Christian Ponder

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Cutler, Jets, Bills

If Jay Cutler didn’t return to the NFL in order to sign with the Dolphins, Miami would have considered Robert Griffin III and Christian Ponder, reports Peter King of TheMMQB.com. Of course, RG3 and Ponder were far from the only options on the table for the Dolphins, as Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton, Brock Osweiler, Blaine Gabbert, and Teddy Bridgewater were all at least discussed internally. Griffin has been linked to the Seahawks, Chargers, and Ravens this offseason, while Seattle was also interested in Ponder at one point. At least one league executive believes the Dolphins had better options available under center, tweets Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald.

Here’s more from Miami and the rest of the AFC East:

  • Cutler will essentially earn $10MM in guaranteed money under the terms of his Dolphins contract, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). As previously reported, Cutler will take home a $5MM base salary and a $5MM roster bonus, but that bonus is due this August 9 (this Wednesday). Additionally, Cutler can earn another $3MM in incentives: $1MM if he plays 75% of Miami’s offensive snaps and the club is in the top-10 in touchdowns; $1MM if he plays 75% of snaps and the Dolphins earn a postseason berth; and another $1MM if he plays 75% of snaps and Miami wins a playoff game.
  • “No concerns” were raised about Cutler’s shoulder in his pre-signing physical, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). For what it’s worth, Cutler says he was cleared in March. Meanwhile, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase says the Dolphins have a “plan” for how they’ll manage Cutler’s preseason repetitions. “We’re going to have to be smart with that because I’m sure (Cutler) wasn’t out in the backyard throwing 100 balls a day,” Gase said, per Pelissero (Twitter link).
  • While the Jets won the rights to wide receiver Bruce Ellington last week, the Bills, Texans, and Chiefs all put in waiver claims for the former 49ers draft choice, tweets Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday. Ellington, of course, didn’t last long in New York, as the Jets waived him with an injury designation just one day after acquiring him. That means any of the other clubs that attempted claims on Ellington should have an another opportunity to acquire him, either through the waiver process or after New York potentially cuts Ellington from injured reserve.
  • Free agent running back Stephen Houston worked out for the Jets last week, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post (Twitter link). Houston, originally an undrafted free agent out of Indiana, has never played in a NFL game despite bouncing between several rosters since entering the league in 2014. Most recently, Houston spent time on Baltimore’s practice squad, but was waived by the Ravens in May. The Jets, who already boast Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Brandon Wilds, and others at running back, also auditioned Shaquille Cooper last week.

Poll: Which Free Agent QB Will Sign First?

Last week, a veteran quarterback came off the board, but it wasn’t one of the names that the football world has really been waiting on. Dan Orlovsky will now look to make the Rams’ final cut while more notable players continue to look for work.

Colin Kaepernick (vertical)

Things continue to be eerily quiet for Colin Kaepernick, despite the fact that he is widely regarded as the best backup quarterback option available. The Ravens say that they have some degree of interest, but they’re also concerned about how adding him to the roster would be publicly perceived. A late May workout with the Seahawks did not result in a deal and, depending on who you ask, Seattle may have passed because of Kaepernick’s salary expectations. The Cowboys also found themselves in the market for a quarterback when Zac Dysert went down with injury, but they scooped up Luke McCown without calling Kaepernick. For what it’s worth, Chip Kelly says that Kaepernick’s political activism was not a distraction while they were together in San Francisco.

Robert Griffin III (vertical)There was hope for Robert Griffin III to find a home after he had a successful audition with the Chargers earlier this month. Unfortunately for the former Redskins star, it seems that the Bolts used his quality tryout to leverage the Bills into a more favorable trade for Cardale Jones. The Bolts workout was Griffin’s first of the offseason and although the Ravens are thinking about bringing him in for a workout, it’s not clear if they’ll follow through. Griffin is eager to show teams that he can recapture some of the magic from his rookie season in 2012. But, after Griffin missed the bulk of 2016 with a shoulder injury and fell flat in his five starts, teams are not all that interested in seeing what he can do.

Kaepernick and Griffin are the most well-known QBs left on the market, but other notable names left include 37-year-old Shaun Hill, former first round pick Christian Ponder, and ex-Titans signal caller Zach Mettenberger. Of those five players – who do you think will be the next to sign? Click below to cast your vote and back up your choice in the comments.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Russell Wilson Would Be OK With Kaepernick Signing

The Seahawks have some interest in signing Colin Kaepernick and starter Russell Wilson will not stand in the way of a potential deal. Even though the two quarterbacks are former divisional rivals, Wilson would not have any sort of problem with the signing, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links) hears. 

