Active in adding guards this offseason, the Falcons parted ways with one of their 2018 acquisitions. They released Brandon Fusco on Monday, NFL reporter Howard Balzer tweets.
Fusco suffered a season-ending ankle injury midway through his first season with the Falcons, and the team released the veteran blocker with a failed-physical designation.
Atlanta added Fusco on a three-year, $12.75MM deal during free agency last year. As a result of this release, the Falcons will incur a $2.5MM dead-money charge. Fusco started seven games for the Falcons last season, but after the team’s free agency additions of James Carpenter and Jamon Brown preceded the Chris Lindstrom first-round selection, the team will go in a different direction.
The 30-year-old lineman has started 87 of the 90 career games he’s played, being part of six Vikings first-string O-lines — including the one that paved the way for his 2015 rushing title — and was a 16-game starter with the 49ers in 2017. The former sixth-round pick will have to heal up before continuing his career.
Falcons right guard Brandon Fusco will miss the remainder of the year after suffering a serious ankle injury on Monday night, coach Dan Quinn announced. Fusco, who joined the Falcons as a free agent in the offseason, started in every game for Atlanta this season.
Fusco now becomes the team’s second starting guard to suffer a season-ending injury. Left guard Andy Levitre suffered a triceps injury in Atlanta’s win against the Panthers in Week 2, so the team’s interior line has taken a big hit in the last couple of months.
Ben Garland entered the game after Fusco’s early exit, and he figures to be the team’s new starter at right guard. Garland has been a dependable backup lineman for Atlanta since 2016, so he’ll likely keep the top job, even if another guard is signed for depth.
The Falcons are signing former 49ers guard Brandon Fusco to a three-year contract, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The pact is worth $12.75MM, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
Fusco started all 16-games for the 49ers last season and performed well in the second half of the season. He’s now the second Niners free agent to depart SF, following running back Carlos Hyde.
For his career, the 29-year-old has 80 starts to his credit – most of those coming with the Vikings. He also offers the ability to play center or guard. He projects as a reserve in Atlanta (though he did grade out better than Wes Schweitzer, per Pro Football Focus), but his versatility should garner him some playing time.
The Falcons’ starting five, as shown on Roster Resource, is slated to include Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Wes Schweitzer, and Ryan Schrader. Fusco joins Garland and Sean Harlow as the club’s reserve guards, though Garland may be more geared towards the center position. Ty Sambrailo and Austin Pasztor can also see time at guard, but they are ticketed more for work on the outside.
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. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they 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 are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.
We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:
Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.
Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.
There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.
What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.
Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.
Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.
Carlos Hyde didn’t have the kind of platform year he was hoping for, but he’s still just 26 and could headline a running back by committee group.
Jerick McKinnon‘s placement on this list figures to be controversial, but his athleticism and pass-catching ability can blow a game wide open. No one will bank on McKinnon to carry the ball 20 times per game, but he can be a real difference maker for a team out there.
Can Frank Gore outrun father time? History indicates that he can’t and so does his 3.7 yards per carry average in 2017. You have to give credit where credit is due, however. Gore has been ruled out by many for years, but he has not missed a regular season game since the 2010 season. He’s also just one year removed from cracking 1,000 yards and he almost did the same last year.
For most teams, Allen Robinson would be a franchise tag candidate. However, that may be too much of a luxury for the cash-strapped Jaguars. He presents a fascinating free agent case. Robinson missed all but three snaps of the 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on the board in the eyes of many. His 2015 season – 80 catches, 1,400 yards, and a league-leading 14 touchdowns – makes GMs drool. His quieter year in 2016 (73 catches, 883 yards, and six touchdowns) is less worthy of salivation. His 2017 season, of course, was a lost cause. For all the question marks, you can expect Robinson to see more dollars than any other free agent WR this year, particularly since Jarvis Landry has been held back by the tag.
Some in the football world may prefer Sammy Watkins for his big-play ability, but his down contract year amidst a capable offense is cause for concern. His injury history doesn’t do him any favors either. No matter your feelings on Watkins, there’s no debating that this year’s WR market has a top tier comprised of just two players – Watkins and Robinson. With few quality receivers out there, they’ll both get paid.
Marqise Lee represents a much less sexy option (speaking in football terms, of course), but he had the most receptions of any Jaguars receiver in 2017 (56) and finished second in receiving yards (702). Teams looking for a quality WR2 in free agency could do a lot worse than Lee and he’ll be far cheaper than the two-man top tier.
