Chris Canty

Best Available NFL Free Agents: Defense

The most high-profile free agent signings occurred more than two months ago, but as we near June there are still talented NFL free agents available on the open market. Most of these players (with a few exceptions) won’t command much guaranteed money, and given that we’ve passed the May 12 deadline, none will factor into the compensatory draft pick formula. After examining the offensive side of the ball yesterday, let’s take a look at the defensive players who will try to find a home as training camp approaches…Donte Whitner (Veritcal)

1. Donte Whitner, S: Despite being released by the Browns last month, Whitner is still an excellent player, having graded as the league’s No. 24 safety among 89 qualifiers in 2015, per Pro Football Focus. Remarkably durable (he’s missed only three games in the past six years), Whitner visited with the Rams in early April, and is reportedly still on Los Angeles’ radar. Elsewhere, both the Chargers and the Cowboys could make sense as potential landing spots if San Diego and Dallas want to upgrade on Jahleel Addae and Barry Church, respectively.

2. Leon Hall, CB: Hall hasn’t lacked suitors this offseason, as the Cowboys, Cardinals, Giants, and Falcons have all shown varying levels of interest in the 31-year-old cornerback over the past several months. He’s not the boundary defender that he used to be, but Hall is a productive slot corner, which essentially makes him a starter in today’s NFL. Health questions have nagged Hall throughout his entire career, and an offseason back procedure won’t quiet those concerns, but the former Bengal figures to find a new home sooner rather than later.

3. Greg Hardy, DE: Clearly the best defender on this list in terms of pure talent, Hardy’s off-the-field issues don’t need to be rehashed here. The 27-year-old edge rusher and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are apparently lobbying NFL clubs for an opportunity, detailing the steps Hardy has taken to correct his pattern of behavior. However, it doesn’t appear as though many teams are convinced Hardy has changed his tune, as sources told Ed Werder of that no one is interested in Hardy, with executives calling him — at best — a “hard sell” to ownership and — at worst — “toxic.”
Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

4. Dwight Freeney, LB/DE: Freeney spent roughly a third of the 2015 season at home, waiting until the Cardinals called in October to get back on an NFL field. Now 36 years old, Freeney has become something of a cause célèbre of mine, as I think he’s a far more valuable player than the league apparently does. I outlined Freeney’s tools in April of last year, and much of what I wrote at the time still holds — any number of clubs could benefit from allowing Freeney to get after the quarterback 20-25 times per game. A reunion with Arizona isn’t out of the question, and the Ravens, Bengals, Panthers, Jets, Patriots, Lions, Chiefs, and Bills could all use an extra edge rusher.

5. Brandon Boykin, CB: At age 25, Boykin surprisingly had to settle for a minimum salary benefit contract to join the Panthers in March — he lasted less than two months on the roster, as he was released by Carolina earlier this week. That series of events, coupled with Boykin’s relative lack of playing time after being dealt to the Steelers last year, is hard to figure, as Boykin is considered one of the premier slot corners in the game. With teams lining up in sub packages more than 60% of the time, Boykin is capable of playing a substantial role, and shouldn’t stay on the street for long.

6. Mike Neal, LB: Neal started a career-high 15 games last season, and has posted at least four sacks in each of the past four years. He’s met with both the Lions and the Seahawks this offseason, but has yet to sign a contract, and would seemingly only be in line for a one-year pact at this point. The Packers selected fellow linebacker Kyler Fackrell in the third round of last month’s draft, so Green Bay probably isn’t an option (though Neal is open to returning). It’s possible that the 2015 Al Jazeera report that linked Neal to PEDs is hindering his market, a sentiment with which Neal agrees.Chris Culliver (Vertical)

7. Chris Culliver, CB: It’s been a trying 12 months or so for Culliver, whose 2015 one-game suspension voided his 2016 $8MM guarantee, making it much easier for Washington to release him — which they did earlier this month. Culliver, 27, also tore his ACL in November, meaning his availability for the start of the season could be in doubt. But Culliver is the one true outside cornerback on this list, and he has also has youth on his side. A smart team might sign Culliver to a two-year deal with limited or no guarantees for the 2017 season, let him rehab for the first half of 2016, and then evaluate him over the course of November and December.