Kaepernick and Wilson squared off a number of times in intra-divisional games, including the Seahawks’ victory over the Niners in the 2013 NFC Championship. If there was ever any real bad blood between the two QBs, however, it is water under the bridge now.

Signing Kaepernick could be somewhat polarizing for fans, but the Seahawks believe that he is the best backup option available, according to Rapoport. The Seahawks also looked into fellow former Niners QBs Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder, but they still see No. 7 as the No. 1 choice.

In regular season tilts against the Seahawks, Kaepernick went 2-6 in eight games. He completed just 55.61% of his passes and threw for only three TDs against seven interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Offense

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 offensive 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 offensive position for 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Jay Cutler
  2. Chase Daniel
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  4. Colin Kaepernick
  5. Josh McCown
  6. Robert Griffin III
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Christian Ponder
  11. Blaine Gabbert
  12. Ryan Nassib
  13. Shaun Hill
  14. Kellen Moore
  15. Austin Davis

Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.

Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018. Jay Cutler (Vertical)

Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.

Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.

Running back:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. LeGarrette Blount
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Rashad Jennings
  5. Tim Hightower
  6. DeAngelo Williams
  7. Chris Johnson
  8. Christine Michael
  9. Benny Cunningham
  10. Bobby Rainey
  11. Brandon Bolden
  12. Denard Robinson
  13. James Starks
  14. Matt Asiata
  15. Kenjon Barner

Honorable mention: DuJuan Harris, Antonio AndrewsKhiry Robinson

Adrian Peterson (vertical)The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.

Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.

In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.

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Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Offense

NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.

Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.

Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Updated 3-7-2017, 2:55pm CT

Quarterback:

  1. Mike Glennon
  2. Nick Foles
  3. Brian Hoyer (story)
  4. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  5. Colin Kaepernick
  6. Josh McCown
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Christian Ponder
  12. Blaine Gabbert
  13. Geno Smith
  14. Matt Schaub (story)
  15. EJ Manuel

Honorable mention: Ryan Nassib, Landry JonesShaun Hill Mike Glennon (vertical)

Colin Kaepernick’s agents have (wisely) let everyone know that their client will stand for the National Anthem in 2017. That may seem like a minor point, but teams say they would have automatically removed him from consideration if he continued his attention-grabbing protest. He grabbed headlines for his actions on the sidelines last year, but he actually turned in an OK season. From a football standpoint, Kaepernick would make sense for a lot of teams as a QB2 with upside.

Interestingly, this list includes three quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it as the Jets’ starter and three rejects from the 49ers. They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all six of those players (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert) come with varying degrees of potential and proven effectiveness. Smith, somehow, could reportedly be retained by the Jets and installed as the starter in 2017.

Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.

Running back:

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Jamaal Charles
  6. Darren McFadden
  7. Jacquizz Rodgers
  8. Rex Burkhead
  9. Rashad Jennings
  10. Danny Woodhead
  11. Tim Hightower
  12. DeAngelo Williams
  13. Andre Ellington
  14. Chris Johnson
  15. Christine Michael

Honorable mention: Robert Turbin, Travaris Cadet, Benny Cunningham, Lance Dunbar, Bobby Rainey, Brandon BoldenDenard Robinson, James Starks

Adrian Peterson (vertical)As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.

The Patriots believe they won’t be able to match the offers that come in LeGarrette Blount‘s direction. Latavius Murray could circle back to the Raiders, but he won’t be agreeing to a deal with them before free agency opens on Thursday.

Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.

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Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

[UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST EDITION OF THE TOP 2017 NFL FREE AGENTS BY POSITION]

NFL free agency will get underway on Thursday, March 9th, 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.

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 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Mike Glennon
  3. Nick Foles
  4. Brian Hoyer
  5. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  6. Case Keenum
  7. Matt McGloin
  8. Mark Sanchez
  9. Geno Smith
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Josh McCown
  12. Christian Ponder
  13. Blaine Gabbert
  14. Matt Schaub
  15. Ryan Nassib

Honorable mention: Shaun Hill

As of this writing, Kirk Cousins is far and away the best potential free agent quarterback in this year’s crop. By the time March gets here, we’re fully expecting Cousins to be spoken for. Ultimately, the Redskins could franchise tag him, work out a long-term deal with him, or swing some type of trade that nets them a massive haul of talent and picks. That will leave a crop of retread quarterbacks that would probably best serve as transitional options for QB-needy teams. Kirk Cousins

Mike Glennon hasn’t done much in his 18 career starts, but talent evaluators are still in love with his size and potential. The 6’7″ quarterback will get more money this spring than you might expect, particularly since there are no surefire QBs in this year’s draft.

Teams looking for stopgap QBs will find a plethora of experienced, though perhaps uninspiring, signal callers. Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick all have their best football behind them, but they could hold down the fort for a team in 2017 and maybe even find some success if the defense is strong enough. Of course, the ideal role for those guys would probably be as a backup to a better, younger quarterback.

Running back:

  1. Le’Veon Bell
  2. Eddie Lacy
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Darren McFadden
  6. Jacquizz Rodgers
  7. Rashad Jennings
  8. Danny Woodhead
  9. Rex Burkhead
  10. Tim Hightower
  11. DeAngelo Williams
  12. Andre Ellington
  13. Chris Johnson
  14. Christine Michael
  15. Robert Turbin

Consider Le’Veon Bell‘s name written in Etch-A-Sketch, because he is very unlikely to get near the open market. That could leave Eddie Lacy as the best tailback available in March. Lacy has struggled with weight issues in recent years and he lost much of the 2016 season to injury. Still, he is a bruising back that could nicely complement a quicker ball carrier. Before he was shut down for the year, Lacy was averaging 5.07 yards per carry in five games for Green Bay.

LeGarrette Blount (vertical)In the last two years, LeGarrette Blount seems to have put his off-the-field troubles behind him. Whether that’s a sign of his maturity or a product of the Patriots’ culture remains to be seen. Teams can ignore his past indiscretions, but they will be wary of his age. Blount turns 31 in December.

Latavius Murray has shown glimpses of being a special running back, but he has been inconsistent and his 4.0 yards-per-carry average of the last two years isn’t overly impressive. Darren McFadden ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2015, but 2016 was pretty much a lost year for him. Jacquizz Rodgers seemed to break out last year, but he wound up succumbing to the same injury bug that took down a host of other Buccaneers running backs. Speaking of injuries, Rashad Jennings was initially brought to the Giants to be a workhorse back, but two of his three years in New York were marred by ailments. Everyone in this tier has the potential to make a difference, but none should be counted on as anyone’s main guy in 2017.

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Poll: Which QB Should 49ers Start In Week 6?

In Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick and Christian Ponder, the 49ers have three quarterbacks who were high picks in the 2011 draft, yet the 1-4 club finds itself in an unenviable position under center. Gabbert and Ponder, both of whom were first-rounders, have never lived up to their respective draft choices. Conversely, Kaepernick has his share of accomplishments since the 49ers used a second-rounder on him, but the 28-year-old’s effectiveness has fallen off in recent seasons.

Blaine Gabbert

Just as he did in Jacksonville, where he spent the first three seasons of his career, Gabbert is failing in San Francisco. Gabbert won the starting job over the summer, but he’s now at risk of losing the role thanks to his substandard output thus far. After the 49ers’ 33-21 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday, when Gabbert completed 18-of-31 passes for 162 yards, a touchdown and an interception, head coach Chip Kelly left the door open for a change at quarterback.

The assumption is that Kaepernick will grab the reins if Kelly demotes Gabbert, but multiple 49ers offensive players have told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com that they’d like Ponder to take over. The 12th selection in his draft class (two picks after Gabbert), Ponder garnered plenty of experience with the Vikings from 2011-14, though he didn’t exactly light it up. In 38 appearances (36 starts), Ponder completed a below-average 59.8 percent of passes, averaged an underwhelming 6.3 yards per attempt, and tossed 38 touchdowns against 36 picks in Minnesota. Those numbers are almost identical to the totals Gabbert has posted during his 42-appearance, 40-start career (56.3 completion percentage, 6.0 YPA, 38 TDs versus 37 INTs).

It’s clear that Kaepernick, who lost his job to Gabbert last year as he battled injuries and a decline in performance, has the best credentials of any 49ers quarterback. But his days as a quality option may have concluded with his season-ending interception in the 49ers’ 23-17 NFC title game loss to Seattle in January 2014. The once-electrifying dual threat has been mediocre to worse since, though it might be worthwhile for the Kelly to see if he can help the sixth-year man recapture the form he showed off in his first season and a half at the Niners’ helm. Of course, it’s questionable whether Kaepernick is physically ready to get back on the field after surgeries to his left knee, left shoulder and right thumb stopped him from experiencing a normal offseason.

