Aaron Lynch

Aaron Lynch To Visit Colts

Aaron Lynch has enjoyed a busy free agency, and his itinerary will now include a trip to Indianapolis. The veteran edge rusher will visit the Colts on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Lynch has already trekked to Seattle and Oakland for meetings. The Colts obviously have quite a bit more cap room than the Raiders or Seahawks; they have quite a bit more cap room than anyone at the moment. But Chris Ballard‘s trend of being selective in free agency continues nonetheless.

With the Bears last season, Lynch registered three sacks. He has 18 in five NFL seasons, 12.5 of those coming during his first two years. The 26-year-old edge defender has spent most of his career as a 3-4 outside linebacker, with a one-year stay in San Francisco’s 4-3 look in 2017, but that fit matters less and less with teams using nickel and dime sets more than base looks now. Matt Eberflus‘ defense is a 4-3 scheme.

The Colts have not made any notable front-seven additions this offseason. They reached an agreement to retain Margus Hunt but have left their group alone for the time being. Ballard has added the likes of Jabaal Sheard and Denico Autry in free agency since taking Indianapolis’ GM reins. The Colts also have 2018 second-rounders Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay in the fold, creating an interesting mix of linemen.

However, the team still probably has what can be considered a need for edge help.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Aaron Lynch To Visit Seahawks

Free agent edge defender Aaron Lynch suddenly finds himself with a busy schedule. After visiting with the Raiders today, the 26-year-old is headed to Seattle to visit with the Seahawks, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).

Lynch spent the first four seasons of his career with the 49ers and signed with the Bears last season to reunite with then-Chicago DC Vic Fangio. After playing on roughly 16% of the 49ers’ defensive snaps over his last two years in San Francisco, Lynch saw an uptick in playing time last year, appearing in roughly 1/3 of the Bears’ defensive snaps.

The former fifth-round pick offers some pass rush ability, and he did record 12.5 sacks across the 2014-15 seasons. Seattle was one of the better pass rushing teams in the league in 2018 in terms of raw sack totals, but Lynch, who can line up at either DE or OLB, would be a welcome addition to most clubs as a situational pass rusher if the price is right.

Raiders Interested In Brandon Marshall; Also Interested In Vontaze Burfict?

The Raiders are interested in former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, according to Mike Klis of 9News (via Twitter). Marshall, who saw his 2019 option declined by the division-rival Broncos, has attracted the attention of at least five clubs.

He does have a concerning injury history, but Oakland has very little firepower in its LB corps, and Marshall, who compiled 102 tackles and three sacks in 2017, would represent an immediate upgrade if he can stay healthy.

Vontaze Burfict would also represent an upgrade, and the Raiders, never a club to shy away from controversial players and big personalities, may also may be interested in the recently-released linebacker, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Bengals cut Burfict today after a seven-year run that included one Pro Bowl berth and a whole host of fines and suspensions, and though he may have lost a step or two, there is clearly a need for someone of his ability in Oakland.

In addition to their interest in Marshall and their potential interest in Burfict, the Raiders have also hosted Manti Te’o and Aaron Lynch, as Rapoport observes. Te’o, who just finished a two-year pact that he signed with the Saints in 2017, saw action in just five contests (two starts) last year, compiling 18 total tackles, but he did start 11 games in 2017 and played reasonably well. Plus, he is still only 28, and he would likely welcome a chance to sign with the Raiders given the playing time that might be available for him.

Unlike Burfict and Te’o, Lynch is an edge defender who can line up at DE or OLB. He was in for about 1/3 of the Bears’ defensive snaps in 2018, and he recorded three sacks in his 13 games played (three starts). The Raiders need someone who can get after the quarterback, and Lynch did post 12.5 sacks over his first two years in the league with the 49ers. At 26, he could be a low-risk, high-reward acquisition.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Patriots, McDaniels, Bears

Predicting when the Patriots’ dynasty will end has become a seemingly annual exercise, but this year there seems to be some very real cracks in the foundation. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe has a new piece examining all the possible explanations for the Patriots’ uncharacteristic issues this year, and the whole thing is worth a read. He quotes many former coaches and adversaries like Rex Ryan, and notes that the consensus seems to be that the “Patriots may have overestimated how much” the trio of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman had left in the tank.

Gronkowski has struggled with injuries all season long and hasn’t looked like himself, and Brady’s numbers aren’t of the eye-popping variety we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Volin notes that the Patriots’ longtime “commandment” was to trade players before they got over the hill, but that the team opted not to deal Gronkowski after reportedly dangling him in trade talks this offseason. There’s still a couple of weeks plus the playoffs left, but it will be very interesting to see what type of changes come in New England this offseason if things don’t pick up.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of the Patriots, one change they might be facing is the potential departure of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels famously spurned the Colts at the last second this offseason, but is likely to be a hot head coaching candidate again this year. A league source told Jeff Howe of The Athletic that McDaniels will be heavily sought after on the interview circuit in part because there’s a “shortage of impressive coaching candidates.” Howe notes that the Patriots made McDaniels the league’s highest paid coordinator to help keep him, but that he “recently hired a new agent and will be interested in interview opportunities.” McDaniels has been linked heavily to the Packers’ opening in particular.
  • The Bears just wrapped up the NFC North last week, but they’ll be without a pair of key defensive players this week as they take on the 49ers while pursuing a first round bye. Safety Eddie Jackson and linebacker Aaron Lynch have been ruled out for the game, according to James Palmer of NFL Network (Twitter link). Jackson has graded out as the top safety in the league according to Pro Football Focus, and his absence will be massive for the league’s best defense.
  • In case you missed it, Pat Bowlen’s wife is now weighing in on the ongoing legal saga surrounding ownership of the Broncos.

