Barry Church

Four Jaguars Players Detained In London

Sunday, 9:42am: It appears that this situation will blow over. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Church was not actually arrested — Hayden, Wilson, and Harrison apparently were — but none of the four players were charged. London Police say the matter is “resolved.”

Rapoport says that the four men skipped out on a $64K bar tab, but that may have been due to a misunderstanding (video link). Apparently, expensive bottles of alcohol were being sent to their table, but they believed someone else was paying for them. They were therefore surprised when they were expected to pay.

In any event, it seems this incident will not have any impact on the team or the players moving forward.

Saturday, 9:15pm: The players arrested were Barry Church, D.J. Hayden, Jarrod Wilson, and Ronnie Harrison, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). All four players are defensive backs, which could explain why the team was so reluctant to name them in their statement.

Jacksonville is already shorthanded in the secondary and can’t afford to be without both Church and Harrison, so they will almost certainly still play. Church, a safety, plays nearly every down while Harrison, also a safety, has seen his snaps increase in recent weeks. Hayden was already unlikely to play with an injury, and Wilson is a lightly-used special-teamer.

Saturday, 9:05pm: Online reports from British tabloids began circulating that four Jaguars players had been arrested ahead of Jacksonville’s game in London, and now the team is confirming those reports, according to James Palmer of NFL Network (Twitter link).

The Jaguars released a very brief statement acknowledging what happened, which reads as follows: “We are aware that four of our players were detained over restitution of a bill. The matter is being resolved and the players are with the team. Any discipline will be handled internally.”

The statement is very light on details, and it hasn’t been reported yet which four players were detained. The original report from the British paper said the players were confronted by security at a nightclub and accused of trying to avoid paying their tab. While the team is clearly being intentionally vague, we should know more details soon. At this point, it’s unclear if the players will still play in the game against the Eagles tomorrow.

No matter what happens, it’s an awful look for a club that’s been in disarray for weeks now, with the news breaking 12 hours before they’re set to kick off. The locker room has reportedly turned toxic, with multiple shouting matches breaking out after their most recent loss. Blake Bortles was benched and is now on a very short leash, and this is the last thing the team needs.

The NFL has made expanding the game into the London market a major focal point in recent years, and the league office will likely be outraged at the optics. While the Jaguars have said any discipline will be internal, commissioner Roger Goodell may disagree.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Jones, Gresham, Church

Let’s take a look at the details of some recently-signed contracts:

Jaguars Expected To Sign Barry Church

Cowboys free agent safety Barry Church is expected to land with the Jaguars on a four-year deal worth more than $6MM per year, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Rapoport says the deal will go down barring a “change of heart.” Church can officially ink his contract on Thursday.

Barry Church (Vertical)Church, one of my Top 50 Free Agents based on projected earning power, seemed likely to leave Dallas as the Cowboys work to keep multiple key free agents with limited cap room.

The 29-year-old totaled 85 tackles and two interceptions in 12 games last season. Pro Football Focus gave him an 85.3 overall score, placing him as the eleventh-best safety in the league out of 89 qualified players. The former undrafted free agent had played in at least 15 games between 2013 and 2015, averaging at least 100 tackles and nearly two forced fumbles per season.

The Redskins and the Panthers were among the other teams to express interest in Church this offseason.

Church will join a Jaguars safety corps that currently consists of Tashaun Gipson, James Sample, Peyton Thompson, Jarrod Wilson, and Akeem Davis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars In On A.J. Bouye, Barry Church

Holy moly, Jacksonville is not playing around this offseason. The Jaguars appear in the mix for some of this year’s best unrestricted free agents, including cornerback A.J. Bouye, guard Kevin Zeitler, defensive lineman Calais Campbell, and safety Barry Church, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Their interest in Campbell and Zeitler was reported earlier this week.A.J. Bouye (Vertical)

Bouye is ranked as my No. 1 free agent this offseason based on earning power and the rest of the guys in this group are not far behind. Zeitler (No 5 on the list), Campbell (No. 9), and Church (No. 34) would all cost the Jaguars a pretty penny. Of course, there is no realistic scenario that has Jacksonville signing all four players, but their interest in this bunch is noteworthy. Armed with upwards of $75MM in cap space, the Jags could certainly come away with one or two high-end free agents.

