D.J. Fluker

Seahawks Notes: Thomas, Fluker, Fant, Hill

Earl Thomas remains at an impasse with the Seahawks, who’ve stripped the defense — at least, their first and third levels of it — almost completely bare of Thomas’ Super Bowl teammates this offseason. But future franchise tags give the Seahawks the leverage on Thomas in this holdout, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com writes. The 29-year-old safety skipping regular-season weeks would obviously cost him financially, and he must report by the midseason point to avoid his contract tolling over to 2019. Thomas’ four-year, $40MM deal expires after this season. Pete Carroll expects Thomas to be at camp, but Brooks writes the Seahawks probably don’t want to pay him $12MM per year (or north, if the three-time All-Pro is intent on surpassing Eric Berry‘s $13MM-AAV deal that doubles as the safety high-water mark) in what’s been an oddly soft safety market.

If the Seahawks do decide to get serious about a trade, Brooks notes that, beyond the Cowboys, the Chargers, 49ers, Buccaneers and Bengals are the most logical destinations. The Bolts drafted Derwin James and have Jahleel Addae on the books for three more seasons, but Brooks cites the need for a deep centerfielder-type safety nonetheless. And Thomas has a history with Los Angeles DC Gus Bradley. He has a background with San Francisco DC Robert Saleh as well. The Bengals hosted Eric Reid on a visit that went poorly, but they were only in the market for a backup safety at that time. Tampa Bay spent plenty to add to its defensive front this offseason and added three DBs in the draft’s middle rounds. The Bucs boast Chris Conte and second-year man Justin Evans as their top safeties.

Here’s the latest out of Seattle:

  • A Chargers trade for Thomas wouldn’t add up with the franchise’s usual M.O., Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune notes. Tom Telesco and football ops president John Spanos aren’t big on parting with draft capital, with Krasovic adding that extensions for Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon — along with Los Angeles’ approximate $9MM cap-space total — would also impede a move like this.
  • Should the Seahawks deal Thomas, Delano Hill would be the favorite to succeed him alongside Bradley McDougald, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. McDougald would move to free safety, with Hill — a 2017 third-rounder — making his starting-lineup debut as Seattle’s strong safety. Hill ran with the starters in Thomas’ stead during minicamp.
  • The right side of Seattle’s offensive line figures to be manned by tackle Germain Ifedi and guard D.J. Fluker, per Condotta, who adds Fluker could be an option at tackle if Ifedi struggles. Fluker, though, has not played much tackle since the Chargers shuttled him to guard prior to the 2015 season. However, former left tackle starter George Fant will be thrust into the right tackle competition in training camp, Condotta writes. Fant is expected to be healthy after suffering a torn ACL last summer and would profile as the Seahawks’ swing tackle if Ifedi keeps the top right-edge job.
  • Amara Darboh (eight receptions, 71 yards in 2017) received essentially a redshirt year as a rookie, but Condotta notes the Seahawks are “counting on” the third-round pick to see a significant playing-time uptick this season. Seattle has Tyler Lockett and recently added UFAs Jaron Brown and Brandon Marshall. However, the latter is coming off a poor season and spent time recovering from multiple injuries this offseason. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Darboh’s role could hinge on how Marshall fares in camp. Seattle did not guarantee Marshall much, so it’s not certain the 34-year-old target makes the roster.

West Notes: Lynch, Johnson, Seahawks

With both Josh Allen and Josh Rosen still on the board when the Broncos picked at No. 5, Denver bypassed the draft’s top-tier quarterback contingent and instead took a player in Bradley Chubb John Elway wanted enough to nullify a trade with the Bills. Paxton Lynch likely factored into that decision. The No. 26 overall pick in 2016, Lynch has struggled with performance and injuries in his two-year career. And after he lost a one-sided competition to Trevor Siemian last year, Lynch is no longer competing for the starting job. But Elway is not ready to throw in the towel on the former Memphis standout. Picking another quarterback would have essentially doomed Lynch’s Denver tenure. The Broncos are not going to bring in another QB for OTAs, and while Elway didn’t rule out a possible addition later in the offseason, Denver’s QB room could well be Case Keenum, Chad Kelly and Lynch by the time camp commences.

We are not kicking him to the curb. He can still develop,” Elway said, via Mike Klis of 9News. “When we drafted him two years ago, as I said, we knew it was going to take some time. We are not going to bring another one in for OTAs. We will take a peek at that. It will be those two and Case. We are going to OTAs with those guys and go from there.”

The Broncos are clearly betting big on Keenum’s 2017 being a legitimate turning point and not an aberration, and the respective showings of Allen and Rosen may be tied, to some degree, to the Broncos’ decision to go with Keenum instead. And the Broncos now have a season to further evaluate Lynch before his fifth-year option decision — regarding a steep 2019 salary that will likely be north of $15MM — comes next May.

Here’s the latest from some other Western-division headquarters.

  • The Seahawks are going to experiment with two rookies at different positions. Fifth-round pick Tre Flowers will shift from safety to cornerback, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. The 6-foot-3 Oklahoma State product fits the profile of a player the Seahawks would prefer at corner, although he played mostly safety at the Big 12 program. Seattle made a similar move last May in shuttling Mike Tyson from safety to corner. Additionally, the team will try fifth-round offensive lineman Jamarco Jones at both tackle and guard, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. Jones started the past two seasons as Ohio State’s left tackle. Condotta adds the Hawks have Ethan Pocic and newcomer D.J. Fluker tentatively tabbed as starters at left and right guard, respectively.
  • Speaking of positional preferences, the Raiders may view Derrick Johnson as a middle linebacker, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. While this would make sense because of Johnson’s extensive experience as a Chiefs inside linebacker, the last time he played in a 4-3 scheme he served as an outside ‘backer. Prior to the Chiefs moving to a 3-4 look in 2009, Johnson spent most of his time on the outside. He started for four seasons in that role. Bair adds that it appears Tahir Whitehead is slated to play on the outside, noting that Marquel Lee and Nicholas Morrow may be competing for the middle ‘backer job. Whitehead has experience at both middle and outside linebacker in a 4-3 setup.
  • Seattle may look to add wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow, per Condotta. Despite being a 2017 UDFA, Stringfellow came to the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp and fared well. Pete Carroll indicated Stringfellow’s 6-foot-2, 218-pound frame is something the team is intrigued by. The Seahawks would have to waive a player from their 90-man offseason roster to make room for the former Ole Miss Rebel and Washington Husky.

Contract Details: Richardson, Fluker, Pats

Some details on recent free agent deals:

  • Sheldon Richardson, DT (Vikings): One year, $7MM deal. $7.8MM guaranteed ($5.8MM base + $2MM signing bonus). $200K workout bonus. Incentives up to $3MM, but categorized as Not Likely To Be Earned (NLBTE) for cap purposes (Twitter link via Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune).
  • D.J. Fluker, OL (Seahawks): One year, $1.5MM deal. $300K guaranteed. Cap charge of $1.37MM (Twitter link via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com).
  • Marquis Flowers, LB (Patriots): One year, $2.55MM deal. $1.05MM base salary. $200K signing bonus. Up to $400K in roster bonuses plus $50K workout bonus. Incentives package: $100K for playing 30% of the defensive snaps, $300K for 40%, $550K for 50%, and $800K for 60% (In 2017, Flowers played 26 percent of the defensive snaps) (Twitter link via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com).

Seahawks To Sign OL D.J. Fluker

The Seahawks have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former Giants offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, sources tell Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter links).

Fluker, a former first-round pick, appeared in nine games with six starts for the Giants in 2017. He was ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 56 ranked player at the position, placing him as a low-end starter/high-end backup. He earned much better grades during his first two seasons in the league as a tackle with the Chargers.

Last year, the Seahawks’ offensive line surrendered 209 pressures, per Pro Football Focus, as their zone blocking scheme netted them very little on outside zone runs. Seattle hopes that Fluker will help bolster a unit that has been a weak spot for multiple seasons.

Fluker also met with the Colts before signing with Seattle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Interested In OL D.J. Fluker

A market for Giants free agent offensive lineman D.J. Fluker is starting to emerge. The former first-round pick and Patrice O’Neal lookalike has drawn interest from the Colts, according to Stephen Holder of the Indy Star (on Twitter). 

Fluker is also set to meet with the Seahawks. While Fluker isn’t expected to command an especially lucrative deal, the Colts have far more cap space than the Seahawks possess. Although, despite having some of the most maneuvering room in the league, the Colts have been quiet during the start of free agency.

Fluker spent last season with the Giants after signing a one-year deal. The former Chargers first-round pick did not show a dramatic improvement from the work that induced the Bolts to backtrack on his fifth-year option and cut the Alabama product last year. Pro Football Focus tabbed the 27-year-old blocker as its No. 56 full-time guard.

Indianapolis could lose Jack Mewhort in free agency and has some uncertainty on the right side of its line. It’s possible Fluker could compete for a spot at either guard or right tackle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks To Meet With D.J. Fluker

Offensive lineman D.J. Fluker is visiting with the Seahawks, a source tells Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Raanan adds that there could be more stops coming up for the former first-round pick. 

Fluker spent last season with the Giants after signing a one-year deal. The former Chargers first-round pick did not show a dramatic improvement from the work that induced the Bolts to backtrack on his fifth-year option and cut the Alabama product last year. Pro Football Focus tabbed the 27-year-old blocker as its No. 56 full-time guard.

The Giants, though, experienced rampant injury trouble on their front and Fluker joined Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg in finishing the season on IR. Previously, he had played in at least 15 games in three of his four San Diego seasons.

Seattle again boasted one of the league’s worst lines last season, continuing a troublesome trend. Fluker would likely again profile as a low-cost addition, although recent years have brought a seller’s market at these positions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Read more

FA Rumors: Broncos, Davis, Giants, Crowell

Earlier this week, the Broncos were believed to be ready to compete to the end of the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. But last month, they were identified as having Case Keenum looming as a possible backup plan. There’s been more chatter about that in Indianapolis, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes (on Twitter). While it’s unlikely the Broncos are ready to bow out on Cousins after being so closely connected to him for weeks, they’ve been the top non-Vikings Keenum connection this offseason. The Broncos also discussed a trade for Keenum with the Rams in 2016. La Canfora notes the Broncos being serious on Keenum could pit the Vikings and Jets against one another for Cousins. It’s possible the Broncos could sign Keenum and not select a quarterback at No. 5, and Mike Klis of 9News wrote recently Keenum and Cousins are likely to be the only QBs who would deter the Broncos from using that pick on a passer.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo sports, who reported earlier this week the Broncos were ready to go “all in” for Cousins, notes every team linked to the former Redskins quarterback has made it a point to stay in contact with agents of other passers in order to preserve fallback options (Twitter link). That said, Robinson does not believe the Broncos — or any team linked to Cousins thus far — is truly out on the 29-year-old signal-caller.

Here’s more from the free agent market.

  • Demario Davis enjoyed a solid contract year after an offseason trade with the Browns sent him back to the Jets, but he might be set to relocate again. A considerable gap between Davis’ expectations and the Jets’ valuation of him exists, with Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reporting Davis is eyeing a deal that would pay him between $8-$10MM annually. The Jets, conversely, see him as a $3-$4MM-per-year player and are not prepared to pay him what he’s currently targeting. Cimini notes that in a buyer’s market that has several younger non-rush linebacker options, Davis will have to adjust his price point. While the sides were talking earlier this offseason, this kind of gap could route Davis elsewhere. Although the 29-year-old inside linebacker had a strong 2017 season, he hasn’t been especially consistent. And only five 3-4 ILBs earn $8MM per year. Davis signed for $4MM per year with the Browns in 2016.
  • Last offseason, Isaiah Crowell hired Drew Rosenhaus to negotiate with the Browns on an extension, but a deal didn’t come to pass. Not much has transpired on a Crowell/Cleveland future in recent months, but John Dorsey said he’s had discussions with Rosenhaus about keeping Crowell in the fold. However, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal notes Hue Jackson didn’t express much optimism about Crowell staying. The Browns are a prime candidate to draft Saquon Barkley, possibly at No. 1 overall, so that would make Crowell somewhat superfluous.
  • The Giants have been open about wanting to commit to an offensive line overhaul and haven’t ruled out a 2018 line that includes Andrew Norwell and Justin Pugh. But they’re likely to lose D.J. Fluker, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com notes. Fluker has not enjoyed a particularly productive career, and Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the worst pass-blocking linemen last season. The former first-round pick wouldn’t cost much, but it looks like Dave Gettleman will move on.
  • Should the Giants be priced out of the Norwell sweepstakes, they have Ryan Jensen lined up as a cheaper contingency plan, per Pauline. Jensen’s most prominent NFL work has come at center, where he started all 16 Ravens games last season, but he was a part-time guard starter in years past. PFF rated Jensen as a top-10 center last season. The Giants are expected to lose four-year starter Weston Richburg in free agency.

Giants Place D.J. Fluker, Three Others On IR

Another offensive line regular will land on the Giants’ injured reserve list. The Giants placed D.J. Fluker on IR Monday, ending his season, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

A toe injury will lead Fluker to IR, and the Giants’ IR list will now stand at 19 after Big Blue also placed linebacker Deontae Skinner on the season-ending list. Defensive back Donte Deayon and linebacker Curtis Grant are going on IR as well, per Caplan.

There are only three open roster spots because the Giants signed linebacker Jeremy Cash to help add depth on its defensive second level, James Kratch of NJ.com tweets.

Fluker started six games for the Giants after signing a one-year deal in a presumable attempt to re-establish his value. The Chargers backed out of his fifth-year option in March, and the Giants added him soon after.

Skinner played in three games for the Giants, and Grant suited up for 10. This continues a rough season for New York’s linebacking contingent. Big Blue attempted to bolster its group on Monday by claiming Ray-Ray Armstrong off waivers.

NFC East Notes: Eagles, Cowboys, Giants

While recent reports indicated LeGarrette Blount could lose his Eagles roster spot before the season gets underway, head coach Doug Pederson seemingly dismissed those insinuations today, as Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. “LeGarrette Blount is a beast of a runner,” said Pederson. “I’m excited he’s here and he’s going to be a big part of our offense.” The Eagles signed Blount to a one-year deal that contains $400K guaranteed after he led the league with 18 rushing touchdowns a season ago. While there’s virtually no chance the 30-year-old Blount will match his 299 carries from 2016, he should be part of a Philadelphia backfield rotation that also includes Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Donnel Pumphrey.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • Last year’s Josh Brown episode could potentially factor into the NFL’s dealings with suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out. Brown, of course, was banned for only a single game even after admitting to abusing his ex-wife. Arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld Brown’s suspension at the time, and he’ll also be hearing Elliott’s appeal of his own six-game ban. “Mitigating factors” lead to the NFL suspending Brown for only contest, but the league has never disclosed what those factors were, per Florio.
  • D.J. Fluker isn’t going to earn a starting spot along the Giants‘ offensive line, and it’s possible he won’t even make the club’s roster, opines James Kratch of NJ.com. New York signed the 26-year-old Fluker to a one-year, $3MM deal ($1.5MM guaranteed) this spring, but he’s made no push to steal Big Blue’s starting right guard job from John Jerry. The Giants aren’t giving Fluker the opportunity to compete at right tackle, so the former first-round pick could be shown the door in favor of journeyman Adam Gettis.
  • The Redskins spent heavily on their defensive line this spring, signing both Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee to multi-year pacts. Thus far, McGee has been far more impressive in camp, but neither player has a lock on a starting job, as Mike Jones of the Washington Post writes. McClain, in fact, has performed so poorly that there’s been some noise he could be released, although that’s unlikely given the $7.25MM dead money hit that would come with the cut. Still, first-round rookie Jonathan Allen and others (such as Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier) could be better bets for playing time.
  • After working out for the Bears last week, undrafted rookie linebacker Michael Scherer is set to audition for the Giants today, reports Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link). Scherer, a Missouri product, appeared in 26 games for the Tigers from 2014-15 before a knee injury ended his senior season after seven contests in 2016. Ranked as one of the 30 best undrafted linebackers following this year’s draft, Scherer has yet to land an NFL contract.