“I want to officially announce my retirement from the NFL,” Verner said. “I had a great eight year run. I would not trade my experiences for the world. God has been so good to me while in the NFL. Allowing myself to compete against the best of the best. I am truly thankful I was given the opportunity that so many others were not able to achieve.”
The 2010 fourth-round pick spent the first four seasons of his career with the Titans, including a 2013 campaign where he made the Pro Bowl and earned a second-team All-Pro nod. Verner parlayed that performance into a four-year, $25.75MM deal with the Buccaneers, but he was released by Tampa Bay after playing three years with the organization.
He spent the 2017 season with the Dolphins, starting two of his 15 games. There was some interest in Verner for the 2018 season, as the Giants gave him an audition. However, the 30-year-old ended up sitting out the entire campaign.
Verner finishes his career having appeared in 125 games. He compiled 451 tackles, 15 interceptions, and 74 passes defended during his eight years in the NFL.
Verner, 29, was once regarded as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. However, much has changed since he inked a four-year, $25.5MM deal with the Bucs in 2014. Last year, the Dolphins signed Verner to serve as a slot option, but he didn’t do much in that area as Bobby McCain enjoyed a breakout season.
Sanchez, you may recall, was one of three cornerbacks drafted by the Panthers in 2016 as they attempted to replace Josh Norman on the cheap. That experiment did not work out, and Sanchez has not seen live action since.
The Giants recently lost supplemental draft pick Sam Beal, so they could use some reinforcements at cornerback. Veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie continues to float in limbo, but we wouldn’t bank on a reunion.
The Dolphins told Jarvis Landry’s representation that there is no truth whatsoever to reports of the team being willing to “seriously listen” to trade offers for him, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears. And, on Monday, coach Adam Gase told reporters that Landry isn’t going anywhere.
“I did talk to him and told him there’s no chance that he’s going to be traded,” Gase said (via James Walker of ESPN.com). “And if something that’s not true comes out like that, then I’m going to deal with it. I’m going to approach the player. … I just let him know that there’s no chance I’m going to trade you.”
Landry is in the final year of a contract that will pay him roughly $894K. The team has yet to offer him a multiyear extension, fueling speculation that might not be long for Miami. The Dolphins re-signed Kenny Stills this offseason at $8MM per year but have DeVante Parker on a rookie deal for as many as three more seasons.
Here’s more out of Miami as well as the latest from some of the Dolphins’ top rivals facilities.
Byron Maxwell is not locked into Miami’s starting lineup. The well-paid cornerback is competing with Alterraun Verner for a job opposite Xavien Howard, who is entrenched with the Fins’ first unit, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. Maxwell has no guaranteed money remaining on his six-year deal after this season. He’s set to count $8.5MM against Miami’s cap this year, while Verner is attached to the veteran minimum. A timeshare scenario is in play for the Dolphins, Salguero writes, or a possible benching if Maxwell cannot re-establish consistency.
Previous comments from Bills GM Brandon Beane indicated Reggie Ragland‘s standing on the updated Buffalo depth chart wasn’t to be taken as gospel, but it now appears the former Alabama stalwart was not a fit for Sean McDermott‘s 4-3 scheme, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com writes. After trading Ragland to the Chiefs, the Bills are placing their trust in Preston Brown to play the Luke Kuechly role in McDermott’s defense. The 2014 third-round pick has started all but two games during his Bills tenure and hasn’t missed a game. Entering his contract year, Brown has plenty riding on 2017. But it looks like McDermott believed Brown, who began his career as 4-3 middle linebacker before working in Rex Ryan‘s 3-4 for two years, could fill that job better than Ragland.
Despite his second-round draft status, Christian Hackenberg finished third in the race to become the Jets‘ starting quarterback job, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. The developmental player will remain as such for now, with Josh McCownhaving won the job. But Cimini writes Hackenberg figures to be given playing time this season in order for the Jets to evaluate him in advance of a 2018 draft expected to be flush with quarterback talent.
Arrested on a firearms charge in July, Bills defensive tackle Adolphus Washington was found not guilty of possessing a concealed weapon, an Ohio judge ruled Monday (via WIVB.com). A second-year player, Washington was arrested for allegedly pulling out a firearm at a water park July 9 in Sharonville, Ohio. The 2016 third-round pick started 11 games for Buffalo last season.
