Cameron Fleming

NFC East Notes: Giants, Cowboys, Sutton

Ereck Flowers has not lived up to expectations since being a 2015 first-round pick, but the Giants are planning to move him to his initial NFL position. Flowers is set to shift to right tackle, where he was in his first NFL offseason before a Will Beatty injury moved him to the left side — where he played for three seasons — but meetings between Flowers and the Giants will have to wait. Flowers was the team’s only no-show for Day 1 of the Pat Shurmur regime, per Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com (on Twitter). These workouts are voluntary, but considering Flowers was the only no-show, this is notable. The Giants were not briefed about a Flowers absence, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv reports. The Giants had issues with Flowers’ attitude last season, and it’s reasonable the team will pass on his fifth-year option. Dave Gettleman has made it clear at about every turn this offseason he wanted to overhaul the Giants’ offensive line, and Flowers being a first-round pick in the Jerry Reese era might not grant him much leeway anymore.

Here’s the latest from the NFC East, continuing with a player who may or may not be changing positions up front.

  • Jason Garrett emphasized a preference for getting his best five linemen on the field and praised La’el Collins‘ versatility. With Cameron Fleming now in the fold for the Cowboys, this line of thinking would seemingly point to Collins returning to left guard. But he said Sunday he would prefer to stay at right tackle. “One of the things we want to do is always try to play our five best guys,” Garrett said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “A big part of that beyond just who are the best is try to put them in the best place for them individually and the best place for them collectively. His versatility is going to help us.” Hill adds that Fleming, who played right tackle for the Patriots, will also get a look at guard. But he has less guard experience than Collins, who was an interior lineman from 2015-16.
  • With the Browns likely taking a quarterback at No. 1, the Giants are going to have their pick of the other sought-after members of this passer class and the best non-QB in the draft. However, how the Browns proceed may affect the Giants’ desire to invest their No. 2 overall pick in an Eli Manning successor. Sam Darnold is the only quarterback the Giants are believed to covet, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com writes. A previous report indicated the Giants would not be expected to pass on Darnold if he’s there.
  • If the Browns take the USC-honed QB, they may either be open for business at 2 or be ready to pull the trigger on Bradley Chubb. Chubb/Giants chatter has increased in recent days, per James Palmer of NFL.com (video link). James Bettcher said Chubb’s past in a 4-3 set would not preclude the Giants from plugging him into their new 3-4 alignment, even though the N.C. State edge defender is a bit large for a typical outside linebacker.
  • Courtland Sutton has already visited the Cowboys and will add another NFC East team to his meetings itinerary Tuesday. The SMU wide receiver will meet with the Eagles in Philadelphia, Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fan reports (on Twitter). New Eagles WRs coach Gunter Brewer spent time with Sutton at the Mustangs’ pro day, Mosher tweets.

Cowboys Sign OT Cameron Fleming

The Cowboys have officially signed free agent offensive tackle Cameron Fleming to a one-year deal worth up to $3.5MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

The reported news of the Cowboys signing Fleming comes on the heels of the team restructuring the deals of tight end Jason Witten and center Travis Frederick, opening up around $10.5MM in available cap space. Fleming gives the Cowboys much-needed depth at tackle as they struggled last season while Tyron Smith missed three games due to injury.

Dallas also returns La’el Collins at right tackle. Chaz Green and Jarron Jones were the only other player on the Cowboys roster at tackle, with Byron Bell still unsigned in free agency.

The Patriots took Fleming in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and he’s appeared in 40 games in four seasons, making 20 starts. Fleming started six games last season and started in the AFC Championship game and Super Bowl as well.

Fleming was ranked as the No. 24 offensive tackle in the NFL for last season, per Pro Football Focus. The Cowboys had Fleming in for a visit earlier this week and the Patriots also showed interest in retaining him. The Cowboys could also opt to start Fleming at right tackle and move Collins to left guard.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Host Cameron Fleming

The Cowboys are scheduled to meet with free agent OT Cameron Fleming, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirmed the report (via Twitter) and added that the visit will take place tomorrow and Tuesday.

Rapoport also reiterated that New England wants to keep Fleming, which we heard previously. The Patriots lost their long-time left tackle, Nate Solder, earlier this week, when Solder signed a four-year, $62MM deal with the Giants. Fleming, though, has demonstrated the ability to play left tackle in the past, and in 2017, he graded as the league’s No. 24 offensive tackle, per Pro Football Focus. He is the best pure offensive tackle remaining on the open market, and if he were to sign elsewhere, the Pats may be forced to re-sign LaAdrian Waddle and insert him as Tom Brady‘s regular blindside protector (unless they can acquire a starting-caliber player in the draft, of course).

