Andrew Norwell

Extra Points: Vikings, Giants, Norwell, Saints

Remember Zac Stacy? The former Rams and Jets running back is attempting an NFL comeback, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com (Twitter link), who spotted Stacy at Vanderbilt’s Pro Day earlier today. Stacy, who turns 27 next month, hasn’t played since 2015, and announced his retirement at this time last year following an ankle injury. The Rams’ starter as a rookie in 2013, Stacy racked up 973 yards and seven touchdowns during his only campaign as a team’s primary back. New York eventually acquired Stacy for a seventh-round pick, but he managed only 31 total rushes before hanging up his cleats.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Now that Kirk Cousins is closing in on a fully guaranteed deal with the Vikings, at least one source tells Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link) that Minnesota could ask running back Latavius Murray or defensive end Brian Robison to accept a pay cut in 2018. Murray got into the end zone eight times in 2017, but he’s due to count more than $6MM on next year’s cap and isn’t a lock to start given that rookie sensation Dalvin Cook will return from injury. Robison, meanwhile, hasn’t even decided if he’ll play during the upcoming season. If he retires, the Vikings will pick up $3.488MM in cap space, the same total as if he retires.
  • Guard Andrew Norwell was considered the Giants‘ primary free agent target this offseason, and while he ultimately landed with the Jaguars, New York’s offer was close if not the same as Jacksonville’s, tweets Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. Norwell is now the league’s highest-paid after receiving $13MM annually (and $30MM guaranteed) on a five-year deal. New Giants general manager Dave Gettleman originally signed Norwell as an undrafted free agent in Carolina, so the connection made plenty of sense, but Norwell simply chose the Jaguars, per Raanan.
  • New details have emerged on veteran safety Kurt Coleman‘s three-year deal with the Saints, as Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com writes. In total, the pact is worth $16.35MM, but Coleman can earn another $2.25MM via incentives. Coleman will collect $6.2MM in full guarantees, $4.5MM of which will come in the form of a signing bonus. However, Coleman’s new contract is heavily back-loaded, as his 2018 cap charge is just $3.3MM. New Orleans will have a decision to make in 2019, as Coleman has a $500K roster bonus on the third day of the league year — he could be released with $3MM in dead money accelerating onto the club’s cap.

Jaguars Sign Andrew Norwell

The Jaguars and guard Andrew Norwell have agreed on a five-year, $66.5MM deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter), with $30MM fully guaranteed. The deal is set to pay the former Panther an average of $13.3MM per season, making him the highest-paid guard in the NFL.

Norwell, a former undrafted free agent, was ranked at No. 4 in Pro Football Rumors’ Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018. The Jaguars fill a need at left guard as Patrick Omameh is due to become an unrestricted free agent.

Pro Football Focus ranked Norwell as the third-best guard in the league last year. The Jaguars have solidified the left side of their offensive line for newly-extended quarterback Blake Bortles and standout rookie Leonard Fournette, with Cam Robinson — the team’s second-round pick last season — entrenched at left tackle. The signing will certainly give the upstart Jaguars a boost a day after watching wide receiver Allen Robinson agree to a deal with the Bears.

Norwell started all 16 games at left guard for Carolina last year for the second straight season. They elected to not place the franchise tag on Norwell as the offensive lineman tag was at $14.54MM. The Panthers originally signed Norwell as an undrafted free agent in 2014 out of Ohio State.

The Giants and Cardinals had both been reported to have been in pursuit of Norwell and both have connections to the All-Pro offensive lineman. New Giants general manager Dave Gettleman originally signed Norwell as an undrafted free agent and new Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks worked with Norwell all four years of his career while on the Carolina coaching staff.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Focusing On Andrew Norwell

Linked to the Giants intermittently this offseason, Andrew Norwell is indeed a priority for Big Blue. In fact, it looks like the All-Pro guard is the Giants’ top priority.

At the tampering period’s outset, the Giants are turning their attention to Norwell and are optimistic about their chances of landing him, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

PFR’s top non-quarterback free agent, Norwell would satisfy a glaring Giants need — one Dave Gettleman has continually mentioned since being hired as GM — but it would not come cheap. Kevin Zeitler set the new guard standard by agreeing to a $12MM-per-year deal last March. Considering the cap is now $10MM higher than it was at the time of that signing, Norwell — a more acclaimed blocker than Zeitler — could fetch a bigger contract.

The Giants have approximately $19MM in cap space, so barring additional cuts, a Norwell pact would eat into the team’s funds. And Big Blue has multiple needs up front. Norwell, however, would represent the biggest step possible to filling one of them.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals To Target Andrew Norwell

The Cardinals are planning to make a pitch for Kirk Cousins once the tampering window opens Monday, but they are not believed to be the favorite. However, not landing a player who is expected to sign the richest contract in NFL history would open the door for Arizona’s cap space to be used elsewhere.

And Andrew Norwell has come up. The Cardinals plan to pursue the UFA guard prize, Mike Jurecki of Fox 59 tweets.

While Arizona doesn’t reside on the high end of the cap-space spectrum, the most associated with Norwell during this free agency period — the Giants — have about the same amount. The Cards have Mike Iupati and Evan Boehm under contract. Alex Boone is back in free agency.

Like the Giants, the Cardinals have an obvious connection to Norwell. Each of Norwell’s four seasons in Charlotte came while new Cards HC Steve Wilks was on staff.

Arizona struggled badly on the ground last season, ranking 30th in rushing yards per game and last in the league with 3.4 yards per carry. Norwell is viewed as the top offensive lineman in this year’s class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

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Giants Notes: Darkwa, Richburg, Bromley

Although he’s drawing interest from the cross-town Jets, the Giants still want to re-sign running back Orleans Darkwa, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. Darkwa, 26, broke out with Big Blue in 2017, posting career-highs in starts (11), yards (751), and touchdowns (five). A former undrafted free agent out of Tulane, Darkwa had only managed 287 rushing yards in the three prior years of his NFL tenure. The Giants could conceivably lose both Darkwa and fellow free agent Shane Vereen to the open market, which would leave them with Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, Terrell Watson, and Jalen Simmons on their running back depth chart.

Here’s more on the Giants, all courtesy of Raanan:

  • Teams around the league are viewing Giants free agent Weston Richburg as both a center and a guard, per Raanan. Richburg has played at the pivot for the past three years, but he spend time at guard during his rookie season in 2014. Although injuries limited him to only four games in 2017, Richburg will be the best center available on the open market, leading a positional group that also includes Ryan Jensen, John Sullivan, Russell Bodine, and Travis Swanson, but he could increase his number of suitors by exhibiting versatility.
  • The Giants could field five new starters along their offensive line in 2018, a source tells Raanan. While that overhaul likely wouldn’t removing Brett Jones, who filled in for Richburg at center last season, but it would still represent a massive overhaul. Notably, changeover at all five positions would mean New York has moved on from former first-round pick, and incumbent left tackle, Ereck Flowers. Panthers guard Andrew Norwell could be part of the renovation, as Giants general manager Dave Gettleman reportedly “loves” the Carolina free agent, Raanan writes in a separate piece.
  • A number of Giants free agents are unlikely to remain with the club next year, per Raanan. Defensive lineman Jay Bromley and Kerry Wynn aren’t expected to re-sign, as neither is a good fit for new defensive coordinator James Bettcher‘s 3-4 scheme. Bromley, notably, is reportedly looking for a larger role on defense, according to Raanan, as he’s spent the majority of his career as a reserve. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas, additionally, doesn’t appear to be on the Giants’ radar, as the club is looking to get younger at the second level of its defense.
  • Gettleman will likely try to improve the Giants’ locker room culture by inking established veterans on the defensive side of the ball, and Raanan lists incumbent linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and Dolphins’ special teams ace Michael Thomas as players New York could sign for their leadership.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

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. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they 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 are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

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

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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East Rumors: Norwell, Eagles, Jets, Patriots

The Giants appear ready to spend to fortify their offensive line, and they haven’t ruled out a solution of a big-market UFA and retaining Justin Pugh. Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv reports the Giants aren’t conceding they’ll have to lose Pugh if they are indeed to go after standout guard Andrew Norwell. They are expected to pursue Norwell, Vacchiano reports, and Dave Gettleman — whose Panthers signed Norwell as a UDFA in 2014 — didn’t make it much of a secret how the thinking in New York’s front office has changed regarding guard payments.

