Asante Samuel

AFC Links: Ravens, McCarthy, Texans, Colts

The Ravens could use some cornerback help, but the free agent market is thin and Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun isn’t sure either Asante Samuel or Jabari Greer would have interest in joining the team. A preseason trade may be Baltimore’s best chance for an upgrade, says Zrebiec, though he admits the Ravens may not want to part with any more 2015 draft picks after trading a couple for Jeremy Zuttah and Michael Campanaro.

Let’s round up a few more Tuesday updates from out of the AFC….

  • It sounds as if Titans linebacker Colin McCarthy will need shoulder surgery, which makes injured reserve a viable possibility for him, tweets Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.
  • Asked about the Texans’ overhaul of their backfield – which included signing Ronnie Brown and cutting Andre Brown – head coach Bill O’Brien said the Texans “had a chance to improve our team, and that’s what we did” (Twitter link via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Although he believes the Broncos have several good contracts, Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap picks Terrance Knighton’s deal as the most team-friendly one on Denver’s books. On the other hand, Fitzgerald wasn’t a fan of the contract the Broncos gave DeMarcus Ware this offseason, which includes $16.5MM in fully guaranteed money.
  • Because the Colts only had five draft picks in May – the fewest of any NFL team – the team extensively scouted college free agents and placed a greater emphasis on those players this year, tweets Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. As such, it wouldn’t be a surprise if a few earned spots on Indianapolis’ roster and/or practice squad.
  • In his exploration on the positional investments successful and non-successful teams make in running backs, the Patriots and Browns are among the teams examined by Zach Moore of Over the Cap. The Pats only spent about $3.4MM on their productive group of runners last season, and Moore thinks that inexpensive rookie Terrance West should be a better value for Cleveland than free agent addition Ben Tate.

Jets Notes: Vick, Milliner, Samuel

While Geno Smith still appears on track to start the Jets’ first regular season game, reports have suggested the team could use Michael Vick as a change-of-pace/Wildcat quarterback, and Smith thinks that idea is “definitely something to look into,” as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News details.

“I don’t know how much we’ll do it or if we’ll do it at all,” Smith said. “But every time he’s on the field, [Vick] brings that run-pass option.”

Here’s more on the Jets, who are dealing with a couple injuries to key players at the cornerback position:

  • Dee Milliner, who suffered a high ankle sprain, is expected to miss three or four weeks, according to Ed Werder of ESPN.com (via Twitter). That timetable would still give the cornerback a chance to return for the Jets’ Week 1 game against the Raiders.
  • Although Milliner should return for the regular season, rookie Dexter McDougle will miss the season with a torn ACL, so the Jets are still on the lookout for cornerback depth. In a report for the Daily News, Mehta writes that the club has reached out to veteran free agent Asante Samuel, though the 33-year-old is unlikely to be signed. Rex Ryan‘s team is more likely to add a younger player, per Mehta.
  • Here’s Ryan on the cornerback issue, via Mehta: “I’ve had to deal with those kinds of situations in the past. Adversity to some comes opportunity for others. … We’ll be able to play defense. We have a lot of good football players. So we’ll be fine. … I’ve been talking about our depth. And now we’ll get to see it.”
  • While John Idzik can’t be blamed for injuries, the Jets GM didn’t aggressively address the team’s lack of cornerback depth this offseason, says Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. The club replaced the departing Antonio Cromartie with Dimitri Patterson, who has dealt with several injuries of his own in recent years.

NFC Mailbags: Redskins, Rams, Panthers, Lions

It’s Saturday, and that means a fresh batch of mailbags from ESPN.com’s NFL writers. Let’s take a look at some from around the NFC…

  • Trent Murphy was certainly a fallback option for Brian Orakpo, but that doesn’t mean Orakpo won’t re-sign with the Redskins, says John Keim. He adds that the smart move would be to keep both players.
  • Ramswriter Nick Wagoner thinks the team will carry three quarterbacks, including Garrett Gilbert. He cautions that the rookie is not a lock to make the roster.
  • The money that the Rams would gain from cutting Austin Pettis could be enticing, Wagoner says. Stedman Bailey‘s suspension might mean that Pettis is sticking around, though.
  • Wagoner thinks the team will bring in a veteran linebacker, similar to what the team did last season with Will Witherspoon.
  • The Panthers will definitely be adding players as they’re cut from other teams, writes David Newton. The writer says General Manager Dave Gettleman is “saving money under the salary cap for a rainy day.”
  • The Lions could potentially keep six wide receivers on their 53-man roster, says Michael Rothstein. He lists Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate as locks and believes Jeremy Ross will find a spot. He says one of Kris DurhamKevin Ogletree and Naaman Roosevelt will make the roster, as well as one of T.J. Jones and Ryan Broyles. His wild card for the sixth spot would be Corey Fuller.
  • Rothstein doesn’t think the Lions should make a move right now for Asante Samuel. He adds that they could make a move for a cornerback eventually, especially if Chris Houston can’t return.
  • Dwayne Harris‘ job is safe with the Cowboys, opines Todd Archer. Besides being a solid wideout, his skills on special teams make him a lock.

Payton Talks Graham, Free Agency

Saints head coach Sean Payton joined Fox Sports 1 on Friday and discussed the issues facing his team this offseason, according to Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune.

The most notable free agent in New Orleans, without a doubt, is tight end Jimmy Graham. Now, if it comes down to a franchise tag, Graham will contend that he should be paid as a wide receiver rather than a tight end. The difference figures to be nearly $5MM ($11.6MM for WR and $6.8MM for TE).

“I know that Mickey Loomis, CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Jimmy Sexton (Graham’s agent) and all parties involved are going to work very hard and very diligently, no different than they did with Drew (Brees) on his contract,” Payton said. “With that being said, the first thing that comes to my mind with free agency is your own roster. I think often times that gets overlooked.

“The most challenging part of your job as a coach, and I share that with Mickey or anyone that has been with an organization as long as we have been, going on year nine, is some of the tough decisions that have to be made with regards to your cap with the ability that you possibly can sign Jimmy Graham.”

Holder points out safety Malcolm Jenkins, tackle Zach Strief and center Brian de la Puente as “key potential free agents” the team would like to re-sign. Easier said than done, noted Payton.

“It’s very easy to say ‘you are certainly going to get this done’ but you have to understand there is a budget here. That’s the challenging part. You are going to read these names that have already come across the ticker from Atlanta last week (Asante Samuel and Stephen Nicholas) and we will be no different.”

According to Holder, players that could become cap-casualties to help the Saints be able to afford signing Graham to a long-term contract include (figures courtesy of Holder):

Asante Samuel Rumors: Wednesday

The Falcons released Asante Samuel earlier today, and while getting cut is rarely good news for a veteran player, the Falcons did Samuel a favor by releasing him this early in the offseason, as noted by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Because Samuel is a veteran with more than four years of service, being released over a month in advance of free agency will allow him to get a head start on finding a new home for 2014. Players with less than four years of service would have to clear waivers before being eligible for free agency.

Because Samuel is able to sign with a team at any time, rumors are already flying about his possible suitors. One school of thought suggests the 33-year-old cornerback would sign on a relatively cheap deal with a playoff-caliber team looking to add a veteran to its secondary. A few clubs that would seem to make sense are the Broncos, Packers, Bears, and Patriots, according to Brett Sobileski of USAToday.com. He also notes that the Panthers could be an intriguing option, considering their struggles in the secondary and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott‘s familiarity with Samuel from their time with the Eagles.

Of course, as fast as these rumors start, they get shot down. The more likely scenario for the Panthers would be to re-sign Captain Munnerlyn, and look to replace Drayton Florence with a younger, cheaper free agent option, writes Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. He adds that the team was impressed with undrafted rookie Melvin White‘s improvement in 2013, and would only consider Samuel as an “emergency fall-back option.”

The Patriots would also be better off trying to re-sign their own free agent cornerback, writes Will Gellman of RantSports.com. He believes that the aging Samuel is not worth taking up cap space that could go to Aqib Talib or other free agents. Gellman also adds that Patriot fans might not be excited to see him back after he dropped an errant Eli Manning pass in Super Bowl XLII that could have sealed a perfect season for New England.

The Bears and Broncos both are already dealing with the potential loss of older, high-profile cornerbacks, as Charles Tillman is hitting free agency and Champ Bailey has a $10MM salary that will surely not be on the books in 2014, either via restructure or release. The Broncos are also expected to try to sign Samuel’s former teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a long-term deal. The Packers will most likely focus their efforts first on trying to re-sign Sam Shields.

Falcons Cut Asante Samuel, Stephen Nicholas

The Falcons have begun making offseason cuts, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, who reports (via Twitter) that the team released cornerback Asante Samuel and linebacker Stephen Nicholas today.

Samuel, who turned 33 last month, battled injuries early in the 2013 season and grabbed just one interception, his lowest mark since 2004. He had been set to enter the final year of his contract, and was on the books for a cap number of $5MM+. By waiving him now, the Falcons avoid having to pay Samuel’s base salary or roster bonus, creating $4MM+ in savings.

Nicholas, meanwhile, played a reduced role in Atlanta after starting 15 of the team’s 16 contests in 2012. His contract had been set to expire in 2016. He’ll still be on the books for $2MM in dead money for 2014, but by releasing him, the Falcons are able to cut his $4MM cap number in half.

Overall, the Falcons, who had been in the middle of the pack among NFL teams in terms of projected 2014 cap space, clear more than $6MM from their 2014 books with the two roster moves. That’ll give the club a little more breathing room as it explores possible moves to upgrade its offensive and defensive lines.

As for Samuel and Nicholas, since both players have at least four years of NFL experience, they’ll become unrestricted free agents without having to pass through waivers. In spite of a down year in 2013, Samuel tells Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com that he still hopes to play for “two or three” more seasons.