Captain Munnerlyn

Bills Reach 53-Man Max

The Bills dropped a host of players on Saturday to reach the 53-man limit, but they also carved out spots by other means. Fifth-round linebacker Vosean Joseph (shoulder) and running back Senorise Perry (quad) were placed on IR while undrafted linebacker Tyrell Dodson was placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list.

Here’s the full list of cut players in Buffalo:

DE Sam Acho
TE Nate Becker
WR Victor Bolden Jr.
TE Kyle Carter
S Kurt Coleman
WR Nick Easley
DE Jeff Holland
QB Tyree Jackson
OT Jarron Jones
LB Deon Lacey
CB Cam Lewis
CB Ryan Lewis
OL Eric Magnuson
WR Ray-Ray McCloud
RB LeSean McCoy
K Chase McLaughlin
CB Captain Munnerlyn
RB Marcus Murphy
DT Kyle Peko
WR Cam Phillips
CB Lafayette Pitts
OL Demetrius Rhaney
CB Denzel Rice
WR David Sills
TE Keith Towbridge
RB Christian Wade
S Abraham Wallace
DT L.T. Walton
WR Duke Williams
DE Eddie Yarbrough
DT Roderick Young

Bills Cut CB Captain Munnerlyn

Captain Munnerlyn‘s stint with the Bills only lasted several weeks. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the veteran cornerback has been released.

With Buffalo eyeing some reinforcement in their secondary, the team brought in Munnerlyn in early August. The cornerback was familiar with head coach Sean McDermott’s defense, making him a logical fill-in for injured cornerback E.J. Gaines. Instead, it sounds like the organization decided to opt for younger options at the position.

A consistent starter between Carolina and Minnesota from 2011-14, Munnerlyn has taken on a backup role in recent campaigns. In 2018, he appeared in all 16 games, starting five, and registered one interception and nine passes defensed. In his 10-year career, Munnerlyn has logged 12 interceptions, five of which he has returned for scores.

Munnerlyn isn’t the only veteran defender to lose his job. Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic tweets that veteran defensive end Sam Acho has also been cut. The 30-year-old joined the team earlier this month. Acho spent the past four years in Chicago, including a 2018 campaign where he was limited to only four games.

The Bills also let go of two intriguing offensive players: running back Marcus Murphy (via Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic on Twitter) and quarterback Tyree Jackson.

Bills Place CB E.J. Gaines On IR

Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines has been placed on injured reserve due to a groin injury, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets

Gaines sustained the injury in practice and was expected to miss a few weeks initially. Following the IR designation, he will now not be eligible to return until after Week 8.

A sixth-round selection by the Rams in 2014, Gaines spent two seasons with the team before being dealt to the Bills in 2017 in the same deal that sent Sammy Watkins the other way. He played one season with the Bills before signing a one-year deal with the Browns for 2018. Following an injury-shortened campaign, the cornerback returned to the Bills for 2019 on a one-year, $3.6MM contract.

Plagued by injuries in recent years, Gaines is coming off his one season with the Browns in which he appeared in six games, including two starts, but was lost for the season after suffering two concussions in a month’s time.

After placing Gaines on IR, the Bills brought in veteran cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who is familiar with head coach Sean McDermott from their time with the Panthers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills To Sign CB Captain Munnerlyn

The Bills are expected to sign veteran cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets.

A 10-year veteran, Munnerlyn has spent seven of those seasons, including the last two, in Carolina. Before his latest stint with the Panthers, Munnerlyn played under the direction of current Bills head coach Sean McDermott, who served as the team’s defensive coordinator from 2011-16.

Following E.J. Gaines‘ placement on IR, the Bills had an open spot in the secondary. They tabbed the veteran to fill a leadership role for a young secondary.

A consistent starter between Carolina and Minnesota from 2011-14, Munnerlyn has taken on a backup role in recent campaigns. In 2018, he appeared in all 16 games, starting five, and registered one interception and nine passes defensed. In his 10-year career, Munnerlyn has logged 12 interceptions, five of which he has returned for scores.

Panthers To Release CB Captain Munnerlyn

The Panthers are releasing nickel cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Munnerlyn, 31 in April, should have suitors given that this is an uncharacteristically soft crop for free agent slot corners. 

Munnerlyn spent the first five seasons of his career with the Panthers before hooking on with the Vikings as a free agent in 2014. After the expiration of his three-year, $14.25MM deal, he returned to Carolina on a four-year, $21MM deal in 2017. By releasing him midway through the deal, the Panthers will save $2MM against the cap while carrying $3MM in dead money.

Last year, Munnerlyn appeared in all 16 games for Carolina, including five starts. He recorded 47 total stops, two sacks, an interception, and nine passes defensed in 2018. The advanced metrics weren’t wild about him, however, as he placed as the No. 83 cornerback in the NFL out of 112 qualified players, per Pro Football Focus.

The Panthers also decided to move on from safety Mike Adams, so the Panthers are clearly looking to overhaul their secondary in 2019. Last year, the Panthers’ secondary allowed an average of 240 passing yards per game, putting them roughly in the middle of the pack, so there’s room for improvement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Brees, Panthers, Titans, Texans

Don’t expect Drew Brees to sign another extension before the season. The 38-year-old Saints quarterback is again entering a contract year but wants to wait until after the season to discuss another deal to stay in New Orleans. Brees said waiting until the end of the year is best for himself and the team, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com reports. Brees’ one-year extension from 2016 will pay him $24.25MM this season.

The 17th-year quarterback is also not exactly endorsing the Saints taking a signal-caller early. While that may be in the best interest of the franchise post-Brees, the current starter doesn’t want a high draft pick that will sit behind him and not help the team in 2017.

The flip side is, if I’m going to start and that quarterback sits, well that’s not helping our team right now,” Brees said, via Katzenstein. “So, I want somebody who’s going to help our team right now. When I leave here, I want this organization to be successful — whenever that is — so I want them to be prepared for that. They need to be thinking about that, but then again, I don’t want to make it seem like this is my farewell tour. That’s not the way I view it.”

Here’s more from the league’s South divisions.

  • The Panthers‘ free agency plan focused on established veterans, and Dave Gettleman and Ron Rivera pointed to the success the more veteran-laden 2015 Super Bowl team had compared to its successor. “You go back to the Super Bowl year and you look at what we had with Roman (Harper), Charles (Tillman) and Jared Allen. Those three veteran guys right there. And then you look at what we did with (Mike) Adams, (Captain) Munnerlyn and Julius (Peppers),” Rivera said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, pointing to the additions of a 36-year-old safety, a soon-to-be 29-year-old nickel corner and a 37-year-old defensive end. “Are we trying to copy what we did? You’re darned right. We really are.” Both Adams and Peppers are actually older than the players the Panthers are bringing them in to emulate.
  • Rivera hopes Peppers’ decision to sign a one-year pact doesn’t amount to a farewell tour. The seventh-year Panthers coach said the 16th-year edge defender has a lot left in the tank and wants him to consider playing beyond this season. Peppers’ three mid-30s seasons produced a combined 25 sacks, adding to Rivera’s point.
  • Carolina also will consider using Munnerlyn outside in addition to his usual slot role, Person notes. Munnerlyn has far more experience than James Bradberry or Daryl Worley but has spent the majority of his career in the slot. The now-two-time Panther could be competing for an base defense starter’s role while sliding to his customary nickel on passing downs.
  • The Titans worked out Miami tight end David Njoku on Saturday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. They hold picks 5 and 18 in the first round. Njoku’s soaring value has induced mock drafts to route him to teams picking in the range of Tennessee’s No. 18 selection. The Titans still have Delanie Walker under contract, but he will be 33 in August.
  • Having been connected to Tony Romo throughout the offseason, the Texans are also a candidate to take a quarterback early. Bob McNair said as much earlier this offseason. But Bill O’Brien may not necessarily be ready to start a rookie. “I think it’s tough to play quarterback as a rookie in our league,” O’Brien said this week. “I think that there’s no substitute for experience. So, I think it’s hard to ask a guy to come in straight from college and Day 1 he’s a starter on your team. But I know that there are some really good quarterbacks in this draft that we’re looking at and we’ve met with a lot of them. We’re excited about continuing to get to know them. But, I just think for me as a general rule, that’s tough to start them as a Day 1 guy.”