Broncos quarterback Chad Kelly will likely spend his rookie season on injured reserve, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link), who indicates 2017 will be something of a redshirt campaign for Kelly. This year’s Mr. Irrelevant, Kelly is currently on the non-football injury list after undergoing wrist surgery in April. With Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch set to act as Denver’s top two quarterbacks, Kelly wouldn’t have played a role this season anyway, so the Broncos would rather not waste a roster spot. Denver will have to wait until final cutdowns to move Kelly to IR, or else risk losing him to waivers.
More from the AFC:
Chargers first-round wide receiver Mike Williamssaid last weekend that he expects to avoid surgery on his ailing back. The Bolts are also optimistic that will be the case, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com, who notes that Mike Williams will likely begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. That wouldn’t necessarily rule out the ex-Clemson star for regular-season action, however, as the team’s hope is that he’ll be able to return during camp to work his way back in time for Week 1. General manager Tom Telesco revealed that the wideout has “been responding well” to treatment.
Alterraun Verner‘s one-year deal with the Dolphins is a minimum salary benefit pact and doesn’t contain any guaranteed money, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. As such, Verner will earn $900K if earns a spot on Miami’s roster, but will only count for $615K against the club’s salary cap. The veteran defensive back is expected to be given “every opportunity” to displace Bobby McCain as the Dolphins’ slot corner, per Jackson, but it’s also possible that Verner will fail to make the squad at all. In 2016, Verner appeared in all 16 games for Tampa Bay but played on only 22.8% of the team’s defensive snaps.
Texans receiver Deante’ Gray has suffered a torn ACL, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. It has been a short but injury-marred career for Gray, an undrafted rookie who suffered a torn hamstring in the spring. Although he’s a Houston native, the ex-TCU Horned Frog was already facing long odds of making the Texans’ roster before his injury issues arose, given that he joined the team on a paltry $2K bonus.
Well, that didn’t take long. Hours after auditioning him, the Dolphins have signed cornerback Alterraun Vernerto a one-year deal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). In a related move, linebacker Koa Misi has been placed on injured reserve.
Misi underwent spinal fusion surgery late last year and the hope was that he would be ready to go for the season opener. Apparently, he’s going to need more time before he can think about getting back on the field.
Misi, 30, managed only 127 defensive snaps in 2016 before going down with injury. In 2015, Misi’s last predominantly healthy season, he totaled 78 tackles and had one pass defensed. Though he’s never had huge sack totals, he did have 12 sacks from 2010 through 2014. Pro Football Focus, for the most part, has always been high on the former second-round pick. In 2014 and 2015, he had scores of 81.5 and 80.8, painting him as a top-30 linebacker in the league. Earlier this year, Misi accepted a pay cut for the second consecutive year, as he agreed to slash his salary by ~$3MM.
Verner did not live up to his big money deal in Tampa Bay, but the Dolphins are not expecting him to be a shutdown corner in 2017. They’ll likely look at Verner as a slot option who could potentially take the job from 2015 fifth-round pick Bobby McCain.
The Dolphins are working out veteran cornerbacks on Tuesday, including former Bucs star Alterraun Verner, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Tony Carter, best known for his time with the Broncos, is also among those auditioning.
Verner worked out for the Jaguars back in May, but the Jags passed in part because of his poor conditioning. Months later, one would hope that Verner is back in football shape. Verner was regarded as one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL a few years back when he signed a four-year, $25.5MM deal with the Bucs in 2014. Unfortunately, the 28-year-old never lived up to that big money contract while in Tampa Bay.
Verner and Carter can both play the slot and Miami may see them as potential alternatives to Bobby McCain. Overall, cornerback is one of the Dolphins’ thinnest areas. The Dolphins project to start Byron Maxwell and rising sophomore Xavien Howardwith converted wide receiver Tony Lippett, third-round pick Cordrea Tankersley, and McCain in support.
It was expected that Miami would look into cornerbacks before the start of training camp, but one has to wonder if the Dolphins will also kick the tires on some backup defensive tackle options. It has been said that rookie defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor are too raw right now to be counted upon as rotation players. The Dolphins took a look at Roy Miller last week, but they did not sign him after the workout.
