Daimion Stafford

Daimion Stafford Mulling Retirement

Steelers safety Daimion Stafford is considering retirement, head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Friday (Twitter link via Mark Kaboly of DKPittsburghSports.com).

Daimion Stafford (Vertical)

The 26-year-old Stafford is the same age as former Ravens center John Urschel, who surprisingly elected to hang up his cleats Thursday. Urschel’s decision came thanks in part to an alarming medical study showing that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. It’s unknown, however, if the study is affecting Stafford’s thought process.

If he does walk away from football, Stafford will do so without ever having played a down for the Steelers. He signed with Pittsburgh in May after spending the first four years of his career in Tennessee, where he only started in eight of 62 appearances. Stafford saw an uptick in playing time last year, though, as he logged a career-best six starts and combined for 855 snaps (614 on defense, 221 on special teams). He accumulated 51 tackles, an interception and a sack along the way.

Stafford will function as a reserve with the Steelers if he continues his career, accompanying Robert Golden and Jordan Dangerfield as depth behind starting safeties Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Sign Safety Daimion Stafford

The Steelers have signed safety Daimion Stafford and long snapper Kameron Canaday, the club announced today. Pittsburgh also waived punter A.J. Hughes.Daimion Stafford (Vertical)

Stafford, 26, was part of a four-man Titans safety rotation in which each player played roughly half the club’s defensive snaps (Stafford sat at 57.2% on the year). In that time, Stafford posted 51 tackles, one sack, and one interception while grading as the league’s No. 63 safety among 90 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

With the Steelers, Stafford will slide into a reserve role behind starters Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis, and will also likely contribute on special teams. In 2016, Stafford saw action 48.3% of Tennessee’s special teams plays, a clear indication that he’s a valuable asset in that phase of the game.

Canaday, meanwhile, is likely a camp body for the Steelers, who had already released veteran long snapper Greg Warren earlier this offseason. Pittsburgh used a sixth-round selection on Colin Holba in this year’s draft, so he figures to act as the club’s long snapper once the season gets underway.

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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AFC Links: Browns, Ravens, Titans, Broncos

Fourth-year guard Jason Pinkston has been absent from Browns training camp, and no one in the organization will say why. The 26-year-old played sparingly in 2013 but was expected to stick around for at least one more season. The guard was set to make about $1.4MM in 2014, but based on the quotes from those in the organization, money doesn’t seem to be the issue.

Pinkston’s unavailable to practice and, due to his circumstances, I cannot comment on it any further,” coach Mike Pettine said, per NFL Media’s Aditi Kinkhabwala (via NFL.com’s Mark Sessler). “I want to give you more, but just given the circumstances, I can’t. That’s where we are with Jason.”

General manager Ray Farmer didn’t add much: 

“I think coach addressed it the best way we could … right now there’s really no comment from our prospective, and when there is time to make a comment then that comment will be made.” 

Finally, Pinkston weighed in on Twitter

I can assure you I’m in no legal trouble & retiring hasn’t came up. As far as my situation I’ll leave it to them to explain.”

While we try to figure out what’s going on in Cleveland, let’s take a look at some more notes from around the AFC…

  • Former San Jose State cornerback Brandon Driver tried out for the Ravens on Sunday, tweets Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. The workout went well, but Driver was not immediately signed to a deal.
  • A year ago on Sunday, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta fractured and dislocated his right hip in practice. After a year of recovery, the veteran believes he’s back to 100 percent. I feel good,” Pitta said (via Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun). “I’m out here not thinking about it. It’s not giving me an issue at all. I feel 100 percent. I’m encouraged with where I’m at.”
  • Titans safety Daimion Stafford made the majority of his impact as a rookie on special teams, but Terry McCormick 247Sports.com writes that the player will now be looking to make an impact on defense. “I just try to build every day. That’s our big message,” Stafford said. “That’s what I’m looking to do every day. I’m always trying to get better, whether it’s on special teams or moving up into a bigger role on defense.”
  • Kyle Rudolph‘s new deal with the Vikings will likely affect the negotiations between the Broncos and tight end Julius Thomas, tweets Joel Corry of The National Football Post.