8. Antrel Rolle, S: Rolle isn’t going to get the same kind of offers that fellow safety Whitner will — not only is he more than three years older, but Rolle ranked a little lower among safeties than did Whitner, coming in at No. 39 in the NFL according to PFF. Rolle has expressed an interest in reuniting with the Giants, with whom he spent the 2010-14 seasons, and on paper, it’s a match that makes a lot of sense, as New York needs a rangy free safety opposite Landon Collins. The Rams, Falcons, and Buccaneers could have interest in the veteran defensive back, as could the Colts if they plan to move 2016 second-rounder T.J. Green to cornerback, as has been rumored.

9. O’Brien Schofield, LB: Schofield and the Falcons were said to be working on a deal as far back as early March, but no signing ever came to fruition. At the time, the Cowboys, Bears, and Titans were reported to have interest in Schofield, and while he’s expressed his preference to return to Atlanta, he remains a free agent. Head coach Dan Quinn has stated he hopes that Schofield is re-signed, and the Falcons have in fact made an offer. Primarily a nickel linebacker, Schofield agreed to a two-year deal with the Giants in 2014 only to see it fall apart due to medical concerns — it’s unclear whether his current disagreement with Atlanta is due to injury questions or financial disparities.

10. Jeremy Mincey, DE: At 32 years old, Mincey isn’t going to suddenly blossom into a star, but he’s more than capable of being thrown into a defensive end rotation on a team that runs a 4-3 scheme. Mincey didn’t post any sacks last season, but he registered six quarterback takedowns in 2014, which led to him holding out for an extra $500K the following offseason. The Cowboys reportedly aren’t interested in a reunion, but Mincey did generate some level of trade interest last November, so it’s likely that there are clubs who’d be willing to offer a one-year deal.

Honorable mention: Chris Canty, DL; Henry Melton, DT; Kevin Williams, DT; Cortez Allen, CB; Antonio Cromartie, CB; Cortland Finnegan, CB; Jayron Hosley, CB; Will Allen, S.

Safety Walter Thurmond was not included on this list because he’s contemplating retirement and has reportedly turned down offers of $4MM per year.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Won’t Pick Up Chris Canty’s Option

The Ravens have let veteran defensive end Chris Canty know that they won’t be exercising their option to pick up the second year of his contract, according to the team’s official website. The move will ensure that Canty becomes an unrestricted free agent.Chris Canty

[RELATED: Ravens cut LB Daryl Smith]

“I called Chris to thank him for what he has done for the Ravens,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “He has been an impactful player for us on and off the field.”

By parting ways with Canty, the Ravens avoid paying him a $150K roster bonus next week, and will clear his $2MM base salary for 2016 from their books. In total, the move creates $2.15MM in cap savings, reducing his cap charge from $2.915MM to $765K. Having reworked Joe Flacco‘s contract and released linebacker Daryl Smith, Baltimore continues to carve out small chunks of cap room.

Canty, a 10-year veteran, joined the Ravens prior to the 2013 season, after spending his first eight years in the NFC East with the Cowboys and Giants. In three years with Baltimore, Canty started 23 of 35 games he played, registering 84 total tackles and 3.5 sacks. While his impact on the field wasn’t necessarily significant, the 33-year-old was a solid rotation player and a good presence in the locker room.

While Canty appears likely to sign elsewhere, it’s worth noting that last offseason, the Ravens cut the defensive lineman in February, only to re-sign him a few weeks later in March. As Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun tweets, Canty isn’t ready for retirement and wants to continue his career, so we’ll see what his market looks like.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Jaguars, Broncos, Dolphins, Canty

Adding a free safety to the mix will be a priority for the Jaguars this offseason, with the team hoping to find stability at the position, writes Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. As I noted when I previewed the Jags’ offseason earlier in the month, the team could use some help at multiple positions in the secondary, but that free safety spot will be a big one.

“We’ve looked at some good players in free agency, and we’re starting the draft process and see some guys out there,” head coach Gus Bradley said. “The whole defense is designed for guys to come in and play at a young age.”

Here are a few more notes of interest from around the AFC:

  • Within his latest mailbag, Mike Klis of 9NEWS projects the salary ranges for several of the Broncos‘ pending free agents, suggesting that quarterback Brock Osweiler would probably take a slightly lesser offer to return to Denver rather than accepting more money from a team like the Browns.
  • The key question the Dolphins will have to address this offseason is whether the team feels like it’s on the cusp of contention despite a disappointing 2015, or whether a more thorough rebuild is necessary, says Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Salguero hears from multiple high-ranking people within the organization that owner Stephen Ross isn’t necessarily in win-now mode, and that he prefers to build a roster that can enjoy sustained success.
  • The Ravens have been negotiating with a few of their free-agents-to-be in hopes of keeping them from hitting the open market, sources tell Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. Zrebiec explores that subject and a handful of others in his latest look at the Ravens’ offseason plans.
  • Ravens defensive end Chris Canty isn’t ready to retire at age 33, as Clifton Brown of writes. Canty is under contract for next season with the Ravens, so we should soon find out whether he’s still in the team’s plans, or whether he’ll become a cap casualty.

Ravens Announce Several Roster Moves

In addition to formally confirming the signing of quarterback Ryan Mallett, the Ravens have announced several other roster moves today, removing three players from their 53-man roster and filling those openings by signing Mallett and promoting two practice squad players.

Here’s the full breakdown of the Ravens’ transactions:


  • QB Ryan Mallett

Promoted from practice squad:


Placed on injured reserve:

With Renner cut, the Ravens are back down to three quarterbacks – Mallett, Matt Schaub, and Jimmy Clausen – on their active roster. I would expect the team to attempt to re-add Renner to its practice squad if he clears waivers.

Canty, meanwhile, is perhaps the most notable veteran featured in today’s moves, and he technically remains under contract with the Ravens for the 2016 season. However, ’16 is an option year for the veteran defensive end, whose 2015 season is over due to a torn pectoral. Baltimore could decide to cut him before the end of the ’15 league year, avoiding paying him a $2MM base salary and a $150K roster bonus for next season.

Ravens’ Chris Canty Done For Season

Ravens defensive end Chris Canty will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in the team’s 35-6 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday, Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun reports.

Canty, 32, is an 11-year veteran who has spent the past three seasons with the Ravens. He added 19 tackles and a sack in parts of nine games this year. The numbers aren’t gaudy, but Canty’s leadership has made him a favorite of head coach John Harbaugh.

“He’s been a standup guy,” Harbaugh said, per Meoli. “He’s led the way with a bunch of young guys on defense, especially the young front seven guys. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Chris Canty and what he’s done this year.”

Canty has one year left on the two-year pact he signed with the Ravens last offseason, but it’s possible he has played his last down in Baltimore. If the Ravens cut Canty before June 1, they’ll save $2.15MM on their 2016 salary cap.

John Harbaugh On D-Line, Player Development, Rule Changes

Ravens coach John Harbaugh gave the keynote speech at Stevenson University in Maryland on Thursday. While the former Super Bowl winner barely mentioned the Ravens during his address, he discussed his team with reporters following the ceremony. Harbaugh mostly focused on the defensive line, including the players returning from injury, the team’s loss of veteran leadership, and the team’s apparent depth among defensive ends and tackles. Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun collected these soundbites, and we have some of the more notable quotes below:

On the recovery of Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore, who both suffered season-ending injuries during last year’s training camp:

“It’s really important that Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore come on. Brent looks like he’s 100 percent, Kap looks like he’s really close to 100 percent.”

On the changes to the defensive line, including the loss of veteran leadership in Haloti Ngata:

“The young D-linemen are obviously going to be huge for us. We’ve gotten younger there really quickly, capped off by the move of Haloti. We still have Chris Canty, so that’s a plus for us. He’ll be the sage veteran in the locker room.”

On the development of talented defensive tackle Brandon Williams:

“I talked to Brandon Williams about stacking another year. You come back better than before. He took last year and got everyone’s attention. Now everybody is going to be watching.

“You’re not going to surprise anybody. The expectations are up. What an opportunity to build on that and really make a name for himself. He seems motivated to do that as well.”

On the team’s depth on the defensive line:

DeAngelo Tyson is still a big part of us, Lawrence Guy is a big part of us, Christo Bilukidi is another veteran player. There’s going to be some major competition on the D-line.”

On the NFL’s new extra-point rule:

“The effort to move the line of scrimmage back on the point after touchdown, to me, is a good thing. I think it’s a positive thing. We’re for it. We were fine with it the other way. I know Justin Tucker was kind of like saying stuff about it. But I think he realizes that it’s going to give the better kickers an opportunity to shine a little bit. So, move it back and make it a little bit tougher. Make it more of a challenge, make that point mean more.

“It is going to encourage more two-point conversion tries. There’s no question about it, especially in windy stadiums. Maybe later in the year when it means the most will probably see the most attempts. I know one thing, we’re going to spend more time defending two-point conversions and practicing two-point conversions because it’s going to be a bigger part of the game.”

North Notes: Canty, Bowe, Rodgers

The Bengals decided to get in on April Fool’s Day with a little prank of their own, as Coley Harvey of writes. In a swipe at the Browns‘ extraordinarily tame logo and helmet redesign earlier this year, Cincy “announced” some extremely mild changes to their own helmet and striped B logo. Here’s more from the North divisions..

  • Chris Canty‘s two-year, $4.65MM deal with the Ravens will carry base salaries of $970K and $2MM, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). He’ll also collect a bonus of $1.53MM and the second year will be an option year for Baltimore. He’ll be owed a $150K roster bonus on the first day of the league year. He’ll have a cap number of $1.735MM in 2015 and $2.915MM in 2016.
  • New Browns receiver Dwayne Bowe says he’s determined to go back “to the Dwayne Bowe of 2010,” as Pat McManamon of writes. In 2010, Bowe hauled in 15 receiving touchdowns. Cleveland has been in the NFL since 1950, but they’ve only had one wide receiver or tight end record 15 or more touchdown receptions in one year.
  • New Bears running back Jacquizz Rodgers is ready to define his role with Chicago, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. In his introduction to the local media, the former Atlanta tailback made it known that he had serious interest in joining up with the Bears and was elated to learn that the feeling was mutual. Running backs playing behind Matt Forte historically haven’t seen the ball all that much, but Rodgers is confident that he’ll get his fair share.

Ravens To Re-Sign Chris Canty

11:01am: Canty’s two-year deal is worth $4.65MM, according to Wilson (on Twitter). He’ll get a $1.5MM signing bonus, a $1MM base in 2015, and a $2MM salary in 2016. As previously indicated, the Ravens will hold a team option for the second year (link).

10:58am: The Ravens officially announced that Canty has been signed to a two-year deal, according to Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter).

10:40am: The Ravens will re-sign defensive lineman Chris Canty, a source tells Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (on Twitter). It’ll be a one-year deal with a team option for year two (link).

The Ravens cut Canty because of his high cap number earlier this offseason. The 32-year-old was released by the Ravens in February and has since drawn interest from other teams, including the Seahawks and Jets. Shortly after cutting Canty loose, GM Ozzie Newsome made it clear that a reunion could still be in the cards.

“We certainly would not close the door to Chris coming back to us,” Newsome said.

Canty, a 10-year veteran, joined the Ravens prior to the 2013 season, after spending his first eight years in the NFC East with the Cowboys and Giants. In two years with Baltimore, Canty started 14 of 26 games he played, registering 65 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. While he didn’t have a huge impact on the field, the veteran lineman is a good leader and has a positive locker room presence.

By cutting Canty initially, the Ravens removed his $2.66MM base salary from their books, leaving about $667K in dead money. Canty had initially been slated to count for approximately $3.327MM against the club’s 2015 cap. The exact terms of his new deal are not yet known, but it’ll provide Baltimore with more breathing room than they would have had under the old pact.