Free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner has a workout with an unidentified team scheduled for next week, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson (via Twitter). Verner most recently worked out for the Jaguars back in May, but apparently that audition did not go well, as Verner was a little out of shape. However, reports at the time indicated that the two sides could reconvene later on, so perhaps this latest workout will again be with Jacksonville.
The Buc released Verner in February, and immediately thereafter, Verner himself said that four or five teams had reached out to him. Before the Jaguars visit, however, we did not know of any specific teams with interest. The UCLA product has been quite durable during his seven-year career, but he saw his playing time wane dramatically over the past two seasons. He started just three games in 2016, tying a career low, and only appeared in 22.8% of Tampa Bay’s defensive plays. Still just 28, Verner will not command anywhere close to the same type of money he did when he inked a four-year, $25.5MM pact with the Bucs in 2014, but he never seemed to play to his potential in Tampa Bay, and it’s possible that a change of scenery could reinvigorate him.
Verner was selected by the Titans in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and he parlayed an excellent 2013 campaign into that multi-year free agent pact with Tampa. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2013 and was a second-team All-Pro. He intercepted a career-best five passes that season, and although the fact that he showed up to his Jaguars workout out of shape is disappointing, he makes plenty of sense as a rotational piece, with the upside to be more.
Jacksonville is set to field one of the league’s better cornerback tandems, as free agent signee A.J. Bouye will pair with 2016 first-round pick on the outside. After that duo, however, the club’s depth is questionable. Aaron Colvin is projected to start in the slot, but only played 10 games last year thanks to a four-game suspension and an ankle injury. Josh Johnson, Tracy Howard, and Jalen Myrick comprise the remainder of the Jaguars’ cornerback depth chart.
Verner, 28, could compete with Colvin to serve as Jacksonville’s nickelback and also offer depth at outside corner. Released by the Buccaneers in February, Verner reportedly drew immediate interest as soon as being cut loose, but still has yet to land a contract. Originally signed to be a starter for Tampa Bay, Verner’s playing time had dwindled over the past two campaigns, and he saw action on less than a quarter of the Bucs’ defensive snaps a season ago.
As the league has grown increasingly pass-happy, and as the rules have evolved in a way that favors quarterbacks and wideouts, the importance of the cornerback position has never been higher. Over the course of the offseason, we ranked the best available free agents at each position, and five of our top ten corners remain unsigned. Of course, after the initial wave of free agency is over, teams generally turn their attention to the draft and will circle back to the free agent pool if necessary over the summer months.
The group of cornerbacks still available is headlined by Darrelle Revis, whose performance fell off a cliff last season and who was released by the Jets earlier this year. Almost three weeks ago, we heard that two unidentified teams were interested in Revis, but neither club was willing to pay him more than the $6MM he’s earning from the Jets. Because Revis’ deal with New York contained offset language, if he signs for $6MM or less, his new club would essentially be getting his services for free, which certainly would not sit well with the prideful Revis. The two teams that expressed interest in Revis were not optimistic that they would sign him, but it’s difficult to imagine Revis sitting out 2017 entirely. He’s bound to get a job somewhere, and perhaps he will ultimately return to the Patriots, as was speculated back in March.
The next player on our list, Brandon Flowers, was let go by the Chargers several days before the start of free agency in a cost-cutting move. Flowers, 31, signed a four-year deal with the Bolts prior to the 2015 season, a deal that included $20.5MM in guaranteed money. That contract was a reward for his strong 2014 campaign in San Diego, when he collected 52 tackles, 10 passes defended, and three interceptions. He did not reach that level of play in the following two seasons, though he played in only six games last year due to a concussion. He has always been a fundamentally-sound corner, so even if he has lost a step or two, he could still be a useful part of someone’s DB rotation. The Steelers checked in on him soon after his release, and the two sides could reconvene in the coming months.
Like all of the players in this post, Alterraun Verner did not reach the end of his last contract before becoming a free agent. The Bucs released Verner in February, and immediately thereafter, Verner himself said that four or five teams had reached out to him. That may be true, but there have been no independent reports of interest in Verner since his release. The UCLA product has been quite durable during his seven-year career, but he saw his playing time wane dramatically over the past two seasons. He started just three games in 2016, tying a career low, and only appeared in 22.8% of Tampa Bay’s defensive plays. Still just 28, Verner will not command the same type of money he did when he inked a four-year, $25.5MM pact with the Bucs in 2014, but he never seemed to play to his potential in Tampa Bay, and it’s possible that a change of scenery could reinvigorate him.
There have been no reports of interest in former Packer Sam Shields since he was released by Green Bay earlier this year. Sadly, Shields suffered his second concussion in a nine-month span during the Packers’ Week 1 contest in 2016, and he never made it back to the field last season. He is only 29 and is immensely talented, but it does not appear as if the league has much confidence in his ability to rebound from his concussion issues. He previously stated that he has no intention of retiring, so hopefully he can convince someone to take a chance on his upside, even if it’s on a one-year pact for the veteran minimum.
Tramon Williams is the oldest of this group of corners, and at age 34, it’s fair to wonder what he has left in the tank He played in only 12 games (seven starts) for the Browns last season, and he finished 2016 with 36 tackles, five passes defended, and one interception – his lowest totals since 2007. Plus, Pro Football Focus’ metrics graded him as just the 73rd-best corner out of 111 qualified players. He was very good for a very long time for the Packers, but while he may be able to hang on for another year or two, his playing career appears just about over.
The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.
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 2017:
The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.
Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).
Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.
The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.
While players at other defensive positions have flown off the board, there’s been almost no movement among off-ball linebackers. Only five of PFR’s original top-15 free agent linebackers have signed new contracts, a group that includes Dont’a Hightower, our previous No. 1 ‘backer who re-signed with the Patriots today. Zach Brown, who now holds that honor, broke out in his fifth NFL campaign and played especially well in coverage, a skill that should lead to a handsome reward. Brown, 27, met with the Raiders today, while the Dolphins also hope to schedule a visit.
The Bengals, specifically, are in the linebackermarket, as they’ve met with both Kevin Minter and Keenan Robinson in recent days. But the rest of the players on this list aren’t drawing much interest as of yet, a fact that speaks to the devaluation of the linebacker position. Teams will pay up for a three-down linebacker like Hightower, but if a player can be formation-ed off the field, he’s not going to land a hefty deal.
One linebacker who did prove he could stay on the field on third down was Perry Riley, who played 370 coverage snaps for the Raiders last season. Riley is still only 28 years old, but posted awful marks from Pro Football Focus during his previous campaigns with Washington. Whether it was Oakland’s scheme (including its talented pass rushers) that allowed Riley to flourish, or a true breakout coming in the middle of a career, Riley could help a number of clubs. The Raiders are reportedly working to bring him back.
The top two corners still on the open market are both former Cowboys, and Brandon Carr looks like the surer bet to return to Dallas at this point. Morris Claiborne, meanwhile, has drawn interest from the Ravens, and most opposing clubs believe he’ll end up signing with Baltimore. Clairborne, 27, appeared to be a prime overpay candidate heading into the offseason, but if the Ravens can land him on a short-term deal, they’d be making a wise investment.
Now that all charges have been dropped against Darrelle Revis, he’ll make for an interesting test case in free agency. Clearly, Revis is not the shutdown corner he once was, and may even be mulling a move to safety as he closes his career. But clubs in the market for secondary help could do worse than Revis, and he should be on a roster when the regular season rolls around.
Most of the safeties on this list are in-the-box types — that’s thanks to the fact that center field-esque safeties are more rare and thus more expensive. Recently-released veterans such as Jairus Byrd, Lardarius Webb, and Corey Graham, however, offer coverage ability and would make for decent signings on short pacts. T.J. McDonald and Bradley McDougald, on other hand, are big hitters that will patrol near the line of scrimmage. McDougald, specifically, will take a visit with the Seahawks this week.
Chris Prosinski is just a special teamer, but he’s a great special teamer. While he only played 173 defensive snaps in 2016, he saw time on more than 80% of the Bears’ special teams plays, and was listed as one of the season’s best special teams players by Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus. Football Outsiders ranked the Cardinals, Jets, and Texans as the bottom-three teams in special teams DVOA, and any of those clubs would benefit from adding Prosinski.
Demand is not high for placekickers at the moment, as only the Giants and Bengals stand out as clubs that immediately need a kicker. Injuries and ineffectiveness are sure to strike the position, however, at which point the specialists on this list will surely receive calls. Dan Carpenter and Mike Nugent missed a combined 11 extra points in 2016, and given that he topped both Carpenter and Nugent in field goal percentage, Nick Folk should be the first kicker on clubs’ emergency list.