Chris Long

Extra Points: Lions, Long, Bush

Some assorted notes from around the NFL this morning…

  • There were rumors that veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata could consider retirement, but the 33-year-old decided to return to the Lions for the 2017-18 campaign. Coach Jim Caldwell is certainly happy that the defensive lineman will be sticking around. “Obviously, when you get to (have) played as many years as he has, you never know,” Caldwell said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “And I think once a guy gets about eight, nine years (in), that’s certainly always a possibility. But certainly we’re glad that he’s coming back.”
  • Lions offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson may have lost his starting gig last season, but general manager Bob Quinn made it sound like the first-round pick will be returning. “Laken’s still here,” Quinn told Birkett. “Laken’s going to compete at the left guard spot, and we’ll head into training camp and OTAs with really good depth and really good competition across the board.”
  • Chris Long‘s contract with the Eagles includes options from the 2018 to 2021 season, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The total deal could max out at $11.25MM, and he’ll essentially earn $2.25MM each season from 2019 through 2021.
  • Safety Rafael Bush‘s one-year deal with the Saints is worth $885K, reports Wilson (via Twitter). $775K of that will come via the player’s salary (with $100K guaranteed), with another $80K coming via a signing bonus.

NFC Notes: Cowboys, Eagles, Saints

The latest from the NFC:

  • Tony Romo won’t like this, but the injuries he and Cowboys backup quarterback Kellen Moore suffered last summer might have been “a little blessing in disguise,” Moore told 93.1-FM Idaho Sports Talk (via the Dallas Morning News). Both the broken bone in Romo’s back and Moore’s broken leg paved the way for the Dak Prescott era, and instead of acting as a caretaker as a rookie, he performed like a star for a 13-3 club. The Cowboys are now Prescott’s team as a result, leaving Romo’s future with the franchise in doubt. It’s unlikely he’ll be a Cowboy again next season, which could open the door for the recently re-signed Moore to serve as Prescott’s primary backup.
  • The Eagles released pass rusher Connor Barwin earlier this month, and believe it or not, he then helped the team find his replacement. Before signing with Philadelphia on Tuesday, defensive end Chris Long talked with Barwin, who gave glowing reviews of the city and the franchise, writes Zach Berman of Philly.com. Now that he’s an Eagle, Long expects to thrive in their system. Even though Long’s numbers dropped over the previous three seasons, during which he combined for eight sacks in 34 games with the Rams and Patriots, the 32-year-old believes he still has “a lot left.”
  • Safety Rafael Bush’s one-year deal with the Saints is worth $855,000, including $100K in guarantees and an $80K signing bonus, tweets Nick Underhill of The Advocate.
  • Recapping Friday’s NFC news: The Vikings added a familiar backup quarterback; the Lions lost a coach to Pro Football Focus; and the Bears bailed on a recent second-round pick.

East Notes: Jets, Giants, Cowboys, Eagles

The Jets did not make a real effort to re-sign Geno Smith, as NJ.com’s Connor Hughes writes. When asked whether he had any contact with the quarterback during free agency, coach Todd Bowles replied, “No. I would have been happy to have him back. But things don’t work out like that all the time.” Smith will now look for a fresh start with the other tenant of the Meadowlands.

More from the East Coast:

  • With Smith on hand, the Big Blue QB depth chart could get crowded as the team is open to taking a signal-caller early in the draft. The Giants had scouts at the pro days for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Miami’s Brad Kaaya, tweets James Kratch of NJ.com. Kaaya had an encouraging showing at his pro day, per Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). He would seemingly be a more realistic target for the Giants than Watson, who could be off the board when the Giants’ first-round pick (No. 23) comes up. Kaaya might have to wait until Day 3 to come off the board.
  • The Cowboys had two big-time defensive end prospects, Michigan’s Taco Charlton and UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley, in for visits, according to the Dallas Morning News. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com ranks both players among his top 25, though McKinley could be on the shelf until late in the summer after undergoing shoulder surgery. Dallas is also looking at Washington cornerback Kevin King, whom it worked out, relays Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). King has the makings of a Day 1 pick, so he could be a possibility for the Cowboys at No. 28.
  • Eagles defensive back Ron Brooks took a pay cut Friday, reports Field Yates of ESPN (via Twitter). He’s now slated to make $1MM in 2017, down from the $1.85MM he had been scheduled to collect. The Eagles also changed 2018 into an option season for Brooks, whom they signed to a three-year, $6MM deal last March. Brooks missed most of last season with a ruptured quad, appearing in six games and picking up five starts.
  • Defensive end Chris Long‘s two-year contract with the Eagles is worth $4.5MM plus incentives, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Eagles Sign Chris Long

The Eagles announced that they’ve signed free agent defensive end Chris Long to a two-year deal. The first year of the deal is similar to the $2.4MM pact Long inked with the Patriots last year, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).Chris Long (vertical)

Long’s deal with Philadelphia serves as a nice birthday present, as the nine-year pro turns 32 years old today. After spending one season with New England (and winning a Super Bowl in the process), Long announced earlier this month that he wouldn’t re-sign with the Patriots, citing the need for increased playing time and a more prominent defensive role. Long ranked as PFR’s No. 3 free agent edge defender behind Dwight Freeney and Elvis Dumervil.