There’s a bunch of guards now that are getting paid,” Gettleman said, via Vacchiano. “And if you think about it, they’re closer to the quarterback. Listen, it’s the market. Is that car worth $150,000? If someone buys it, I guess it’s worth it, you know what I mean? You need to be firm in the middle. So at the end of the day if it’s keeping your quarterback upright and out of the hospital.”

With Pugh and Weston Richburg as UFAs, and Ereck Flowersstatus having taken a tumble, the Giants are close to starting over up front. Richburg is not expected back, but the team still has Pugh on the radar. But as of Friday they’re only projected to have $23MM in cap space. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Brandon Marshall profile as cap-casualty candidates, though. And after going 3-13, the team also has other positions of need. Norwell will almost certainly join the eight-figure-AAV guard contingent, which sits at seven members and is headlined by Kevin Zeitler‘s $12MM-per-year deal last March. Pugh’s best work has come at guard, but the Giants have a need at right tackle as well. And Pugh has played extensively at that spot, which figures to help his market.

Here’s the latest out of the Easts:

  • Patriots defensive end Harvey Langi saw his rookie season end after a scary car accident left he and his wife with serious injuries, but Doug Kyed of NESN.com reports the edge defender is now fine and is on track to play in 2018. Langi is also on track to participate in OTAs, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets. Langi played in just one game last season, but the Patriots gave the BYU product a hefty bonus to sign as a UDFA.
  • With two New York franchises potentially in line to draft quarterbacks in the top 10, Baker Mayfield could conceivably be Big Apple-bound. The polarizing Heisman Trophy winner is not concerned about stepping into the New York spotlight, but the Jets have some concern about how he would handle it and how the city would respond to him, per Vacchiano. A Mayfield setup would mean the Jets lost out on their Plan A, which Vacchiano notes is still Kirk Cousins. And were he to be the pick, the Jets likely would re-sign Josh McCown for a mentor year.
  • Spencer Phillips will rise to the position of assistant quarterbacks coach/offensive quality control with the Eagles, Jeff McLane of Philly.com tweets. Now that John DeFilippo departed to become the Vikings’ OC, last season’s assistant QBs coach, Press Taylor, rose to be Philadelphia’s QBs instructor. Phillips was on Philly’s staff as an assistant last season.

Giants Notes: Darnold, Richburg, Pugh

Dave Gettleman fired Marc Ross shortly after he took over as Giants GM, but the longtime Big Blue VP of player evaluation may have shed some light as to which players previous Giants scouts were high on and whom the franchise could target with its No. 2 pick. Of the quarterbacks, Ross singled out Sam Darnold during an appearance on NFL Live (via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com). He identified Saquon Barkley as well and even pointed to Notre Dame guard phenom Quenton Nelson.

You have to look at a quarterback, ut it has to be the right guy. You can’t just force a guy,” said Ross, who interviewed to be the Giants’ GM in December. “The right guy for them, on and off the field, I would think would be Sam Darnold. He’s ultra-talented, he’s a playmaker, he’s a winner. And he’s also very clean off the field. What I mean by that: no issues, great leader, great teammate, great person.”

Darnold would have a chance to develop while Eli Manning — whom the current regime immediately took off the trade market, judging by everything that’s been said thus far this offseason. Ross’ stance on Nelson mostly comes from Gettleman’s comments regarding the franchise being desperate for offensive line upgrades, and it would be unusual for a guard to go this high. But he did seem to echo a theme he’d heard while in his previous post with the Giants.

