Blair Walsh

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

Extra Points: Browns, Pryor, Jets

In a reply to on an Instagram post by Duke Johnson, Terrelle Pryor seemed to hint at having interest in returning to the Browns, as ESPN.com’s Pat McManamon writes. The Browns did express interest in reuniting with Pryor before the trade deadline, but it’s not clear whether new GM John Dorsey would want to sign him.

Pryor, who is scheduled to be a free agent in March, had a breakout season with the Browns in 2016, catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns. This past year, however, he had only 20 catches for 240 yards and one score in nine games.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has hired Doug Hendrickson as his agent in advance of free agency, according to Manish Mehta of the Daily News (on Twitter). Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times (on Twitter) wonders if ASJ could be a fit for the Seahawks and notes that Hendrickson has gotten deals done for Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch, Dion Jordan, and other players in Seattle.
  • The Seahawks could be looking to replace kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jon Ryan, as Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times writes. This week, the team is meeting with kicker Jason Myers and punter Jeff Locke. Myers was with the Jaguars from 2015 through the first six games of the 2017 season. He was released after missing three pivotal field goals, though they were all from 52 yards or longer. All in all, he connected on 64-of-79 field goal attempts (81%) and 76-of-88 extra points (86.4%) in 38 games with the Jags. Locke, meanwhile, appeared in five games for Detroit.
  • Center Corey Linsley‘s new three-year deal with the Packers is worth $27.3MM and includes an $8MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Tom Silverstein of the Journal-Sentinel). His cap numbers are: $3.85MM in 2017, $4.85MM in ’18, $8.15MM in ’19, and $10.5MM in ’20.

Extra Points: Patriots, Maxwell, Peterson

Following months of speculation, the Patriots finally pulled the trigger on a Jimmy Garoppolo trade during last week’s deadline. Today, coach Bill Belichick provided some clarity on the transaction, noting that the team did not shop around the quarterback during this past offseason.

“There was no market to trade Jimmy in April, on our end,” Belichick said during an appearance on WEEI (via Doug Kyed of NESN.com). “I don’t really care what the offer was. I don’t even know what the offers were, or would have been. There was no interest on our end in making that deal. It didn’t really matter what the offer was, or would the offer would have been. I don’t really know what they were because we never entertained it.

“As I said, we had the best depth at that position probably of any team in the league, or at least we felt like we did. Maybe other teams felt different, I don’t know. We had great depth at that position. It was a tremendous situation to have two quarterbacks of the caliber we’ve had the past call it two and a half years from when Jimmy was ready. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t sustainable.”

There were whispers that the Browns had pursued Garoppolo during the offseason, but it sounds like the Patriots weren’t even willing to pick up the phone.

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFL…

  • Brian Hoyer has a number of suitors after he was let go by the 49ers, but the quarterback told Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com that signing with the Patriots was a no-brainer. “I think for me, that was kind of the excitement of coming back home, and to be able to play behind Tom [Brady] and be in this organization,” Hoyer said. “And I was OK with. I think for me, having played a lot, you’re always ready to play, but it wasn’t going to work out for me to be a starter there in San Francisco the rest of this year, anyways, and probably not for next year. So I think for me, when I had an opportunity to come here and be the backup to Tom and in this organization, it was kind of a no-brainer.”
  • After working out with the Falcons, cornerback Byron Maxwell will not be signing a contract this evening, reports ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure. Of course, the writer also notes that the defensive back hasn’t been ruled out, so a transaction could still be a possibility.
  • Even after he missed three field goal attempts on Sunday against Washington, the Seahawks say they will not move on from kicker Blair Walsh. “No, we will not,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters (via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com). “He’s 12-for-13 going into the game, guys. That was a hard day for whatever reason. We didn’t kick the ball off very well, either. It was just a hard day to kick the ball for us.” Walsh’s misses proved to be costly as Seattle lost by three points.
  • After a slow start to the season, Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson may actually reach some of his monetary incentives. As former agent Joel Corry notes on Twitter, the veteran’s contract calls for an extra $150K if he reaches 750 rushing yards. After compiling only 81 rushing yards in four games with the Saints, the veteran has collected 314 in three games with the Cardinals, meaning he only needs another 355 rushing yards in eight more games.
  • The number of agents certified by the NFL Players Association has risen 4%, from 795 to 830, Liz Mullen of SBJ writes. That figure includes 119 new agents who became certified this summer. Meanwhile, 84 agents either lost or dropped their certification. One can lose certification by not negotiating an NFL deal within a three-year period, missing the yearly union seminar, or not paying dues.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

NFC Notes: Hawks, Falcons, Pack, Saints

The Seahawks had been in danger of losing a second-round pick for failing to disclose cornerback Richard Sherman‘s “significant” MCL injury during the season, but the NFL decided Monday to let them off with a warning, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. The league concluded that the Seahawks merely misinterpreted its rules, per Garafolo. The news that Seattle is escaping punishment isn’t particularly surprising, as one of Garafolo’s NFL.com colleagues, Ian Rapoport, reported earlier this month that Seattle wasn’t going to face serious discipline for its violation.

