Corey Graham

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.

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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Bills Release Corey Graham

The Bills announced that they have released safety Corey Graham. Cutting the veteran defensive back will save them team $4.05MM against the cap, and they Corey Grahamavoided a $500K roster bonus by cutting him prior to Monday’s deadline.

Graham originally joined the Bills on a four-year, $16MM deal in 2014, and he restrucutured that deal last offseason. 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. 2016 was another solid season for the former Pro Bowler, compiling 62 tackles, one sack, and nine passes defended.

Following the move, the Bills have three safeties on their roster in Jordan Poyer, Colt Anderson, and Shamiel Gary.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Corey Graham Restructures Contract

SATURDAY, 10:05am: ESPN’s Mike Rodak tweets that Graham’s new cap number is worth $4.775MM, resulting in a $600K savings for the franchise. Reversely, after having converted the defensive back’s $500K roster bonus and $700,000 in incentives, the team increased Graham’s 2017 cap hold by $600K (via Rodak). The length and base salary of the new deal remains unchanged.

THURSDAY, 5:04pm: Versatile Bills defensive back Corey Graham agreed to restructure his deal, the team announced on its Twitter account.

Terms of the safety’s adjusted contract have not been disclosed. Graham was owed $6.35MM in base salaries over the final two seasons of his four-year, $16.3MM deal he signed with Buffalo in 2014.

Graham, who moved from cornerback to safety and led the Bills with 122 tackles in 2015, was scheduled to have a $5.375MM cap hold. He’s the latest player to restructure as the 2015 league year winds down. Graham is entering his age-31 season.

Charles Clay did so late last month despite going into only his second year with the team.

The Bills need to carve out at least $13.706MM of their cap after placing the franchise tag on left tackle Cordy Glenn. Buffalo also has resurgent guard Richie Incognito looming as an unrestricted free agent.

The Bills began moving their way toward that figure and then some earlier this week by axing Mario Williams, Anthony Dixon and Kraig Urbik.

AFC East Rumors: Bills, Dolphins, Jets

Three of the AFC East’s four teams are in the news. Here’s the latest:

  • As free agency approaches, the Bills are working to retain their two best offensive linemen – left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Richie Incognitowrites CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. We learned this afternoon that the Bills intend to place the franchise tag on Glenn if he hasn’t agreed to a long-term deal by the March 1 deadline. Contrary to a report from earlier this week, the Bills aren’t currently looking to extend contract-year quarterback Tyrod Taylor, per La Canfora, who adds that they’re instead focusing on locking up cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Moreover, they’ll release defensive end Mario Williams and running back Anthony Dixon, and could restructure the contracts of safety Corey Graham, corner Leodis McKelvin, and possibly defensive lineman Kyle Williams. With some of the cap space those moves would create, La Canfora expects the Bills to pursue free agent-to-be Bilal Powell. The 27-year-old running back played under Bills head coach Rex Ryan as a member of the Jets from 2011-14. Powell averaged a career-high 4.5 yards per carry on 70 attempts last season and added a personal-best 47 receptions.
  • The Dolphins want to rework the contract of defensive end Cameron Wake, according to La Canfora. The problem, he notes, is that Wake would likely match or exceed the $8.4MM he’s scheduled to make as a Dolphin next season if they release him and he reaches the open market. Thus, the 34-year-old lacks incentive to take a pay cut. Not surprisingly, then, talks between the Dolphins and Wake’s agent made no progress at the combine.
  • With two ex-Jets bigwigs in Buffalo (Ryan) and Miami (executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum), representatives of pending Jets free agents said at the combine that the Bills and Dolphins could be landing spots for their clients, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post. That seems to corroborate La Canfora’s report that the Bills will try to reel in Powell in free agency. Further, the Bills and Dolphins could go after Jets run-stuffing defensive tackle Damon Harrison if he hits the market, per Costello, though he notes that the teams’ lack of cap space might serve as roadblocks. Even so, Harrison could use those clubs as leverage to scare the Jets into meeting his demands.

Biggs On Bears: Clausen, McCray, McManis

One of the heartiest post-game reads around is the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs’ “10 thoughts,” and this morning’s wrap-up of the Bears’ loss in Seattle is full of tid-bits:

  • Technically teams have until 3 p.m. Tuesday to cut down from 90 to 75, but Biggs expects an announcement before Monday. “That’s because the Bears (and other teams) don’t want to go back to the practice field to prepare for the exhibition finale and have a player slated for the first wave of cuts suffer an injury. In that scenario, the team could be on the hook for several hundred thousand dollars if the injury is bad enough.”
  • Jimmy Clausen should be Jay Cutler‘s backup, in Biggs’ opinion. While the preseason numbers for Clausen and Jordan Palmer are similar, Clausen has looked more decisive and experienced.
  • “All signs point” to Danny McCray starting at safety in Week 1. “At this point, McCray might be about the only choice the Bears have at free safety,” says Biggs.
  • Austen Lane and Trevor Scott have shown well enough to wonder if the Bears will keep five defensive ends. David Bass, who was part of the rotation last season, looks like the odd man out.
  • Eben Britton‘s injury has opened the door for Michael Ola, who has played well and shown desirable versatility, increasing the chance he earns one of the team’s reserve lineman spots. Marc Trestman values his sixth lineman, as he used Britton for 235 snaps last season, primarily as an eligible tackle. “In a perfect world, coach Marc Trestman has a player that wears an eligible number to handle that role this season as an in-line blocker, extra tight end or even a presence in the backfield,” says Biggs, which is why tight end Matthew Mulligan looks like a “good bet” to secure a roster spot.
  • In “I’m not saying, I’m just saying” fashion, Biggs highlights the play of Sherrick McManis, a 26-year-old cornerback whose value to this point in his career has been as a core special-teams player. However, the Bears No. 4 and No. 5 cornerback spots are up for grabs, and Biggs notes “Since training camp has opened, McManis is at the tops of a chart in the defensive backs room for takeaways. He’s not only practiced well, he’s played well in preseason and has seven tackles on defense, one interception, one tackle for loss two passes deflected and two stops on special teams.” Biggs intimates McManis’ situation could have the Bears front office flashing back to that of Corey Graham, whom the team undervalued. Graham went on to earn a two-year deal in Baltimore where he played well enough on defense to get $8.1MM guaranteed from the Bills this March.

AFC East Links: Wallace, Johnson, Robey

Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace, who signed a five-year, $60MM deal ($30MM guaranteed) last year, did not have the big-play impact he or the team was hoping for last season. Wallace played all 16 games and tallied 73 catches, but he scored just five touchdowns and averaged 12.7 yards per catch, the lowest mark of his five-year career. ESPN’s James Walker says “former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman seemed lost with how to use his newfound toy. Miami’s offense with Wallace was too predictable and it impacted everyone’s production.”

Walker also says the arrival of new coordinator Bill Lazor is reason for optimism, but Wallace is also dependent on the offensive line (which will have five new starters) to give quarterback Ryan Tannehill time to connect with his No. 1 deep threat. Tannehill was sacked 58 times last year and his deep ball accuracy was below 33 percent per Pro Football Focus.

Here’s a few more AFC links:

  • Chris Johnson “is the Jets’ most accomplished skill-position player since LaDainian Tomlinson,” asserts ESPN’s Rich Cimini. Despite Johnson’s downward career trend, Cimini points out Johnson’s string of 1,000-yard seasons and his “extraordinary” durability. The Jets are hoping Johnson’s “home run” ability adds a quick-strike element to their offense.
  • New Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has been impressed with the talent in his secondary, including the nickel back combatants Nickell Robey and Corey Graham, writes A.J. Devine on BuffaloBills.com.
  • The Patriots specialists appear to be set with the exception of long snapper, where fourth-year pro Danny Aiken will try to hold off undrafted free agent Tyler Ott, notes ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss.
  • At the beginning of the week, Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus provided some AFC East depth chart update notes. Among them, he says Patriots defensive lineman Sealver Siliga was “above average” last season and is deserving of more snaps.