Courtney Upshaw

Jets Release DL Courtney Upshaw

The Jets have swapped one defensive lineman for another. The team announced on Twitter that they’ve signed Shaneil Jenkins. To make room on the roster, the Jets released Courtney Upshaw.

Upshaw, 28, joined the Jets organization last month following a two-season stint with the Falcons. The former second-round served as mostly a backup during his time in Atlanta, including a 2017 campaign where he compiled nine tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble in 13 games. Upshaw spent the first four seasons of his career with the Ravens, where he won a Super Bowl championship as a rookie. The veteran was placed on the Jets’ non-football injury list yesterday, with Rich Cimini wondering if the team was unhappy with a “conditioning issue” (Twitter link).

Jenkins, 24, has bounced around the league since going undrafted out of Shepherd University in 2016. The six-foot-four, 275-pound defensive end has had stints with the Broncos, Cowboys, Seahawks, and Packers. He showed some promise during the preseason of his rookie year, compiling a pair of sacks for Dallas. However, he’s been unable to take the field for a regular season game.

Similar to Upshaw, Jenkins will have a difficult time making the Jets roster. Behind starters Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson, the team is also rostering defensive ends David BassNathan ShepherdXavier Cooper, and Ed Stinson.

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Jets Sign DL Courtney Upshaw

After having auditioned for the Jets earlier this week, Courtney Upshaw has signed with the organization. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the defensive lineman has inked a deal with the organization. To make room on the roster, New York has waived defensive lineman Chris Jones (via Darryl Slater of NJ.com on Twitter).

The 2012 second-round pick initially entered the NFL as a linebacker, but he’s since been converted to a defensive lineman. After having spent four relatively productive seasons with the Ravens, Upshaw joined the Falcons back in 2016. He proceeded to play in 26 games (five starts) during his two years in Atlanta, averaging 16 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble per season. Only the Eagles had expressed reported interest in the 28-year-old.

Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson are currently slotted in as the Jets starters at defensive end, while Steve McLendon is listed as the team’s starting nose tackle. Upshaw will presumably have an opportunity to contribute at either position.

Jones, a 2013 sixth-round pick out of Bowling Green, joined the Jets earlier this month. He hasn’t appeared in a regular season game since 2016, when he compiled 23 tackles in 13 games (six starts) with the Dolphins and 49ers.

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Jets Audition DL Courtney Upshaw, WR Kamar Aiken

The Jets are working out defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw and wide receiver Kamar Aiken, reports Calvin Watkins of Newsday (Twitter links).

Upshaw, 28, entered the league as an outside linebacker, but has since morphed into a defensive end/tackle hybrid (the same role he’d likely play in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme). After joining the Falcons in 2016, Upshaw recorded 23 tackles, one forced fumble, and a half-sack in 13 appearances (five starts). Last year, Upshaw had nine total tackles and one sack and played on just 226 snaps. His only known interest this year came from the Eagles, who met with him in early May.

Aiken, like Upshaw, posted a disappointing 2017 campaign: instead of running with the Colts’ second wide receiver job, Aiken managed only 155 receptions and 133 yards in 15 games (seven starts). His last meaningful production came in 2015, when the former undrafted free agent put up nearly 1,000 yards with the Ravens. In New York, he’d compete for time on a crowded wideout depth chart that also includes Terrelle Pryor, Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, and Quincy Enunwa.

Eagles Meet With Courtney Upshaw

Free agent defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw visited the Eagles, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Upshaw spent 2017 with the Falcons and saw time on on the interior and has played defensive end and linebacker in the past. 

Upshaw joined the Falcons on a one-year, $1.25MM deal in 2016. In his first year with Atlanta, he recorded 23 tackles, one forced fumble, and a half-sack in 13 appearances (five starts). Last year, Upshaw had nine total tackles and one sack and played on just 226 snaps.

The Eagles already boast an impressive front four of Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, and Michael Bennett. Haloti Ngata figures to fill in for the injured Jernigan to start the year and Derek Barnett and Chris Long are also among those in reserve. Upshaw could compete for time on the D-Line depth chart and also help out at linebacker, though the LB group was strengthened with free agents Corey Nelson and Paul Worrilow plus rookie Josh Sweat this offseason.

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Contract Details: Jones, Taylor, Branch, D-Jax, Bitonio, Davis

Here’s the latest on some of the latest contracts agreed to this week.

  • Chandler Jonesfive-year Cardinals extension will pay him $16.5MM per year, Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets. Jones will make $53MM in guaranteed money from his second NFL contract, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports adds (on Twitter).
  • Tyrod Taylor‘s restructured Bills deal is a two-year, $30.5MM pact, La Canfora reports (on Twitter), adding that the rest of it voids after 2018. Taylor will make $15.5MM in guarantees as a result of the re-done pact and $14.5MM in 2017. La Canfora adds the quarterback stands to collect $16MM in ’18.
  • Andre Branch‘s three-year Dolphins deal is worth $24MM, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports (on Twitter). Volin adds the contract includes two fully guaranteed years– at $17MM — for the 27-year-old pass-rusher. Volin adds that Branch could see $3.75MM more via incentives. Branch will receive a $6MM signing bonus, make $2.9MM in base salary in 2017, $7.9MM in ’18 and $6.9MM in ’19, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).
  • DeSean Jackson‘s Buccaneers pact will be worth approximately $11MM per year, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports.
  • Joel Bitonio‘s five-year Browns extension will pay out $47.5MM in base salary, Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com tweets, adding $23MM in guarantees are included. The new deal kicks in after Bitonio’s 2017 season, so he’s under contract in Cleveland through 2022.
  • Vernon Davis‘ second Redskins contract will include a $4MM signing bonus and $7.5MM guaranteed, Wilson tweets. His base salaries from 2017-19, respectively, are $2MM, $3.75MM and $4.75MM.
  • Courtney Upshaw re-signing with the Falcons on a one-year deal will result in $1.15MM coming his way in 2017, Wilson tweets. The defender gets a $125K signing bonus and will make $775K in base salary this season.

Falcons Re-Sign Courtney Upshaw

Defensive lineman/linebacker Courtney Upshaw has agreed to terms to remain with the Falcons, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Those terms are not yet known, but he’ll remain in Atlanta. Courtney Upshaw (Vertical)

Upshaw joined the Falcons on a one-year, $1.25MM deal last year. In his first year with Atlanta, he recorded 23 tackles, one forced fumble, and a half-sack in 13 appearances (five starts). He didn’t set the world on fire, but his ability to play both linebacker and defensive end should come in handy for the Falcons next year. We had Upshaw ranked as one of the 15 best edge defenders on the open market this year.

In related news, the Falcons are cutting defensive tackle Tyson Jackson. Jackson had two years and $8.5MM left on his contract.

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Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Defense

NFL free agency gets underway on Thursday and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. Here is our updated outlook for each defensive and special teams position.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as franchised players aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for this offseason:

Edge defender:

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

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

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

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

Interior defensive line:

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

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

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

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

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FA Rumors: Pats, Jefferson, Jags, Falcons

Free agency officially opens on March 9, so let’s round up a few FA-related notes and rumors from around the league:

  • Although it is difficult, as usual, to pin down the Patriots‘ free agency plans, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe does his best, writing that the club is “taking a long look” at the tight end position but that Martellus Bennett could certainly be back, that the team is in the defensive end market now that Chris Long is gone and Jabaal Sheard appears unlikely to return, and that Logan Ryan is likely to price himself out of the Patriots’ price range. Volin names the Jaguars and Raiders as two teams with serious interest in Bennett.
  • Speaking of the Jaguars, the club is expected to let Tyson Alualu hit the open market, as Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union writes.
  • In a separate piece, O’Halloran lists the Jaguars‘ most pressing needs in free agency and examines how they could address those needs with an aggressive approach or with a more disciplined approach. He predicts that the Jags will land this year’s top FA cornerback, A.J. Bouye, if Bouye does not re-sign with Houston.
  • Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, citing an agent who represents a FA safety, says that the CardinalsTony Jefferson can expect to land a contract that will pay him $7MM per year (Twitter link). Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, though, tweets that Jefferson is likely to get paid closer to $10MM per year.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the Falcons, who are moving towards an extension for Desmond Trufant, want to re-sign tight end Levine Toilolo, safety/linebacker Kemal Ishmael, and fullback Patrick DiMarco before free agency opens. The team is expected to let Jacob Tamme hit free agency and to wait until after the draft to make a decision on Dwight Freeney. Atlanta is also waiting to hear back from guard Chris Chester, who is contemplating retirement.
  • The Falcons plan to upgrade their defensive front in free agency and the draft, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. The club is expected to re-sign Courtney Upshaw, and McClure names Cowboys’ DT Terrell McClain as one potential target for Atlanta.
  • Mike Klis of 9News.com writes that the Broncos are seeking help on both the offensive and defensive line in free agency, but he observes that the club may be operating with two budgets: one that includes Tony Romo, and one that doesn’t. Even if Denver does not land the long-time Cowboys signal-caller, Klis says the Broncos will have to manage the cap creatively, as they have a number of housekeeping moves to make that will eat into their $35MM of cap room, and offensive and defensive linemen do not come cheap on the open market.

Extra Points: Saints, Jags, 49ers, Falcons

Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks is drawing trade interest from multiple teams, but it would take something “real significant” for New Orleans to deal the 23-year-old, head coach Sean Payton told the team’s website (video link). Still, Payton didn’t deny that talks have taken place and he says the Saints are “always listening,” particularly when there are opportunities to improve their defense.

More from around the NFL:

  • Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell says safety Jonathan Cyprien and cornerback Prince Amukamara will hit the open market, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union tweets. The 26-year-old Cyprien was the more impressive of the pair in 2016, when he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ seventh-best safety and amassed 126 tackles and four pass deflections over a career-high 16 starts. Amukamara, 27, often had difficulty staying healthy as a Giant from 2011-15, but last year he appeared in his most games (14) since 2013. And though he failed to record an interception for the first time, Amukamara did rank a respectable 42nd among PFF’s 112 qualified corners.
  • The 49ers plan to transition cornerback Jimmie Ward to free safety in 2017, GM John Lynch told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “We’re excited to give (Ward) an offseason to say, ‘Let’s give this a go,’” said Lynch. “That doesn’t preclude him from playing nickel in some situations, or moving around. I think he brings some great versatility.” Safety isn’t foreign to Ward, who played the position at Northern Illinois and then started a game there with the Niners as a first-round rookie in 2014. As a cornerback, the 25-year-old has logged 34 appearances (18 starts) and two interceptions. PFF rated Ward as the league’s 46th-best corner last season. The Niners will have to decide by May whether to pick up his fifth-year option for 2019.
  • Unless the Lynch-led 49ers acquire a bona fide starting quarterback in free agency or via trade, there will be pre-draft speculation that the team could use a high-round pick – perhaps the No. 2 overall selection – on a signal-caller. Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer stands as one of the top QBs in this year’s class, and Lynch lavished praise on him Thursday (via Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today). “Last night we had an interview with DeShone Kizer,” he said. “This whole thing is not about an interview, but if we’re grading him on that alone, he blew the doors off of it. He’s an impressive young man. His film is impressive, too.” Lynch also called the QB class of 2017 “very talented,” which runs counter to the notion that it’s among the worst ever.
  • The Falcons are likely to re-sign defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw sometime in the next week, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Upshaw joined the Falcons on a $1.25MM deal last year and went on to post modest numbers (23 tackles, a forced fumble and a half-sack) in 13 appearances and five starts.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Falcons Expected To Remake Defensive Line

Having already fired defensive coordinator Richard Smith and defensive line coach Bryan Cox, the Falcons are expected to use free agency and the draft in order to bolster their defensive line, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com.Courtney Upshaw (Vertical)

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — Atlanta Falcons]

Free agent defensive lineman Earl Mitchell is expected to meet with Atlanta on Thursday and Friday, and if signed would be the first step in the Falcons’ remaking of their front four. Courtney Upshaw, who signed a one-year pact with Atlanta last spring, is expected to re-signed, as the the Falcons value his ability to play both linebacker and defensive end, per McClure. Fourth-year defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, meanwhile, has “won over” Atlanta’s coaching staff and figures to see his role increase going forward, while free agent tackle Terrell McClain is a “name to keep an eye on” for the Falcons this offseason, reports McClure.

Change up front also means several defenders could be leaving, and veteran tackle Jonathan Babineaux could be among them, as the Falcons could choose to part ways with the unrestricted free agent even if he opts not to retire. Tyson Jackson, too, could be gone, as McClure writes the 30-year-old is expected to be released or asked to accept a cut to his $3.5MM base salary.

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