Aaron Lynch

Contract Details: A. Smith, Pugh, Curry, ASJ

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently signed NFL contracts:

AFC

  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE (Jaguars): Two years, $10MM. $4MM guaranteed. $3.21MM signing bonus. $500K 2019 option bonus. $500K annually available via catch, playoff, and touchdown incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Adrian Clayborn, DE (Patriots): Two years, $10MM. $5.5MM guaranteed. $4MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe).
  • Albert Wilson, WR (Dolphins): Three years, $24MMM. $14.45MM guaranteed. $4.5MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Marcus Gilchrist, S (Raiders): One year, $4MM. $3.85MM guaranteed. $1.85MM signing bonus. $1MM available via playtime, interceptions, and Pro Bowl incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Tramaine Brock, CB (Broncos): One year, $3MM. Fully guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus. $1MM available via playtime incentives (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9News).
  • Seantrel Henderson, T (Texans): One year, $4MM. $1MM guaranteed. $500K signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).

NFC

  • Alex Smith, QB (Redskins): Four years, $94MM. $55MM guaranteed. $27MM signing bonus (Twitter links via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com and Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com).
  • Justin Pugh, OL (Cardinals): Five years, $45.025MM. $15.75MM guaranteed. $10MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Vinny Curry, DE (Buccaneers): Three years, $23MM. $6.5MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times).
  • Zach Brown, LB (Redskins): Three years, $21MM. $10MM guaranteed. $4.5MM signing bonus. $1MM annually available in Pro Bowl, All-Pro incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Ed Dickson, TE (Seahawks): Three years, $10.7MM. $3.6MM guaranteed. $2.6MM signing bonus. $1.1MM annually available via catch, yards, and Pro Bowl incentive (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Aaron Lynch, LB/DE (Bears): One year, $4MM. $1.25MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).

Bears To Sign DE Aaron Lynch

The Bears will sign free agent edge rusher Aaron Lynch to a one-year deal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Lynch spent the first four seasons of his career with the 49ers, with whom he had some overlap with current Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. His familiarity with the Bears’ scheme is an obvious place, and he could conceivably slot in at either defensive end or linebacker. Either way, Lynch will have one goal: get after opposing quarterbacks.

Lynch admittedly hasn’t been on the field much since 2016 (he’s averaged only 16% playtime over the past two seasons), and the 24-year-old Lynch was reportedly overweight and in danger of getting cut last May. But the former fifth-round pick posted 12.5 sacks over the first two years of his career, and ranked fifth in the NFL with 34 pressures as recently as 2015.

In Chicago, Lynch should have a good shot to rehab his value in advance of 2019 free agency. Although the Bears re-signed veteran outside linebacker Sam Acho to go along with Leonard Floyd on the edge, Acho doesn’t posses Lynch’s upside. With Pernell McPhee now out of the picture, Lynch should be able to soak up snaps as a pass rusher.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

NFC Notes: Griffin, Stafford, Forbath, 49ers

The Seahawks defense continues to take hits on the injury front as the team has now learned that starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin has been ruled out for Sunday’s game vs. the 49ers with a concussion, according to Gregg Bell of The News Tribune (Twitter link). Bell adds that lineman Oday Aboushi will miss the matchup with a shoulder injury as well, so Seattle will once again have to expose backups to expansive playing time.

It would seem that cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane will get the starts on the outside, with either rookie Ethan Pocic or third-year lineman Mark Glowinski filling in for Aboushi at right guard.

Seattle’s roster looks a whole lot different without the likes of Griffin, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the starting lineup, which has contributed greatly to the Seahawks up-and-down sort of season. The team still has an outstanding defensive line and is right in the thick of the playoff race, but is currently facing a lot of adversity as it continues to lose quality players as the season wears on.

  • In what was a tremendous show of resiliency on Thanksgiving, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford actually finished the game after he suffered what looked to be a serious leg injury. However, even though the talented QB was able to return, you can clearly see that he is not 100% in a video posted to Instagram by Davie Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, depicting Stafford hobbling away after his postgame press conference. It remains to be seen whether Stafford can continue to play in the weeks to come, but we should learn more about the overall severity of the injury next week.
  • Vikings kicker Kai Forbath apparently cut his foot on the nullified block field goal, but should not miss any time moving forward, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Forbath had been one of the best kickers in the league up until the last few weeks when he missed two field goals against the Rams and suffered the aforementioned blocked kick yesterday.
  • The 49ers are as expected not in playoff contention this year, but still await some key decisions on potential free agents at season’s end. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, looked at six impending free agents who could be on the way out after the 2017 season is over. Branch noted running back Carlos Hyde, safety Eric Reid, center Daniel Kilgore, defensive end Aaron Lynch, defensive lineman Tank Carradine and cornerback Dontae Johnson as all guys that seemed primed to test the open market. There are a variety of factors that go into these decisions, but it’s interesting to see how the team may approach these players in the final six weeks of the season given their impending free agency.

