Chris Baker

Lions Work Out DT Chris Baker

The Lions worked out defensive tackles Chris Baker, Jay Bromley, and Kendall Reyes on Wednesday, according to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM (Twitter link).

Cincinnati inked Baker to a one-year, $2.45MM deal in March in the hopes that he’d become its starting nose tackle opposite All-Pro three-technique Geno Atkins. However, Baker struggled during the preseason, often getting defeated in both the run and pass game, and was severely outplayed by third-year pro Andrew Billings. The Bengals released Baker just prior to final cutdowns, and he hasn’t drawn any other known interest thus far.

Baker, 30, spent the 2017 campaign with the Buccaneers after signing a three-year pact last March. Although he’d played like of the league’s better interior defenders from 2015-16, Baker struggled in 2017, grading as just the No. 96 defensive tackle among 122 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus, and was subsequently released after only a single season in Tampa Bay.

Detroit attempted to fortify its interior defensive line this offseason after losing veteran Haloti Ngata by adding several free agents of their own. Defensive tackles Ricky Jean-Francois and Sylvester Williams were each inked to contracts, while versatile lineman Da’Shawn Hand was brought in via the draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Release DT Chris Baker

The Bengals have released veteran defensive tackle Chris Baker, the club announced today.

Cincinnati inked Baker to a one-year, $2.45MM deal in March in the hopes that he’d become its starting nose tackle opposite All-Pro three-technique Geno Atkins. Not only has Baker struggled during the preseason, often getting defeated in both the run and pass game, but he’s been severely outplayed by third-year pro Andrew Billings, who will now play alongside Atkins on the Bengals’ defensive line.

Baker, 30, spent the 2017 campaign with the Buccaneers after signing a three-year pact last March. Although he’d played like of the league’s better interior defenders from 2015-16, Baker struggled in 2017, grading as just the No. 96 defensive tackle among 122 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus, and was subsequently released after only a single season in Tampa Bay.

Baker will now join a list of free agent interior defenders that’s still rather deep, as options such as Johnathan Hankins, Courtney Upshaw, Jared Crick, and Tony McDaniel still reside on the open market. With just a few weeks until the 2018 regular season begins, Baker could struggle to find a job immediately (especially given that he’s been cut twice in the span of six months), and may need to wait for an injury to open up a job.

The Bengals will trot out Atkins and Billings as their starting defensive tackles, while 2017 fourth-round pick Ryan Glasgow will now become the clear third man on the depth chart. Baker’s release opens up a roster spot for rookie fifth-round selection Andrew Brown, who’d been on the roster bubble in recent weeks.

Baker collected a $300K signing bonus when he signed with Cincinnati, and he’s also picked up $150K in workout bonuses. That $450K will become dead money on the Bengals’ salary cap, but they’ll clear $1.5MM in base salary and $500K in per-game roster bonuses by cutting ties with Baker.

Baker becomes the second veteran player — and one-time projected starter — released by the Bengals this week, as Cincinnati cut safety George Iloka on Sunday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals To Sign DT Chris Baker

The Bengals have signed former Bucs defensive tackle Chris Baker to a one-year deal worth a little more than $3MM, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Baker was released in February, so he did not have to wait until March 14 to sign with a club. 

Baker, 31 in October, disappointed in Tampa Bay after signing a three-year, $15.75MM deal free agent deal. With two years to go, the Bucs dropped him in order to save $4.875MM against the cap.

Because Baker is not a typical free agent, he will not count against the Bengals’ compensatory draft pick formula. He could also be a solid fill-in for Pat Sims, who is headed towards free agency.

Heading into Wednesday, PFR had Baker ranked as the No. 11 interior defensive lineman available in free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Meet With DL Chris Baker

The Bengals hosted free agent defensive lineman Chris Baker for a visit this week, according to Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The visit was first reported by Chick Hernandez of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). 

Baker, 31 in October, inked a three-year, $15.75MM deal with the Buccaneers last offseason. Last month, they terminated the deal in order to save $4.875MM against the cap.

Baker did not perform up to the Bucs’ expectations as he had just half a sack in 2017 and grading as just the No. 96 defensive tackle among 122 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. The Bengals are wondering if Baker can get back to his 2016 play, a year in which he ranked 18th on PFF’s list of interior defenders. Looking at the positives, Baker had 10.5 sacks between 2015 and 2016 and even though he struggled last year, he started 16 games for the first time in his career.

Baker currently ranks as our No. 11 ranked interior defender, ahead of Kyle Williams, Dominique Easley, Haloti Ngata, and Alan Branch.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

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. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

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 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

Buccaneers Release DT Chris Baker

The Buccaneers have released defensive tackle Chris Baker, the club announced today.Chris Baker (Vertical)

Baker inked a three-year, $15.75MM contract with Tampa Bay just last spring, but he lasted only a single season before being released. The 30-year-old Baker collected $6MM for his lone campaign with the Buccaneers, and the team will now pick up $4.875MM in salary cap space by cutting him. Tampa rarely uses signing bonuses, which means prorations don’t accelerate when the club releases players. As such, the Bucs won’t incur any dead money by parting ways with Baker.

