Alex Okafor

Contract Details: Burnett, Bodine, Williams

Let’s take a look at the most recent new contracts around the NFL:

AFC

NFC

Saints To Re-Sign Alex Okafor

Alex Okafor is back with the Saints. New Orleans has re-signed the pass rusher to a two-year deal worth up to $10MM, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets

Okafor visited the rival Buccaneers this week, but wound up staying put. That was Okafor’s only known outside visit and it’s quite possible that his list of suitors was limited by the torn Achilles that ended his 2017 early. Rapoport hears that he is recovering well from his torn Achilles, though he is still not 100%.

Before the injury, Okafor started in all ten of his games and racked up 4.5 sacks with a career high 43 tackles. He’ll look to turn in a similarly strong performance over a 16-game set this time around.

In addition to re-signing Okafor, the Saints have also added Demario Davis to the front seven.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Alex Okafor Leaves Bucs Visit Without Deal

Alex Okafor isn’t signing with the Buccaneers… for now. Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports (via Twitter) that the defensive end met with the Buccaneers today but left without a deal. The reporter adds that there’s mutual interest between the two sides.

We heard yesterday that the veteran was set to visit with Tampa Bay. Okafor already had a connection to both general manager Jason Licht and defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, so the pairing makes plenty of sense. However, the Bucs could have some competition for his services. The Saints have interest in retaining their defender, according to Joel A. Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate.

Following four years with Arizona, the 27-year-old joined the Saints last offseason. The 2013 fourth-rounder ended up starting each of his 10 games for New Orleans, compiling 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and a career-high 43 tackles. Unfortunately, Okafor’s season was cut short after he suffered a torn Achilles in Week 11.

Pro Football Focus was particularly fond of his performance last season, ranking him 22nd among 106 eligible edge defenders. Okafor was also listed sixth in our positional free agent rankings.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Interested In Retaining Alex Okafor

If the Saints have their way, Alex Okafor will be back with the team next season. Joel A. Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate reports (via Twitter) that the organization has interest in bringing back the defensive end.

Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams, however, passes along that Okafor is schedule to visit with the Buccaneers on Thursday. She notes he has connections to Tampa Bay with general manager Jason Licht and defensive line coach Brentson Buckner from his time in Arizona.

Following four seasons with the Cardinals, the 27-year-old joined the Saints last offseason. The 2013 fourth-rounder proceeded to start each of his 10 games for New Orleans, compiling 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and a career-high 43 tackles. Unfortunately, Okafor’s season was cut short after he suffered a torn Achilles in Week 11.

Pro Football Focus was particularly fond of his performance last season, ranking him 22nd among 106 eligible edge defenders. Okafor was also listed sixth in our positional free agent rankings.

If Okafor re-signs with the Saints, he might be hard pressed to make his way back into the starting lineup. However, he should have an opportunity to be the top backup options to Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins.

 

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

South Notes: Colts, Mariota, Bucs, Saints

Sunday’s snow game in Buffalo may end up costing Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri a significant amount of money, as Mike Wells of ESPN.com writes. Vinatieri has a clause in his contract that calls for him to earn a $500K bonus for converting 90% of his field goal attempts this season. After missing two field goals in a near blizzard against the Bills, Vinatieri’s field goal percentage now sits at just 88%, down from 95.6% entering Week 15. As Wells details, Vinatieri will need to hit at least five-of-five attempts during Indianapolis’ remaining three games in order to hit 90% again and reach his incentive threshold. Vinatieri, 44, is earning $2.75MM in base salary this year, and will become a free agent next spring.

