Darren Fells

Lions To Sign Darren Fells

The Lions have agreed to a deal with Darren Fells, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. It’s a reunion for Fells, who spent the 2017 season in Detroit. 

Last time with the Lions, Fells notched 17 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns. Back then, he was known solely for his blocking ability. But, in 2019, he made waves with 34 catches for 341 yards and seven touchdowns. His second season with the Texans wasn’t as flashy. In 2020, Fells notched 21 catches for 312 yards and four TDs. Still, that makes eleven scores in two years and the Lions are more interested in Fells for his blocking ability.

Fells will help replace TE Josh Hill, who signed with the Lions this year only to retire earlier this week. Hill, 31, was set to play on a one-year, $1.2MM deal.

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Lions To Meet With Darren Fells

The Lions will meet with Darren Fells tonight (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo). If all goes well, the veteran tight end could return to Detroit, where he spent the 2017 season.

Fells has notched eleven touchdowns across the last two seasons with the Texans, plus another TD in the 2019 postseason. The bulk of those scores came in ’19 (seven) off of 34 grabs for 341 yards. Last year was quieter for the 35-year-old as he registered 21 catches for 312 yards and four TDs. Still, it’s worth noting that he finished with the highest yards per catch average of his career (14.9). Also, it wasn’t exactly a banner year for the Texans offense on the whole.

Overall, Fells is better known for his blocking prowess than his pass-catching, so he still profiles as solid support for T.J. Hockenson & Co.

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Texans To Cut TE Darren Fells

The Texans are releasing Darren Fells (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The tight end was previously set to play out the second-year of his two-year, $7MM contract. 

Fells, who will celebrate his 35th birthday in April, set a career high with seven touchdowns in 2019. It was an unexpected jump in offensive production for the veteran, who was previously known best for his blocking prowess.

Last year, he staved off competition from Jordan Akins and third-round pick Kahale Warring, but the Texans are going younger across the board as they rebuilt. Akins led all Houston TEs with 37 grabs for 403 yards. Meanwhile, Warring stands at 6’5″ with tons of promise as a blocker. If he’s healthy, he could be a featured part of the rotation.

By releasing Fells, the Texans will save upwards of $1.2MM on the books.

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Texans, Darren Fells Agree To Extension

The Texans have agreed to terms on a new two-year contract with tight end Darren Fells, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). The new deal is worth $7MM and will pay Fells a little more up front with $4MM in 2020. 

Fells, who will celebrate his 34th birthday in April, set a career high with seven touchdowns last year. It was an unexpected jump in offensive production for the veteran, who was previously known best for his blocking prowess.

Last summer, many thought that Fells was on the chopping block soon after signing his one-year deal with Houston. Six weeks after putting pen to paper, the Texans used a third-round choice on San Diego State’s Kahale Warring, a 6’5″ athlete with lots of promise as a blocker. Meanwhile, there were also “the Jordans” – 2018 picks Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas.

Still, Fells emerged from the pack and as he started in all 16 games and caught 34 passes for 341 yards (and the aforementioned seven TDs.) Now, he’ll stick with the Texans for 2020 and possibly beyond.

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Release Candidate: Texans TE Darren Fells

The Texans signed Darren Fells to a one-year deal in March, adding a proven blocking tight end to their offensive unit. However, the 33-year-old could be looking for work before the summer is through. 

Roughly six weeks after signing Fells, the Texans used a third round pick on San Diego State’s Kahale Warring, a 6’5″ tight end who has shown serious promise as a blocker. Meanwhile, the Texans also have the Jordans – 2018 rookies Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas – on their TE depth chart. Fells faces an uphill battle, even after the Texans released Ryan Griffin in May.

Fells’ blue collar blocking skills have made him a known commodity in a league obsessed with offensively explosive tight ends, but they might not be enough to get him over the hump in Houston. It’s also worth noting that Fells, despite his rep, wasn’t all that sharp of a blocker last season. Pro Football Focus assigned Fells a 72.9 pass-blocking grade in 2018, which put him near the middle of the pack among his position group, and a 55.9 grade in the run game, a mark which ranked near the bottom of the league.

Fells’ blocking foibles weren’t just recognized by the advanced metrics. The Browns, who inked him to a three-year, $12MM deal in the 2018 offseason, released him this year and took on a dead money hit of $1.4MM.

Fells seems likely to hook on somewhere for the 2019 season, but it might not happen with the Texans, who guaranteed him just $100K on his one-year, $1.5MM deal.