Danny Amendola hauled in 61 receptions for 659 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season and continued his strong play in the playoffs. However, teams will wonder if he can thrive in his age-33 season while playing outside of the Patriots’ offense. It’s also quite possible that he never tests the market as his stated preference is to remain in New England.
After that, you’ll notice a pretty significant drop off. That’s because this year’s WR class isn’t all that deep. Terrelle Pryor had to settle for a one-year prove-it contract last year and, to put it mildly, he did not prove it. Paul Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns in 2017, but that marked his first NFL season of real note.
Trey Burton spent most of the year behind Zach Ertz on the Eagles’ depth chart, but he emerged late in the season and set himself up nicely for free agency. Given his age and potential, there’s no question that he is the belle of the ball at tight end.
The rest of the tight end crop is not nearly as inspiring. Jimmy Graham has enjoyed back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Seahawks, but he’ll turn 32 in November and he’s no longer the monster playmaker that he was in New Orleans. He had ten touchdowns in 2017, but his 9.1 yards per reception average is a career low.
Odds are, you have Tyler Eifert ranked over Austin Seferian-Jenkins given the fact that Eifert has played just ten games over the last two years. ASJ, meanwhile, rebounded from personal issues to post a 50-catch season for the Jets. Personally, I’m picking Eifert based on upside. Hopefully, we can still be friends.
Offensive line play is down across the board and evaluators around the league have been openly complaining about an increasing dearth of tackles coming out of college. That makes for a generally uninspiring lot in free agency.
Nate Solder battled through injuries in 2017 and did not miss a game. He’s no longer a top-flight option, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 32 tackle last year, meaning that he’s starter quality at left tackle. You’ll notice that three of the top five tackles on this list are Patriots. There’s little chance that the Pats let all three get away.
Justin Pugh offers the ability to play both guard and right tackle, though he might not do either one particularly well.
Andrew Norwell is the undisputed king of this category after netting an All-Pro selection in 2017. Norwell also earned a career-high 88.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus, which positioned him third in the entire NFL amongst guards. A team with greater means than the Panthers might have used the franchise tag on him. Fortunately for rival teams in need of interior help (such as the Giants), they won’t cuff him with the one-year placeholder.
Veteran guard Brandon Fusco is on his way to San Francisco and is expected to sign with the 49ers, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The former Minnesota offensive lineman will serve as interior depth.
Last year, Fusco had one of the worst scores of any qualified guard in the league last year, per Pro Football Focus. His only quality season, according to PFF, came in 2013 when he made 15 starts at right guard for Minnesota.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seems content to sit at No. 28 rather than trade up, as Drew Davison of the Star Telegram writes. “This is a real good year for staying put,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it’s because we need so many good football players or because there are some good football players there, especially in those early rounds. But in my experience, it’s wasting your time to talk about what you might do trading in the later rounds.”
Here’s more from around the NFL:
Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley has been approached about a potential settlement in his assault case, but he has no plans to accept the offer, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (Twitterlinks). Additionally, Brantley’s lawyer says a security guard present during the incident witnessed the victim punch Brantley in the mouth, while Brantley never hit the female as the police report stated (Twitterlinks). Clearly, it’s a very murky situation, and one that doesn’t figure to be resolved before the draft begins on Thursday night. As such, there’s no clear indication as to how NFL clubs will value Brantley and his potential baggage, but it’s difficult to see how this episode doesn’t affect his draft stock.
As part of Martavis Bryant‘s conditional reinstatement, he’s not allowed to participate in Steelers‘ practices or preseason games until he’s located a treating clinician, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. When he’s right, Bryant is one of the more dynamic wide receivers in the NFL, but the league wants to ensure that he’s heading down the correct path. Having been handed a one-year ban in 2016, Bryant will now undergo regular drug tests as he works his way back into the NFL’s — and Pittsburgh’s — good graces.
Contrary to previous reports, the Dolphins are not “locked in” on Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp, and are not expected to target guard help with the 22nd pick, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Seemingly practitioners of positional-based drafting, the Dolphins are more likely to use their first-round selection on “defensive playmakers” such as corners and, presumably, defensive ends, a position group to which Miami has been heavily linked. Additionally, the Fins seem content with their current veteran guards, Ted Larsen and Jermon Bushrod, per Salguero.
Former Vikings center/guard Brandon Fusco is visiting the Patriots today, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. Fusco appeared/started in 14 games for Minnesota in 2016.
February 10th, 2017 at 2:44pm CST by Zachary Links
The Vikings have cut a pair of offensive linemen. The team announced on Friday that Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris have been released.
Harris, 28, stepped up for the Vikings in 2015 when their O-Line was ravaged by injuries. In a season in which both John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt went down, Harris started in every game for the team and finished out the year as Pro Football Focus’ No. 23 ranked guard. Although he re-signed with the team prior to the 2016 season, he was unable to suit up due to an undisclosed illness or condition. It’s not immediately clear whether he plans on continuing to play football.
Fusco appeared in 14 games (all starts) for the Vikings in 2016. The advanced metrics at PFF weren’t very impressed with his play, however, leaving him with one of the worst scores of any qualified guard in the league last year. His only quality season, per PFF, came in 2013 when he made 15 starts at right guard for Minnesota. Fusco, a former sixth-round pick, will turn 29 this summer.
The Eagles are making plans to find a replacement for right tackle Lane Johnson if his potential 10-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs becomes a reality, head coach Doug Pederson said after the team’s Thursday preseason opener. “It may be somebody that hasn’t played there this spring or this summer,” Pederson told Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It could be a guy who has already been there. We’ve got time to figure this out.”
Among the Eagles’ in-house options are Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin – as Roster Resource shows – but Pederson isn’t overly enthusiastic about either faring well as a starter, per Hayes. Regardless, Pederson doesn’t expect to add anyone from outside the organization. “We’ve got the bodies,” he stated.
Johnson would be extremely difficult to replace, of course, having started in each of his 44 career appearances. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked the 6-foot-6, 317-pounder 22nd among 77 qualified tackles in overall performance last season, and the Eagles subsequently awarded him a hefty extension through 2021.
More from the NFC:
When he was a member of the Rams in 2015, quarterback Nick Foles‘ need for “extra coddling” and “a lot of back-patting” became an annoyance to their staff, per Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitterlinks). Given both that and Foles’ bottom-of-the-barrel performance last season, the Rams released the 27-year-old in July, but only after paying him a $6MM roster bonus in March and then failing to find a taker via trade. Foles ended up signing with Kansas City as a free agent.
The Vikings have 60 percent of their starting offensive line in place with left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Alex Boone and right tackle Andre Smith, but there’s uncertainty at center and right guard, writes Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune. The mystery illness that has sidelined Mike Harris, who started all of the Vikings’ games at right guard last season, has subtracted one option in training camp, leaving Brandon Fusco and John Sullivan to take reps there. Sullivan slid from center, where he’s competing with 2015 No. 1 Joe Berger for a starting role, to right guard Thursday as a result of an injury to Fusco, notes Vensel. If Sullivan – who missed all of last season with a back injury – wins the center job, Berger could theoretically beat out Fusco at guard, Vensel writes. It’s worth mentioning that Berger was PFF’s second-ranked center in 2015, when he graded as the best run blocker at his position.
Former Oakland middle linebacker Miles Burris recently worked out for the Seahawks, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). A fourth-round pick from San Diego State in 2012, Burris has logged 38 appearances and 31 starts in the NFL. The last time Burris saw action in the league, 2014, he started all 16 of the Raiders’ games and totaled 110 tackles.
The Falcons are working out free agent quarterback Seth Lobato, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Since going undrafted out of Northern Colorado in 2014, Lobato has spent time with Indianapolis, Miami and Tampa Bay, but he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game.
September 26th, 2015 at 2:31pm CST by Sam Robinson
Here is the latest coming out of NFC facilities, starting with Minnesota.
The NFL and NFLPA reached a settlement to dismiss a motion in the Adrian Peterson case, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. As a result, the NFL will not use the post-Ray Rice scandal domestic violence penalties for incidents occurring before Aug. 28, 2014, which includes the Vikings‘ star running back’s case. Oral arguments in Peterson’s case remain set for Oct. 19 in front of the Eighth Circuit in St. Paul, Minn.
Brandon Fusco played through a concussion in the Vikings’ Week 2 win over the Lions, and the Players Association is investigating whether the ATC spotter failed to take appropriate action when the Minnesota guard struggled to stand up after a third-quarter block involving helmet-to-helmet contact, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. The spotters are independent certified athletic trainers present to determine if players suffer concussions who as of this season have authorization to stop games in order to initiate immediate concussion examinations.
Byron Maxwell‘s struggles are flying under the radar compared to those of Sam Bradford and Chip Kelly amid the Eagles‘ 0-2 start, writes Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. In the first month of a six-year, $63MM contract, Maxwell allowed Julio Jones to compile another Monday Night Football highlight package and then admitted to being too fatigued to stop Terrance Williams from scoring last week. Mehta argues matters will worsen for the ex-Seahawks corner when he faces a rejuvenated Brandon Marshall. The 27-year-old Maxwell is the 89th-rated corner thus far, according to Pro Football Focus, and has begun to hear the displeasure of a notoriously impatient fanbase. I feel it. Theyâre cold on me,â Maxwell told the Daily News. That’s fine. Everybody’s got their opinion.”
Florio notes Maxwell’s monstrous agreement with the Eagles is somewhat tenuous at two years and $25MM, with just $3MM of the $10MM salary in 2017 guaranteed. PFT’s top scribe believes that, absent “significant” improvement, Maxwell will be jettisoned after 2016.
In analyzing Washington‘s switch to Kirk Cousins, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap believes the team made this move so Robert Griffin‘s $16.5MM fifth-year option doesn’t become guaranteed due to an injury sustained this season. Expressing shock Washington picked up its maligned third-string signal-caller’s option and tied itself to Griffin further, Fitzgerald notes had this transaction not taken place, Griffin would be the starter, with the team only being on the hook for the fourth-year quarterback’s 2015 salary in the event of an injury.
The main issue Volin takes with Wells is why he charged the Patriots with not cooperating with his investigation fully. Specifically, the Boston reporter points out Wells had the “deflator” text from Jim McNally in his possession before meeting with him, but his team did not find it until after McNally’s deposition because the text was from May 2014.
The Patriots refused to make McNally available again due to the apparent lack of due diligence from Wells’ team, citing a February email from team attorney Daniel Goldberg to Wells that stated barring “unanticipated circumstances” there would be no second interviews with subjects.
“You refused to give me the information I requested except to say that the topic was ‘new,’ ” Goldberg wrote in an email to Wells on March 9 that the Patriots released Sunday regarding Wells’ request for a second summit with McNally. “It turned out, however, that the topic involved asking about texts that you had before his prior interview — so it was not something that arose from extraordinary or unanticipated circumstances, but was apparently just something you neglected to pursue in his earlier interview.”
Volin requested Wells’ end of the email chain from the NFL but did not receive those before publishing this story.
More from around the league on Sunday night …
Roger Goodell‘s ability to hear Brady’s appeal is not a power he’s unearthed from nowhere. The provision of safeguarding the game’s integrity has been present since the first CBA in 1968, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. This provided then-commissioner Pete Rozelle power to impose discipline and designate the hearing officer for any appeals regarding issues of conduct detrimental to the “integrity of the game.”
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are not discussing a fully guaranteed contract, writes Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Condotta adds that, while the amount of guaranteed money will play a key role in this extension, teams must provide the full amount of the fully guaranteed deal up front. The player doesn’t receive it all then, but the amount must be accounted for — similar to Ndamukong Suh‘s deal with the Dolphins this year, with some of the money being placed in an escrow account for future payment — to prevent teams from not following through on financial promises.
Tim Tebow‘s odds of making an impact with the Eagles appear slim as of now, but Zach Berman of Philly.com writes the 6-foot-3, 236-pound quarterback could be of use should the Eagles’ extra point proposal, which would place two-point conversions at the 1-yard line, pass this week at the NFL owners’ meetings. Although the Eagles didn’t attempt a two-point play last year, they went 3-for-8 in 2013. Tebow’s scored from the 1-yard line in each of his three attempts and converted first downs on six of eight 1-yard-to-go scenarios in his last starting role in 2011. Berman also adds the Eagles’ preference for DeMarco Murray‘s north-south running style will help here, with Murray’s six 1-yard scores leading the league last season. So a lot could be riding on this week’s proposal in Philadelphia.
Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt is “pretty much up to full speed” after sustaining a torn pectoral muscle last season, writes Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Sid Hartman. Brandon Fusco is not quite as far along after tearing a pectoral muscle, according to Mike Zimmer. With Charlie Johnson, a four-year starter on Minnesota’s front at either left tackle or left guard, still an unrestricted free agent, the Vikings are contemplating a reshuffle to fill the gaps. A starting right guard for two full seasons and three games into last year before suffering the chest injury, Fusco could potentially move to left guard, and rookie tackle T.J. Clemmings could begin his career by lining up at right guard.
The Chargers will not keep any of the 15 tryout players they brought in, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (on Twitter).
Adrian Robinson, a former NFL linebacker and recent CFL cog, died Saturday night at the age of 25, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. The cause of death was unknown. Robinson played for the Steelers, Broncos, Chargers and Washington from 2012-13 and was a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.