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

  • Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is still dealing with hamstring, leg, and ankle issues and could require surgery following the season, a source tells Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com. Mariota, who missed the tail end of the 2016 campaign after breaking his fibula, suffered a hamstring injury earlier this year, and the combination of those leg ailments are now affecting the Tennessee signal-caller. His recent performance is evidence of the problem, as Mariota hasn’t topped 200 yards passing in any of the Titans’ last three contests (while throwing for only two touchdowns against four interceptions). Tennessee still looks like a solid bet for a postseason berth — 81% per FiveThirtyEight — but the club could be held back by a hampered Mariota.
  • Although he initially feared he suffered a torn biceps in Week 14, Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy wants to play out the rest of the season, reports Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. McCoy has torn his biceps two other times during his NFL career, but he believes he’ll be able to play through the pain this time around. The Buccaneers are evidently willing to let him do so in what has become a lost campaign, as the club made a transaction on Tuesday without putting McCoy on injured reserve. Despite Tampa Bay’s problems on defense, McCoy has been as stout as ever, as he grades as the league’s No. 5 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus.
  • Defensive end Alex Okafor would like to re-sign with the Saints following a 2017 season that was shortened by injury, as he explains to Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. Okafor, 26, inked one of the better one-year deals of the season, a $2MM pact that will allow him to hit free agency again in 2018. Before going down with a torn Achilles, Okafor had more than lived up to his contract, excelling against the run while also managing 4.5 sacks. He’d been a key contributor as New Orleans’ defense surprisingly improved from its awful 2016 standing.
  • The Colts should use their three remaining games to assess their young talent, argues Wells in a separate column. Now sitting with a 3-10 record, Indianapolis clearly isn’t in the playoff hunt, so the club can begin to see what kind of talent resides on the back end of its roster. One player who could conceivably see more time down the stretch is running back Marlon Mack, especially given that 34-year-old Frank Gore is coming off a 36-carry effort in Buffalo (and will now play on a short week).

Saints’ Alex Okafor Out For Season

Alex Okafor‘s season is over. The Saints defensive end suffered a torn Achilles on Sunday that will sideline him for the remainder of the year, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). "<strong

Okafor joined the Saints on a one-year, $3MM deal this offseason and it turned out to be one of the best one-year contracts in the NFL, as detailed recently by PFR’s Dallas Robinson. In ten games, the 26-year-old racked up 43 total tackles and 4.5 sacks – both representing career highs. He currently ranks as Pro Football Focus’ No. 16 ranked edge defender with an 84.7 overall score. His work in 486 snaps has him slotted ahead of big names such as Cameron Wake, Jadeveon Clowney, Chandler Jones, Clay Matthews, and Brian Orakpo. That’s not too shabby for a $3MM investment.

Of course, the trade deadline has come and gone, so the Saints can only look to the free agent market for potential out-of-house upgrades. Jason Jones spent some time with New Orleans during training camp, so he could be a possible fit thanks to his familiarity with the system. It’s not clear if free agents Jared Odrick and Mario Williams are looking to continue their careers, but Tyson Jackson and Jaye Howard, have been hitting the workout circuit hard in recent weeks.

Internally, the Saints could lean more heavily on third-round rookie Trey Hendrickson and sixth-round pick Al-Quadin Muhammad to pick up the slack.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The 10 Best One-Year NFL Contracts Of 2017

Signing a one-year contract is almost never ideal from a player’s perspective — while a single-season pact can often mean a larger salary, it doesn’t come with the security or guarantees that a multi-year deal offers. From a team’s vantage point, however, there’s essentially no such thing as a poor one-year contract. The player doesn’t work out? No problem: he’s off the books in one season and doesn’t hinder the club’s long-term financials.

Not every player listed below was inked with the presumption that they’d become an integral piece of their respective team’s roster, but they’ve all made good on their one-year pacts. Here are the ten best one-year NFL contracts signed in 2017:

Case Keenum, QB (Vikings)

In Week 9 of the 2016 season, Keenum was appearing in his final game as the Rams’ starting quarterback, and had led the club to a 3-5 record while ranking 29th in both quarterback rating and adjusted net yards per pass attempt. Fast forward to the 2017 campaign, and Keenum is 16th in quarterback rating, 11th in ANY/A, and fronting a Vikings team that leads the NFC North at 6-2 — not bad for a one-year, $2MM deal. It’s unclear how long Keenum will remain Minnesota’s starter under center (Teddy Bridgewater is due back next week), but Keenum, who will be 30 years old when free agency opens next spring, has put himself in line to compete for a starting job in 2018, either with the Vikings or with another club.

Josh McCown, QB (Jets)

Although the Jets were thought to be tanking this season, they’ve posted a 4-5 record (a mark that includes close losses to the Dolphins and Falcons), and McCown has been a key driver of that success. Now 38 years old, McCown is posting his best statistics since 2013, and has completed 70.4% of his passes for 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s been especially productive in the deep passing game, ranking second in touchdowns and third in passer rating on throws of 20 yards or more, per Mike Castiglione of Pro Football Focus. Given his performance and his locker room presence, McCown shouldn’t have any trouble landing another job next offseason.

