Dawan Landry

Community Tailgate: Best FA Besides Evan Mathis?

We’re still a few months away from the start of battles on the NFL gridiron, but there’s no offseason when it comes to debate amongst fans. This month, we launched a new series here at PFR that will be known as the Community Tailgate. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. Every weekday, we’ll highlight one of the top stories going on in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.

Of course, while the debate may get spirited, we ask that it all stays respectful. If you need a reminder of our rules, please check out our commenting policy. Basically, we ask that you refrain from inappropriate language, personal insults, and attacks. Speaking of commenting: we’ve made it much easier to leave a comment here at Pro Football Rumors. You are no longer required to be a registered user – simply put in your name, email address, and comment and submit.

Today, we’re asking PFR readers to weigh in on the top remaining free agents. Excluding talented players with legal troubles like linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive end Ray McDonald, former Eagles guard Evan Mathis is universally regarded as the best player without a deal at this time. Beyond Mathis, however, there’s hardly a clear cut silver medalist.

Over the weekend, PFR’s Dallas Robinson put together his list of the best available remaining free agents. After Mathis, he ranked tackle Jake Long No. 2, citing the former No. 1 overall pick’s talent level while also acknowledging his frustrating injury history. Tight end Jermaine Gresham, who underwent back surgery in March to repair a herniated disc, comes in at No. 3 thanks to his pass-catching ability and history of solid blocking. One-time fantasy darling James Jones is ranked fourth even though he has yet to put up the kind of numbers that he did with the Packers in 2012. Defensive end Dwight Freeney, 35, has remained productive despite his age and lack of sack totals, and was ranked No. 5. Safety Dawan Landry, guard Rob Sims, defensive lineman Red Bryant, center Chris Myers, and offensive lineman Anthony Collins rounded out the top ten. Honorable mention went to notables such as defensive end Osi Umenyiora, running back Pierre Thomas, safety Bernard Pollard, running back Ahmad Bradshaw, and quarterback Michael Vick.

Long could definitely pay dividends for a team willing to roll the dice on a low-cost deal and one could hardly be slammed for considering him the most intriguing free agent after Mathis. After all, in 2013, Long graded out as the seventh-best tackle in the league with a strong 22.5 overall score, based on Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required). However, he has torn his ACL in each of the past two seasons and in 2014, Pro Football Focus ranked him as just the No. 36 tackle out of 84 qualified players. Do you consider someone like Gresham, who was a focal point of the Bengals’ offense for multiple seasons, to be a better buy? Does that mantle belong to Freeney, who graded out as one of the best at his position in terms of pass-rush productivity? Or, would you cast your vote for someone else?

In the comment section below, let us know who you think is the second-best free agent on the board and why. 

GM: Bills More Likely To Trade Down Than Up

Having sent their 2015 first-round pick to the Browns a year ago to move up to land Sammy Watkins, the Bills are one of two teams that aren’t expected to make a pick next Thursday on day one of the draft. While trading up into the first round from No. 50 is a possibility for Buffalo, general manager Doug Whaley suggested today that it’s not a likely outcome, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com details.

“We’re going to set up our board where we’ll put a demarcation line where if we see guys fall — and we think we have a chance to go up and get, we would consider it,” Whaley said. “But I’ll tell you right now, with the lack of ammunition, I would highly, highly doubt that we [trade up]. We’d be more prone to listen to offers to move back from 50 and pick up more picks, but again, I will never say never.”

Having added Watkins a year ago, and landing pricey playmakers like LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay, and Percy Harvin this offseason, the Bills are likely to focus on adding depth at several positions rather than focusing on a big name at one position, as Whaley explains: “With what we did in free agency, we feel very comfortable with the pieces of the puzzle we have in place and we’re at that point now where we may start getting top heavy so we’re going to need the draft picks to start replenishing the roster.”

Speaking of free agents, the Bills aren’t necessarily done shopping, but they’re in no hurry to secure players like Dawan Landry and Brad Smith, despite eyeing the former Jets. Per Whaley, Buffalo plans to “slow play it,” and will pull the trigger on a deal with a free agent if it’s mutually beneficial for the two sides (Twitter link via Rodak). The team may be inclined to wait until after May 12, when free agents no longer count against the compensatory pick formula for 2016.

East Notes: Bills, Landry, Eagles, Biggers

So far this offseason, one noteworthy free agent – wide receiver Percy Harvin – has moved from the Jets to the Bills, following Rex Ryan to Buffalo. Now, Ryan and the Bills are considering bringing in another player who played in New York a year ago. According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter), former Jets safety Dawan Landry is paying a visit to Buffalo.

The Jets don’t appear to have any interest in retaining Landry, but Pro Football Focus (subscription required) was fond of his 2014 performance, grading him as a top-10 safety in the NFL. We’ll have to see if the Bills have a spot for him in a secondary that has lost Jairus Byrd and Da’Norris Searcy in the last two offseasons.

