Brandon Carr

Ravens Exercise CB Brandon Carr’s Option

The Ravens are picking up cornerback Brandon Carr‘s option, a source tells Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). Carr signed a four-year deal with the Ravens last offseason, but really it’s a contract with a series of options. The Ravens had the choice to hit the eject button this offseason, but declined.

Carr, 31, is now scheduled to earn a base salary of $4.5MM and a roster bonus of $1.5MM in 2018. All told, he’ll count for $7MM against the Ravens’ salary cap. Had Baltimore declined Carr’s option, it would have created $4MM in cap space.

In his first campaign with the Ravens, Carr started all 16 games for the tenth consecutive season. An extremely durable player, Carr ranked as the No. 69 cornerback among 121 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Carr finished a respectable 34th in Football Outsiders’ success rate while posting four interceptions, the latter of which tied a career-high.

While Carr is sticking around, the Ravens have parted ways with running back Danny Woodhead and offensive tackle Austin Howard earlier today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Brady, Maclin, Bowman, Jets

Tom Brady suffered a “painful” thumb injury during a practice that took place at the beginning of the week, reports Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. According to Curran, the 40-year-old quarterback cut his thumb badly when a running back smashed it while the team was running a play at practice. However, Curran notes that Brady can throw, but doesn’t know exactly just how much it will affect the Patriots gameplan this Sunday.

As always, Curran notes that the team is not letting much information out to the press or public at this time. It’s highly unlikely that Brady will not play in the AFC Championship game, but it is a story that people should keep track of as the game time approaches over the weekend. Perhaps the biggest development that Curran has to offer is that Brady is “not taking snaps from under center”.

The team has listed Brady as questionable on the most recent injury report, but the impact of the injury could have a major effect on Bill Belichick‘s gameplan even though nobody expects the five-time Super Bowl winner to miss such a big game.

Here are more stories coming out of the AFC:

  • The Ravens have a few players that could be cut in order to create some more cap space for potential offseason moves. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun listed some of the veterans that could be on their way out. These names included: Lardarius Webb, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Carr, Austin Howard, Breshad Perriman and Albert McClellan. However, the most interesting player on his list could be wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The Ravens thought Maclin would be a key addition after he has cut by the Chiefs last offseason, but it was mostly a pedestrian year for 29-year-old pass catcher. Baltimore needs a makeover at the receiver position and could make room for new targets for Joe Flacco by cutting Maclin and letting the likes of Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro walk in free agency.
  • While the addition of NaVorro Bowman could not stop the bleeding of a disappointing 2017 Raiders season, that doesn’t necessarily mean that new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther doesn’t want the veteran linebacker back in the fold in 2018, reports Scott Bair of NBC Sports“NaVorro is a prototype middle linebacker, really,” said Guenther. “The thing that impressed me most with NaVorro is that they got him here midseason and by the end of the year, it appeared to me that he was kind of the leader of the unit, making a lot of calls. You can see that on tape. It looks like he is a smart guy that understands the game. I love smart guys that love playing football. Hopefully we can get him back in the fold and keep him a Raider.”
  • Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson was arrested on a number of charges earlier this morning. Connor Hughes of has more details about what occurred to bring this type of discipline. According to a police report that obtained, Hughes reports that Anderson”rapidly accelerated” past cops at 105 mph after he saw them on the side of the road. As the cops followed behind Anderson, the report states that Anderson was “all over the road”, and seemingly “failed to maintain a single lane on numerous occasions.” Anderson did eventually stop the car and was arrested, but not until make a number of threats to the police officer’s wife. These details spell more bad news for Anderson who already was arrested back in May while he was at a festival in Miami. The wideout may face discipline from the NFL, but the league still must do their due diligence investigating the incidents until any punishments will be handed down to the 24-year-old.

AFC North Notes: Shazier, Britt, McCarron

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, and Adam Schefter of reports that Shazier continues to show gradual improvement, though he remains hospitalized. Per Schefter, doctors are controlling and limiting Shazier’s movement as they wait for the swelling and bruising in his back to subside, and it is of course too soon to determine if he will be able to play again. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports adds that Shazier is expected to remain in the hospital for a few more days, but that his prognosis is “optimistic.”

