DaQuan Jones

Jets Targeted Jerick McKinnon, Weston Richburg, Others

The Jets looked to be Kirk Cousinsbackup plan, and the franchise had to move on to some its own contingency signings soon after. Most notably, the Jets sought a backfield option that ended up in San Francisco.

Despite entering free agency with more than $90MM in cap space, the Jets could not land Jerick McKinnon. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports the Mike Maccagnan-led franchise put a “full-court press” on the former Vikings running back, only to see him join the 49ers instead.

While McKinnon looked to be the main target that got away, the Jets also had interest in Weston Richburg, with “strong plays” for defenders DaQuan Jones and Barkevious Mingo also not working out for Gang Green, Mehta reports.

Once the Jets didn’t sign McKinnon, they moved on to Isaiah Crowell. However, Mehta reports the Jets agreeing to terms with McKinnon would not have precluded them from adding Crowell as well. Although, the team already has Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire.

Mehta reports the Jets felt their offer was strong enough to close a deal with the 25-year-old McKinnon, but the team also felt Kyle Shanahan was determined to win a bidding war. The end result shows that to be the case. The four-year, $30MM contract makes McKinnon one of the league’s highest-paid running backs.

The 49ers also beat the Jets on Richburg, but it doesn’t sound like the competition was as fierce between the two franchises as it was for McKinnon. New York eyed Richburg but knew the ex-Giants center was going to sign for more than what the team was willing to pay him. Despite having less cap space than the Jets, the 49ers signed Richburg for five years and $47.5MM.

Jones ended up re-upping with the Titans instead of replacing Muhammad Wilkerson on the Jets’ front, signing for three years and $21MM. Mingo will be one of the players the Seahawks turn to in an effort to replace Michael Bennett. The Jets’ interest in Mingo may not have been too strong, with it only taking a two-year, $6.8MM deal for the Seahawks to sign him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: McCarron, Green, Jones, Bushrod, Davis

Let’s take a look at the details from the latest contracts signed in the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

  • A.J. McCarron, QB (Bills): Two years, $10MM. $3MM in 2018, $7MM in 2019. $1.1MM of ’19 salary guaranteed for injury. 2019 salary fully guaranteed on Day 5 of 2019 league year. Bills would incur $2MM dead-money charge by cutting McCarron after one season (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
  • DaQuan Jones, DE (Titans): Three years, $21MM, $14MM fully guaranteed at signing. $6MM base salary for 2019 fully guaranteed (per Caplan).
  • Virgil Green, TE (Chargers): Three years, $8.6MM, $5.9MM fully guaranteed, which covers the first two years of this deal (per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com, on Twitter).
  • Cody Davis, S (Jaguars): Two years, $5MM, $2.5MM fully guaranteed. Deal contains option bonus due 22 days before the start of the 2019 league year (via Caplan).
  • Jermon Bushrod, OL (Saints): One-year deal (via Herbie Teope of NOLA.com)

Titans To Re-Sign DL DaQuan Jones

The Titans are re-signing defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, according to Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post (on Twitter). It’s a multi-year deal, but the exact terms are not yet known.

Jones, valued for his strong run defense, was also being chased by the Jets.

The 26-year-old enjoyed the best season of his career in 2017. He totaled 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 12 games before suffering a season-ending biceps tear. Prior to that injury, he started 44 consecutive games over three seasons.

With Jones on the defensive front, the Titans allowed just 88.8 yards per game on the ground, the fourth-best mark in the league, and surrendered the fewest rushing touchdowns in the NFL with five.

The fourth-year defensive lineman was not the only member up front re-signed to the Titans’ defense. Earlier in the day, Tennessee signed David King to a one-year deal.

[RELATED: Titans Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Likely To Sign Spencer Long, Pushing To Sign DaQuan Jones

The Jets are “very likely” to sign offensive lineman Spencer Long on Wednesday, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). They are also pushing to land defensive end DaQuan Jones as well, JLC adds. 

Last week, we rated Long as the 16th best interior lineman available. The advanced metrics aren’t crazy about Long – he graded out as just the 19th best center in the NFL last year, per Pro Football Focus – but he was well liked in Washington and also offers experience at guard. Meanwhile, we haven’t heard a whole lot about the Jets and Ryan Jensen, who is viewed by many as the best center available in free agency this year.

Jones, 26, enjoyed the best season of his young career in 2017. He totaled 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 12 games before suffering a season-ending biceps tear. Prior to that injury, he started 44 consecutive games over three seasons. The Titans would like to re-sign him, but it sounds like the Jets are closing in.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

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. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

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 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

2017 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Donte Moncrief (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.8MM in 2017. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2017 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Aaron Lynch, LB; Marcus Martin, OL

Bears: Charles Leno, T; Will Sutton, DT

Bengals: Russell Bodine, C

Bills: Preston Brown, LB; Seantrel Henderson, T

Broncos: Michael Schofield, OL

Browns: Christian Kirksey, LB

Buccaneers: Kevin Pamphile, G

Cardinals: John Brown, WR

Chiefs: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G; Zach Fulton, G; Phillip Gaines, CB

Colts: Donte Moncrief, WR

Cowboys: Anthony Hitchens, LB

Falcons: Devonta Freeman, RB

Giants: Devon Kennard, LB

Jaguars: Aaron Colvin, CB; Brandon Linder, G; Telvin Smith, LB

Lions: Nevin Lawson, CB; Travis Swanson, C

Packers: Corey Linsley, C; Richard Rodgers, TE

Panthers: Tre Boston, S; Trai Turner, G

Raiders: T.J. Carrie, CB; Justin Ellis, DT; Gabe Jackson, G

Rams: Maurice Alexander, S; E.J. Gaines, CB

Redskins: Bashaud Breeland, CB; Spencer Long, G; Morgan Moses, T

Texans: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE; Andre Hal, S

Titans: DaQuan Jones, DL; Avery Williamson, LB

Vikings: Shamar Stephen, DT

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Signings: Titans, Jets, Cowboys

Teams continue to waste no time in signing their 2014 draft picks, with news of several more agreements trickling in this morning. Here are the latest draft pick signings from around the NFL:

  • Defensive lineman Daquan Jones and cornerback Marqueston Huff, a pair of fourth-round picks, have agreed to terms with the Titans, reports Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean (via Twitter). The moves leave Tennessee with four more picks to sign.
  • The Jets have reached an agreement with fifth-round pick Jeremiah George, who will be in line for a four-year, $2.411MM deal with a signing bonus worth approximately $192K, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. The linebacker is the third of 12 draftees to agree to terms with the Jets.
  • The Cowboys‘ draft was heavy on seventh-rounders, and the team has locked up one of the five players it selected in the seventh. According to Wilson (via Twitter), defensive end Ben Gardner has agreed to a contract with the Cowboys that includes a signing bonus of about $59K and has an overall four-year value of $2.279MM.