Canty was set to visit the Seahawks on Thursday, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter), but that trip has obviously been cancelled.

FA Notes: Clay, Canty, Spencer, Irving, Moore

There hasn’t been much movement on the Charles Clay front lately, but the Bills are still steadfast in their hopes of signing him to an unmatchable offer sheet, a source tells Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Buffalo appears confident in landing the Dolphins transition player, as the source tells Carucci that it’s a 90% certainty that the Bills will acquire the tight end.

Rex Ryan is reportedly pushing for Clay, as the Bills head coach knows how difficult Clay is to defend from the former’s time with the Jets. Per Carucci, Buffalo is currently going over both their cap numbers and those of the Dolphins, in an attempt to structure a contract that Miami can’t match.

Let’s take a look at the what’s happening on the rest of the free agent market:

  • Defensive lineman Chris Canty will visit the Seahawks tomorrow, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). The 32-year-old was released by the Ravens last month, and while a reunion with Baltimore is possible, he’s also met with the Jets as he explores his options.
  • Canty isn’t the only defender who will take a meeting with Seattle, as LB/DE Anthony Spencer will also visit the Seahawks, per Ian Rapoport of (Twitter link). Seattle had success in bringing in veteran defensive lineman Kevin Williams last season, so perhaps they’re trying to find another diamond-in-the-rough between Canty and Spencer.
  • While his visit with the Colts today went well, linebacker Nate Irving is still weighing all his options, tweets Josina Anderson of ESPN. The former Bronco has also been linked to the Dolphins and the Cardinals.
  • After asking a source whether receiver Denarius Moore could return to the Raiders, Bill Williamson of (via Twitter) got a clear response: “Not a chance.” The 26-year-old hasn’t drawn any known interest during the free agent period.
  • Although we heard on Thursday that the Bears were discussing a multi-year deal with linebacker Mason Foster, no such pact is imminent, per Michael C. Wright of (Twitter link), who adds that nothing is close between the two sides.

Free Agent Rumors: Spiller, Suh, Harris

League sources tell Dianna Marie Russini of NBC 4 Washington (Twitter link) that C.J. Spiller turned down a contract offer worth $4.5MM per year from the Bills before the team decided to make a move for LeSean McCoy. It’s hard to evaluate Spiller’s decision without knowing how Buffalo’s offer was structured, but presumably the running back will be trying to top that number on the open market next week. More free agent rumors..

  • Russini also reports (via Twitter) that the Colts are expected to try to get involved in the Ndamukong Suh derby, if the star defender reaches the open market. Washington, Miami, and the Giants have also been identified as potential suitors this week.
  • Expect the Bills to put on a “full court press” for linebacker David Harris, tweets Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, using a cross-sport metaphor. Buffalo was already considered a potential landing spot for Harris due to the Rex Ryan connection, and the trade of Kiko Alonso makes it an even more obvious fit.
  • The 49ers are expected to be in the mix for newly-available edge defender Trent Cole, according to Jason La Canfora of (via Twitter). Cole would likely be a better fit in a 4-3 system, but he’s been effective enough in Philadelphia over the last two seasons that it looks like 3-4 teams won’t rule out pursuing him.
  • Former Packers wide receiver Kevin Dorsey had been scheduled to visit with the 49ers on Tuesday, but the two sides had to cancel the meeting due to bad weather on the East Coast, reports Matt Maiocco of San Francisco is hoping to reschedule Dorsey’s visit, but hasn’t done so yet, per agent Chad Wiestling.
  • Expect the Giants to kick the tires of Devin McCourty if he makes it to the open market, tweets Jordan Raanan of Giants safeties Antrel Rolle, Quintin Demps, and Stevie Brown are all eligible for free agency, so the safety position is wide open in New York.
  • Veteran defensive end Chris Canty, cut by the Ravens last week, is scheduled to visit the Jets on Friday and Saturday, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). New Jets head coach Todd Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers were both on the coaching staff in Dallas from 2005 to 2007 when Canty started his NFL career with the Cowboys.