The Cowboys’ O-line has been a source of strength for the team over the past several seasons, and Fleming would further reinforce that unit. Archer notes that Fleming could start at right tackle for Dallas, which could then move La’el Collins back to left guard and strengthen the team’s up-the-middle protection.

Alternatively, the Cowboys could sign Fleming with an eye towards using him as a swing tackle, but it’s unlikely he would turn down a starting job with the Patriots or some other club to become a backup in Dallas. After all, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets, the market for Fleming is heating up, so it’s not as though he won’t have options.

As of right now, Dallas is the only team that has not yet signed a free agent.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Patriots’ Cameron Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots lost their starting left tackle on Wednesday when Nate Solder inked a four-year, $62MM with the Giants, but they have interest in retaining one or both of Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Fleming is probably the more important of the New England free agent linemen, as he’s demonstrated the ability to play left tackle in the past. Last season, Fleming played 543 total snaps and graded as the league’s No. 24 offensive tackle, per Pro Football Focus. At age-25, Fleming is now the best pure offensive tackle — not counting Justin Pugh, who is better at guard — on the open market after Solder and Chris Hubbard signed elsewhere.

Waddle, 26, started 10 games for the Lions in 24, but he’s mostly been a reserve since then. He was pressed into starting duty for four games a season ago, and he also chipped in on nearly 20% of the Patriots’ special teams snaps.

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.

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Deadline Fallout: Browns, Bills, Pats, Cards

The Browns made “small offers” for ex-Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this season, but weren’t involved in talks for the New England backup before Bill Belichick & Co. traded him to the 49ers, tweets Michael Lombardi of the Ringer. Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson reportedly “pushed hard” for a quarterback addition during the offseason, but the Browns never offered anything close to the (likely early) second-round pick San Francisco sent to the Patriots, per Lombardi. Meanwhile, Belichick may have been reticent to “help” the Browns given his history with the club, sources tell Daniel Jerermiah of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Here’s more fallout from the extremely active trade deadline:

  • Before acquiring wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers, the Bills had interest in fellow pass-catcher Martavis Bryant, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). However, the Steelers never seemed to express any serious interest in dealing Bryant despite his off-field question marks. Ultimately, Buffalo shipped third- and seventh-round picks to Carolina for Benjamin, whom Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott are familiar with given the pair’s time with the Panthers.
  • The Patriots made and received calls on offensive tackle Cameron Fleming prior to today’s deadline, tweets Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. New England was known to be “open for business,” so it come as no surprise that the club would entertain offers for Fleming, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Given the dearth of offensive line talent around the league, the Patriots may have believed they could wrangle a pick package for their swing tackle. Fleming, 25, has played only seven snaps in 2017.
  • Every Cardinals defensive back aside from rookie Budda Baker was available today, per Lombardi (Twitter link), who is presumably referring to safeties given that Arizona isn’t going to trade cornerback Patrick Peterson. Veterans Antoine Bethea and Tyvon Branch — each of whom are over the age of 30 — would have made sense as trade candidates, while the Cardinals may have also attempted to rid themselves of Tyrann Mathieu‘s contract, although that’s entirely speculation.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/10/17

The latest minor moves from around the NFL:

  • Broncos linebacker Todd Davis has signed his restricted free agent tender, reports Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post (Twitter link). The Broncos applied a second-rounder tender to Davis, meaning it would have been quite costly for anyone to sign him away from Denver. The 24-year-old Davis set career highs in starts (15) and tackles (97) last season, when his performance ranked a decent 43rd among Pro Football Focus’ 87 qualified linebackers.
  • Patriots offensive lineman Cameron Fleming has signed his RFA tender, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Pats applied an original-round tender last month to Fleming, who was a fourth-round pick in 2014. Fleming has started in 14 of 35 appearances in three seasons, and is coming off his first 16-game campaign.
  • The Rams are keeping defensive end Ethan Westbrooks, who signed his original-round RFA tender, relays Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. Westbrooks, undrafted in 2014, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence last month, but the Sacramento County District Attorney chose not to file charges. Los Angeles is also retaining exclusive rights free agents Matt Longacre (DE) and Louis Trinca-Pasat (DT). Meanwhile, the team has officially waived wide receiver Stedman Bailey, whose career likely ended when he survived two gunshot wounds to the head in 2015.
  • Nose tackle Mike Purcell and linebacker Carl Bradford have signed their ERFA tenders with the 49ers, tweets Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area. Purcell, the more experienced of the two, logged career-best totals in appearances (15), starts (five) and tackles (26) in 2016.
  • The Raiders have waived defensive lineman Demetrius Cherry, according to James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link). Cherry signed with the 49ers last spring as an undrafted free agent from Arizona State. After the 49ers cut him prior to the season, he caught on with Oakland’s practice squad.
  • The Falcons have signed former University of Georgia track and field athlete Garrett Scantling, who will try and make the team as a receiver (Instagram link). Scantling has not played football since his senior year of high school. However, he performed well when partaking in Jacksonville University’s pro day last month.
  • LSU’s Cyril Grayson, who also has a background in track, has signed with the Seahawks, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The seven-time All-American hasn’t played football since 2011, but he did run a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at LSU’s pro day last week, writes Christopher Dabe of NOLA.com.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/7/17