With the Eagles, Long will likely fill the role Connor Barwin played in 2016, although unlike Barwin, Long probably won’t be a starter, per Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fanatic (Twitter links). Instead, Long is set to serve in a rotational capacity, taking pass-rushing snaps behind Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry. While Barwin was never a perfect fit for Jim Schwartz‘s scheme, Long has played in 4-3 fronts for the entirety of his career.

With the Patriots in 2016, Long appeared in all 16 games (seven starts) and played on roughly 65% of the club’s snaps. In that period, Long posted 35 tackles and four sacks, grading as the league’s No. 59 edge defender among 109 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Mike Garafolo of NFL.com first reported the signing (Twitter link). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Defense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

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 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Dwight Freeney
  2. Elvis Dumervil
  3. Chris Long
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Connor Barwin
  6. Paul Kruger
  7. Trent Cole
  8. Erik Walden
  9. Jason Jones
  10. Darryl Tapp
  11. Devin Taylor
  12. Eugene Sims
  13. Howard Jones
  14. Wallace Gilberry
  15. Sam Acho

The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).

Chris Long has already indicated he won’t be returning to the Patriots, indicating he wants to join a roster where he’ll earn more playing time. Erik Walden, too, won’t re-sign with his 2016 club (the Colts), but he has taken a visit with the division rival Titans. Further down the list, Howard Jones has also met with at least one club, as he was hosted by the Jets on Tuesday. Jones, 27, is recovering from a torn ACL, but did post five sacks in five starts last season.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Johnathan Hankins
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Jared Odrick
  4. Vance Walker
  5. Sen’Derrick Marks
  6. Ricky Jean-Francois
  7. Roy Miller
  8. Al Woods
  9. Tony McDaniel
  10. Cullen Jenkins
  11. Frostee Rucker
  12. Cam Thomas
  13. John Jenkins
  14. Tyson Jackson
  15. Tyson Alualu

Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.

The remaining defensive interior players are mostly over-30 veterans, with names such as Tony McDaniel, Cullen Jenkins, Frostee Rucker, and Tyson Jackson still looking for new deals. While most of these guys can still play, they may have to wait awhile — possibly into the summer — before signing on with their next club. Jared Odrick (Patriots) and Vance Walker (Bears) have both taken visits, but the most intriguing lineman here may be Sen’Derrick Marks, who offers a good amount of pass rush from the interior.

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Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Defense

NFL free agency gets underway on Thursday 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. Here is our updated outlook for each defensive and special teams position.

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 franchised players 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 this offseason:

Edge defender:

  1. Nick Perry
  2. Jabaal Sheard
  3. John Simon
  4. DeMarcus Ware
  5. Lorenzo Alexander
  6. Andre Branch
  7. Julius Peppers
  8. Charles Johnson
  9. Datone Jones
  10. Dwight Freeney
  11. Chris Long
  12. Mario Williams
  13. Paul Kruger
  14. Courtney Upshaw
  15. Jarvis Jones

Now that Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Jason Pierre-Paul have all been assigned the franchise tag, Nick Perry stands as the top edge defender on the free agent market, and is now in a position to cash in. The Packers opted against the franchise tender for the 26-year-old Perry, so he’ll hit the open market following a career year which saw him post 11 sacks."<strong

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among players with youth still on their side, Datone Jones figures to interest clubs thanks to his versatility, as he can vacillate between end and linebacker, while fellow former first-round pick Jarvis Jones is solid against the run. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. Charles Johnson, meanwhile, looks like a good bet to return to the Panthers, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Calais Campbell
  2. Johnathan Hankins
  3. Brandon Williams
  4. Dontari Poe
  5. Chris Baker
  6. Bennie Logan
  7. Nick Fairley
  8. Alan Branch
  9. Jared Odrick
  10. Karl Klug
  11. Terrell McClain
  12. Lawrence Guy
  13. Stacy McGee
  14. Stephen Paea
  15. Sylvester Williams
    Honorable mention: Paul Soliai

Calais Campbell is the best overall player among interior defenders, and though he’s entering his age-31 season and may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe, Campbell will still be highly-sought after as he searches for his last substantial payday Campbell’s agent met with the Cardinals last week, but other speculative fits for the veteran defender include the Broncos, Raiders, Ravens, Colts, and Titans."<strong

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Karl Klug), and run stoppers (Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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Chris Long, Patriots To Part Ways

Chris Long took to Instagram to announce that he will not be re-signing with the Patriots this offseason. The 31-year-old (32 in late March) hinted that he is looking to join a team that will give him increased playing time and a more prominent role.

Chris Long (vertical)

This has zero to do with money, etc,” Long wrote. “It’s the right move in my heart because I want to get back to being the player I was before. I’m thankful for my role this year, but as a competitor, I’m itching to do what I do best.”

Soon after the Patriots traded Chandler Jones to the Cardinals, they added Long on a one-year, $2MM deal. After playing in just 18 regular season games in two seasons, Long appeared in every single regular season game for the Pats. His season was capped off with a Super Bowl win, but he might not have been satisfied with his amount of burn in the postseason.

Now that Long is out of the picture, the Patriots could look to add a defensive end like Jared Odrick. Odrick met with the Pats recently and passed their physical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Cardinals, Palmer, Lions, C. Long

A quick look around the NFC:

  • Despite reports to the contrary, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears Carson Palmer‘s house is not for sale. Furthermore, his family has left town during the offseason before, so perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into the news. It’s still not clear if the three-time Pro Bowler will return for what would be his age-37 season with the Cardinals.
  • If the Patriots didn’t reach out to Chris Long, he could have wound up with the Lions instead, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. “Coach [Jim] Caldwell was awesome throughout that whole free agency process,” Long said. “They showed me a lot of respect that I didn’t necessarily deserve, in my eyes, because the last few years were so tough for me. But Coach Caldwell thought I could get back to who I was, and I’ll always respect him for that.” This year, he had four sacks and 32 tackles while playing in all 16 games for the Pats.
  • Redskins long snapper Nick Sundberg‘s new four-year deal is worth $4.4MM, Master Tesfatsion of The Washington Post tweets. As part of the deal, he’ll earn a $610K signing bonus with a $900K base in 2017.

Extra Points: Browns, 49ers, Patriots, Cardinals

Some assorted notes from around the NFL…

  • The Browns tried out defensive end Sterling Bailey and wideouts Antwan Goodley and Mitch Mathews, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter).
  • After retiring, Anthony Davis owes the 49ers quite a bit of money, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. Davis owes $1.235MM for 2016, which is 14/17th of his salary for the year. Then, if he remains retired, he’ll owe $1.5MM in 2017. The lineman is already familiar with the process of refunding San Francisco after giving back $1.667MM in 2015. Davis could return to football at some point, but it sounds like he is over the day-to-day grind that it takes to play in the NFL.
  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was asked how long the team would keep punter Drew Butler on the active roster. “As long as we can,” the coach responded (viaFox Sports 910’s Mike Jurecki on Twitter). “That will all depend on other injuries.” The Cardinals recently signed punter Ryan Quigley to fill in for the injured Butler, who’s battling an injured ankle.
  • Chris Long‘s tenure with the Patriots doesn’t need to be a “one-year fling,” writes Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Of course, the defensive end gave a very Belichickian response when discussing his future with the franchise. “One way to get yourself in trouble as a football player is to think past this week or today,” Long said. “You can’t take anything for granted as far as going out and practicing, going to play on Sundays. If you keep things one day at a time and you keep it narrow, I mean, there’s nowhere I’d rather be today. That’s the way I come to work every day.” Long will be earning $2.37MM this season.

Sunday Roundup: Fitz, Amendola, Panthers

Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com believes that the Jets‘ willingness to wait until training camp to re-sign free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick–if the re-sign him at all–could backfire. After all, if there is no Fitzpatrick deal by late July and the Jets decide to move on, they will have wasted valuable time that could have been used to break in another veteran quarterback. And if the team completes its four weeks of offseason practices, which begin on May 24, with only Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg on the quarterback depth chart, Cimini says the Jets will have essentially handed the starting job to Smith, since Petty and Hackenberg are not ready to be starters and since another veteran signal-caller would not be able to arrive in New York in July and win the job by Week 1. Plus, Cimini says, even if Smith is arguably better than other veteran options that could be available, like Nick Foles and Josh McCown, Petty and Hackenberg are not even adequate backups at this point in their careers, so the team would still need to bring in someone else.

Now let’s take a look at some more links from around the league:

  • Earlier this month, Danny Amendola took a significant pay cut to remain with the Patriots. When weighing whether he should accept the pay cut or decline and perhaps try his luck on the open market, Amendola says one of the most significant factors impacting his decision to accept was the presence of the newly-signed Chris Long. Amendola and Long were teammates on the Rams from 2009-12, and Amendola said, “[Long]’s a great teammate and one of my best friends,” adding that it will be “a lot of fun” to share a locker room again with Long (link via Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com).
  • Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has liked what he has seen thus far from the trio of cornerbacks that the team drafted last month–James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, and Zack Sanchez–and as Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer writes, Carolina is not currently in the market for cornerback help. Rivera did, however, leave open the possibility that the Panthers could add a veteran corner later in the summer.
  • In his latest mailbag, Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com looks at a few undrafted free agents that have the best chance of cracking the Chargers‘ roster. Williams names Washington State receiver Dom Williams, Houston safety Adrian McDonald, and Navy fullback Chris Swain as three players with fairly good odds. Williams points out that four UDFAs made San Diego’s roster in 2015.