Alex Okafor

Chiefs To Sign DE Alex Okafor

After two major subtractions to their pass rush, the Chiefs are trying to add some reinforcements. The club is expected to sign former Saints defensive end Alex Okafor to a three-year deal, $18MM deal, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Through incentives, the pact can reach up to $24MM. 

Okafor was having a strong year in 2017 before tearing his Achilles and then re-upped on a cheap deal with the Saints before the 2018 season started. Now fully healthy, Okafor is moving on to KC.

Just days ago, the Chiefs shipped Dee Ford to the Niners in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick. In need of ammo to bolster the pass rush, they’ve added Okafor, a younger and cheaper substitute. Ford’s franchise tag would have called for a $15MM+ salary in 2019. Okafor, meanwhile, stands to earn a $6MM average annual value on his new deal, sans incentives.

Okafor, 27, broke out with eight sacks in his second NFL season. Since then, he’s been productive, but has yet to revisit that mark. Last year, he put up four sacks for the Saints across 16 games (all starts), giving him 22 for his career.

Saints Unlikely To Re-Sign Alex Okafor

Alex Okafor will probably be changing teams. The Saints are unlikely to re-sign the defensive end, according to a source who spoke with Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune (on Twitter). 

Okafor has been solid for the Saints over the last two years, but the club is looking to put Marcus Davenport in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, Okafor is scheduled for free agency after the club amended his contract.

The Saints changed the language in Okafor‘s deal back in December, and the new deal language automatically voided the 2019 year of Okafor’s contract. The deal was re-worked to give Okafor a $400K bonus even though he came up one sack short of the incentive and it also guaranteed him free agency after the ’18 campaign.

Okafor was having a strong year in 2017 before tearing his Achilles and then re-upped on a cheap deal with the Saints before the 2018 season started. Now fully healthy, Okafor has a chance to cash in elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Seahawks, Cardinals, Saints

Although Kam Chancellor will likely never play football again, the Seahawks safety cashed in today. $5.2MM of his salary for 2019 became fully guaranteed today, according to Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. As Henderson points out, Chancellor likely would’ve received the $5.2MM anyway because it is fully guaranteed for injury, but the Seahawks are holding off releasing Chancellor outright for cap purposes.

“The Seahawks carried Chancellor on PUP in 2018 because cutting him would have caused his cap number to balloon”, Henderson writes, adding that “the likely outcome, it seems, is that the Seahawks cut Chancellor later this offseason since the cap penalties won’t be nearly as severe as they were last year.” Chancellor suffered a neck injury in Week 10 of the 2017 season that was apparently serious enough to prevent him from ever being medically cleared to play. Chancellor was a longtime member of the team’s vaunted ‘Legion of Boom’ unit, and made four Pro Bowls with the team. Chancellor was a fifth round pick out of Virginia Tech back in 2010.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Speaking of the Seahawks, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times sat down with former NFL agent and current CBS Sports Analyst Joel Corry to talk all things related to Seattle’s upcoming offseason. Corry opined that the team would likely franchise tag star defensive end Frank Clark to avoid letting him hit the open market. Clark’s agent has made bold claims in the media about not settling for anything less than a massive deal, which Corry took to mean the Seahawks are “almost going to have to franchise him.” Condotta and Corry both agreed that the recent report the team hasn’t talked extension with Russell Wilson isn’t anything to be concerned about, but Corry also seemed to indicate he expected Wilson’s representatives to be patient and drag things out.
  • The Cardinals are hiring Matt Harriss away from the Lions as their new director of administration, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). Garafolo notes that Harriss will be Arizona’s contracts guy, and that the Lions and Cardinals essentially swapped contract negotiators because Detroit had just hired Mike Disner away from the Cardinals.
  • The Saints changed the language in pass-rusher Alex Okafor‘s contract back in December, and the new deal language automatically voided the 2019 year of Okafor’s contract, a source told Nick Underhill of The Advocate. Underhill writes that the deal was re-worked to give Okafor a $400K bonus even though he came up one sack short of the incentive, and it also guaranteed him free agency. Okafor was having a really good year in 2017 before tearing his Achilles, and then re-signed on a cheap deal with the Saints before the 2018 season started. Now fully healthy, the voided year means Okafor will be an unrestricted free agent this March and he’ll have the chance to cash in with a big contract.

South Rumors: Mariota, Jags, Falcons, Bucs

This season did not produce the uptick in Marcus Mariota production the Titans wanted, but part of the reason for that was the starting quarterback’s multiple injuries. Elbow troubles plagued Mariota for much of this season, but he is not expected to need offseason surgery, Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com tweets. A nerve issue affected Mariota (11 touchdown passes, eight interceptions, 2,528 passing yards) this season and cost him a chance to help the Titans back into the playoffs, forcing Blaine Gabbert back into action in Week 17. Mariota is attached to a $20.9MM fifth-year option in 2019.

As the 2019 hiring period ignites, here’s the latest from the South divisions a

  • Dirk Koetter‘s interview for his old job as Falcons offensive coordinator will occur Saturday, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports. The Falcons’ OC from 2012-14, Koetter is a free agent again after being fired by the Buccaneers. He may well be the leading candidate to succeed Steve Sarkisian running Atlanta’s offense. Matt Ryan has praised Koetter in the recent past. Mike Mularkey, Atlanta’s OC from 2008-11, and Darrell Bevell are the other known candidates.
  • The Jaguars voided the $7.1MM in remaining guarantees in Leonard Fournette‘s rookie contract. He has 50 days to file a grievance, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes Fournette surely will. Florio argues the contract does not include language addressing the voiding of guarantees for on-field misconduct, and such an omission will be key for the former top-five pick keeping those guarantees in his four-year deal.
  • Although the Jets are believed to be ready to make a run at Le’Veon Bell, Albert Breer of SI.com does not see that pursuit winning out. Instead, Breer said during an interview with Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd (via the Tampa Bay Times) the Buccaneers are his best guess as to who will be signing the running back’s checks in 2019. This would be interesting because of the Jets’ cap-space advantage ($106MM-plus to $17MM-plus, though the Bucs can clear a substantial amount of room without incurring dead money) and the fact Tampa Bay used a 2018 second-round pick on Ronald Jones.
  • Kyle Allen was not the first player summoned to action when Cam Newton was shut down, but he ended the season as the Panthers‘ quarterback. His short stay as the Panthers’ first-stringer earned him a legitimate chance to be Newton’s backup next season, Breer notes. Allen was a UDFA but came to college as a five-star recruit. He threw two touchdown passes and no interceptions in Carolina’s season-finale win over New Orleans.
  • Alex Okafor stood to miss a $400K bonus because he fell one sack short of the incentive’s five-sack threshold, but, interestingly, the Saints paid him the bonus anyway, per NOLA.com’s Luke Johnson. This could be a key component of the starting defensive end’s upcoming decision on whether or not to opt out of his contract. Okafor signed a two-year deal with a player option to stay in New Orleans and has until the final day of the 2018 league year to decide on the option.

Saints Rumors: Okafor, Teddy, Armstead

A clause in Alex Okafor‘s Saints contract will allow for the veteran edge defender to gauge his worth again. Okafor signed a two-year deal to stay with the Saints earlier this year, but by registering three sacks this season, he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent, Nick Underhill of The Advocate reports. The starter opposite Cameron Jordan all season, Okafor collected four sacks in New Orleans’ first 15 games. He has until 11am on the final day of the 2018 league year to notify the Saints if he is to opt out of the deal, Underhill adds. Okafor was a free agent in both 2017 and ’18. The Saints drafted Marcus Davenport in the 2018 first round and have Jordan signed through 2020. Okafor would count $4.85MM against the Saints’ 2019 cap.

Were he to opt out, there might be more money awaiting. Okafor has stayed healthy this season and has 8.5 sacks in his two Saints years. With the top-tier free agents-to-be likely not set to leave their current teams, Okafor and second-tier peers will be the next-best options for teams looking to the market to upgrade. Of course, he has not cleared 4.5 sacks since 2014, so expectations for the 27-year-old defender’s next deal should be tempered.

Here’s the latest out of New Orleans:

  • On the subject of Saints who could become UFAs, Teddy Bridgewater is going to make his first start since a 2015 wild-card game. The Saints announced Bridgewater will start for Drew Brees. The Saints have already secured NFC home-field advantage. This game now becomes an interesting audition for a player who could be one of the most attractive free agent quarterbacks in March. Both Mike Zimmer and Bill Parcells, who serves as a mentor to Bridgewater, recommended the passer to Sean Payton, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com notes. The Saints sent a third-round pick to the Jets for Bridgewater, so it would make sense if they tried to keep him as the Brees heir apparent. But with several teams likely in the market for younger starter-level options, the Saints may not be able to afford Bridgewater, especially if he plays well against the Panthers.
  • Against the Steelers, Terron Armstead aggravated the pectoral injury that caused him to miss five games. Unsurprisingly, the Saints’ left tackle starter is out for Sunday’s meaningless regular-season finale. It’s not clear how severe this setback was, but Armstead did not guarantee he would be back in time for New Orleans’ playoff opener in just more than two weeks. The Pro Bowl blocker hopes to return by then, Christopher Dabe of NOLA.com notes. Jermon Bushrod started for Armstead during his initial hiatus.
  • These playoffs will be it for Ben Watson. The tight end playing another season could have made him the first pure tight end to play at age 39, unless Antonio Gates returns in 2019, but Watson will retire after the season — his 15th.

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