Barry Church

FA Notes: Cowboys, Williams, Church, Gabriel

The free agent period opens in less than one month, but at least front office staff isn’t enthralled by the prospect of adding players from the 2017 open market. “It’s a brutal free agent class,” an AFC executive tells Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. “You’ve got to hope some guys get cut who can fill a role at a decent price. We’re more interested in seeing who gets released than where these free agents sign.” While this year’s crop of players may not feature the depth of other free agent classes, there is still some intriguing talent at the top of the market, as exhibited in the latest edition of PFR’s Free Agent Power Rankings.

  • NFL front offices are more willing than ever to employ the franchise tag, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link), who notes that the franchise tender allows clubs to retain elite-level talent without worrying about large signing bonuses. Those bonuses become prorated onto teams’ salary caps, making it difficult to release players down the road, while the franchise tag — while expensive — only ties a club to a player for a single season. PFR’s Zach Links examined candidates for the 2017 franchise tag earlier today.
  • The Cowboys coaching staff is “much higher” on free agent Terrance Williams than the rest of the league, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, who notes Dallas’ decision-makers respect Williams’ consistency and availability. Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones has already expressed an interest in re-signing Williams, who finished the 2016 campaign with 44 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns, but Archer believes another club with more financial wiggle room will likely swoop in and steal Williams away from Dallas.
  • Pending free agent safety Barry Church sounds open to giving the Cowboys some sort of hometown discount, but like most players reaching the open market for the first time, Church wants to capitalize on his next contract. “It’s definitely a business decision, but … the Cowboys … were the team that gave me that gave me the opportunity coming out of the draft, being undrafted,” Church told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Everybody else kind of passed up on me. But it’s definitely a business decision.” Church, 29, managed two interceptions and four passes defensed in 12 games with Dallas last season, and now joins a free agent safety class that includes Eric Berry and Tony Jefferson.
  • The Falcons will likely place a second-round restricted free agent tender on wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, and a first-round offer isn’t out of the question, writes Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. The second-round tender should be worth roughly $2.8MM in 2017, while a first-round tender will come in around $4MM. Using a high tender would dissuade a club like the 49ers, which now employs former Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, from stealing Gabriel. In his first season with the Falcons, the 25-year-old Gabriel posted 35 receptions for 579 yards and six scores.

Extra Points: Jeffery, McCoy, Boyle, Cowboys

Alshon Jeffery could be entering free agency after this season and doing so on the heels of an unremarkable year, one now marred by the performance-enhancing drugs suspension. That suspension for the Bears‘ top target is expected to scare off “a number” of teams and could help lead to a tepid market for the Bears’ present top weapon, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report notes (video link).

Cole also points to other receivers like Michael Floyd or DeSean Jackson as cheaper options as also being a factor in Jeffery having to possibly accept a short-term deal. Kenny Britt would qualify here as well, although 2017 UFA Terrelle Pryor could be a prime candidate for an eight-figure AAV deal.

As many as 10 wideouts, in Cole’s view, being first- or second-round picks also could induce teams to be careful throwing money around for wide receivers. Jeffery is playing this season on the $14.59MM franchise tag and posted less-than-stellar numbers prior to his suspension. He of two 1,100-yard seasons, the 26-year-old Jeffery has just 630 and one touchdown for the struggling Bears.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • The Falcons‘ deal with Ryan Schraeder cements the $6MM/year range for right tackles, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter) opines. Now, he envisions a similar range for Marcus Cannon (Patriots), Riley Reiff (Lions), and Ricky Wagner (Ravens).
  • Panthers defensive end Ryan Delaire returned to practice today. He’s eligible to come off IR this week if the Panthers choose to do so, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer notes (on Twitter). Carolina’s IR is not populated with key personnel, as Roster Resource shows, so that’s one less road block in this scenario.
  • Cowboys safety Barry Church has been sidelined with a fractured right forearm but he expects to be back in time to face Minnesota on Dec. 1 (Twitter link via Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News). Church says he’ll wear a cast when he plays.
  • Tony Romo attempting to make Dak Prescott‘s ascent to the Dallas starting job easier could benefit the veteran passer this offseason, Cole of notes (video link). The Cowboys, per Cole, could be more willing to accommodate the 36-year-old quarterback with a trade, with the NFL insider mentioning the Broncos and Chiefs as potential destinations.
  • Bills running back LeSean McCoy had a surgical procedure on his thumb Monday but he will be ready to play this Sunday, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). McCoy has matched his career high with 5.2 yards per carry thus far this season.
  • Ravens tight end Nick Boyle’s suspension is now up, and the team will have one week to evaluate him before putting him on the 53-man roster, Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun reports (via Twitter). The second-year tight end’s now been popped for two PED suspensions. He will return to practice this week, but John Harbaugh said (via Zreibec, on Twitter) it’s not certain he plays Sunday.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report

