Corey Graham

Injury Notes: Gronk, Mack, Pack, Eagles

A third Rob Gronkowski injury absence appears to be in the cards. The Patriots will not deploy their All-Pro tight end to play Sunday against the Titans, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. While Gronkowski is traveling with the team to Nashville, per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter), he’s expected to be held out. Gronk missed games against the Bears and Packers but played in Buffalo on the Monday night in between those tilts. He’s been dealing with back and ankle trouble. While the Patriots have been able to win without their top pass-catcher, these repeated absences are obviously a concern for the future Hall of Famer’s availability for New England’s stretch run and potentially his post-2018 NFL future. It’s likely the Pats are attempting to rest Gronk now to hopefully see him healthy for key late-season games and the playoffs, but that can’t be considered a lock given his extensive injury history. Gronkowski hitting his incentive targets may now be unrealistic as well.

Here’s the latest from the Week 10 injury front.

  • Better news for the Bears. They’re in line to have both Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson back on Sunday when they face the Lions, per the Associated Press. Mack is no longer on the injury report after missing the past two Chicago games because of an ankle malady. His defensive player of the year chances took a hit because of this hiatus and Aaron Donald continuing another all-world season but Mack figures to still be in the running and can help a team attempting reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
  • The Lions‘ Robinson coverage options will be limited. Darius Slay is out for Week 10, joining guard T.J. Lang in that regard. Slay’s played in each of Detroit’s previous eight games and hasn’t missed time since 2016 but is battling a knee injury. A neck ailment will sideline Lang, who also missed time because of a concussion this season.
  • A tough injury night against the Patriots will have after-effects for the Packers. Kevin King will not play Sunday against the Dolphins because of a hamstring injury. Bashaud Breeland, whom ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky notes appeared to impress the Packers in his Green Bay debut, figures to see more time.
  • Both Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills are going to miss Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys game, but Corey Graham will return after missing four games, per Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter). After claiming Cre’Von LeBlanc off waivers earlier this week, surely due to injuries affecting the aforementioned duo, the Eagles have seven corners on their roster.
  • Taco Charlton and Connor Williams aren’t playing for the Cowboys on Sunday. Xavier Su’a-Filo appears to be the choice to replace Williams at left guard for Dallas, per executive VP Stephen Jones (Twitter link). A full-time Texans starter the past two seasons, Su’a-Filo has not played this season. Williams is down with a knee injury.

Extra Points: Falcons, Giants, Eagles, Bucs

The 1-4 Falcons could face the Buccaneers without running back Devonta Freeman, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Freeman, who missed three games with an MCL sprain, is actually dealing with a new injury, as Rapoport indicates it’s a bone bruise that’s threatening to keep Freeman out of Sunday’s action. While Freeman didn’t practice today, he did work on the side, although his status for Week 6 is “in doubt, per Rapoport. Without Freeman, Atlanta would deploy a Tevin Coleman/Ito Smith combination that was used in Weeks 2-5.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Speaking of injury news, the Giants have already ruled out tight end Evan Engram for Thursday night’s game against the Eagles, meaning Rhett Ellison, who has shouldered the load since Week 3, will take over at tight end once again. Edge rusher Oliver Vernon, who’s missed the entire season to this point with an ankle issue, will make his 2018 debut. On the other side of the field, the Eagles have listed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, safety Corey Graham, and running back Darren Sproles as out. The latter two are especially concerning, as Philadelphia recent placed defensive back Rodney McLeod and running back Jay Ajayi on injured reserve.
  • Although Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said he’d make changes following a loss to the Jets on Sunday, defensive coordinator Joe Woods will not be relieved of his play-calling duties, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Denver gave up 512 yards of offense against New York, including a whopping 334 on the ground. Joseph, a former defensive coordinator himself, could potentially take over play-calling, but that’s not a move that will happen this week. Joseph also indicated that cornerback Bradley Roby, who was burned by Jets receiver Robby Anderson in Week 5, is still a starter “for now.” Adam Jones, who’s played on roughly a third of the Broncos’ defensive snaps thus far, could see more snaps if Roby is benched.
  • Under the terms of his five-year extension with the Buccaneers, guard Ali Marpet will earn $12.365MM through one year, $23.25MM through two years, and $33.5MM through three years, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Among left guards, Marpet’s $11MM annual average now ranks third, behind only Andrew Norwell and Kelechi Osemele, while his $27.125MM in guarantees ranks second. Marpet, who has started 44 games during his time in the NFL, has displayed exceptional versatility, as he’s played both guard spots and center in his career.
  • Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson pleaded guilty to simple possession and failure to exercise due care while driving but subsequently had a DUI charge against him dismissed, per a report from the Associated Press. Johnson’s original arrest occurred in the summer of 2017, more than a year before Denver gave him $50K in guaranteed money to sign as an undrafted free agent. A Tennessee product, Johnson hadn’t played football in more than four years before landing with the Broncos, in part due to a rape charge of which he was later acquitted. He’s been inactive for every game in 2018.