Although he’d played like of the league’s better interior defenders from 2015-16, Baker struggled in 2017, grading as just the No. 96 defensive tackle among 122 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. Baker was thought to be a perfect partner for fellow Tampa defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, but the Buccaneers ranked just 20th in adjusted line yards and 32nd in adjusted sack rate, leading to the recent firing of defensive line coach Jay Hayes.

While he flamed out in Tampa Bay, Baker figures to land another deal as a rotational interior lineman. He’s a free agent immediately, and doesn’t have to wait until March 14 to find another club. Baker joins a free agent defensive tackle market that also includes Dontari Poe, Sheldon Richardson, Bennie Logan, and Star Lotulelei.

The Buccaneers have now released two high-profile players today, as running back Doug Martin was cut this morning. Counting those two moves, Tampa Bay now has more than $70MM in available cap space, which would put the club in top five among NFL teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Garcon, Baker, Klein, Jones

Let’s take a look at some details of the free agent contracts signed today:

  • Chris Baker, DL (Buccaneers): Three years, $15.75MM. $9MM guaranteed. $1MM in sack incentives each season (Twitter link via Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post).
  • Jack Crawford, DL (Falcons): Three years, $10.3MM. $3.75MM in 2017 (Twitter link via Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com).
  • Pierre Garcon, WR (49ers): Two years, $23MM. $17MM guaranteed. Options for 2019 ($6MM), 2020 ($8.9MM), and 2021 ($9.6MM) (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Landry Jones, QB (Steelers): Two years, $4.4MM. $600K signing bonus (Twitter link via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com).
  • A.J. Klein, LB (Saints): Four years, $24MM. $4MM signing bonus. $9.4MM guaranteed. 2020 season will void Klein is on Saints roster on last day of 2019 league year (via Nick Underhill of the Advocate).
  • Jeff Locke, P (Colts): Two years, $3.45MM. $1.25MM guaranteed (Twitter links via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com and Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star).
  • Ryan Mallett, QB (Ravens): One year, $2MM. $1MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Akeem Spence, DL (Lions): Three years, $9MM. $3.5MM guaranteed. $1MM available via escalators (Twitter link via Peliserro).
  • D.J. Swearinger, S (Redskins): Three years, $13.5MM. $9MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Kinkhabwala).

Buccaneers To Sign Chris Baker

The Buccaneers are expected to sign free agent defensive lineman Chris Baker “barring any snags,” tweets Peter Schrager of FOX Sports.Chris Baker (vertical)

Baker registered 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons and profiled as one of the top interior defenders available in free agency. He ranked 18th among interior defenders (4-3 defensive tackles, 3-4 nose tackles and 3-4 ends) in the opinion of Pro Football Focus last season. Baker, 29, started all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2016.

In Tampa Bay, Baker will team with Gerald McCoy to form a fearsome defensive interior. The Buccaneers don’t blitz very often, so generating any sort of pressure — from the interior or otherwise — is often dependent on the front four getting to the quarterback. In addition to Baker and McCoy, the Bucs’ line also consists of Robert Ayers, Noah Spence, and Jacquies Smith, among others.

Baker becomes the second free agent to make the trip from Washington to Tampa Bay, joining wide receiver DeSean Jackson in that regard.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Redskins’ Defense

Expected to provide Chris Baker with an offer by Tuesday, the Redskins may now be conceding the defensive end is going to move on in free agency. Washington’s top defensive lineman over the past two seasons is “highly likely” to depart the nation’s capital, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The Broncos and Buccaneers are coveting Baker.

However, the Redskins are going to be on the hunt for defensive linemen. One name La Canfora is connecting the team is Dontari Poe (Twitter link). The five-year Chiefs starter reportedly hasn’t seen his market take off during his first free agency period, with Jason Cole of Bleacher Report hearing the mammoth defender could take a one-year contract with a team that would let him rush quarterbacks more.

Poe served as a lane clogger in Kansas City but was a dynamo in terms of snaps played, logging more than any nose man during his rookie-deal tenure in Kansas City. But his sack totals decreased, plummeting from 10.5 between the 2013 and ’14 seasons (both Pro Bowl slates) to 2.5 combined in 2015 and ’16. The 26-year-old wouldn’t be a Baker replacement, being a nose guard, but would help Washington offset the end’s defection from a talent standpoint.

Additionally, La Canfora notes both the Redskins and Jaguars are aiming to land Cowboys safety Barry Church. Jacksonville obviously has the cap room to outmuscle Washington here, at $75MM to $34MM, but Church isn’t expected to command an incredibly lucrative deal. Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com connected the eighth-year safety to an AAV mark north of $5MM. Although, the Panthers are also pursuing Church, so this figure could escalate. The Redskins have experienced inconsistency at safety for a bit now due to injuries and under-performing cogs.

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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