Now let’s take a swing around the rest of the AFC North:

  • Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun writes that, before Jimmy Smith‘s season-ending Achilles tear last week, there was talk that the Ravens could release Brandon Carr to create cap space and rely on Smith and the team’s cadre of young and talented corners. Zrebiec, though, thought that was a bad idea before the Smith injury, and he believes it’s even worse now. Carr has played reasonably well, and Smith’s latest injury is just further proof that Baltimore cannot count on him for a full season (he may not even be ready for the start of 2018). Zrebiec thinks the Ravens should not only retain Carr, but they should also continue to bolster their CB corps.
  • It does not sound as if the Browns will face any discipline for their alleged violation of the Rooney Rule in their hiring of John Dorsey. La Canfora reports that he spoke last night with John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, and Wooten indicated that his concerns with Cleveland’s GM search have been addressed. Wooten added that he has no issue with the hiring of the highly-qualified Dorsey (Twitter links).
  • The waiver period for claiming the contract of former Browns wide receiver Kenny Britt ends tomorrow at 4pm, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes. While Cleveland would love for someone to claim Britt off waivers, thereby absolving the Browns of the balance of his salary, that seems unlikely at this point. Florio writes that Britt wants to sign with a playoff contender if he clears waivers, and that the Patriots could be a team to watch in that scenario.
  • A ruling on A.J. McCarron‘s grievance will be made in February, as La Canfora reports. The Bengals‘ backup QB has argued that he should be an unrestricted free agent when the 2018 league year opens, while the league feels he should be a restricted free agent. In any event, the matter will be resolved before free agency gets underway.

Contract Details: Foles, Carr, Poe, Cowboys

Here’s a fun fact from Albert Breer of The MMQB (Twitter links): Of the 155 free-agent contracts that have been filed since March 9, only 23 have more than $3MM fully guaranteed in post-2017 money. In essence, that means 85.2% of the contracts done over the last ten days are one-year deals with team options.

Now for the latest contract details:

  • Cornerback Brandon Carr‘s four-year, $23MM Ravens contract comes with $6MM in 2017 – most of which is by way of a $4MM signing bonus – and then the Ravens will have a 2018 team option, reports Breer (on Twitter).
  • Falcons defensive tackle Dontari Poe‘s one-year, $8MM accord features a $500K signing bonus and incentives for playing time, sacks and a Pro Bowl appearance (Twitter link via Breer).
  • Quarterback Nick Folespreviously reported two-year, $11MM deal with the Eagles is actually a five-year, $27.5MM pact, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. However, the final three years of the contract will void if Foles is still on Philadelphia’s roster 23 days before the start of the 2019 league year. The arrangement comes with $5MM in incentives and an esclator for 2018 worth as much as $6MM (Twitter links).
  • Panthers defensive tackle Kyle Love‘s two-year contract is worth $2.2MM and features a few bonuses – $200K for signing, $25K for workouts and $10K per game active – as well as $500K in annual incentives, tweets Wilson.
  • Cowboys running back Darren McFadden‘s one-year contract is a minimum salary benefit deal worth $980K (a salary of $900K and an $80K signing bonus). Guard Jonathan Cooper‘s single-year accord is worth $2MM and has a $31,250 bonus per game active, $500K in incentives and a $100K workout base de-esclator (Twitter links via Wilson).
  • Cardinals running back/wide receiver Andre Ellington will earn a $775K base salary on his one-year agreement, tweets Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports 910.
  • Redskins defensive tackle Ziggy Hood’s two-year, $2.7MM deal includes a $300K signing bonus, per-game active bonuses of $15,625 each, $600K in incentives and a $600K escalator. Meanwhile, the Redskins gave linebacker Chris Carter a minimum salary benefit deal worth $855K, including $775K in salary and a signing bonus of $80K, relays Wilson (Twitter links).
  • Saints running back Travaris Cadet also got a minimum salary benefit contract for 2017, says Wilson (Twitter link). It’s worth $855K ($775K in salary and an $80K signing bonus).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Ravens Sign CB Brandon Carr

Brandon Carr is off the board. The Ravens have signed the former Cowboys cornerback to a four-year deal, according to a team announcement. Brandon Carr

However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s really a one-year deal with series of options to make it a four-year, $24MM, Adam Schefter of tweets. It will likely turn out to be a two-year, $12MM deal when all is said and done, he adds. Soon, we’ll probably know the full breakdown of the contract.