LeGarrette Blount, RB (Eagles)LeGarrette Blount (Vertical)

While trade acquisition Jay Ajayi figures to take over as the Eagles’ starting running back going forward, Philadelphia has already gotten value out of Blount and his one-year, $1.25MM pact. Blount has handled at least 12 carries in seven of nine games this season while posting a robust 4.6 yards per rush. While he’s scored only two touchdowns thus far, Blount ranks first among all running backs with more than 25 touches with a broken tackle per touch ratio of 39.4%, according to Football Outsiders. The Eagles are the best team in the league right now, meaning they’ll be favored in a majority of their remaining games. Even with Ajayi in tow, positive game scripts should ensure Blount still has a role in Philadelphia’s backfield.

Alshon Jeffery, WR (Eagles)

Following two consecutive down seasons in Chicago, Jeffery took a pillow contract with the Eagles — he’ll collect $9.5MM (and can earn $4.5MM via incentives) before searching for a long-term deal next spring. Jeffery is fresh off his best game of the season, as he posted six receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos’ vaunted pass defense. While he’s still not creating separation — dead last in the league in yards of separation among qualified wideouts — Jeffery and his contested catch ability are nevertheless a large part of the Eagles’ offense. He’s accounted for 35.03% of his club’s air yards (10th in the NFL), per Next Gen Stats, giving quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz a much-needed weapon on the outside.

Alex Okafor, DE (Saints)

After trying the likes of Bobby Richardson and Paul Kruger of the past two seasons, the Saints have finally found a counterpart to Cameron Jordan at defensive end in the form of Okafor, whom New Orleans lured away from Arizona with a $2MM contract. He’s since played more than three-quarters of the Saints’ defensive snaps, racking up 3.5 sacks in the process. Also excellent against the run, Okafor ranks second among 4-3 defensive ends with a 9.5% run stop percentage, per PFF. All told, Okafor has helped the Saints defense rebound to a No. 16 ranking in DVOA and No. 15 ranking in adjusted sack rate (and those numbers are prior to New Orleans’ five-sack performance against the Buccaneers on Sunday).

Julius Peppers, DE (Panthers)

Peppers is back in Carolina following a seven-year hiatus, and the former No. 1 overall pick is playing like it’s still 2008. He’s 37 years old now, so the Panthers are wisely limiting his snaps — he’s seen action on roughly half the club’s defensive plays through nine weeks. Peppers has racked up 7.5 sacks this season, a figure which ranks eighth among defenders this season and places him fourth all-time with 150.5 career sacks. If Carolina earns a postseason berth — FiveThirtyEight gives them a 52% chance to do so — it will be on the strength of the team’s defense, which currently ranks sixth in DVOA.

Zach Brown, LB (Redskins)

Coming off the best season of his career with the Bills in 2016, Brown was surprisingly forced to settle for a one-year, $2MM deal with the Redskins after initially searching for a $6MM/year contract. And that’s not due to lack of interest, as Oakland, Miami, Indianapolis, and Buffalo all expressed interest in the veteran linebacker before he landed with Washington. Several of those clubs (we’re looking at you, Raiders) would certainly love to have a defender of Brown’s caliber and price available right now. A playmaking machine who embodies a 21st-century linebacker, Brown should be able to land a multi-year pact next offseason, when he’ll still be only 28 years old.

Morris Claiborne, CB (Jets)Morris Claiborne (Vertical)

The Jets’ offseason was primarily dedicated to getting rid of veteran players, but general manager Mike Maccagnan‘s small-scale signings have worked out well, as Claiborne joins McCown as the second Gang Green addition on this list. Claiborne, 27, has always been an effective player when healthy, but injuries have often marred his performance. He’s never played an entire 16-game slate, and he’s managed more than 11 games just once during his five-plus year career. Like Brown, Claiborne can use 2017 as his platform season in order to secure a multi-year deal in 2018 — as long as stays healthy for the rest of this year, that is.

Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB (Rams)

A perfectly-named slot corner, Robey-Coleman was shockingly cut loose by the Bills earlier this year despite ranking as PFF’s No. 33 cornerback in 2016 and being on par to earn just $2.083MM in 2017. The Rams scooped him up on a one-year deal worth the minimum salary, and he’s been outstanding under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, helping Los Angeles to a No. 3 ranking in pass defense DVOA. Thus far, the 25-year-old Robey-Coleman ranks third among 64 qualified cornerbacks in success rate, per Football Outsiders.

Patrick Robinson, CB (Eagles)

While the Eagles certainly have leaned on their excellent young corps on the way to a 8-1 record, general manager Howie Roseman should be lauded for his one-year, cost-effective signings of Robinson, Jeffery, and Blount. Cast off by the Colts one year into a three-year deal, Robinson signed with Philadelphia for the minimum salary and has since become the Eagles’ best cornerback. Pro Football Focus ranks the former first-round pick as the No. 4 corner in the league, and Robinson is allowing only 56.3% of targets in his area to be caught. While Robinson may not be able to parlay his production into a hefty deal in 2018 given that he’ll be 31 years old when next season gets underway, he’s been a superb addition for the Eagles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Saints, Cowboys, Falcons

The Saints signed linebacker Alex Okafor to a one-year, $3MM deal earlier this offseason. While the money and opportunity were obviously alluring, the former fourth-rounder acknowledged that he was really entice by the opportunity to play with former college teammate, Kenny Vaccaro.

“He definitely stuck his neck out for me,” Okafor told the Associated Press. “It’s surreal. Not many guys get to go back and play with some of their college teammates that, I mean, are as close as we are.”

Having started 25 games between 2014 and 2015, Okafor played more of a reserve role for the Cardinals last season. However, the 26-year-old was working with the starters during OTAs, and he’s confident that he can still play a major role on the Saints’ defense.

“It’s just a fresh start and a great opportunity,” Okafor said. “I’ve been that guy before and I know I can be that here.”

That’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • It’s sounding like the NFL’s investigation into Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott is winding down, and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says there are three possible scenarios that could play out next. For starters, the NFL could simply continue their investigation. They could alternatively determine that the running back “violated the Personal Conduct Policy,” and they’d presumably slap him with some type of punishment. The ideal route (at least in this impartial writer’s eyes) is the third option, which sees the NFL clearing Elliott and ending their investigation.
  • Thanks to Claire Z. Cardona of The Dallas News, details have emerged on Nolan Carroll‘s arrest last week for driving while intoxicated. Police pulled the Cowboys cornerback over at 2:20am after seeing him driving on the wrong side of the road. The 30-year-old told police that he hadn’t been drinking, and he noted that he “had not taken prescription medications or illegal drugs in the last 24 hours.” After getting arrested, Carroll “refused to voluntarily give a blood specimen.”
  • Now that he’s done playing, Michael Vick is turning his attention to a new pursuit in the NFL. “I would love to coach in the National Football League one day,” Vick told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “… At some point, I’d definitely love to help work with young quarterbacks and develop them and still compete, you know, with the team and with the coaches. It’s another way to chase a championship. You know I’m not done. I’m not done by any means. You know I didn’t get the championship when I was playing, so, hey, maybe I’d get lucky one year, maybe fortunate enough to join the staff that may be good enough.” The former quarterback is hoping to sign a one-day deal to retire with the Falcons, an indication that his career is officially over. He also confirmed to Schefter that he is done playing.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Contract Details: Hoyer, Newman, Dansby

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

  • Karlos Dansby, LB (Cardinals): One year, $2MM. $700K guaranteed. $250K available via incentives (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Vlad Ducasse, OL (Bills): Three years, $3.5MM. $250K guaranteed. $250K signing bonus. Playing time incentives available (link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
  • Brian Hoyer, QB (49ers): Two years, $12MM. $9.85MM guaranteed. $4MM signing bonus. $1.5MM available via incentives (20 touchdowns, 2,500 passing yards, Pro Bowl) in 2017. $5MM available via incentives (same thresholds) in 2018 (links via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com).
  • Bennie Logan, DT (Chiefs): One year, $8MM. $7.68MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star).
  • Alex Okafor, LB/DE (Saints): One year, $2MM. $1MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus. $1MM available in sack and playtime incentives (Twitter link via Nick Underhill of the Advocate).
  • Terence Newman, CB (Vikings): One year, $3.25MM. $1.5MM guaranteed. $500K signing bonus (Twitter link via Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune).