D.J. Swearinger

East Notes: Eagles, Sproles, Dolphins, Redskins

The Eagles will have plenty of roster decisions to make heading into the 2019 season. Two of the names at the top of the list include veteran running Darren Sproles and oft-injured linebacker Jordan Hicks, Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com writes.

After originally declaring this as his final season, Sproles has looked like a vintage version of himself, leading many to wonder if he would come back for his 15th NFL season. One person who would love to have the pass-catching back return is Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

“I think Darren Sproles would be a great addition” for 2019, Pederson said. “He’s a great leader. he works hard, he’s a great mentor to a lot of young players. I think anybody would love to have a Darren Sproles. I mean, I would.”

He didn’t offer the same ringing endorsement for Hicks. Despite being a noted playmaker who ranks third on the team in tackles in 2018, the Texas Longhorns product has missed 21 games in his first four seasons, including four this season.

“I’ll worry about the roster in the spring when I get to the spring,” Pederson said. “Jordan’s been a big part of our success here and he helped us win the game last week and he’ll help us win another on Sunday.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Sticking with the Eagles, thanks once again to Nick Foles, the team is currently in the fight for the last playoff spot in the NFC. Should they make it, there will undoubtedly be a contingent of fans hoping Philly will bring back the veteran in 2019. However, that is unlikely to happen, writes Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Brandt. With Foles on the books for $20MM next year, it is much more likely the Eagles do not exercise his option and make him a free agent. If he goes on another magical run in January, however, every option has to be on the table.
  • Dolphins vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum is not expected back with the team in 2019, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. The move would end his four-year run with the team. Head coach Adam Gase is expected to be retained. Salguero also has heard a few of the names as possible replacements include Dan Marino and Dawn Aponte.
  • Following the release of D.J. Swearinger, one of the Redskins’ top needs this season has quickly become safety, Ben Standig of NBC Sports writes. Coupled with the potential departure of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the Redskins would be down both of their safeties heading into 2019. Should they address the issue in the draft, the team could target Alabama’s Deionte Thompson or Virginia’s Juan Thornhill, two of the top-ranked prospects at free and strong safety, respectively.

Raiders, Packers Tried To Claim Swearinger

The Raiders and Packers both submitted a waiver claim on new Cardinals safety D.J. Swearinger, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Ultimately, the Cardinals won out due to their top priority and 3-12 record, but Swearinger had interest before the claim was finalized.

Swearinger was in the midst of a productive campaign before the Redskins cut him loose this week. The 27-year-old compiled 53 tackles, one sack, three forced fumbles, and four interceptions in 15 games and the metrics at Pro Football Focus were also high on him this season. Swearinger presently ranks 11th out of 86 eligible safeties.

Swearinger was openly critical of the Redskins’ decision making this year and his vocalness likely led to his release. In any event, Washington’s loss is Arizona’s gain. The Cardinals have secured a Pro Bowl alternate on the cheap and they’ll only be on the hook for paying his $176K paycheck in the final week of the season. After that, the Cards have the ability to keep him for $4.25MM in 2019 or let him go without penalty since that salary is non-guaranteed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

D.J. Swearinger Claimed By The Cardinals

It didn’t take long for former Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger to find a new suitor. Less than a day after being released by Washington, the veteran defender announced he was joining the Cardinals in a post on Instagram

The Cardinals had priority for waiver claims and didn’t want to take the chance on the South Carolina product being tabbed by another team.

In the post, Swearinger addressed his release from the Redskins after he criticized defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s playcalling in a loss at Tennessee.

“I Gave That Organization My Heart And Soul And They Spit In My Face For Giving My Opinion Only To Better The Team!! Right Wrong Or Indifferent I’ve Found My Peace And Learned From It And I Am So Excited To Go Back To The Sunny Desert Arizona Like I Never Left!”

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden addressed Swearinger’s release by saying:

“We made it pretty clear that we try to keep our business within these walls,” Gruden said, “and we’ve had many a talk before about that and unfortunately he chose to go to the media again and talk about his displeasure with some of the calls. I know Coach Manusky works extremely hard, as does the rest of the staff, to put together a game plan, and unfortunately we didn’t get it done.”

By joining the Cardinals, Swearinger returns to Arizona where he spent parts of two seasons before joining Washington. In 2016, the defender impressed with 64 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks, earning him a three-year, $13.5MM deal with the Redskins. The Redskins will save $4.5MM off their 2019 salary cap with the move, and the Cardinals will be responsible for paying his $176K paycheck for Week 17.

 

Redskins Cut D.J. Swearinger

The Redskins made a surprising move this morning, releasing one of their defensive leaders. Safety D.J. Swearinger told Grant Paulsen on 106.7 The Fan that he was called into Jay Gruden‘s office this morning and informed of his release (via ESPN’s John Keim on Twitter).

The veteran has been vocal about his team’s woes this season, and that continued following Saturday’s loss to the Titans. Swearinger specifically called out defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, saying his coach’s play-calling allowed Tennessee to secure a go-ahead score. Swearinger pointed to Manusky’s decision to go man-to-man on a third down play against Titans backup Blaine Gabbert; the play ended in a holding penalty on Fabian Moreau.

“In that type of situation, you got a backup quarterback, I wouldn’t call man-to-man to make it easy for him,” Swearinger told NBC Sports Washington. “He hadn’t practiced all week. So, disguise a zone and let him throw the ball right to us. We didn’t make the plays we needed to, but when it’s crunch time, put us somewhere where we can make a play. Don’t put us in man-to-man where it’s easy for the quarterback. It’s too easy for the quarterback.”

Following a standout 2017 season, Swearinger was having another productive campaign in 2018. The 27-year-old had compiled 53 tackles, one sack, three forced fumbles, and four interceptions in 15 games. Pro Football Focus was also fond of his performance this season; the site ranked Swearinger 11th among 86 eligible safeties. The safety had played all but one of Washington’s defensive snaps, and he earned a spot as a Pro Bowl alternate.

There should be some interest in Swearinger’s services, although the safety is subject to waivers. If a team places a claim, they’d be responsible for paying his $176K paycheck for Week 17. SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan points out (on Twitter) that the veteran’s $4.25MM 2019 base salary was not guaranteed. The move will provide Washington with $4.5MM in cap space and $1.33MM in dead money.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Jackson, Whitworth, Hyde

Let’s take a look at details of some recent free agent contracts:

  • Wide receiver DeSean Jackson‘s deal with the Buccaneers is a three-year, $33.5MM pact that features $20MM in guarantees and $23.5MM over the first two seasons, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link).
  • Safety D.J. Swearinger‘s new deal with the Redskins includes $9MM in guaranteed money, reports Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post (via Twitter). The journeyman will earn $3MM in 2018 and $4.25MM in 2019.
  • Tackle Andrew Whitworth‘s new deal with the Rams is worth $36MM with $15MM guaranteed, but a big chunk of that $15MM could be realized in 2017. As Jason La Canfora tweets, the lineman’s $12.5MM 2017 salary is guaranteed, and he’s owed another $2.5MM bonus. Therefore, the contract could be interpreted as a one-year deal worth $15MM.
  • Micah Hyde‘s new contract will count $4MM against the Bills salary cap next season, reports ESPN’s Mike Rodak. The safety’s 2017 salary is guaranteed, while the 2018 salary is guaranteed for injury (it becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2018 league year).

Contract Details: Garcon, Baker, Klein, Jones

Let’s take a look at some details of the free agent contracts signed today:

  • Chris Baker, DL (Buccaneers): Three years, $15.75MM. $9MM guaranteed. $1MM in sack incentives each season (Twitter link via Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post).
  • Jack Crawford, DL (Falcons): Three years, $10.3MM. $3.75MM in 2017 (Twitter link via Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com).
  • Pierre Garcon, WR (49ers): Two years, $23MM. $17MM guaranteed. Options for 2019 ($6MM), 2020 ($8.9MM), and 2021 ($9.6MM) (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Landry Jones, QB (Steelers): Two years, $4.4MM. $600K signing bonus (Twitter link via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com).
  • A.J. Klein, LB (Saints): Four years, $24MM. $4MM signing bonus. $9.4MM guaranteed. 2020 season will void Klein is on Saints roster on last day of 2019 league year (via Nick Underhill of the Advocate).
  • Jeff Locke, P (Colts): Two years, $3.45MM. $1.25MM guaranteed (Twitter links via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com and Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star).
  • Ryan Mallett, QB (Ravens): One year, $2MM. $1MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Akeem Spence, DL (Lions): Three years, $9MM. $3.5MM guaranteed. $1MM available via escalators (Twitter link via Peliserro).
  • D.J. Swearinger, S (Redskins): Three years, $13.5MM. $9MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Kinkhabwala).

Redskins To Sign D.J. Swearinger

The Redskins have agreed to sign safety D.J. Swearinger, according to John Keim of ESPN.com. It’s a three-year deal worth $4.5MM annually, and Swearinger will collect $6MM in 2017, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.D.J. Swearinger (Vertical)

Swearinger, a former second-round pick who bounced around before finding a home in Arizona, started 12 games in 2016 and posted 64 tackles, three interceptions, eight passes defensed, and two sacks. Among free agent safeties, Swearinger ranks seventh in PFR’s estimation, just behind Micah Hyde and ahead of Jahleel Addae.

In Washington, Swearinger will join an interesting safety group that already includes Su’a Cravens, Will Blackmon, and DeAngelo Hall. Hall could be released in the coming days, while there’s been some chatter that second-year defensive back Kendall Fuller may also move to safety. The Redskins have been active with defensive signings today, as they’ve also brought in linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee.

For the Cardinals, Swearinger is just the latest key defensive piece to defect, joining Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents

It’s free agency week! This year, thanks to the salary cap increase, the dollars will be flying and players will make more than you ever could have expected. Our lists for offense and defense rank free agents based on overall ability, but our Top 50 ranks players based on earning power. Here, you’ll get a good sense of what the market will be like this week and who the big fish are.

The league’s “legal tampering” window will open on Tuesday at 11:00am CT. Technically, teams and players aren’t permitted to finalize agreements on contracts during that legal tampering window, but that’s often treated as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. We will almost certainly see handshake agreements go down on Tuesday and Wednesday before they become official on Thursday, the technical beginning of free agency.

Our list of 2017’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or franchise tagged players, since they’re effectively restricted free agents as well.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2017, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:

1. A.J. Bouye, CB (Texans): Bouye is an overnight sensation, going from unknown to elite talent in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what to make of Bouye, but his upside is too much for teams to pass up. The Texans declined to use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old (26 in August), but they’re still hoping to get a deal done this week. The Jets are said to have interest, but it’s not clear if they’ll have the room to get something done. Cornerback-needy teams like the Panthers, Saints, Jaguars, Titans, Bears, and Eagles can be expected to at least kick the tires on this year’s top player in the secondary. Could something like Janoris Jenkins‘ five year, $62.5MM contract ($28.8MM fully guaranteed) from last year be within reach? Jenkins had a longer history of success than Bouye, but consider these facts: Bouye nearly two years younger than Jenkins was at time of signing and the salary cap has risen by about $12MM.
Signed with Jaguars for five years, $67.5MM.A.J. Bouye (vertical)

2. Alshon Jeffery, WR (Bears): He was hurt for most of 2015 and he slumped along with the entire Bears offense in 2016, but his natural ability is still evident and he is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. At one point, it seemed like Jeffery could wind up as the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. That won’t be the case, but he will likely get more cash than any other wide receiver in this year’s class. The Eagles and Titans have been hot on his tail for some time now. The 49ers could also get involved and a return to the Bears cannot be ruled out either. Ultimately, Jeffery should wind up fetching at least $10MM per year and perhaps as much as $12MM per year on his next deal.
Signed with Eagles for one year, $9.5MM.

3. Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins): Jeffery isn’t the only wide receiver who could fetch $12MM per year. Stills isn’t necessarily the best wide receiver on his own team, but he is just on the cusp of his 25th birthday and his ability to stretch the field is tantalizing. It doesn’t sound like the Dolphins are ready to be the highest bidder for his services and it’s not hard to imagine a team like the Eagles landing him. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the potential suitors for Jeffery and Stills: the Eagles, Titans, Bears, and 49ers will probably come calling. The Rams may not have enough room to squeeze in Stills, but they could certainly use a playmaker like him if they do not re-sign Kenny Britt. Stills reportedly likes the West Coast (who doesn’t?) so the Niners and Rams could have a leg up on the others if the bidding is close.
Re-signed with Dolphins for four years, $32MM.

4. Dont’a Hightower, LB (Patriots): The market is capped for non-rush linebackers, but Hightower is pretty much the best at what he does and is also lauded for his intangibles. The Patriots have always embraced the “next man up” philosophy, so it is possible they will allow him to go elsewhere. The Dolphins have been frequently connected to Hightower, but that might be too ambitious for a team that has multiple major needs to address. The Colts might also make sense, but the price might be too rich for their blood. A Patriots return appears to be the most likely outcome, but anything is possible.
Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $35.5MM. 

5. Kevin Zeitler, G (Bengals): Zeitler has age on his side and he’s one of the safest free agents in the top ten after three consecutive years of dominance. Interior offensive linemen don’t get as much love as their counterparts on the outside, but they are still incredibly vital and Zeitler’s next contract will reflect that. If he doesn’t circle back to the Bengals, the Jaguars, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks all make varying degrees of sense for Zeitler. From a football standpoint, you can add the Jets to that group too, but I’m not sure they can meet a ~$12MM/year asking price.
Signed with Browns for five years, $60MM.

6. Logan Ryan, CB (Patriots): There are bigger names available at the cornerback position, but Ryan slots ahead of many of them after a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that this fresh-faced Super Bowl champ only just turned 26 in February. If the Patriots don’t tie him down, Ryan’s earning power could conceivably vault him past Trumaine Johnson in terms of guaranteed cash. The Jaguars and Titans would be wise to zero in on Ryan if they can’t land Bouye and it’s possible that some of their evaluators might even prefer Ryan over the Houston standout. Ryan’s next deal will probably pay him eight figures per year and it should be a lengthy pact.
Signed with Titans for three years, $30MM.

7. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Browns): There is strong mutual interest in a new deal between Pryor and the Browns. Still, the Browns passed on the opportunity to franchise tag the Ohio State product and he now appears poised to test the open market. With pretty much just one year to show, how will Pryor fare in free agency? His next deal should pay him at least $10MM/year and he could get up to $12MM/year. In addition to the Browns, the usual suspects for this year’s high-end WRs will explore signing Pryor (say it with me): Eagles, Titans, and 49ers. There’s conflicting word about whether the Steelers will get involved. The Giants are known to have interest, but I don’t think they’ll be splurging on free agents like they did one year ago.
Signed with Redskins for one year, $6MM.

8 .Ricky Wagner, OT (Ravens): There’s already talk of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year and it’s not like this year’s free agent market is flush with young, quality tackles. When you also consider the lack of quality tackles in the draft, it’s apparent that Wagner is about to get PAID, in all caps.Believe it or not, $10MM/year might be his floor. When all is said and done, he’ll be the league’s biggest earner at right tackle. The Bears are particularly interested in Wagner, so he could go from the AFC North to the NFC North this week.
Signed with Lions for five years, $47.5MM.

Calais Campbell (vertical)9. Calais Campbell, DL (Cardinals): Campbell was supposed to be an afterthought in Arizona after the addition of Chandler Jones. Perhaps motivated by a perceived slight, Campbell turned in a stellar year. Now, the Cardinals would very much like to keep him, but they can only go so far as they back up the Brinks truck for Jones and look into retaining other key free agents. If Jones does not agree to a cap-smoothing long-term deal between now and March 9th, the odds of Campbell leaving increase. The Jaguars are said to be a leading contender for Campbell while the Titans, Broncos, Colts, and Bears could also use a force like him. His age (31 in September) gives him a bit of a ceiling in terms of overall compensation, but he should still do nicely this month.
Signed with Jaguars for four years, $60MM.

10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (Bills): In terms of pure talent, Gilmore might be the best cornerback available. Trouble is, no one knows what to make of him after a down 2016. Some have openly theorized that Gilmore was playing it safe to avoid injury in his pivotal contract year. It’s also possible that Buffalo’s injuries in the front seven put undue stress on the secondary. The Bears are reportedly high on Gilmore and he may represent a cheaper option than Bouye or Ryan. A Bills return would also make sense here.
Signed with Patriots for five years, $65MM.

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Bears Eyeing D.J. Swearinger

The Bears are reportedly “making a push” to sign free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore this week, but he won’t be the only player Chicago targets as it seeks to remake its secondary. The Bears are also interested in Cardinals safety D.J. Swearinger, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.D.J. Swearinger (Vertical)

[RELATED: Bears Interested In Cordarrelle Patterson]

Although Chicago is presently fielding one of the league’s worst secondaries, the club does have one bright spot at safety in the form of Adrian Amos, who has shined during his first two years in the NFL. Pairing Amos with Swearinger, then, would lend instant credibility to the Bears’ back end, and allow them to further pursue cornerback upgrades through the draft or in free agency.

The Bears have often been linked to Ohio State’s Malik Hooker and LSU’s Jamal Adams in mock drafts, but adding Swearinger would give Chicago the flexibility to target other needs with the third overall pick. Plus, Swearinger figures to be relatively affordable, especially when compared with his Cardinals teammate Tony Jefferson, as Biggs notes.

Swearinger, a former second-round pick who bounced around before finding a home in Arizona, started 12 games in 2016 and posted 64 tackles, three interceptions, eight passes defensed, and two sacks. Among free agent safeties, Swearinger ranks seventh in PFR’s estimation, just behind Micah Hyde and ahead of Jahleel Addae.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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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