkins trade, in addition to the second-round pick that came with him. Gaines graded out as the No. 13 cornerback in the league last year, per PFF, and he just turned 26 in February. Gaines missed all of ’15 due to injury and didn’t look all that sharp in ’16, but timing is everything in free agency. You can expect multiple teams to call on him and the Texans could still have interest, even after inking Aaron Colvin.

8. Eric Reid, S (49ers): Reid is just 26 and is undoubtedly a starting quality safety. He has both youth and versatility on his side, but it’s possible that his anthem protest participation could hurt him when it comes to some suitors. Injuries over the last two seasons will hurt his market as well.

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McCarron Possible Broncos Backup Plan?

A Kirk Cousins-to-Denver path has lost some steam over the past week or so, and although nothing’s been decided yet, the Broncos appear to have multiple contingency plans.

Having been linked to Case Keenum throughout the offseason, the Broncos may now have A.J. McCarron on their radar. McCarron could be a target for the Broncos if Cousins signs elsewhere, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (Twitter link).

The obvious connection here would be McCarron and Vance Joseph, a former Bengals defensive backs coach during part of the quarterback’s time in Cincinnati. While McCarron could be seen as a mid-tier option on this quarterback market, he figures to receive a chance somewhere since several teams are going after Cousins and the runners-up will need backup plans.

Based on his game inexperience, McCarron profiles as a buyer-beware option. He did play well in an overtime loss in Denver in 2015 while Andy Dalton was out, but Brock Osweiler outplayed him that night. And the latter is not believed to be a consideration for the Broncos as a possible Week 1 starter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Reaction To Browns Trades

In a span of less than two hours on Friday, the Browns completely retooled their offense and added a piece to their secondary by acquiring Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor and Damarious Randall from the Dolphins, Bills and Packers respectively.

The flurry of moves drastically improves the teams offense and provides a veteran stopgap quarterback — assuming no longterm deal is made — that can bridge to the signal-caller the team is presumably going to tab with one of its two first-round picks.

Leaving Cleveland was 2017 second-round pick DeShone Kizer, who was sent to Green Bay in the Randall deal. The teams also agreed to swap fourth- and fifth-round picks in the upcoming draft. For Landry, the Browns only parted with a 2018 fourth-round pick (No. 123) and 2019 seventh-round selection. In the Taylor deal, Cleveland sent one of its third-round picks (No. 65) in exchange for the turnover-averse passer.

These deals can not be officially completed until Wednesday, the first day of the 2018 season.

Here’s more on Cleveland’s busy day:

  • The Browns do not have a long-term deal in place for Landry at the moment but both sides are interested, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson tweets. Jackson also notes (Twitter link) that Landry likes the situation in Cleveland and is excited to work with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
  • Sticking with Landry, the Ravens, Titans and Jets were all involved in talks for the receiver late this week before the Browns landed him, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets. The Ravens were widely reported as suitors for the dynamic slot receiver, but both the Jets and Titans flew under the radar.
  • ESPN’s Pat McManamon believes the trade of Kizer and the acquisition of Taylor emphasizes the Browns believe in one of the quarterbacks in the upcoming draft. He writes the plan is for Taylor to hold the spot in 2018 and let the drafted passer take the role in 2019.
  • Several other teams were interested in adding Taylor, including the Cardinals and Broncos, the Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci reports (Twitter link). Both teams were not willing to meet the Browns’ offer of a third-round pick. Kent Somers of AZ Central Sports, however, hears that the Cardinals were not involved in talks for the quarterback (Twitter link).
  • Heavily linked with Cleveland due to his ties with head coach Hue Jackson, A.J. McCarron will have to find a new suitor. ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link) noted the obvious candidates — Arizona, Denver and now Buffalo — as potential landing spots for the former Alabama signal-caller.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

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