Clay Harbor

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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Minor NFL Transactions: 8/28/17

Today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Signed: LS Taybor Pepper

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Signed: LB Akeem Dent
  • Waived from IR: CB Ezra Robinson

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

New England Patriots

  • Signed: DL Michael Bart, LB Christian Kuntz, LB Nick Usher

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Saints To Sign Clay Harbor, Khalif Barnes

The Saints are expected to sign tight end Clay Harbor and offensive lineman Khalif Barnes on Monday, according to Nick Underhill of the Advocate (Twitter link). Both Barnes and Harbor worked out for New Orleans during a weekend minicamp session.Clay Harbor (vertical)

Harbor, 29, spent most of the 2016 campaign with the Lions after being released by the Patriots in early October. In 15 total games last season, Harbor managed only three total targets, so he’s not a offensive threat. But Harbor would give the Saints another option as a blocking tight end, and can also chip in on special teams. At present, New Orleans’ tight end depth chart is comprised of Coby Fleener, Josh Hill, and Michael Hoomanawanui.

Barnes, notably, was signed four separate times by the Saints in 2016, but never actually appeared in a game for the club. The 35-year-old Barnes offers two attributes in spades — experience and versatility. In 11 seasons, Barnes has appeared in more than 150 games (117 starts) with the Jaguars and Raiders. Moreover, Barnes is able to play both inside and out, so he could act as a backup at up to four offensive line spots.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Beane, Lions, Eagles, Saints

As reports indicated earlier this week, new Bills GM Brandon Beane will indeed have control over the 53-man roster. Terry Pegula confirmed as much Friday. “Brandon’s gonna have the 53,” the owner said, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. “Him and Sean (McDermott) will obviously collaborate on any decisions.” The 39-year-old first-time GM, though, plans to work extensively alongside McDermott, with whom he obviously functioned alongside with the Panthers.

It’s going to be similar to what Sean and I had in Carolina. There’s no czar here, every decision is going to be collaborative,” Beane said, via WGRZ.com. “The unique thing Sean and I had was a respect, I knew his roots and how he worked his way up.”

Beane and McDermott have worked together since 2011, save for a near-four-month period when McDermott took the Bills job and Beane stayed in Charlotte. The former Panthers assistant GM will still have the final say, even though the new Bills HC arrived in Buffalo first.

Here’s more from Buffalo and the latest from around the league.

  • A slew of Bills free agency moves shouldn’t be expected, Beane said today, per Joe Buscaglia of WKBW (on Twitter). In a statement not exactly contrary to most new GMs’ philosophies, Beane plans to build the Bills through the draft (Twitter link, via Buscaglia).
  • The Lions announced a handful of new titles in their front office following Brian Xanders‘ departure. Among them: Kyle O’Brien now has the title of Vice President of Player Personnel and Lance Newmark is now Director of Player Personnel (Twitter link via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com).
  • Doug Pederson isn’t worried about a potential holdout from Brandon Graham, the Eagles coach said today, per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com (on Twitter). A report earlier this week linked the burgeoning-star edge defender to a holdout. Graham is signed to a four-year deal worth $26.5MM. He’s set to carry cap numbers of $7.5MM apiece in 2017 and ’18. The 29-year-old ranked as the No. 2 overall edge defender in the opinion of Pro Football Focus last season. Among 4-3 defensive ends, Graham’s deal places him just 16th in terms of average annual value. Less accomplished teammate Vinny Curry is making nearly $3MM per year more than Graham due to his 2016 extension.
  • The Saints invited some familiar names to their rookie minicamp/tryout venue today. Former Jets, Bills and Falcons passer Matt Simms received an invite, as did former Raiders and Buccaneers wideout Louis Murphy and veteran tight end Clay Harbor (all Twitter links via Nick Underhill of The Advocate). Murphy spent the past two seasons with the Bucs but saw injuries limit him to just six games.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Lions Sign TE Clay Harbor

The Lions have signed tight end Clay Harbor, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Harbor was let go by the Patriots earlier this week and he wasn’t out of work for long. Clay Harbor (vertical)

Detroit has been on the lookout for tight end depth and they found a good one this week when New England discarded Harbor. Harbor was considered to be a candidate for release with Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich returning, but he perhaps wasn’t the most obvious one. In any case, Harbor will hope to see more playing time than he did in New England. The veteran logged 25 snaps on offense and 39 on special teams for the Pats, but not register an official statistic.

In other Lions news, the team swapped out running backs on the practice squad this week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots To Release TE Clay Harbor

The Patriots are releasing tight end Clay Harbor, a source tells Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Clay Harbor (vertical)The news comes as a bit of a surprise.

While Harbor was not a central player for New England, there were other players on the chopping block who could have been let go instead of the tight end. Harbor’s release will clear one of two spots to make room for Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich.

After averaging 25 receptions per season from 2012 to 2014, Harbor caught 14 balls for 149 yards and a touchdown in 2015 for the Jaguars, primarily serving as a blocker. This offseason, the Pats signed Harbor with the intent of using him as a fullback/tight end hybrid. Harbor had played in three of Patriots’ first four games. He logged 25 snaps on offense and 39 on special teams but not register an official statistic, as ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter) notes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Harbor, Bills

Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has frustrated and disappointed fans with his hard-line stance on the Ryan Fitzpatrick and Muhammad Wilkerson contract negotiations, but Rich Cimini of ESPN.com commends Maccagnan for at least being willing to take an unpopular position and hold his ground in a pragmatic way that suggests he has the club’s long-term interests at heart. Cimini adds that Maccagnan’s approach is a refreshing change of pace from that of predecessor Mike Tannenbaum, who often made decisions with an eye towards fan and media approval. Of course, now that Maccagnan has drawn a line in the sand, he cannot back down for fear of losing credibility in the agent community, but he also cannot afford to enter the season without Fitzpatrick and Wilkerson.

As we wait to see if Maccagnan can pull off this delicate balancing act, let’s check out a few more links from the AFC East:

  • In the same piece, Cimini says he would be surprised if Wilkerson reported to Jets training camp–after all, he’s not under contract, so he cannot be fined for missing camp–but he would also be surprised if the Pro Bowl defensive end missed any regular season games. Perhaps the two sides can work out a deal wherein Wilkerson agrees to play out the 2016 season for the amount of the franchise tender ($15.7MM), and the team agrees to not use the tag on him again in 2017.
  • In a separate article, Cimini reports that the mother of Jets rookie linebacker Darron Lee, Candice Lee, has quit her job as a reporter and weekend anchor for WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio, and will serve as Darron’s manager. She will devote her time to handling her son’s off-the-field affairs, including endorsements and marketing (of course, there is not yet any money to manage, as Lee is one of four 2016 first-round draft picks who have yet to sign their rookie contracts).
  • Now that Patriots No. 3 tight end Michael Williams suffered a season-ending ACL tear, free agent acquisition Clay Harbor becomes the favorite to assume that role, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes. However, Reiss cautions that even though Harbor received a $400K signing bonus–which is significant for a player for Harbor’s caliber–he will still have to earn his spot on the field (after all, the team handed out a $450K signing bonus to Reggie Wayne last year, and Wayne’s tenure as a Patriot lasted all of two weeks).
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com takes a look at the best and worst contracts on the Bills, and he concludes that the best contract is Tyrod Taylor‘s fairly modest pact, while the worst is Marcell Dareus‘ mega-deal that he signed last year. Fitzgerald goes into detail on both contracts, and the whole piece is well worth a read.

Contract Details: Harbor, A. Smith, Z. Brown

Here are several specific details on some recently agreed-upon and signed contracts from around the NFL:

  • Clay Harbor, TE (Patriots): Two years, $3MM. $400K signing bonus. Roster bonuses of $200K (2016) and $400K (2017). $200K option bonus for 2017. Up to $500K annually in playing-time incentives (all Twitter links via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com).
  • Aldon Smith, OLB (Raiders): Contract features $250K for each game Smith is on the Raiders’ 53-man roster in 2016 and 2017. Those per-game roster bonuses could max out at $4MM in 2017, but not in 2016 due to suspension (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com).
  • Zach Brown, LB (Bills): One year, $1.25MM. $450K signing bonus. (Twitter link via Joe Buscaglia of WKBW).
  • Corey White, CB (Bills): One year, minimum salary benefit. $80K signing bonus (Twitter link via Buscaglia).

Patriots Sign TE Clay Harbor

APRIL 4th: The Pats formally announced the signing, as Ben Volin of The Boston Globe tweets.

MARCH 30th: The Patriots have agreed to sign tight end Clay Harbor, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. Harbor visited the Patriots at the start of free agency and while we haven’t heard much in the last three weeks, it appears the two sides have finally reached agreement on a deal. "<strong

After averaging 25 receptions per season from 2012 to 2014, Harbor caught 14 balls for 149 yards and a touchdown in 2015 for the Jaguars, primarily serving as a blocker. Pats coach Bill Belichick “spoke at length” last season about how Harbor was used, calling him a FB/TE hybrid, so his interest in the 28-year-old (29 in July) did not come as a huge surprise.

With major depth at the tight end position, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Harbor get a chunk of his playing time at fullback. On the tight end depth chart, Harbor figures to be slated behind star Rob Gronkowski and new acquisition Martellus Bennett. The Patriots also have 6’6″ Michael Williams in the fold.

In other Patriots news, New England could be on the verge of signing defensive lineman Terrance Knighton. The Pats also inked cornerback E.J. Biggers on Tuesday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rod Streater, James Starks, Clay Harbor Visiting Patriots

3:29pm: Wide receiver Rod Streater is also visiting the Patriots today, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). A report earlier today indicated that Streater is paying a visit to the Jets on Friday, but it looks like he’ll make a stop in New England first.

Streater’s last two seasons have been unproductive due to injuries and a reduced role in Oakland’s offense, but he looked good in 2013, catching 60 balls for 888 yards and four touchdowns for the Raiders.

3:14pm: The Patriots didn’t make much noise on the first day of free agency, but they’re bringing in a host of less notable players on the second day of the new league year. According to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter), running back James Starks and tight end Clay Harbor are among the players visiting New England.James Starks

Earlier today, we learned that the Patriots are also hosting Bills wide receiver Chris Hogan and Rams running back Benny Cunningham for free agent visits. Hogan and Cunningham are both restricted free agents, giving Buffalo and Los Angeles, respectively, the right of first refusal if they sign offer sheets with the Pats. However, Starks and Harbor are unrestricted.

Starks, who turned 30 last month, had his best NFL season in 2015, rushing for 601 yards and two touchdowns, and adding another 392 yards and three TDs through the air. The Packers remain interested in re-signing the veteran back, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

As for Harbor, after averaging 25 receptions per season from 2012 to 2014, he caught 14 balls for 149 yards and a touchdown in 2015 for the Jaguars, primarily serving as a blocker. According to Phil Perry of CSNNE.com (Twitter link), the 28-year-old has caught Bill Belichick‘s eye — the Pats head coach “spoke at length” last season about how Harbor was used, calling him a FB/TE hybrid. With Scott Chandler no longer in the mix in New England, the team figures to be on the lookout for help at the tight end position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.