Barry Church, Morris Claiborne To Miss Time

The Cowboys lost two important pieces of their secondary on Sunday, as both safety Barry Church and cornerback Morris Claiborne suffered injuries. Church fractured his arm and will miss three-to-five weeks, according to Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link), while Claiborne may require surgery for a sports hernia and could be out indefinitely, reports Todd Archer of ESPN.com.Barry Church (Vertical)

[RELATED: Darren McFadden On Trade Block]

Church, who likely won’t undergo an operation, has played extremely well this season, grading as the league’s No. 17 safety, according to Pro Football Focus. In seven starts, Church has managed 34 tackles, two interceptions, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. The 28-year-old Church’s contract is up at season’s end, so the injury puts a damper on his free agent prospects. J.J. Wilcox is likely to replace Church in the starting lineup, but Dallas also has Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Jameill Showers available at safety.

Claiborne, meanwhile has transformed from a former draft bust to a legitimate top corner in his fifth NFL season, ranking as PFF’s eighth-best corner on the year. Re-signed to a one-year deal worth only $3MM, Claiborne has started all seven games and posted one interception. Like Church, Claiborne is also head for unrestricted free agency after the season. For the time being, he’ll be replaced by Orlando Scandrick, who just returned to game action on Sunday. The Cowboys’ only other corner is Anthony Brown, so they could potentially make a move for another defensive back soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Place Dez Bryant, Others On IR

Dez Bryant‘s disappointing 2015 season will end a week early, as head coach Jason Garrett announced today that the star wideout is being placed on injured reserve (link via Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com). In addition to Bryant, defensive tackle David Irving and safety Barry Church will also head to IR, per Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Twitter link).

After going through an eventful offseason, which included receiving the franchise tag and eventually signing a lucrative long-term contract with the Cowboys, Bryant promptly had his season derailed by foot and ankle injuries, which limited him to the worst numbers of his career — in nine games, he caught just 31 balls for 401 yards and three touchdowns, all career lows.

According to Garrett, Bryant is expected to have surgery on both his foot and ankle over the course of the next week, tweets Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. That means both the Cowboys’ top wideout and starting quarterback could undergo procedures this offseason. Tony Romo indicated earlier this week that he may have a plate inserted to prevent further collarbone injuries.

As for the other two Cowboys who were placed on IR today, both of those moves had been expected. Church broke his right arm during Sunday’s game against Buffalo, while Irving sustained a fractured left wrist.

Cowboys’ Barry Church Breaks Arm

The Cowboys’ cratering season encountered more turbulence in Week 16, with starting safety Barry Church suffering a broken arm that will shelve him for Week 17 and a considerable stretch of offseason time, Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

After starting 47 straight games — and 50 overall in his six-year career — for the Cowboys, Church broke his right arm while tackling Tyrod Taylor in the fourth quarter Sunday.

As of now, the injury will not require surgery, instead being a “clean break” necessitating a cast, Church told media.

Church finished with 77 tackles. The 27-year-old ex-undrafted free agent has one more season left on his contract, which will pay him a base salary of $2.75MM in 2016.

Church last missed time in Dallas after tearing his Achilles’ tendon during the 2012 season.

 

 

Cap Notes: Steve Smith, Ravens, Barwin, ‘Boys

Despite being eliminated during the Divisional Round of the playoffs, several Ravens players can rest easy knowing they’ve earned more money based on their 2014 performance. According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, receiver Steve Smith will earn an extra $1MM in incentives, which were based on playing time, individual, and team performance. Linebacker Daryl Smith will also have another $1MM tacked onto his 2014 earnings, and he also hit an escalator that will increase his 2015 salary by $500K. Tight end Owen Daniels earned $755K through incentives, and center Gino Gradkowski will see a pay raise thanks to the proven performance escalator (explained here). Here are more cap-related notes from around the NFL…

  • After an outstanding 2014 season that saw him record 14.5 sacks, Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin will earn a higher base salary in 2015 thanks to escalators in his contract. Per Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link), Barwin hit all of his escalators, meaning he’ll make $5.5MM next year, a bump of $900K.
  • Cowboys safety Barry Church will earn a $1MM raise on top of his scheduled 2015 salary, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, who writes that Church met a playing time threshold by seeing action on 85% of defensive snaps last season.
  • Veteran Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton earned a $200K salary increase in each of the next two seasons thanks to an unknown escalator, per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com.
  • As we head to the offseason, several teams are willing to offer high guarantees in order to sign highly-coveted players to reserve/futures deals. According to Brian McIntyre (via Twitter), the largest guarantees on reserve deals thus far belong to running back Ryan Williams (who signed a two-year contract with the Cowboys) and defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye, who inked a pact with the 49ers.
  • The Cowboys will carry over $3.26MM in cap space into 2015, tweets Todd Archer of ESPN.com.