When free agency opens on Thursday, Zeitler could set a new guard standard at $12MM per year. Bouye’s market is also looking like it will yield a $12MM+ per year contract, even though he only has one strong year on his resume. Church already has a number of teams interested in him and should get more than $5MM per season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Redskins’ Defense

Expected to provide Chris Baker with an offer by Tuesday, the Redskins may now be conceding the defensive end is going to move on in free agency. Washington’s top defensive lineman over the past two seasons is “highly likely” to depart the nation’s capital, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The Broncos and Buccaneers are coveting Baker.

However, the Redskins are going to be on the hunt for defensive linemen. One name La Canfora is connecting the team is Dontari Poe (Twitter link). The five-year Chiefs starter reportedly hasn’t seen his market take off during his first free agency period, with Jason Cole of Bleacher Report hearing the mammoth defender could take a one-year contract with a team that would let him rush quarterbacks more.

Poe served as a lane clogger in Kansas City but was a dynamo in terms of snaps played, logging more than any nose man during his rookie-deal tenure in Kansas City. But his sack totals decreased, plummeting from 10.5 between the 2013 and ’14 seasons (both Pro Bowl slates) to 2.5 combined in 2015 and ’16. The 26-year-old wouldn’t be a Baker replacement, being a nose guard, but would help Washington offset the end’s defection from a talent standpoint.

Additionally, La Canfora notes both the Redskins and Jaguars are aiming to land Cowboys safety Barry Church. Jacksonville obviously has the cap room to outmuscle Washington here, at $75MM to $34MM, but Church isn’t expected to command an incredibly lucrative deal. Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com connected the eighth-year safety to an AAV mark north of $5MM. Although, the Panthers are also pursuing Church, so this figure could escalate. The Redskins have experienced inconsistency at safety for a bit now due to injuries and under-performing cogs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents

It’s free agency week! This year, thanks to the salary cap increase, the dollars will be flying and players will make more than you ever could have expected. Our lists for offense and defense rank free agents based on overall ability, but our Top 50 ranks players based on earning power. Here, you’ll get a good sense of what the market will be like this week and who the big fish are.

The league’s “legal tampering” window will open on Tuesday at 11:00am CT. Technically, teams and players aren’t permitted to finalize agreements on contracts during that legal tampering window, but that’s often treated as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. We will almost certainly see handshake agreements go down on Tuesday and Wednesday before they become official on Thursday, the technical beginning of free agency.

Our list of 2017’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or franchise tagged players, since they’re effectively restricted free agents as well.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2017, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:

1. A.J. Bouye, CB (Texans): Bouye is an overnight sensation, going from unknown to elite talent in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what to make of Bouye, but his upside is too much for teams to pass up. The Texans declined to use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old (26 in August), but they’re still hoping to get a deal done this week. The Jets are said to have interest, but it’s not clear if they’ll have the room to get something done. Cornerback-needy teams like the Panthers, Saints, Jaguars, Titans, Bears, and Eagles can be expected to at least kick the tires on this year’s top player in the secondary. Could something like Janoris Jenkins‘ five year, $62.5MM contract ($28.8MM fully guaranteed) from last year be within reach? Jenkins had a longer history of success than Bouye, but consider these facts: Bouye nearly two years younger than Jenkins was at time of signing and the salary cap has risen by about $12MM.
Signed with Jaguars for five years, $67.5MM.A.J. Bouye (vertical)

2. Alshon Jeffery, WR (Bears): He was hurt for most of 2015 and he slumped along with the entire Bears offense in 2016, but his natural ability is still evident and he is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. At one point, it seemed like Jeffery could wind up as the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. That won’t be the case, but he will likely get more cash than any other wide receiver in this year’s class. The Eagles and Titans have been hot on his tail for some time now. The 49ers could also get involved and a return to the Bears cannot be ruled out either. Ultimately, Jeffery should wind up fetching at least $10MM per year and perhaps as much as $12MM per year on his next deal.
Signed with Eagles for one year, $9.5MM.

3. Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins): Jeffery isn’t the only wide receiver who could fetch $12MM per year. Stills isn’t necessarily the best wide receiver on his own team, but he is just on the cusp of his 25th birthday and his ability to stretch the field is tantalizing. It doesn’t sound like the Dolphins are ready to be the highest bidder for his services and it’s not hard to imagine a team like the Eagles landing him. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the potential suitors for Jeffery and Stills: the Eagles, Titans, Bears, and 49ers will probably come calling. The Rams may not have enough room to squeeze in Stills, but they could certainly use a playmaker like him if they do not re-sign Kenny Britt. Stills reportedly likes the West Coast (who doesn’t?) so the Niners and Rams could have a leg up on the others if the bidding is close.
Re-signed with Dolphins for four years, $32MM.

4. Dont’a Hightower, LB (Patriots): The market is capped for non-rush linebackers, but Hightower is pretty much the best at what he does and is also lauded for his intangibles. The Patriots have always embraced the “next man up” philosophy, so it is possible they will allow him to go elsewhere. The Dolphins have been frequently connected to Hightower, but that might be too ambitious for a team that has multiple major needs to address. The Colts might also make sense, but the price might be too rich for their blood. A Patriots return appears to be the most likely outcome, but anything is possible.
Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $35.5MM. 

5. Kevin Zeitler, G (Bengals): Zeitler has age on his side and he’s one of the safest free agents in the top ten after three consecutive years of dominance. Interior offensive linemen don’t get as much love as their counterparts on the outside, but they are still incredibly vital and Zeitler’s next contract will reflect that. If he doesn’t circle back to the Bengals, the Jaguars, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks all make varying degrees of sense for Zeitler. From a football standpoint, you can add the Jets to that group too, but I’m not sure they can meet a ~$12MM/year asking price.
Signed with Browns for five years, $60MM.

6. Logan Ryan, CB (Patriots): There are bigger names available at the cornerback position, but Ryan slots ahead of many of them after a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that this fresh-faced Super Bowl champ only just turned 26 in February. If the Patriots don’t tie him down, Ryan’s earning power could conceivably vault him past Trumaine Johnson in terms of guaranteed cash. The Jaguars and Titans would be wise to zero in on Ryan if they can’t land Bouye and it’s possible that some of their evaluators might even prefer Ryan over the Houston standout. Ryan’s next deal will probably pay him eight figures per year and it should be a lengthy pact.
Signed with Titans for three years, $30MM.

7. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Browns): There is strong mutual interest in a new deal between Pryor and the Browns. Still, the Browns passed on the opportunity to franchise tag the Ohio State product and he now appears poised to test the open market. With pretty much just one year to show, how will Pryor fare in free agency? His next deal should pay him at least $10MM/year and he could get up to $12MM/year. In addition to the Browns, the usual suspects for this year’s high-end WRs will explore signing Pryor (say it with me): Eagles, Titans, and 49ers. There’s conflicting word about whether the Steelers will get involved. The Giants are known to have interest, but I don’t think they’ll be splurging on free agents like they did one year ago.
Signed with Redskins for one year, $6MM.

8 .Ricky Wagner, OT (Ravens): There’s already talk of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year and it’s not like this year’s free agent market is flush with young, quality tackles. When you also consider the lack of quality tackles in the draft, it’s apparent that Wagner is about to get PAID, in all caps.Believe it or not, $10MM/year might be his floor. When all is said and done, he’ll be the league’s biggest earner at right tackle. The Bears are particularly interested in Wagner, so he could go from the AFC North to the NFC North this week.
Signed with Lions for five years, $47.5MM.

Calais Campbell (vertical)9. Calais Campbell, DL (Cardinals): Campbell was supposed to be an afterthought in Arizona after the addition of Chandler Jones. Perhaps motivated by a perceived slight, Campbell turned in a stellar year. Now, the Cardinals would very much like to keep him, but they can only go so far as they back up the Brinks truck for Jones and look into retaining other key free agents. If Jones does not agree to a cap-smoothing long-term deal between now and March 9th, the odds of Campbell leaving increase. The Jaguars are said to be a leading contender for Campbell while the Titans, Broncos, Colts, and Bears could also use a force like him. His age (31 in September) gives him a bit of a ceiling in terms of overall compensation, but he should still do nicely this month.
Signed with Jaguars for four years, $60MM.

10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (Bills): In terms of pure talent, Gilmore might be the best cornerback available. Trouble is, no one knows what to make of him after a down 2016. Some have openly theorized that Gilmore was playing it safe to avoid injury in his pivotal contract year. It’s also possible that Buffalo’s injuries in the front seven put undue stress on the secondary. The Bears are reportedly high on Gilmore and he may represent a cheaper option than Bouye or Ryan. A Bills return would also make sense here.
Signed with Patriots for five years, $65MM.

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Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Defense

NFL free agency gets underway on Thursday 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. Here is our updated outlook for each defensive and special teams position.

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 franchised players 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 this offseason:

Edge defender:

  1. Nick Perry
  2. Jabaal Sheard
  3. John Simon
  4. DeMarcus Ware
  5. Lorenzo Alexander
  6. Andre Branch
  7. Julius Peppers
  8. Charles Johnson
  9. Datone Jones
  10. Dwight Freeney
  11. Chris Long
  12. Mario Williams
  13. Paul Kruger
  14. Courtney Upshaw
  15. Jarvis Jones

Now that Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Jason Pierre-Paul have all been assigned the franchise tag, Nick Perry stands as the top edge defender on the free agent market, and is now in a position to cash in. The Packers opted against the franchise tender for the 26-year-old Perry, so he’ll hit the open market following a career year which saw him post 11 sacks."<strong

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among players with youth still on their side, Datone Jones figures to interest clubs thanks to his versatility, as he can vacillate between end and linebacker, while fellow former first-round pick Jarvis Jones is solid against the run. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. Charles Johnson, meanwhile, looks like a good bet to return to the Panthers, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Calais Campbell
  2. Johnathan Hankins
  3. Brandon Williams
  4. Dontari Poe
  5. Chris Baker
  6. Bennie Logan
  7. Nick Fairley
  8. Alan Branch
  9. Jared Odrick
  10. Karl Klug
  11. Terrell McClain
  12. Lawrence Guy
  13. Stacy McGee
  14. Stephen Paea
  15. Sylvester Williams
    Honorable mention: Paul Soliai

Calais Campbell is the best overall player among interior defenders, and though he’s entering his age-31 season and may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe, Campbell will still be highly-sought after as he searches for his last substantial payday Campbell’s agent met with the Cardinals last week, but other speculative fits for the veteran defender include the Broncos, Raiders, Ravens, Colts, and Titans."<strong

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Karl Klug), and run stoppers (Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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Cowboys Bracing To Lose Free Agents

The Cowboys’ list of pending free agents is rife with talented players, including cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, and wide receiver Terrance Williams, but Dallas might not be able to retain many (if any) of their unsigned free agents, as Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram reports the Cowboys “could lose them all.”Terrance Williams (Vertical)

[RELATED: Tony Romo Wants To Join Broncos]

At present, the Cowboys rank last in the league with just $3.3MM in cap space, and as such, don’t figure to be aggressive in the early goings of free agency, per Hill, who adds Dallas will “let the market come back to them.” At wideout, the Cowboys won’t be a factor in the Williams sweepstakes if his value approaches the $7MM range (as is expected), but the club will attempt to re-sign fellow free agent pass-catcher Brice Butler if the price is right.

In the secondary, the Cowboys won’t retain both Carr and Claiborne and could potentially lose both, while Church will also price himself out of Dallas’ range if he lands a contract north of $7MM (Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported $5MM as the Church sweet spot earlier today). The Cowboys are reportedly open to starting Jeff Heath at safety opposite Byron Jones, per Hill, which lessens the need to re-sign either Church or Wilcox.

Dallas still plans to target a wide receiver and pass rusher this offseason, but owner Jerry Jones believes those needs can be addressed either through the draft or the second wave of free agency, according to Hill.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Expected To Pursue Barry Church

The Panthers are expected to make a run at free agent safety Barry Church when the market opens on Thursday, according to Bill Voth of the Black and Blue Review.Barry Church (Vertical)

[RELATED: Panthers Interested In Matt Kalil]

Church, 29, is coming off the best season of his career, during which he posted two interceptions and graded as the league’s No. 11 safety, per Pro Football Focus. As Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated recently noted, Church is “solid at everything, great at nothing,” but looks like one of the best safeties on the 2017 free agent market. PFR ranked Church as the third-best available safety in our positional rankings, while listing him as the No. 33 overall free agent on a macro level.

Earlier today, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported Carolina figures to address the secondary in a “meaningful way,” and adding Church to a safety group that already includes Kurt Coleman and Tre Boston would do just that. Coleman and Boston graded as league-average defensive backs in 2016, so reducing one or both of their snaps in order to accommodate Church is a tenable idea. Per Robinson, Church is expected to garner north of $5MM on his next contract.

Church has spent the first seven seasons of his NFL tenure with the Cowboys, and is open to accepting something of a hometown discount to stay in Dallas. However, now that he’s just days from hitting free agency, Church figures to see what the open market has to offer as he competes with fellow safeties Tony Jefferson, Duron Harmon, Darius Butler, and Jonathan Cyprien for free agent funds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: Warford, Cowboys, Panthers

This year’s strong guard market figures to drive up the prices for interior linemen. Two such top-tier UFAs figure to push for eight-figure deals, with Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com connecting both Ronald Leary and Larry Warford to deals of around $8MM per season (Twitter link). Robinson adds that Leary’s per year range could soar into the $9MM range (Twitter link). This comes after a report pegged Kevin Zeitler, generally viewed as this year’s top available guard, as being set to command $12MM AAV.

Kelechi Osemele‘s $11.7MM-AAV deal currently tops the guard hierarchy, but only two other players — Kyle Long and David DeCastro — are eight-figure-per-year players. The only other $8MM-per-year guards are Brandon Brooks, Mike Iupati and the recently extended Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, so Leary and Warford look set to join exclusive company with their second contracts. Robinson also reported last night T.J. Lang‘s next deal is estimated to be between $8-$10MM AAV.

Here’s more from the free agent market, courtesy of Robinson.

  • The Panthers are going to be bargain hunting on the offensive line in free agency, Robinson (on Twitter) senses. He also envisions Carolina addressing the secondary in a meaningful way, which jibes with what we’ve been hearing over the past few months.
  • Barry Church doesn’t figure to see a gargantuan raise the way many free agents will, with Robinson expecting the Cowboys safety sign for more than $5MM on average (Twitter link). Although, Robinson notes Church’s next contract could average earnings that are “solidly higher” than $5MM. Eric Berry‘s megadeal took the top safety off the market, so teams in need of back-line defenders could turn to a player like Church. The 29-year-old career-long Cowboy started in Dallas for the past four seasons. Church made $4.25MM in base salary last season in Dallas. A former UDFA, Church said last month he was open to giving the Cowboys a hometown discount to some degree, but this could well be his last chance to earn a higher-end contract. PFR’s latest safety rankings place Church third — behind Tony Jefferson and Duron Harmon.
  • Robinson provided extensive clarity on what the wide receiver market could look like, and the pursuit of Alshon Jeffery might not yield what the Bears wideout believes he deserves.