Here’s more from out of the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • As the Eagles eye potential defensive backs, they’ll bring in former Washington cornerback E.J. Biggers for a visit today, according to Pro Football Talk (via Twitter). Biggers, who spent three seasons in Tampa Bay prior to his time in D.C., also has some experience at safety, a position of need for Philadelphia.
  • James Walker of ESPN.com wonders if Josh Freeman has a chance to unseat Matt Moore as the Dolphins‘ No. 2 quarterback. As Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun tweeted this morning, Freeman’s deal with Miami is a minimum salary pact with no guaranteed money, so it’s not as if the team has much invested in him.
  • Richie Incognito is grateful to the Bills for giving him a second chance in the NFL, and told reporters on Monday that there were times when he didn’t think he’d have the opportunity to continue his playing career (Associated Press link via USA Today).
  • Referring to the atmosphere at the Bills‘ facility, LeSean McCoy said there’s “more of a NFL type of feel,” as opposed to the “college feel” he’d experienced in Philadelphia during the last couple seasons, writes Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com. The veteran running back also made some comments about Eagles head coach Chip Kelly yesterday.

Jets Links: Ryan, Idzik, Decker, Casserly

Jets head coach Rex Ryan has cleaned out his office at One Jets Drive, reports Dom Cosentino of NJ.com. With the team set to finish the season no better than 4-12, most fans and pundits believe that it will be Ryan’s last game with New York.

Team owner Woody Johnson has hired Charlie Casserly to serve as a consultant, likely in an effort to help him to hire replacements for both Ryan and general manager John Idzik.

Here are some other notes from around Jets camp:

  • While Ryan has already cleaned out his office, many of his players are still giving their full support and effort to their head coach, reports Kimberly Martin of Newsday. One of his newest additions, Percy Harvin, was adamant about how much he likes playing for Ryan. “I love him. I loved him before I got here and I’m that much more in love with him now that I’m here,’‘ said Harvin. “I don’t think anybody in this locker room has anything negative to say about Coach. That’s why you see guys still playing hard these last few games, still giving their all for Coach. He’s a players’ coach and definitely a guy you want to play for.”
  • Idzik could very well be joining Ryan in packing up his stuff, and if he does get fired, he will have his 8-8 2013 to blame, writes Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com. Fitzgerald surmises that the surprise 8-8 season is more damaging than a three-win 2014 campaign because it elevated and highlighted Ryan’s gifts at a coach to take a bad roster to the brink of playoff contention, and it blurred the line between whether Ryan or Idzik was more to blame for the lack of success, and cost Idzik a chance at a high draft pick and a new coach this past offseason.
  • If Casserly has been contacting potential coach and general manager candidates, he may have committed tampering, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. He notes that the league has made no comment about the situation or the conflict of interest, as Casserly sits on the Career Development Advisory Panel. Florio’s source tells him that Casserly is calling about candidates, not contacting them directly. The influence Casserly has from sitting on that panel could be invaluable, and is considered a rare genius move by Florio.
  • This Sunday’s game against the Dolphins could be the last in green for a few of the Jets’ veteran player, writes Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. Some players who may not be back include Michael Vick, Willie Colon, Dawan Landry, Bilal Powell, and David Harris. Cimini also writes that Harvin, Chris Johnson, and Calvin Pace could be cap casualties this offseason.
  • Although Eric Decker will be missing the playoffs for only the second time in his NFL career after signing with the Jets this past offseason, he has no regrets about the decision, according to Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post“I don’t have any regrets. When I made my decision to come to New York I wholeheartedly felt it was the best decision,’’ Decker said. “Even though the record is not the same and the stats aren’t the same [as they were in Denver], I still believe that my purpose is to be here. I believe there is a greater plan for me. I realize that is probably hard to see that in the moment.’’

Byrd Notes: Falcons, Browns, Jets, Bills

The deadline for teams to apply their franchise and transition tags has come and gone, and the Bills announced earlier today they would not tag three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd.

Now it’s time for beat writers from safety-needy teams to look at whether the former Oregon product who played the 2013 season on a franchise tender would be worth his hefty price tag.

When D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution ranked his five free agent targets for the Falcons, he ranked Byrd No. 1. Atlanta will be $26.7MM beneath the salary cap once Tony Gonzalez‘s $7MM slot is removed, and Ledbetter cites the potential upgrade Byrd would present over incumbent free safety Thomas DeCoud, whom the Falcons are expected to release, as justification.

But, there’s only so much money you can invest in one position, as ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure points out. Strong safety William Moore enters year two of a five-year, $29.51M contract, and Byrd figures to command a substantially larger deal.

Other Byrd notes from around the league…

  • When the Browns placed the transition tag on center Alex Mack earlier today, they gave up their exclusive rights of T.J. Ward, another top-tier safety hitting free agency. ESPN Browns reporter Pat McManamon looks at the potential for a Byrd/Ward swap of sorts, reuniting Byrd with Cleveland head coach and former Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
  • The Jets haven’t paid top dollar for a safety since Kerry Rhodes‘ $33.5MM deal in 2008, ESPNNewYork.com reporter Rich Cimini notes, but Byrd is worth investigating. Cimini’s gut tells him the team will likely look again to Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen in 2014, but with 22 interceptions since 2009 and six against the Jets, Byrd should draw the organization’s eye.
  • Aaron Williams, a second-round pick in 2011, tops the list of likely replacements for Byrd in Buffalo, with younger players Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks and Jujuan Harley as long shots, per ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak.