Chris Hubbard

Browns To Sign OT Chris Hubbard

The Browns are expected to sign tackle Chris Hubbard to a five-year deal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). When finalized, the deal will be worth $37.5MM with nearly $18MM guaranteed. 

Beggars can’t be choosers, and most NFL teams these days are beggars when it comes to tackles. This year’s crop of available OTs was uninspiring and Hubbard ranked as our No. 4 option at the position heading into free agency. He’ll now join former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley in Cleveland.

The Browns have moved to shore up their offensive line so far in free agency after also agreeing to terms with Donald Stephenson. Right tackle was a weak spot for Cleveland in 2017, so Hubbard will improve that position during the upcoming campaign. However, if Joe Thomas retires, it’s also possible Hubbard will slot in on the blindside.

Hubbard, 26, had only started four games during the first three years of his career, but was inserted into Pittsburgh’s lineup for 10 games in 2017. During that time, Hubbard offered league-average production, grading as the No. 40 tackle among 81 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Cleveland boasts the most salary cap space in the NFL, but Hubbard is the first big fish they’ve reeled in. Elsewhere, they’ve played in the mid- to lower-tier of the market, adding both Stephenson and edge defender Chris Smith.

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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North Notes: Vikings, Browns, McCarron

Now that’s been declared an unrestricted free agent, Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron says he’s “open to everything,” according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s just awesome just to be free now and to hopefully get that opportunity and be able to compete somewhere,” said McCarron. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted. I’m just super excited.” McCarron, who won a grievance against the Bengals, will now join a free agent signal-caller class that includes Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, and Sam Bradford, among others. In what sounds like speculation, the Browns (who nearly traded for McCarron last year) and the Vikings are two team to “keep an eye on” as McCarron hits the open market, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link).

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • The Steelers rank as a bottom-three NFL club in terms of 2018 cap space, and they’ll likely clear more room by releasing defensive backs Mike Mitchell and J.J. Wilcox over the coming weeks, as Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Pittsburgh can clear $5MM by cutting the 30-year-old Mitchell, and Dulac says it’s “become apparent” to the Steelers coaching staff that Mitchell can’t run as well as he used to. Wilcox, meanwhile, was a preseason trade acquisition who ended up playing only 14% of the Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps a year ago. If the Steelers do end up altering their defensive backfield, former second-round pick Sean Davis will likely transition from strong to free safety.
  • While Mitchell and Wilcox could be forced off the Steelers‘ roster, offensive tackle Chris Hubbard is likely to leave of his own accord, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Hubbard, 26, had only started four games during the first three years of his career, but was inserted into Pittsburgh’s lineup for 10 games in 2017. During that time, Hubbard offered league-average production, grading as the No. 40 tackle among 81 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. Per Fowler, Hubbard is going to “get paid elsewhere, and the Steelers know it.”
  • Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman is expected to retire or be released, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Freeman, 31, inked a three-year, $12MM contract with Chicago prior to the 2016 season, but injuries and two performance-enhancing drug suspensions have limited him to just 13 games over the past two years. Without Freeman, the Bears will likely field Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkowski at inside linebacker.
  • Updating a previous report, former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan is indeed still running his scouting service and has not been hired full-time by the Browns, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. McCloughan is providing consulting work for multiple NFL clubs.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/6/17

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • The Jets signed tight end Brian Parker, per a team announcement. This will be Parker’s second stint with the Jets, who initially employed him for two days last year before cutting him because of a failed physical. Parker entered the league in 2015 as a Chargers UDFA addition.
  • The Redskins signed former Bears offensive tackle John Kling, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).
  • Swing tackle Chris Hubbard signed his Steelers RFA tender, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). He will make $1.8MM as the Steelers’ presumptive No. 3 tackle in 2017 behind Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert. Hubbard will enter his fourth season with the Steelers. He started the first four games of his career last season.
  • Broncos contributors Bennie Fowler and Kabri Bibbs signed their ERFA tenders, Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post tweets. A fourth-year running back, Bibbs will continue to vie for a backfield job after seeing some time last season after C.J. Anderson went down. A third-year wide receiver, Fowler resides in the glut of auxiliary pass-catchers that sits beneath Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in Denver’s aerial hierarchy.

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/1/17

Wednesday’s minor moves:

  • The Steelers have applied the right-of-first-refusal tender (worth $1.797MM) to restricted free agent offensive tackle Chris Hubbard, tweets Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. As a result, the Steelers will have the ability to match any offer Hubbard might receive from another club, but they wouldn’t be entitled to draft pick compensation if they were to let him walk. Hubbard, 25, is a three-year veteran with 24 appearances on his resume. He picked up the first four starts of his career and notched a personal-best 15 appearances last season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/19/16

Here are today’s minor NFL moves, with a focus on reserve/futures contracts:

  • The Colts have signed defensive lineman Ricky Lumpkin to a reserve/futures deal, according to Wilson (Twitter link). Lumpkin, who has NFL experience with both the Cardinals and Raiders, worked out for Indianapolis in mid-December.

Earlier updates:

  • The Steelers confirmed 10 reserve/futures signings today, including a pair – defensive end Caushaud Lyons and safety Ray Vinopal – that weren’t on Monday’s transactions report. Pittsburgh also extended the contracts of offensive lineman Chris Hubbard and fullback Roosevelt Nix. Both players, who had been eligible for exclusive rights free agency this winter, got one-year deals.
  • The Jets have now signed 17 players to reserve/futures contracts, announcing today in a press release that offensive lineman Sean Hickey and running back Dominique Williams are the latest recipients.
  • The Dolphins have signed quarterback Zac Dysert and tight end Dominique Jones to reserve/futures deals, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Both players spent time with the Broncos as recently as 2014, when new Miami head coach Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver.
  • The Packers and Seahawks each signed a player who finished the season on the team’s practice squad injured reserve list, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, respectively (Twitter links). Green Bay signed defensive end B.J. McBryde, while Seattle signed offensive lineman Terry Poole. Both contracts are reserve/futures deals.

Minor Moves: Monday

Today’s minor moves..

  • Three days after being cut from the Seahawks practice squad, linebacker Mike Zimmer is back on it, re-signing with Seattle’s taxi squad, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter link). He takes the place of quarterback B.J. Daniels, who was promoted to the 53-man roster earlier today.
  • The Steelers announced that they have re-signed offensive guard Chris Hubbard, according to Scott Brown of ESPN.com (via Twitter). It’s a one-year deal for the 6’4″, 286 pound lineman. Hubbard, who appeared in two games in 2014, spent all of his rookie year on the Steelers’ practice squad in 2013. Hubbard originally signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent out of UAB in April 2013.