The offensive-minded Kelly previously drew career-best performances from Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford in Philadelphia, but it doesn’t appear he’ll do the same with Gabbert in San Francisco. Kelly has two other (flawed) choices on hand, though, and with extra time to prepare for the 49ers’ Week 6 visit to Buffalo, a shakeup could happen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Players Want Ponder To Start?

After the 49ers lost to the Cardinals on Thursday night, coach Chip Kelly indicated that he is considering benching Blaine Gabbert in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Gabbert’s time as the Niners’ starter could be coming to a close, but it’s not a given that it will be Kaepernick taking over. Multiple anonymous offensive players tell Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com that they prefer Christian Ponder to both players. Christian Ponder (vertical)

Ponder is the best option for quarterback on the roster,” said one locker-room source.

After winning in their season opener against the Rams, the 49ers have dropped their last four games. In terms of passing yards gained, they are dead last in the NFL. Gabbert can’t be blamed for all of that given the offensive line’s woes, but it’s not a surprise to hear that he is under the gun given everything that has gone on in the last four contests.

Ponder joined the Niners late in the summer, giving San Francisco three notable QBs from the 2011 draft class. At the time, he says that he was considering retirement. Now, at least a handful of players in the locker room think he should be the No. 1 QB.

That crossed my mind,” said Ponder in August when asked if he thought he might not get another chance to play football. “My plan was to stay ready for this season anyway and see what happens. If nothing happened all year, it would be time to hang it up. I was going to give myself this season and see what happens.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Notes: Davis, Ponder, Garnett

49ers GM Trent Baalke admits that his offseason plans were complicated by not knowing whether Anthony Davis would come back.

We went into it thinking, ‘You know what, if he does choose to come back it’s a bonus, but we can’t count on that,’ ” Baalke said (via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com). “It did influence some of our decisions.”

Overall, Baalke says he’s “very happy” with Davis and the way he has conducted himself since returning to the team. That’s a serious 180 from where things were just a few months ago when Davis was attacking SF via social media.

Here’s more on the Niners:

  • New 49ers quarterback Christian Ponder was pondering a future without football when he got the call from San Francisco, Maiocco writes. “That crossed my mind,” said Ponder, 28, when asked if he thought he might not get another chance to play football. “My plan was to stay ready for this season anyway and see what happens. If nothing happened all year, it would be time to hang it up. I was going to give myself this season and see what happens.”
  • 49ers rookie Joshua Garnett is playing “catch up” thanks to an NFL rule which prohibits rookies from joining their team’s offseason program until their school year has concluded, Baalke says (link via Maiocco). Stanford is on the quarters system and finishes later than most schools, so Garnett did not meet up with his teammates until the final minicamp in June. To aid his development, the 49ers will keep Garnett at left guard – his position at Stanford – instead of the right side as initially planned. Garnett also took a little extra time to sign his rookie deal as the two sides only finalized the contract in late July.
  • On Wednesday, PFR’s Connor Byrne recapped the 49ers’ offseason and the next step of their rebuilding phase.

49ers To Sign Christian Ponder

The 49ers have agreed to sign quarterback Christian Ponder, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Christian Ponder (vertical)

Ponder was a part of the same 2011 draft class as Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. Oddly enough, they’ve all wound up on the same team.

The Niners found themselves in need of QB help as Thad Lewis is IR-bound and Kaepernick is said to be dealing with arm trouble. While some teams (like the Cowboys) have considered veteran trade targets at QB like Josh McCown, the 49ers opted to go with a low-cost free agent signing in Ponder.

Ponder, 28, started 36 games during his four years with the Vikings, though he was essentially the team’s No. 3 signal-caller in 2014, behind Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Cassel on the depth chart. With a career 59.8% completion rate and 75.9 passer rating, Ponder didn’t find a very active market when he hit free agency last offseason. He signed with the Raiders, but was released by Oakland prior to the regular season. During the season, he had a cup of coffee with the Broncos but never threw a pass for them.

The Bengals were tied to Ponder in December, but we haven’t heard any team linked with him since. Now, Ponder will try to get his NFL career back on track with the 49ers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.