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Texans To Sign TE Darren Fells

Darren Fells has a new home. On Monday, the Texans agreed to sign the tight end to a one-year deal, as Mark Berman of FOX 26 tweets

Fells, 33 next month, signed a three-year, $12MM deal with Cleveland just last offseason. But, earlier this month, the Browns cut him after being unable to find a suitable trade.

Fells was scheduled to carry a cap charge of $3.7MM. Instead, the Browns sent him packing and took on a dead money hit of $1.4MM.

In his lone season in Cleveland, Fells appeared in all 16 games, but played on just 38.5% of the Browns’ offensive snaps and managed only 11 receptions. While he wasn’t given many opportunities behind starting tight end David Njoku, Fells was effective when targeted. Among tight ends with fewer than 25 catches, Fells finished third in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, meaning he was productive on a per-play basis.

While Fells has historically been praised as a blocking tight end, 2018 wasn’t a banner year for him in that regard, at least according to Pro Football Focus. PFF assigned Fells a 72.9 pass-blocking grade, which put him near the middle of the pack among his position group, but a 55.9 grade in the run game, a mark which ranked near the bottom of the league.

Fells will bring his blocking knowledge to the Texans’ TE group, which currently includes Ryan Griffin, Jordan Thomas, and Jordan Akins.

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Browns Release TE Darren Fells

The Browns have released tight end Darren Fells after failing to trade him, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (Twitter link). The Jets were mentioned as a possible suitor for Fells after reports emerged Saturday that he was on the trade block, but no deal came to fruition.

Fells, 33 next month, signed a three-year, $12MM deal with Cleveland just last offseason. He’d been scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.65MM in 2019, and would have carried a cap charge of $3.7MM. Instead, the Browns will now take on a dead money hit of $1.4MM by cutting Fells.

In his lone season in Cleveland, Fells appeared in all 16 games, but played on just 38.5% of the Browns’ offensive snaps and managed only 11 receptions. While he wasn’t given many opportunities behind starting tight end David Njoku, Fells was effective when targeted. Among tight ends with fewer than 25 catches, Fells finished third in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, meaning he was productive on a per-play basis.

While Fells has historically been praised as a blocking tight end, 2018 wasn’t a banner year for him in that regard, at least according to Pro Football Focus. PFF assigned Fells a 72.9 pass-blocking grade, which put him near the middle of the pack among his position group, but a 55.9 grade in the run game, a mark which ranked near the bottom of the league.

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Browns Shopping Darren Fells, Jets Interested

The Browns have showed a strong willingness to make trades under new GM John Dorsey, most recently sending guard Kevin Zeitler to the Giants in exchange for defensive end Olivier Vernon. He isn’t done yet, as the team is shopping tight end Darren Fells in trade talks, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com (Twitter link).

Fells signed a three-year, $12MM deal with the Browns in March of last year, but they’re apparently looking to move on just one year into that pact. Fells has never offered much in the passing game, and is much more of a blocking tight end than anything else. He was an occasional redzone threat for the Browns last year, catching three touchdowns. He had just 11 receptions for 117 yards overall, although he did start 11 games.

With David Njoku the future at the position for Cleveland, the Browns don’t have too much of a need for an expensive blocking tight end. They can find a decent blocker on the open market for a cheaper price. Fells has only been in the league for five seasons, but he turns 33 in April. He never played college football, and made the leap to the NFL after playing professional basketball overseas for several seasons.

As for teams that might be interested, the Jets “have had internal discussions about trading for” Fells, sources told Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News (Twitter link). Mehta adds that New York “is in the market” for a blocking tight end. Fells did receive slightly above average marks from Pro Football Focus last year. If they can’t find a trade partner, it’s definitely possible the Browns could just release Fells outright.

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Browns To Sign TE Darren Fells

The Browns will sign tight end Darren Fells to a three-year, $12MM contact , tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. The deal contains more than $6MM in guarantees.

Cleveland had been on the lookout for a veteran tight end since releasing Gary Barnidge prior to the 2017 campaign. Fells, who turns 32 years old next month, will now team with former first-round pick David Njoku and Seth DeValve to give Cleveland a solid trio of tight ends.

Fells has never been a major part of his club’s passing attack, whether during his tenure in Arizona or his one-season run in Detroit. Last year, Fells collected 17 of 26 targets for 177 yards, but did manage to get into the end zone three times. As a blocker, Fells is roughly league-average in the run game but a top-10 option in the passing game, per Pro Football Focus.

Although they boast the most cap space in the league, the Browns have refrained from adding top-of-the-market players, preferring to sign mid-tier options (at least thus far). In addition to Fells, Cleveland has brought in Carlos Hyde, Donald Stephenson, Chris Hubbard, and Chris Smith.

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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.

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