NFC Links: Greenway, Graham, Riddick

Vikings veteran linebacker Chad Greenway, coming off a disappointing 2013 season in which a wrist injury affected his play, is a player with “something to prove,” according to ESPN’s Ben Goessling: “Greenway took a paycut after a disappointing 2013 season with the Vikings, and he has just one year left on his contract after this season. The Vikings would have to count only a $1.7 million bonus proration against their 2015 cap if they cut Greenway after this season, and they’d save $7.1 million, meaning Greenway could be looking at another contract restructure or a release if he doesn’t pick things up at age 31 this season.”

Here’s some more NFC-related reading:

  • ESPN’s Mike Triplett did his best to clarify an arbitrator’s ruling that — for the purpose of the Saints’ franchise tag designation — Jimmy Graham was a tight end, in part, because of the so-called “4-yard benchmark.”
  • Late last month, Tim Twentyman wrote about Lions running back Theo Riddick turning heads with an impressive spring which caught the eye of head coach Jim Caldwell in particular. Now backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky is adding to the hype. Talking on Ross Tucker’s podcast, Orlovsky said, “I’m telling you, if [Riddick] doesn’t 50 catches this year, I’ll be surprised because he’s going to have opportunities and he’s very talented at it. I think he’s going to play that Sproles role, for sure.”
  • Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is rehabbing from back surgery for the second consecutive offseason, writes David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, but Romo says his conditioning is “miles ahead of last year.”
  • Barry Church will hold down one safety spot for the Cowboys, but his running mate is to be determined. Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com thinks it will come down to J.J. Wilcox or Jakar Hamilton. “Wilcox has lost weight and is playing with better movement along with a better understanding of what his responsibilities are,” says Broaddus. Matt Johnson, a 2012 fourth-rounder out of Eastern Washington, is the most talented of the bunch, according to Broaddus, but Johnson hasn’t been able to stay healthy.
  • The Redskins drafted Josh LeRibeus in the third round in 2012 anticipating he would develop into a starter. Two years later, he must prove himself a capable backup just to stick on the roster, writes Mike Jones in the Washington Post.
  • In a rundown of NFC South depth chart notes, Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness recognized the encouraging play of a pair of 2013 rookies: Saints offensive tackle Terron Armstead and Buccaneers running back Mike James, both of whom made the most of limited opportunity.

East Notes: Vick, Smith, Jets, Bills, Cowboys

It appears that the much-anticipated battle between Michael Vick and Geno Smith for the Jets starting quarterback job is over before it even started.

“Geno’s the starting quarterback for that football team,” Vick told Dom Cosentino of NJ.com at a family fitness event Saturday.

“Ultimately our goal is to try to help Geno become the best quarterback that he can be. Myself and [third-stringer Matt Simms] are all trying to put him in a position where he can get better from year one or year two.”

Vick, who signed a one-year deal worth $5MM with the Jets in March, was expected to push Smith for the job in training camp.

More notes from the AFC and NFC East divisions…

  • Despite a brew of veteran (Vick), potential (Smith) and developmental (Simms) quarterbacks on the roster, the Jets are not ruling out the possibility of adding another signal-caller in the draft, writes Brian Costello of the New York Post.
  • Three months could be all that stands in between the Bills and a new owner, the Associated Press’ John Wawrow reports. It’s possible that a sale could come by July, and approval of the sale by October.
  • In more Bills ownership talk, Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News says the former owner of the Montreal Canadiens, Colorado businessman George Gillett, is not expected to attempt to purchase the team.
  • The Cowboys are unlikely to throw max money at running back DeMarco Murray, ESPNDallas.com’s Todd Archer writes in his Twitter mailbag. Murray’s in the final season of a four-year rookie deal, having entered the league in 2011 as a third-round draft pick from Oklahoma.
  • Look for second-year player J.J. Wilcox to be Dallas’ starting safety opposite Barry Church in 2014, says Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News. Drafted No. 80 overall in 2013, Wilcox totaled 38 tackles in 13 games played as a rookie, but lost his job to undrafted rookie Jeff Heath midway through the season.
  • Alex Smith of PhiladelphiaEagles.com previews the team’s offensive line situation, dishing out insight on depth behind the starters and what year No. 2 will be like for 2013 first-round pick Lane Johnson.
  • With not much of a track record to go off, Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey has Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel stumped as to how the team’s No. 1 personnel man will work the upcoming draft.