NFC Rumors: Lynch, Eagles, Saints

Aaron Lynch has an opportunity to play the Leo position in the 49ers‘ new 4-3 defense, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. That position in Robert Saleh‘s Seahawks-influenced scheme is viewed as the team’s top pass-rushing talent, but Lynch admitted the reports about his weight that surfaced earlier this offseason were true. The fourth-year edge defender clarified the weight struggles he’s having. Branch reports Lynch is currently in the 280s and wants to get down to around 270 pounds, but during his last year in San Francisco’s 3-4 scheme, Lynch ballooned to north of 300. This came during training camp, before he served a four-game suspension for substances of abuse. The then-outside linebacker was notified of a suspension last July. Lynch’s sack total plummeted to 1.5 last season after he registered 12.5 between his first two years.

I know last year I probably wasn’t as committed,” Lynch said, via Branch. “I mean, I was committed, but I basically [had] some off-field issues, getting suspended and getting hurt. So I don’t think my mind was in the right place as far as how the season was going. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t committed. I’m working my ass off right now. Getting down to the weight I need to get, doing everything they want me to do.”

The 24-year-old Lynch not making weight could result in the 49ers moving on from him, but the team is thin on pass-rushers. Branch writes the team did not draft a “legitimate Leo” candidate until the sixth round (Pita Taumoepenu of Utah), and the Bay Area-based writer isn’t categorizing No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas (8.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss in 2016) as such.

Here’s more from the NFC.

  • Ron Brooks is still recovering from the quadriceps injury he suffered in October of 2016 and did not participate in team drills during the first segment of Eagles OTAs, Dave Spadaro of PhiladelphiaEagles.com reports. Brooks took a paycut in March that trimmed nearly $1MM off his 2017 salary. He will make $1MM this season. The Eagles remain thin at cornerback after losing Nolan Carroll and drafting Sidney Jones, who may not be ready to play in 2017. Rookie third-rounder Rasul Douglas lined up as Philly’s No. 3 corner, per Spadaro, with Jalen Mills shifting inside when the team lined up in that formation last week.
  • LeGarrette Blount‘s one-year deal on a $1.25MM base salary is plenty worth it for the Eagles to find out if he can thrive outside of New England, Bob Brookover of Philly.com writes, noting that Blount never being paid more than $1.85MM in a season doesn’t add up with his career production. The 30-year-old rushed for a career-high 18 touchdowns last season — the most any NFL back’s totaled since Adrian Peterson in 2009 — but averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. While he’s averaged 5.0 yards per tote twice, those seasons came with lighter workloads.
  • The Saints keeping their corners healthy could see the position look rather deep compared to the barren outlook of 2016, Nick Underhill of The Advocate writes. Marshon Lattimore joins Sterling Moore, Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams in a secondary that did not feature a lot of the latter duo due to injuries last season. Underhill adds that Williams could see time in the slot for New Orleans and would have last year under optimal circumstances. Any optimism can, of course, be countered by mentioning how Lattimore comes with a history of hamstring trouble and that Breaux and Williams suffered severe injuries in 2016. But under ideal conditions, the Saints appear to be much deeper than they were for most of 2016.
  • Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson wouldn’t mind some competition coming in to push Kellen Moore for the team’s backup job.

Aaron Lynch At Risk Of Getting Cut?

Could Aaron Lynch‘s tenure in San Francisco be coming to an end? According to Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (via Twitter), the 49ers linebacker is 20 pounds overweight and is at risk of getting cut.

Aaron Lynch (vertical)The 24-year-old has spent his entire three-year career with the 49ers. After being selected out of South Florida in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, Lynch proceeded to play in all 16 games as a rookie. His sophomore campaign was arguably his best season, as the linebacker finished with 38 tackles and 6.5 sacks.

The linebacker was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season after violating the NFL’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. Lynch ended up finishing last season with career-lows in games (seven), tackles (12), and sacks (1.5). A nagging ankle injury continually kept him off the field following his suspension.

