Brice Butler

West Rumors: Bryant, Butler, Broncos

Somewhat recently, Dez Bryant connected himself to the 49ers as he scanned the landscape in hopes of latching on with a second NFL franchise. Now, others may be pointing in that direction as well. The 49ers have been the team to which Bryant’s been most connected, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report writes. The 29-year-old wide receiver turned down an offer from the Ravens, and they moved on to Willie Snead. Now, Bryant is not expected to sign with a team before training camp. The 49ers made a concerted effort to avoid high-profile wideouts in free agency. However, Bryant’s price tag will not be what Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson — two players the 49ers made a point to steer clear of — commanded, perhaps inducing the Niners to make an exception. San Francisco holds more than $46MM in cap space; that’s the third-most in the league. And without a proven tight end or much size at the receiver spot (none of the current cast expected to make the team is over 6-foot), they could be in need of a red zone threat like Bryant.

This will focus on wide receiver situations out west. Here’s the latest:

  • Although Brice Butler signed with the Cardinals a few months ago, he’s experienced a shaky offseason in the desert. He may not be a lock for their 53-man roster, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com writes. The Cards have a void opposite Larry Fitzgerald after losing multiple contributors, but they still have JJ Nelson and 2017 third-rounder Chad Williams, and drafted Christian Kirk. And the Cards just signed Greg Little as well, perhaps indicating they’re not happy with their receiver situation at present. Butler chose Arizona over a host of other suitors.
  • The Broncos added two receivers in the draft this year, and both Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are locks to make the roster. This could leave a player the team was once high on out of a job. Carlos Henderson did not see the field as a rookie, spending all year on IR with a thumb injury. The 2017 third-round pick is now dealing with a hamstring malady, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic notes (subscription required). “(The injury) started in Phase 2 and hasn’t gotten better,” Vance Joseph said, via Jhabvala. “He’s got to get back on the field if he wants to make this football team.” Denver also has Jordan Taylor and Isaiah McKenzie vying for roster spots, with one of those two likely sticking around as the primary return man. Henderson produced eye-popping numbers at Louisiana Tech, and it would be a tad early for a team to give up on a third-rounder, but the slot target could be in danger of being cut by his first NFL team without having played in a regular-season game.
  • Speaking of injuries affecting camp battles, Brandon Marshall also had toe surgery this offseason, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. The Seahawks already shelved the 13th-year pass-catcher in minicamp because of a hamstring issue, and it appears Marshall — who missed most of 2017 due to ankle surgery — may have a tough time on multiple fronts in making the team. Beyond Doug Baldwin, the Seahawks have Tyler Lockett and now Jaron Brown. They drafted Amara Darboh in the third round last year, and Henderson notes they are high on 2017 seventh-rounder David Moore.

NFC West Notes: Butler, Cardinals, Rams

Former Cowboys wide receiver Brice Butler says he signed with the Cardinals in part because of the presence of new quarterback Sam Bradford.

Yeah it was part of it,” Butler told 105.3 FM The Fan. “Sam is a top quarterback in the league when he’s healthy. The whole thing for me in free agency was I had a few teams I thought would be a good fit for me to land if I didn’t stay in Dallas. Arizona was one of those teams. The biggest thing was who are they going to get at quarterback? When they got Sam I said, ‘OK, asterisk for Arizona. Great place to be.’ When it came down to it a few weeks later, finally got a chance to visit them, finally got in contact with them … So we ran with it.”

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • Ndamukong Suh‘s deal with the Rams includes a $1MM incentive if he plays 65% of the snaps and the team wins two playoff games, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. If he reaches 65% of the snaps and the Rams make the playoffs, he’ll earn an extra $500K. With 65% of the snaps and one playoff win, Suh will see an additional $750K.
  • Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson is a fit for the 49ers if he slips to No. 9 overall, but he is not the ideal guard for SF, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee opines. The 49ers are after a guard who can move while Nelson, a power blocker, struggled against speedy defenses at times, including a late season loss to Miami. The Bears, picking at No. 8, are believed to be eyeing Nelson, so the Niners probably won’t be faced with a question of whether or not to select him.
  • Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times would be “stunned” if the Seahawks end the 2018 draft with just the eight picks they currently have. He fully expects Seattle to trade down in an effort to fill multiple holes left by this year’s cap crunch.