North Rumors: Browns, Tyrod, Steelers, Bell

Tyrod Taylor gave Browns fans a scare on Thursday night when he left Cleveland’s preseason game with a hand injury, but he eventually return to the contest and was diagnosed with just a dislocated pinky, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. While undoubtedly a painful ailment, Taylor isn’t expected to miss any time with the issue, and he tweeted earlier today that he’s “doing well.” Taylor will begin the 2018 campaign as the Browns’ starting quarterback, but could eventually cede to No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Le’Veon Bell isn’t expected to report to the Steelers until Week 1, and it’s unclear if the two-time franchise player will be a member of Pittsburgh’s roster after 2018. He won’t be assigned the tag again, meaning he’ll be able to hit the open market next spring. With that in mind, Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports examined whether Bell will be able to command a fully guaranteed deal, and also looked at the top contenders to land Bell once he finally hits free agency. The Colts, Jets, and Browns — all of whom project to have plenty of 2019 cap space, all make sense as potential destinations, per Paylor.
  • Bears safety DeAndre Houston-Carson during Chicago’s preseason game against the Broncos and is expected to miss regular season action, according to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Houston-Carson had been performing well in training camp and during the preseason, but it’s unclear if the Bears will hold a roster spot for a player who’s not a key contributor on defense. The former sixth-round pick has played just 24 defensive snaps over two seasons in Chicago, but is a core special-teamer (303 total ST snaps since 2016).
  • Edge rusher Aaron Lynch is running out of time to earn a place on the Bears‘ roster, as Campbell writes in a full piece. Lynch has been dealing a hamstring issue since late June, and has since missed 20 practices and three preseason games. He won’t participate in Saturday’s exhibition contest, either, meaning the 25-year-old will need to show progress in Chicago’s final preseason game next Thursday. A third-round pick in 2015, Lynch flashed potential during his first two NFL seasons with San Francisco, but has played in only 14 total games over the past two years due to injuries and a suspension.

Bears Rumors: Long, Lynch, Floyd, Burton

While franchise tag situations understandably dominated the day, here’s a look at one of the teams that didn’t take part in a summer standoff. Latest out of the Windy City:

  • Kyle Long‘s dealt with a string of injury problems in recent years. He underwent three more surgeries this offseason, but the Bears expect their top offensive lineman to be cleared in time for training camp, J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago notes. Long missed all of camp last season and the first two Bears games before suffering a season-ending injury that shelved him for most of Chicago’s December schedule. Shoulder, elbow and neck procedures followed, but they don’t look to be the kind of impediments Long dealt with in 2017 as he attempted to recover in time for the regular season. Long hasn’t played more than 10 games in a season since 2015. Veterans report to Bears camp July 19.
  • The Bears hope Aaron Lynch‘s history with Vic Fangio can translate to the kind of consistency that would make the former 49ers edge defender a reliable part of Chicago’s outside linebacker corps, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune notes. Hamstring and ankle injuries limited Lynch with his new team this offseason, and Kane considers him on the bubble to make the Bears. Lynch is attached to a one-year, $4MM contract. He played in just 14 games the past two seasons, restricted by injuries and a suspension, and recorded just 2.5 sacks in that span. He registered 12.5 during his first two seasons in the league, the first of which as a part of Fangio’s final 49ers defense.
  • After undergoing surgery to repair damaged the MCL and PCL in his right knee, Leonard Floyd also expects to be full-go by Bears camp, per Kane. With Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston off the roster, the Bears will need more from Floyd. Sam Acho, Jonathan Anderson and Kasim Edebali represent the non-Lynch veterans who could start opposite Floyd.
  • Trey Burton, though, may have a more important role on the 2018 Bears, with Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times ranking the former Eagles backup atop the list for players most vital to the team’s prospects this season. Despite Chicago investing more in Allen Robinson, and Mitch Trubisky obviously playing a more critical position, Jahns lists Burton in this slot because of his importance to Matt Nagy‘s offense. The Chiefs have run their attack through Travis Kelce for years, and Burton will be playing that role in Chicago. The Bears added Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller to their passing game, but Jahns writes Burton will do the most to elevate Trubisky’s comfort level. Burton has career-high marks of 37 receptions and 327 air yards — both in 2016.
  • Roquan Smith will be staying away from the Bears, whose rookies reported Monday, while his agent finalizes his rookie contract.

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.