Lynch was expected to play defensive end in new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh‘s scheme. However, Cohn later said that the defender was the most likely to be cut among the Trent Baalke holdovers (right ahead of Vance McDonald). If the 49ers do ultimately cut Lynch, they’ll probably need some reinforcement at defensive end. Behind starters Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, the team is only rostering defensive ends Lynch and Ronald Blair.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2017 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Donte Moncrief (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.8MM in 2017. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2017 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Aaron Lynch, LB; Marcus Martin, OL

Bears: Charles Leno, T; Will Sutton, DT

Bengals: Russell Bodine, C

Bills: Preston Brown, LB; Seantrel Henderson, T

Broncos: Michael Schofield, OL

Browns: Christian Kirksey, LB

Buccaneers: Kevin Pamphile, G

Cardinals: John Brown, WR

Chiefs: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G; Zach Fulton, G; Phillip Gaines, CB

Colts: Donte Moncrief, WR

Cowboys: Anthony Hitchens, LB

Falcons: Devonta Freeman, RB

Giants: Devon Kennard, LB

Jaguars: Aaron Colvin, CB; Brandon Linder, G; Telvin Smith, LB

Lions: Nevin Lawson, CB; Travis Swanson, C

Packers: Corey Linsley, C; Richard Rodgers, TE

Panthers: Tre Boston, S; Trai Turner, G

Raiders: T.J. Carrie, CB; Justin Ellis, DT; Gabe Jackson, G

Rams: Maurice Alexander, S; E.J. Gaines, CB

Redskins: Bashaud Breeland, CB; Spencer Long, G; Morgan Moses, T

Texans: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE; Andre Hal, S

Titans: DaQuan Jones, DL; Avery Williamson, LB

Vikings: Shamar Stephen, DT

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Activate LB Aaron Lynch

As expected, the 49ers have activated linebacker Aaron Lynch. To make room, the team has officially placed linebacker NaVorro Bowman on injured reserve. Aaron Lynch (vertical)

Lynch was suspended without pay for the first month of the season after running afoul of the league’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. Lynch, 23, has appeared in 30 games for SF over the last two years with 16 total starts. In his rookie year, Lynch made a mark when he tallied 23 tackles and 6 sacks. In 2015, he improved on those numbers in a 14-game season, racking up 38 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Now, he’ll rejoin a Niners team that has totaled just seven sacks through four games.

The Niners announced on Wednesday that Bowman is done for the year after suffering a torn Achilles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

14 Players Returning From Suspension

Fourteen players will return from four-game suspensions this week, according to Howard Balzer (Twitter links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). The most high-profile returnee, of course, is quarterback Tom Brady, who will re-join the 3-1 Patriots on Sunday against the Browns.

The following players have completed their suspensions:

The club that employs each player will receive a short roster exemption that ends the day following the team’s Week 5 game. that means the 49ers’ exemption for Lynch ends Friday, the Panthers’ exemption for Scott ends next Tuesday, and the rest end next Monday.

Sterup, meanwhile, was on the Chiefs’ practice squad when he was banned, but he hasn’t completed the PED reinstatement requirements, according to Balzer. So although he can sign with a new club, Sterup can’t practice or play until he’s approved by the league.

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Lynch, Cards, Mathis

49ers linebacker Aaron Lynch unsuccessfully attempted to appeal his four-game substance abuse policy, as he explained to reporters, including Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). Lynch entered stage one of the NFL’s drug program via positive tests in college, and he maintains he failed his most recent test due to a “unreliable specimen” caused from drinking too much water, tweets Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. While he’ll be allowed to attend training camp, play in the preseason, and attend regular season team meetings, Lynch won’t be able to practice once the regular season begins, writes Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.

Let’s take a look at more from the NFC West:

  • If he’s able to win another Super Bowl with the Cardinals in 2016, Evan Mathis says he’ll retire immediately, according to Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports 910 (Twitter link). “Absolutely,” said Mathis, when asked if he’ll hang up his cleats. “Not even thinking twice.” Mathis, 34, won a title during his first (and only) season with the Broncos, and proceeded to join Arizona on a one-year, $4MM deal. The veteran guard can earn another $2MM via incentives.
  • The Cardinals could conceivably keep a third quarterback on the active roster, but that No. 3 QB will have to compete with a fourth tight end, fourth running back, or sixth wide receiver, head coach Bruce Arians told reporters, including Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. Arizona’s third signal-caller battle will come down to Matt Barkely and 2016 undrafted free agent Jake Coker, each of whom will compete to work behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.
  • Trent Baalke knew Tom Gamble‘s promotion to assistant general manager would invite more scrutiny as to who holds the power in the 49ers‘ front office, as Branch writes in a full piece. Gamble spent two seasons with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia in between two stints in San Francisco, so Gamble acquiring a stronger voice could make it appear as though Kelly is usurping control. “I don’t live in a cave,” Baalke said. “I think I understood exactly what was going to happen. And that should show you even more that I don’t care. In all honesty, (Gamble is) deserving of the position.”
  • Meanwhile, Baalke says the 49ers will carry over the nearly $50MM in cap space that they currently possess, and could use it on extensions for players like Eric Reid, Carlos Hyde, Jimmie Ward, and others. Maiocco has the details and Baalke’s full statements in a separate piece.