Brice Butler To Sign With Cardinals

Brice Butler‘s visit with the Cardinals will produce a deal. The UFA wideout agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the Cards, James Jones of the NFL Network reports (on Twitter).

The former NFL wide receiver reports the Cardinals have won the pursuit for Butler. They were one of four teams scheduled to have visits with the former Cowboys and Raiders pass-catcher, with the Jaguars, Seahawks and Bears also in the mix for Butler.

Butler expressed a desire to become a starter with his next team. He’s been a spot starter in Oakland and Dallas but has never commandeered a full-time role. He figures to have a chance to do that with the Cardinals and learn from one of the best wide receivers in NFL history. Larry Fitzgerald is entrenched at one of the Cards’ starting positions, but with John Brown and Jaron Brown having defected in free agency, Fitzgerald’s supporting cast is uncertain beyond J.J. Nelson.

The Cowboys re-signed Terrance Williams in 2017, and he, Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley ensured Butler would remain a rotational presence rather than a first-stringer. Butler, though, showed flashes of being a strong deep threat. The 6-foot-3 target averaged 21.1 yards per catch last season, posting 317 air yards and three touchdowns on just 15 receptions. He averaged 21.5 yards per grab in 2015, his first year in Dallas, while working with various backups while Tony Romo was on the shelf.

While the Cardinals may still be looking at wideouts in the upcoming draft, with Fitzgerald set to play his age-35 season this fall, they’ve secured an intriguing player for the next two seasons. Arizona submitted an offer to Jordan Matthews, who visited in mid-March, but it’s unclear if that proposal is still out there.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cards Have Offer Out To Jordan Matthews?

Jordan Matthews has made visits to teams employing two all-time great quarterbacks, but it’s unclear if any offers came out of summits with the Packers or Patriots. But one appears to have emerged from the Cardinals.

The Cards submitted an offer to the free agent wide receiver, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It’s unclear if it’s a standing offer, but with Arizona having only added Cobi Hamilton this offseason — and having lost John Brown and Jaron Brown — it would make sense if it’s still out there.

The four-year veteran visited the Packers and Patriots, with the latter summit occurring Monday, but the Cardinals received the first meeting.

Brice Butler is in Arizona on Monday for his visit, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. The Cardinals are one of four teams with plans to meet with Butler. Matthews, though, has produced at a higher level during his career, despite a down contract year with the Bills.

Larry Fitzgerald has agreed to return for a 15th season, but he saw free agency decimate his supporting cast. J.J. Nelson remains, but after that, the group is light on experience.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brice Butler To Meet With Four Teams

Brice Butler‘s market is starting to heat up. In the next two weeks, the Cowboys free agent wide receiver Brice Butler will visit with the Seahawks, Bears, Jaguars, and Cardinals (Twitter link via Jane Slater of NFL.com).

The 28-year-old has been vocal about wanting the opportunity to do more in 2018. Last year, Butler finished out with just 15 catches for 317 yards and three touchdowns. After the season, he opined that he could have outperformed teammate Dez Bryant if he had the same number of targets.

“100 percent,” said Butler. “Because I’m ready. It’s my time, I’ve been there for three years. I feel like me and Dak [Prescott] have a really good relationship. We work on routes. There’s times that we might not have completed a square-out throw in practice, and we’re taking that time out in practice to actually work on it. So I think that’s why when you saw us in the game, he tried to come to me, and most of the times we produced.

Bryant underwhelmed for Dallas last year, but still had 69 receptions for 838 yards and six TDs. For now, Bryant remains part of the Cowboys’ plan with Butler likely moving on following the addition of Allen Hurns.

With Dallas, the situation has to be right for me to go back,” Butler said earlier this year. “I have to be a starter. If I’m not starting, I’m not going back,” Butler said.

Wherever Butler lands, he’ll be in for a pay raise. Butler earned just $1.1MM on a one year deal in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

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:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

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.

Read more

Cowboys’ Brice Butler Wants To Start

On the cusp of free agency, wide receiver Brice Butler says he’ll go elsewhere unless he’s given a bigger role with the Cowboys. In interviews with FS1’s “Undisputed” and “The Herd,” Butler made his position crystal clear (transcription via the Dallas Morning News). Brice Butler

With Dallas, the situation has to be right for me to go back. I have to be a starter. If I’m not starting, I’m not going back,” Butler said.

The 27-year-old (28 later this month) also opined that he could have been more productive that teammate Dez Bryant had he been given the same number of targets. Butler finished out with just 15 catches for 317 yards and three touchdowns versus Bryant’s 69 catches for 838 yards and six TDs, so it’s a bold claim on his part.

“100 percent,” said Butler when asked if he could have topped Bryant’s stat line with an equal number of opportunities. “Because I’m ready. It’s my time, I’ve been there for three years. I feel like me and Dak [Prescott] have a really good relationship. We work on routes. There’s times that we might not have completed a square-out throw in practice, and we’re taking that time out in practice to actually work on it. So I think that’s why when you saw us in the game, he tried to come to me, and most of the times we produced.

It remains to be seen whether Butler’s bravado will be appreciated by Jerry Jones & Co. Butler is scheduled to hit the open market in March after the conclusion of his one-year $1.1MM deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Giants, Redskins, Saints, ‘Boys

The Giants’ decision to hand defensive end Devin Taylor a minimum salary benefit deal last month has mostly generated positive reviews around the NFL, with one source calling it a “great signing,” reports Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. One NFC source took a less enthusiastic tone, however, calling Taylor “just a guy.” But, considering what they’re paying him, the Giants aren’t expecting Taylor to do much more than provide passable depth behind stars Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. Taylor, who started in all 16 of the Lions’ games last season and piled up a respectable 4.5 sacks (down from seven in 2015), will rotate at defensive end with the Giants and could see time as an interior rusher on passing downs, according to Raanan.

More from the NFC:

  • Late-March free agent signing Brian Quick won’t be long for the Redskins’ roster if he doesn’t impress in training camp, writes Rich Tandler of CSNMidAtlantic.com. Quick didn’t perform well during offseason practices, and the team has a few locks at wide receiver, leaving the 28-year-old on the bubble as camp nears, per Tandler. The 2012 second-round pick spent his first five years as a member of the Rams, with whom he exceeded the 20-catch plateau only twice. To his credit, though, Quick posted a career year in 2016, hauling in personal highs in catches (41), targets (77), yards (564) and touchdowns (three).
  • Saints left tackle Terron Armstead underwent successful surgery for a torn labrum on Monday, reports Herbie Teope of NOLA.com. While that’s a relief for Armstead and the Saints, it’s not going to change his expected recovery timeline. He’s still set to miss between four to six months, which will leave the club without arguably its best offensive lineman until sometime in the fall.
  • Cowboys receiver Brice Butler will head into camp with his roster spot in jeopardy, relays David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. Butler could face a challenge from rookie seventh-round pick Noah Brown, notes Moore, and the Cowboys also have shoo-ins to make the roster in fellow wideouts Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and fourth-rounder Ryan Switzer. Butler was a seventh-rounder himself not long ago, in 2013, and put up his first 16-game campaign last year. All told, he caught 16 passes for 219 yards and a career-high three scores.

Cowboys Re-Sign WR Brice Butler

Brice Butler is returning to Dallas. The wideout told Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he’s signed a new one-year deal with the Cowboys (Twitter link). The deal is worth $1.1MM with $300K fully guaranteed, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. The 27-year-old is hoping to prove himself in 2017 and earn a larger contract next offseason.

Brice ButlerThe 2013 seventh-round pick has spent the past two seasons in Dallas, appearing in 23 games. With the Cowboys, the San Diego State product hauled in 28 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns. Butler spent the first two seasons of his career with the Raiders, where he caught a career-high 280 yards in 2014.

The Cowboys receiver depth chart currently consists of Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Lucky Whitehead. Despite previous reports, we learned last night that the team doesn’t have interest in free agent wideout DeSean Jackson. Kenny Britt has also been mentioned as a potential target.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.