Unrestricted free agent news will obviously dominate the day, but several clubs also had to make decisions on whether to offer tenders to restricted and exclusive rights free agents. All RFA tenders listed are original round/right of first refusal (worth $1.797MM), and all links go to Twitter:

RFAs:

Tendered:

Non-Tendered:

ERFAs:

Tendered:

Non-Tendered:

ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/6/16

Here are today’s transactions involving exclusive-rights free agents.

  • The Patriots have tendered tackle Cameron Fleming, MassLive.com’s Kevin Duffy tweets. The 23-year-old Fleming was a fourth-round pick of the Patriots’ in 2014 and started seven games for the team last season.
  • The Broncos extended a tender to center Sam Brenner, Rand Getlin of NFL.com tweets. Denver claimed Brenner after the Dolphins released him midseason. Brenner did not see action for the Broncos, but the 25-year-old ex-UDFA’s started four games in his career.

East Notes: Eagles, Patriots, Bills

The Eagles made a pair of noteworthy free agent signings at running back in the offseason when they added DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. As last season’s NFL rushing champion, Murray signed a far bigger contract than Mathews (five years and $42MM versus three years, $11MM). Their performances this year haven’t reflected their disparate deals, however, as Mathews has easily outplayed Murray. Both backs have a similar number of carries (49 for Murray, 41 for Mathews), but Mathews has averaged an impressive 5.0 yards per attempt against Murray’s paltry 2.7.

To his credit, Murray took the notion of an increase in Mathews’ touches in stride, per Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.

“Hey, whatever they decide,” Murray said. “I can only control what I can control. I can’t control the plays being called or who’s in on different situations.”

In assessing Mathews, Murray stated, “I think he’s running it great. Obviously, he’s a tough running back, tough to defend, tough guy to bring down and I think he’s been doing well.”

How the two have played this year might not matter this week, as Mathews could miss the Eagles’ key game against the NFC East rival Giants with a groin injury. That would give Murray a chance to sink or swim as the unquestioned go-to back. The fifth-year man has fared respectably of late, rushing 28 times for 119 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks. He accrued season highs in carries (20) and yards (83) in the Eagles’ 39-17 win over the Saints last Sunday.

Now the latest regarding a couple of AFC East teams:

  • Bills receiver Sammy Watkins spoke out Thursday about the lack of targets that came his way before he suffered a Week 3 injury. His issues seem to lie with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who could miss Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a knee injury. That would make EJ Manuel the Bills’ starter under center, and Manuel expressed support for Watkins on Friday (via The Buffalo News’ Tyler Dunne). I think as quarterbacks, we like to hear our receiver is hungry and wants to make plays.” Manuel and Watkins seemingly established a rapport during their limited work together in 2014: Manuel targeted Watkins 32 times in four games, per Chris Trapasso of NFL.com (Twitter link). On the other hand, in two-plus games this year, Taylor has targeted Watkins 12 times.
  • With the Patriots weakened at cornerback thanks to Tarell Brown‘s foot injury, they could turn to stalwart safety Devin McCourty for help at the position against the Colts this weekend, writes Phil Perry of CSNNE.com. McCourty came into the league as a corner in 2010 before eventually making the transition to safety. Head coach Bill Belichick used McCourty at corner at times over the summer in the event he’d be needed there this year. That looks as if it could happen this week, as New England is down to Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, undrafted rookie Justin Coleman, and newly added waiver-wire pickup Rashaan Melvin at the positon.
  • In other Patriots news, the team will promote offensive tackle Cameron Fleming from its practice squad to its 53-man roster, tweets ESPN’s Mike Reiss. The former Stanford Cardinal spent all of last season on the Pats’ 53-man roster and played in seven games after they used a fourth-round pick on him.