More from Seattle and a few other NFL cities:

  • The Falcons have hired Bush Hamdan as their quarterbacks coach, reports Sporting News’ Alex Marvez (Twitter link). The younger brother of former NFL quarterback Gibran Hamdan, Bush Hamdan spent the previous two seasons as the University of Washington’s wide receivers coach and pass game coordinator. He’s taking over in Atlanta for Matt LaFleur, now the Rams’ offensive coordinator. In doing so, Hamdan will reunite with head coach Dan Quinn, notes Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter), as the two worked together at the University of Florida in 2012.
  • The Packers have a decision to make on pending free agent defensive back Micah Hyde, who could seek $4MM-plus per year on his next contract, writes Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Hyde, who’s coming off an 11-start, three-interception season, has been with the Packers since they selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. If Hyde moves on, Green Bay could turn to Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans, Demovsky suggests. Elsewhere in the secondary, the team will either extend safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or exercise his fifth-year option for 2018, as Demovsky opines that the Pro Bowler could be general manager Ted Thompson‘s best first-round pick since he chose Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Clinton-Dix made a strong case for that honor as a third-year pro in 2016, when he played every defensive snap for the Packers and picked off five passes.
  • Newly signed Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh‘s single-year contract is worth $1.1MM and includes no guaranteed money, per Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. Walsh stands to earn an $800K salary and could make another $300K in bonuses. The Seahawks are likely to bring in another kicker to compete against Walsh for the job this summer. Odds are that won’t be soon-to-be free agent Steven Hauschka, observes Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, considering the five-year Seahawk will likely be out of their price range.
  • Continuing a Seahawks-heavy set of notes, defensive end Cliff Avril tweeted that he underwent successful surgery Tuesday. Avril didn’t specify which type of surgery he underwent, though Condotta points out that the physician who performed the procedure – Dr. William C. Meyers – specializes in core and sports hernia operations. Regardless, Avril should be fine for 2017 and will attempt to build on his first Pro Bowl season – an 11.5-sack, five-forced fumble campaign.
  • Fullback John Kuhn‘s one-year pact with the Saints is a minimum salary benefit deal worth $1.08MM, tweets Nick Underhill of The Advocate. Kuhn will earn a $1MM salary and count $695K against New Orleans’ cap in 2017.

Seahawks Sign Blair Walsh

The Seahawks have signed former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, according to a league source who spoke with Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Stephen Hauschka is a free agent, so Walsh could be the man to replace him. "<strong

[RELATED: Browns Claim Tyvis Powell From Seahawks]

Walsh and the Seahawks have some recent history together after he missed a game-winning field goal in the NFC Wild Card playoff matchup last year. Even though he badly missed that 27-yard chip shot, the Seahawks are intrigued by him and view him as their potential place kicker for 2017.

Last year, Walsh was cut by the Vikings in November and was unable to find work after that point. His 2016 season was rough, but he has a history of being a solid kicker. From 2012 through 2015, Walsh sank 85.2% of his field goal attempts, including going 6-of-8 from 50+ yards. In 2012, he was selected to the Pro Bowl and given First-Team All-Pro honors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Release Kicker Blair Walsh

After weeks of speculation, the Vikings have given Blair Walsh his walking papers. The Vikings have released the veteran kicker, and are likely replacing him with Kai Forbath, as Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports tweetsBlair Walsh (vertical)

Walsh’s struggles have been well-documented and they reach back to last season’s unfortunate mishap in the playoffs. This year, Walsh missed more “easy” field goals and the team decided that they cannot wait any longer for him to get over the yips. Walsh leaves Minnesota with a 75% field goal percentage including one miss inside of 39 yards and two misses inside of 49 yards. Walsh has also missed four extra points from the league’s new extended range. His latest XP miss came during this past weekend’s loss to the Redskins.

Last week, special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer expressed optimism that the team’s kicker tryouts would light a fire under Walsh. He did improve in practice, but the on-field results were still shaky. Now, Forbath will try to do better as he joins his third NFL team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Haven’t Ruled Out Replacing Blair Walsh

Following another subpar outing from Blair Walsh on Sunday, the Vikings may be in the market for a kicker. According to Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com, coach Mike Zimmer didn’t rule out replacing the slumping kicker. The reporter tweets that the team has yet to make a decision regarding the position, although he notes that the coach is set to meet with general manager Rick Spielman on Monday evening.

Blair Walsh (vertical)“We’re going to see what all the options are,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to see what the options are at kicker and then make a determination and go.”

Walsh, a five-year veteran, missed another extra point during this past weekend’s loss to the Redskins. This came a week after the team worked out six kickers, including Kai Forbath and Randy Bullock. Ultimately, the team decided to stick with Walsh.

I knew how he would react,” special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said (via ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling). “It kind of lit a fire under him. He got ticked off in a good way, I think, because he’s a competitive young man. When you bring in guys that are potentially going to take your job, guys that want your job, that’s the way you want him to react. If he didn’t react that way, I would be really worried, and we probably would be looking for another guy. He got — I don’t want to say angry, but he got a little fired up in a very respectful way, just like he always is. I expect him to go out and kick well for us this weekend and the rest of the year.”

The Vikings coaching staff’s patience is undoubtedly wearing thin. Walsh’s struggles began during last season’s Wild Card round, when he missed a field goal that could have given his team the victory. The former Pro Bowler’s struggles have carried over to this season, as Walsh has only connected on 75-percent of his field goals and 15-of-19 extra point attempts. For comparison’s sake, the 26-year-old made 87-percent of his field goal attempts in 2015.