Blair Walsh

Patriots Work Out Five Kickers

The Patriots are in need of a new kicker after placing Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve earlier today, and they worked out five free agents on Wednesday. New England took a look at Kai Forbath, Elliott Fry, Mike Nugent, Blair Walsh, and Matthew Wright today, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com.

New England will need another kicker for Sunday’s contest against the Redskins, but the club doesn’t seem to be acting with any sense of urgency. The Patriots are not expected to sign a kicker today and may bring in more free agents on Thursday, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The Chargers also held kicker auditions today, which created travel issues for several free agents, per RapSheet.

Nugent by far the most experienced of the kickers that tried out for the Patriots, having attempted more than 300 field goals during his career, but both Walsh and Forbath have each attempted more than 100 kicks each. Fry lost the Bears’ kicking competition over the summer, while Wright is an undrafted rookie free agent.

Meanwhile, Kaare Vedvik — who was traded from the Ravens to the Vikings this offseason before briefly landing with the Jets — declined to work out for the Patriots, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link), who adds Vedvik is focusing on punting and kickoffs rather than field goals.

Falcons Reach 53 Man Limit

The Falcons reached the 53-man limit by dropping a total of 35 players and placing quarterback Matt Simms on injured reserve. Along the way, the Falcons also cut some notable veterans.

Here’s the full rundown of the team’s cuts, including some previously reported moves:

S Parker Baldwin
LB Yurik Bethune
WR Christian Blake
RB Tony Brooks-James
LB Richie Brown (Waived/injured)
CB Taveze Calhoun (Waived/injured)
LB Bruce Carter (Released)
DT Stefan Charles (Released)
S Chris Cooper
LB Tre Crawford
TE Thomas Duarte
QB Danny Etling
OL Adam Gettis (Released)
TE Alex Gray (Waived/injured)
WR Devin Gray
WR Marcus Green
OL Sean Harlow
DE Austin Larkin
S Ronald Martin (Released)
LB Chase Middleton
DE Durrant Miles
C Chandler Miller
CB Jalen Myrick
CB Ryan Neal
DE Chris Odom
TE Logan Paulsen (Released)
LB Del’Shawn Phillips (Waived/injury settlement)
OT Jaelin Robinson
CB Jayson Stanley (Waived/injury settlement)
K Giorgio Tavecchio
DT Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
K Blair Walsh (Released)
OL John Wetzel (Released)
WR C.J. Worton
DT Justin Zimmer

Falcons To Sign K Blair Walsh

Another kicker shakeup may occur this preseason. With their incumbent kicker struggling, the Falcons will sign Blair Walsh, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). While Giorgio Tavecchio remains on the team, he is now set for a full-fledged competition.

The Falcons confirmed the move, which comes after Dan Quinn suggested the team would bring in competition for Tavecchio. The third-year kicker has struggled during the preseason, missing 4 of 8 attempts — including a 39-yarder — thus far this month.

A Georgia alum, Walsh worked out for the Jets and Bears this year. Both teams opted against adding the former Vikings kicker. Should Walsh beat out Tavecchio, he would face his former team in Week 1. Walsh did not play in 2018.

Walsh has not kicked since a disappointing 2017 season. The Seahawks moved on from him after he went 21-for-29 that season. Minnesota initially selected Walsh in the 2012 sixth round and used him as its kicker for five seasons. The 29-year-old specialist earned All-Pro acclaim as a rookie, going 10-for-10 from beyond 50 yards, but his miss inside of 30 yards cost the Vikings a wild-card win against the Seahawks in 2015. He has yet to fully rebound from that errant try.

The Falcons also signed defensive tackle Stefan Charles and tight end Thomas Duarte. To make room for this new trio, the team waived wide receivers Shawn Bane and Kahlil Lewis, along with offensive lineman Tommy Doles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Auditioning K Blair Walsh

Chandler Catanzaro‘s hold on the Jets kicking gig is on shaky ground. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes that the team will be auditioning a number of kickers today, including former All-Pro Blair Walsh. Chris Blewitt will also work out for the team.

Walsh broke onto the scene as a rookie with the Vikings in 2012, setting an NFL single-season record with 10 field goals made from at least 50 yards. However, the kicker had shaky seasons in 2014 and 2016, leading to his release from Minnesota. He caught on with Seattle during the 2017 season, connecting on 21 of his 29 field goal attempts. He also missed a crucial field goal during that season’s wild card round, and he subsequently sat out the 2018 campaign.

After playing for the Jets in 2017, Catanzaro signed with the team again this past March. The veteran had an inconsistent 2018 campaign that was split between the Panthers and Buccaneers, and Mehta writes that Catanzaro had been shaky throughout camp. He struggled a bit during the Jets’ preseason opener, missing a pair of extra points. That caught the eye of head coach Adam Gase, who talked about the possibility of adding competition.