Contract Details: Titans, Vaccaro, Eagles

Kenny Vaccaro’s one-year deal with the Titans includes no guarantees, but his base salary will be locked in if he’s on the Week 1 roster, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Between the $100K bonus he’ll also receive in Week 1 and other bonuses, Vaccaro can earn up to $2.75MM with Tennessee.

It’s a far cry from what Vaccaro likely expected in March, but it’s not a bad deal considering the way the free agent safety market played out this offseason. Vaccaro will turn 28 next February, so he could be in line for a solid multi-year deal if he plays well in Johnathan Cyprien‘s absence.

Here’s a look at details on other recent contracts, courtesy of Pelissero:

Eagles Sign Corey Graham

The Eagles have re-signed free agent safety Corey Graham, as Adam Caplan of SiriusXM was first to report (via Twitter). Graham signed a one-year pact with the eventual Super Bowl champs almost exactly one year ago, so this has become something of an annual tradition.

Graham, who is entering his 11th NFL season, was a solid third safety for Philadelphia last season, playing 35% of the team’s regular season defensive snaps in support of starters Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins. He was a key special teams contributor as well, as he posted the second-most special teams tackles on the club, and he added two interceptions and four passes defensed. We ranked him as one of the ten best available free agent safeties in March, and now that the safety market has finally started to move a bit, Graham was able to land another one-year deal with the Eagles.

The Eagles deployed three safeties throughout much of their championship run last season, and Graham played 60% of the club’s postseason defensive snaps as a result. Given that Philadelphia did not do much to bolster the depth chart behind McLeod and Jenkins, it was almost an inevitability that Graham would be back.

In addition to Graham, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Eagles have signed tight end Gannon Sinclar, who has not played in a regular season game since entering the league as a UDFA with the Cardinals in 2015. To make room for Sinclair and Graham, Philadelphia waived safety Ryan Neal and waived/injured tight end Adam Zaruba.

NFC East Notes: Eagles, Foles, Cowboys

The Eagles reworked backup quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles‘ contract earlier this year, adding incentives to the deal while also tacking on a mutual option for the 2019 season. Initial reports indicated Foles will collect $250K per start and an additional $250K per win if he serves as Philadelphia’s starting quarterback, but he can earn even more than that during the postseason, according to Tim McManus of ESPN.com. For every playoff game in which Foles plays 33% of the Eagles’ offensive snaps, he’ll take home $500K. If the Eagles win a postseason contest with Foles under center, another $500K goes in his pocket.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • While the terms of Foles’ deal could allow him to collect extra cash in 2018, Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams‘ contract language might enable Dallas to escape his pact with no financial penalty, as Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram writes. Williams, of course, was arrested last week for public intoxication and leaving the scene of an accident, charges which Williams disputes. Nevertheless, if Williams is convicted for any sort of alcohol-related offense, he’ll almost certainly face a league-imposed suspension, and “all” Cowboys players have void provisions in their contracts related to bans, per Williams. At present, Williams is scheduled to earn a fully guaranteed $3.5MM base salary in 2018, and Dallas would take on $7.25MM in dead money by releasing him.
  • Head coach Doug Pederson would like the Eagles to re-sign safety Corey Graham “if it works out,” per Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Graham will be 33 years old when the 2018 campaign gets underway, but PFR ranked him as one of the 10 best available safeties before the free agent market opened in March. Although Graham has yet to garner any known interest over the past several months, the safety market has been infamously slow to develop, so the lack of Graham suitors is perhaps unsurprising. Graham played 367 snaps in 2017 as Philadelphia’s third safety behind starters Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins.
  • The Eagles have announced a series of hirings and promotions within their front office. Of note, Jake Rosenberg was named vice president of football administration, Jon Ferrari was named director of football operations, Andy Weidl was named director of player personnel. Meanwhile, Trey Brown — whom you may remember from recent Microsoft Surface commercials and last year interviewed for the Bills’ general manager position — is no longer listed among Philadelphia’s front office roster, as Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fanatic tweets.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

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. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

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 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

NFC Notes: Cowboys, 49ers, Eagles, Panthers

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones has made it clear on several occasions that the team would like to extend three-time Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin, who’s entering the penultimate year of his rookie contract. Jones addressed Martin’s contract situation again Tuesday, telling Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News: “We’re making our rounds there, it takes time, that’s usually how these things work. There’s a whole lot of zero progress and then all of a sudden you start to make some. And then you get to where you can get a deal done. It’s too early for me to speculate.” Jones added that while negotiations haven’t been easy, Martin wants to stay in Dallas and hasn’t set a deadline on contract talks.

More from the NFC:

  • Rookie 49ers linebacker Donavin Newsom left practice in an ambulance Tuesday after suffering what looked like a severe neck injury, causing head coach Kyle Shanahan to end practice early. But Newsom dodged a worst-case scenario, fortunately, as the 49ers announced (via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area) that the undrafted rookie from Missouri didn’t suffer any cervical spine fractures. Doctors at Stanford Medical Center did diagnose Newsom with a concussion, though, and he remains under their observation.
  • Safety Corey Graham‘s one-year deal with the Eagles features a guaranteed $1MM base salary, a $400K signing bonus, $200K in per-game bonuses and $200K in incentives, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.
  • One of Graham’s teammates, 37-year-old punter Donnie Jones, would like to stay on the Eagles’ roster into his 40s, writes Paul Domowitch of Philly.com. “This is the only place I want to play,’’ said Jones, Philly’s oldest player. “I want to finish my career here. My goal is to play into my 40s. I’m getting closer. We’ll see.’’ Thanks to the three-year extension he signed last November, Jones is under contract through his age-39 season. In 2016, his fourth year as an Eagle, Jones finished 11th in average net yardage (40.7) and, in Football Outsiders’ view, was at the helm of the league’s 14th-best punting game.
  • The Panthers waived safety Dean Marlowe on Tuesday because he’s dealing with a torn hamstring, per Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Marlowe, who appeared in five Panthers games from 2015-16, will go on injured reserve if no one claims him on waivers.

East Notes: Dolphins, Glenn, Reed, Eagles

The DolphinsJay Cutler addition easily became the NFL story of the week, and more specifics on the agreement are emerging. Cutler’s $5MM base salary will be augmented by $5MM in bonuses and $3MM in incentives, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Between Cutler, Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore, the Dolphins are spending more than $32MM on quarterback salaries this season. This salary will represent Cutler’s lowest in a season since 2013, prior to his second Bears pact.

Rapoport (video link) didn’t rule out the possibility of a multiyear Dolphins/Cutler union, but said as of now the plan is just for this season. He cites Cutler’s desire to play, noting the interest he had in the Texans’ job, and possible success with Adam Gase as a reason the door is slightly ajar for the 34-year-old passer to have a beyond-2017 future with the Dolphins.

Here’s the latest from the Eastern divisions.

  • Of course, Tannehill is under contract through the 2020 season. But Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com notes (via Twitter) the Dolphins can escape from Tannehill’s contract after this season, if they choose. No fully guaranteed money remains on Tannehill’s deal, although a $5.25MM injury guarantee for 2018 is in place. Breer categorizes the 2018-20 portion of Tannehill’s contract as team options. The Dolphins, though, don’t have another long-term solution lined up beyond the suddenly injury-prone Tannehill.
  • This Cutler signing will make a Jarvis Landry extension more difficult, James Walker of ESPN.com offers. The Dolphins entered Sunday with $17MM-plus in cap space, with just $3MM projected to be available in 2018. While the latter figure doesn’t mean a ton yet due to roster moves that could me made to increase it, the Dolphins lost some possible carryover money due to the Cutler signing, one Walker calls a mistake. Gase’s Bears campaign produced the 23rd-ranked passing offense in 2015 and a 6-10 record. Although, the Bears were playing without some skill-position talent that season. But Cutler has only led one team, the ’10 Bears, to the postseason and is coming off an injury-marred season. As for Landry, not much has developed on that front.
  • Cordy Glenn has struggled with lower-leg and foot problems since last season, and the Bills‘ franchise left tackle still has some uncertainty surrounding his status. That said, Glenn returned to practice on Sunday after seeing a foot specialist, Rapoport reports (on Twitter). Glenn recently received a second opinion on his foot from foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports. Sean McDermott called the veteran blocker day-to-day.
  • Jay Gruden is optimistic Jordan Reed will be able to shake his toe injury and be ready to go by the time the Redskins take the field in Week 1. “From every indication I’ve received from the doctors and trainers and from Jordan, I feel he’ll be ready for the season,” Gruden said, via John Keim of ESPN.com. “But you never know, so we’ll still have to wait and see. Things are odd from time to time, but I have total faith that he’ll be ready.” Reed is on the Active/PUP list and struggled with the toe malady throughout last season. Reed also visited with Dr. Anderson last week but has ramped up his work since.
  • Corey Graham has experience at both secondary positions, but Jim Schwartz plans to use his former Bills charge at safety despite the Eagles being weaker at corner, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com notes, adding that Malcolm Jenkins could shift into the slot on sub-packages. Graham has played most of his career at corner but moved to safety full-time in 2015.

NFC Notes: Freeman, Panthers, Vikes

An extension for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman doesn’t appear imminent, but an agreement should come together by early September, writes Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. The Falcons and Freeman’s agent, Kristin Campbell, are engaging in daily conversations, and both sides are motivated to reach a deal, adds Graziano. Atlanta regards the 25-year-old as a cornerstone player after witnessing him pile up 1,000-plus rushing yards in each of the previous two campaigns, to go with 27 touchdowns (22 on the ground, five as a receiver) and 127 catches. Freeman provided that production while making a relative pittance, and he’ll earn another low base salary this year ($1.797MM) if talks with the Falcons fall through. It doesn’t appear that will happen, however.

More from the NFC:

  • Corey Graham visited the Panthers last week, but the two sides could not agree on money, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN (on Twitter). The safety signed with the Eagles on Thursday.
  • Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodesfive-year, $70MM extension features $32.8 million in guaranteed money (excluding the $8.026MM he’ll make this season as a fifth-year option player), writes Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune. The accord also comes with $500K in per-game roster bonuses from 2018-22 and annual workout bonuses of $100K.
  • Quarterback Luke McCown‘s one-year pact with the Cowboys includes a $1MM base salary, $170K guaranteed and an $80K signing bonus, per Field Yates of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • The Redskins worked out rookie safety Alex Gray on Thursday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Gray previously spent time with the Buccaneers, who signed him as an undrafted free agent from Appalachian State.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Eagles Sign S Corey Graham

The Eagles have agreed to terms with safety Corey Graham on a one-year contract, the team announced. "<strong

Graham has been on the market since being released by the Bills back in March. He initially joined the team on a four-year, $16MM deal in 2014 and even though he restructured his pact in 2015, he wasn’t allowed to finish out the deal.

Graham didn’t fit into the Bills’ plans, but he has shown that he is still productive. The veteran didn’t miss a game during his three years in Buffalo, and he started 16 games in each of the past two seasons. Last year, he turned in another solid campaign, compiling 62 tackles, one sack, and nine passes defended.

Graham won’t start in Philly, but he can offer veteran support for starters Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins. He can also be expected to contribute on special teams.

The veteran has history with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz thanks to their time together in 2014.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.