NFC Contract Details: Fairley, Peppers, Reiff

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed NFC contracts:

  • Nick Fairley, DL (Saints): Four years, $28MM. $14MM guaranteed. $8MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $1MM, $4.25MM, $5.95MM, $5.95MM (Twitter link via Wilson). $500K available yearly in sack incentives (link via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com).
  • Captain Munnerlyn, CB (Panthers): Four years, $17MM. $8MM guaranteed. $6MM signing bonus. $1MM available via incentives (Twitter link via Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune).
  • Julius Peppers, DL (Panthers): One year, $3.5MM. $750K available via incentives (Twitter link via Josina Anderson of ESPN.com).
  • Riley Reiff, T (Vikings): Five years, $58.75MM. $26.3MM guaranteed. $11MM signing bonus (Twitter links via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com). Annual $500K Pro Bowl escalator clause (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Mike Remmers, T (Vikings): Five years, $30MM. $10.5MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune).
  • Dion Sims, TE (Bears): Three years, $18MM. $6MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).
  • Stefen Wisniewski, OL (Eagles): Three years, $9MM. $3.25MM guaranteed. $1.75MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer)

Panthers To Sign Captain Munnerlyn

The Panthers have agreed to sign cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. It’s a four-year deal, reports Peter Schrager of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Captain Munnerlyn (Vertical)

The newest member of the Panthers, wide receiver Charles Johnson, revealed Friday that he bumped into Munnerlyn at the team’s facilities, per David Newton of ESPN.com. Munnerlyn told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link) earlier today that he’d probably sign a new deal by the end of Friday.

Munnerlyn is now signed up for his second stint with the organization. The Panthers selected Munnerlyn in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, and he stuck with them through the 2013 season. Munnerlyn spent the previous three seasons as Johnson’s teammate in Minnesota.

Munnerlyn, who ranked as PFR’s No. 11 free agent corner, is strictly a slot man, but he’s an excellent one. Carolina finished 11th in pass defense DVOA last year even after losing Josh Norman, and Munnerlyn will now team with James Bradberry and Daryl Worley in a rapidly improving unit. The Panthers already addressed their secondary earlier today, agreeing to terms with veteran safety Mike Adams.

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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Captain Munnerlyn Expected To Test Market

Although the Vikings would like to re-sign slot cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, the club is expected to allow the veteran defensive back to first gauge his value on the open market, reports Chris Tomasson the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Indeed, no deal is expected between Minnesota and Munnerlyn before free agency begins on Thursday, tweets Ben Goessling of ESPN.com.Captain Munnerlyn (Vertical)

[RELATED: Latest On Adrian Peterson’s Market]

Entering his age-29 season, Munnerlyn said earlier this month he’s targeting a four- to five-year deal once he reaches the free agent market. While that length of contract might be hard to come by given his age, Munnerlyn is certainly still a solid player, and his role as a slot corner is all the more important as offenses increasingly utilize three-wide receiver sets. In 2016, Munnerlyn played in 15 games and defensed three passes, grading as the No. 49 CB among 112 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Munnerlyn rates high in PFR’s free agent rankings, placing as the No. 11 cornerback available and earning an honorable mention of PFR’s list of the top 50 free agents. The former seventh-round pick isn’t the only Vikings defensive back scheduled to hit free agency this week, however, as Terence Newman is also heading for the open market on Thursday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.