“I don’t think there’s ever a downside to creating competition,” Gase said. “Where we’re at right now going through the spring, there’s been some really good moments where there’s been some consistency there. We just need to kind of get back to our rhythm with the snapper, holder, kicker.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Audition Several Kickers

The Bears are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to upgrade the kicker position. On Friday, they’ll work out a group of six or seven kickers including Nick Folk, Blair Walsh, and Austin MacGinnis, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). 

Parkey missed a potential game winner against the Eagles in the opening round of the playoffs, putting him on thin ice. His 43-yard try off the upright was a heartbreaker, though it wasn’t exactly Parkey’s fault as it was tipped by defensive tackle Treyvon Hester.

The 26-year-old kicker (27 in February) may have put his job in further jeopardy when he made a guest appearance on NBC’s Today show to discuss the miss. The lighthearted segment rubbed head coach Matt Nagy the wrong way and drew the ire of many Bears fans.

For me, you understand that we always talk about a ‘we’ and not a ‘me’ thing,” Nagy said (via ESPN.com). “We always talk as a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team. You know, I just, I didn’t necessarily think that that was too much of a ‘we’ thing.”

It certainly sounds like the Bears want to replace Parkey, but his contract complicates matters. Parkey joined the Bears on a four-year, $15MM deal last offseason which calls for a $4.4MM dead cap hit if he is released before the 2019 season. Earlier this month, GM Ryan Pace indicated that the contract will not necessarily keep them from moving on.

We talk about those things [the financial ramifications], but the most important thing is performance,” Pace said.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Workout Updates: 1/13/19

Today’s workout updates, all courtesy of veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (on Twitter):

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Pittsburgh Steelers

Redskins Work Out 5 Kickers

Dustin Hopkins‘ availability for Week 11 appears to be in question, so the Redskins are getting an early start on examining replacement help.

With Hopkins “a bit banged up,” per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter links), Washington brought in several kickers for a Tuesday workout.

Blair Walsh, Roberto Aguayo, Kai Forbath, Sam Ficken and Jon Brown participated, Yates reports. Of the quintet, only Ficken has kicked in a 2018 game. Walsh and Forbath had gigs last season, with the Seahawks and Vikings, respectively, while Aguayo has not kicked in a game since his rough 2016 season.

Forbath has a history with Washington, having been Hopkins’ predecessor. The UCLA product served as the Redskins’ kicker from 2012-14 before moving on to roles with the Saints and Vikings. The latter cut him this year, giving the job to rookie Daniel Carlson, whose grip on it lasted two games.

The Redskins went through this with Hopkins last season. He missed eight games in 2017, and Washington used Nick Rose as its kicker during that time. Rose is not believed to have been among today’s tryout contingent. Also perhaps soon to be available is Chandler Catanzaro, whom the Buccaneers sent to waivers on Monday. But his two misses Sunday helped the Redskins pick up a road win.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Expected To Replace K Zane Gonzalez

Zane Gonzalez had a performance to forget against the Saints on Sunday, so the Browns are now auditioning free agent kickers Blair Walsh and Cairo Santos, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link). Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link) was the first to report Cleveland was expected to change kickers.

Gonzalez was dreadful in Week 2, as he missed two field goals, including a 53-yarder that would have sent the game to overtime, and two extra points, including one that would have given the Browns a one-point lead with less than 90 seconds remaining. Cleveland, of course, was searching for its first victory since the 2016 season. A seventh-round pick in 2017, Gonzalez converted 75% of his field goal attempts and 25-of-26 of his extra points during his rookie campaign.

Both Walsh and Santos come with their own problems. Walsh has dealt with accuracy issues throughout his career, and was cut by the Seahawks after hitting only 72.4% of his field goals in 2017. Santos has historically been the better kicker, but he’s dealt with a nagging groin injury for more than a year.

One name who has yet to be linked to the Browns is veteran Dan Bailey, who was released by the Cowboys at final cutdowns. Per Darren Wolfson of KSTP (Twitter link), Bailey has recently turned down offers from four clubs as he waits for the “right opportunity,” one that may include suiting up for a contender.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Work Out K Blair Walsh

The Dolphins are the last remaining team in the NFL without a kicker, but they could be getting closer to finding their man. Miami tried out free agent kicker Blair Walsh, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets

[RELATED: Dolphins Sign QB Brock Osweiler]

Walsh spent 2017 as the Seahawks’ kicker, but connected on just 72.4% of his tries. The Dolphins, meanwhile, employed Cody Parkey, who sank 91.3% of his attempts. Now that Parkey has signed with the Bears, the Dolphins are rummaging through the remaining options.

Walsh excelled right out of the gate with the Vikings in 2012, earning Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors with a league-leading 35 made field goals on 38 attempts. He had a similarly strong showing for Minnesota again in 2015, but he was axed by the Vikes in November of 2016 after some costly misses.

The Dolphins could also find their next kicker in the draft. Reportedly, Miami is considering New Mexico’s Jason Sanders, Miami’s Michael Badgley Auburn’s Daniel Carlson, and Florida’s Eddy Pineiro.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

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. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

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 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more