The Ravens have been heavily connected to Morris Claiborne, but they’ve instead signed Dallas’ other notable free agent cornerback. Carr, 31 in May, has started in every single regular season game for Dallas since joining the club in 2012. In fact, his ironman streak goes back further than that. He also made every single possible start for the Chiefs from 2008-2011.

Carr first came to Dallas on a five-year, $50.1MM pact in 2012. He never lived up to that deal – and had to take a hefty pay cut in 2016 to stay with the Cowboys as a result – but he has still be a serviceable player. In 2016, Carr graded out as the leagues No. 52 cornerback among 114 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. He appeared in 96% of Dallas’ defensive snaps.

Carr was ranked as our No. 2 cornerback left in free agency heading into today. Claiborne, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Flowers are among the notables that remain.

The Jets were once linked to Carr, but their level of interest was unclear.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Defense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

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 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Dwight Freeney
  2. Elvis Dumervil
  3. Chris Long
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Connor Barwin
  6. Paul Kruger
  7. Trent Cole
  8. Erik Walden
  9. Jason Jones
  10. Darryl Tapp
  11. Devin Taylor
  12. Eugene Sims
  13. Howard Jones
  14. Wallace Gilberry
  15. Sam Acho

The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).

Chris Long has already indicated he won’t be returning to the Patriots, indicating he wants to join a roster where he’ll earn more playing time. Erik Walden, too, won’t re-sign with his 2016 club (the Colts), but he has taken a visit with the division rival Titans. Further down the list, Howard Jones has also met with at least one club, as he was hosted by the Jets on Tuesday. Jones, 27, is recovering from a torn ACL, but did post five sacks in five starts last season.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Johnathan Hankins
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Jared Odrick
  4. Vance Walker
  5. Sen’Derrick Marks
  6. Ricky Jean-Francois
  7. Roy Miller
  8. Al Woods
  9. Tony McDaniel
  10. Cullen Jenkins
  11. Frostee Rucker
  12. Cam Thomas
  13. John Jenkins
  14. Tyson Jackson
  15. Tyson Alualu

Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.

The remaining defensive interior players are mostly over-30 veterans, with names such as Tony McDaniel, Cullen Jenkins, Frostee Rucker, and Tyson Jackson still looking for new deals. While most of these guys can still play, they may have to wait awhile — possibly into the summer — before signing on with their next club. Jared Odrick (Patriots) and Vance Walker (Bears) have both taken visits, but the most intriguing lineman here may be Sen’Derrick Marks, who offers a good amount of pass rush from the interior.

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Jets Interested In Brandon Carr

The Jets have expressed interest in free agent cornerback Brandon Carr, as Connor Hughes of writes. Carr, who spent the last five years in Dallas and who will turn 31 in May, contemplated retirement after the Cowboys’ 2016 season came to an end, but he ultimately decided to continue his playing career and test the free agent market.

Brandon Carr

He took a significant paycut last offseason, agreeing to lower his base salary from $9.1MM to $4.25MM in the final year of the five-year, $50.1MM pact he signed with the Cowboys prior to the 2012 season. He never quite lived up to that contract, but he is still a serviceable player. In 2016, Carr played 96% of Dallas’ defensive snaps, posted one interception, and graded as the NFL’s No. 52 cornerback among 114 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. He is also durable, having never missed a game in his nine-year career.

The Jets, of course, had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last season, and they recently parted ways with franchise icon Darrelle Revis (though Revis was obviously part of the problem). As Hughes observes, the Jets allowed 52 pass plays of 20-plus yards (14th most in NFL) and 13 of 40-plus (3rd most). They allowed 30 passing touchdowns (6th most) and intercepted just eight passes (second fewest).

Carr, a physical man-coverage defender, would immediately step into the club’s starting lineup, which would allow Gang Green to let Marcus Williams, Darryl Roberts, and Juston Burris compete for the other outside spot.

The Jets have not yet scheduled a visit with Carr, who received an honorable mention in PFR’s list of top 2017 free agents.

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.