All the years of talking about, ‘The Giants need O-line; the Giants need O-line,’” Ross said, “they may even go that route.”

Here’s more Giants news prior to the team’s trip to Indianapolis.

  • Weston Richburg will likely leave as a free agent, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv notes, but the Giants will probably gauge his price at the Combine. Raanan reports multiple teams view the longtime Giants center as a quality starter despite the concussion that cost Richburg 12 games last season. A 2014 second-round pick, Richburg performed better in 2015 and ’16.
  • The Giants will also likely examine Justin Pugh‘s interest in coming back at the Combine, Vacchiano writes. Pugh’s 2017 injury-marred season will not deter the Giants from re-signing him, Raanan reports. A back injury cost Pugh eight games last season, but it looks like the 2013 first-rounder will be a higher priority to retain than Richburg. Pugh did not undergo surgery and said he would like to be back with the Giants next season. It won’t be cheap, however, and Raanan listed the Jaguars — who have Pugh’s college coach (Doug Marrone) and former NFL coach (Tom Coughlin) as key organizational pillars — as an obvious fit if the guard/tackle leaves the Big Apple.
  • Ross is high on Baker Mayfield but doesn’t see an obvious fit in New York. The Giants had a meeting scheduled with Mayfield at the Senior Bowl that didn’t end up taking place, and the Heisman Trophy winner has said a job learning behind Manning would be ideal for him.
  • Orleans Darkwa could be a candidate to return on a low-cost deal, Raanan and Vacchiano note. Raanan expects the running back to have suitors on the market. New York will probably be looking to upgrade at running back after struggling on the ground again last season, but Darkwa would make sense as a complementary back. He led the Giants with 751 rushing yards last season and averaged 4.4 per carry.
  • While technically forbidden because of tampering, Vacchiano notes the Giants will “absolutely” know where they stand with UFA guard Andrew Norwell. The former Gettleman UDFA find with the Panthers has been linked to the Giants, but considering the issues teams have had finding and developing linemen this decade, Norwell could potentially eclipse Kevin Zeitler‘s record guard deal come March.

NFC Notes: Peters, Panthers, Saints

The Rams were one of only two teams to express legitimate interest in acquiring CB Marcus Peters, and while Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay cannot yet talk about Peters or the trade specifically, Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star says it is no surprise that the Rams would be the team to land the former first-rounder. Although Peters is now eligible for a long-term extension and is likely to be on his best behavior anyway as a result, Paylor notes that McVay has quickly established a strong presence in LA, and he and DC Wade Phillips have full command and respect of the locker room. Paylor suggests that the Rams’ trade for Peters demonstrates their faith in their culture, and that culture, combined with the fact that they play on the West Coast — where Peters has long indicated he wants to be — made it a perfect fit.

Now let’s take a look at a few more NFC notes:

  • The Rams are hiring Holy Cross offensive coordinator Liam Coen as their assistant WRs coach, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter).
  • Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer takes a look at the Panthers‘ plans for the offseason, and he says Carolina will likely release DE Charles Johnson, though it is difficult to say whether Julius Peppers will be back or will call it a career. Person also does not expect Andrew Norwell to be back, so the Panthers will need to draft or sign a defensive end and a guard this offseason, and the hope is that whatever guard they acquire will also be capable of playing center.
  • The Saints have a few interesting calls to make with respect to their restricted free agents, as Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune observes. Willie Snead, Delvin Breaux, and Brandon Coleman are all RFAs, and although Holder does not make any specific predictions, it sounds as if Snead may be playing elsewhere in 2018, but Breaux and Coleman could be back.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press says Lions GM Bob Quinn has shown a few noticeable draft tendencies in his first several years on the job, including his apparent preferences to draft for need, to draft high-floor prospects (even if those prospects don’t have the potential to be stars), and to draft high-character players with track records at major collegiate programs. In light of that, Birkett predicts that Detroit will select Boston College DE Harold Landry in the first round of the 2018 draft.
  • We learned earlier today that it does not look like Anthony Hitchens will be back with the Cowboys.