Dustin Hopkins

Redskins Work Out 5 Kickers

Dustin Hopkins‘ availability for Week 11 appears to be in question, so the Redskins are getting an early start on examining replacement help.

With Hopkins “a bit banged up,” per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter links), Washington brought in several kickers for a Tuesday workout.

Blair Walsh, Roberto Aguayo, Kai Forbath, Sam Ficken and Jon Brown participated, Yates reports. Of the quintet, only Ficken has kicked in a 2018 game. Walsh and Forbath had gigs last season, with the Seahawks and Vikings, respectively, while Aguayo has not kicked in a game since his rough 2016 season.

Forbath has a history with Washington, having been Hopkins’ predecessor. The UCLA product served as the Redskins’ kicker from 2012-14 before moving on to roles with the Saints and Vikings. The latter cut him this year, giving the job to rookie Daniel Carlson, whose grip on it lasted two games.

The Redskins went through this with Hopkins last season. He missed eight games in 2017, and Washington used Nick Rose as its kicker during that time. Rose is not believed to have been among today’s tryout contingent. Also perhaps soon to be available is Chandler Catanzaro, whom the Buccaneers sent to waivers on Monday. But his two misses Sunday helped the Redskins pick up a road win.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Sherman, 49ers, Talib, 49ers, Bucs, Greco

Richard Sherman has taken some flack for his one-year deal with the 49ers, but he has no regrets about acting as his own agent.

I don’t think any agent in the business could have done a better job of negotiating this contract,” Sherman told Peter King of The MMQB. “As long as I’m content with what I’m making, nothing else matters to me. Once I make a Pro Bowl, $8MM the next year is guaranteed for me. It gives me the ability to control my destiny. The 49ers have skin in the game. I have skin in the game. In my former contract, no matter what I did this year, nothing would be guaranteed to me next year. I couldn’t feel secure in my contract. Now, if I play the way I know I’m capable of playing, I know I’m going to get paid.”

Sherman’s deal is a three-year, $39MM pact, but a deeper look shows that the real base value is just $21.15MM with another $18MM coming in the form of bonuses. In order to earn the full $39MM, Sherman must play in every regular season game, be on the field for 90% of snaps, and earn Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in each season. In other words, it’s unlikely that Sherman will actually see the full value of the deal. Still, Sherman is content with how things played out and intimated that he wanted the opportunity to face his old team twice per year.

  • Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (on Twitter) had more on the 49ers’ proposed trade for cornerback Aqib Talib from the Broncos, which Talib rejected. The 49ers were going to send a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft in exchange for the services of the five-time Pro Bowler. In the end, the Broncos traded Talib to the Rams for a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft.
  • The Buccanneers looked to shore up their kicking woes of late by attempting to land former Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins before he re-signed with the Redskins, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine. The Bucs cut former second-round pick Roberto Aguayo prior to last season and Nick Folk was cut last month after missing a majority of last season on injured reserve with a minor-injury designation. Free-agent addition Patrick Murray hit 82.6% of his kicks with Tampa Bay last year in 23 attempts, with a long of 50 yards.
  • The Giants and offensive lineman John Greco agreed to a one-year deal last month and Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (on Twitter) that his salary for 2018 will be $1.02MM. Greco appeared in six games for the Giants last season after spending the previous six seasons as a mainstay within the interior of the Browns’ offensive line.

Redskins Re-Sign K Dustin Hopkins

The Redskins have taken care of one of their own free agents in advance of the legal tampering period. Kicker Dustin Hopkins has agreed to a new deal, according to a team announcement. It’s a three-year deal worth $6.875MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal includes a $1.2MM signing bonus. 

Hopkins, 28 in October, has been with the Redskins since 2015. In that time, he has made 73-of-87 field goal attempts along with 93-of-98 extra point tries. He has been perfect on short-range attempts in that time, making all 26 of his field goals from 20-29 yards out.

Hopkins is the third player the Redskins have re-signed this offseason, following linebacker Mason Foster and safety Deshazor Everett. They still have 15 unrestricted free agents to address (only 14, if you exclude Kirk Cousins), including four members of the 2014 draft class: linebacker Trent Murphy, center Spencer Long, cornerback Bashaud Breeland and wide receiver Ryan Grant.

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

Redskins Activate K Dustin Hopkins

Despite the Redskins headed toward a second consecutive playoff absence, the team will bring its kicker back for this season’s final games.

Washington activated Dustin Hopkins from injured reserve on Saturday. He will replace kicker Nick Rose, whom the team waived, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

A strained muscle in Hopkins’ hip resulted in the IR placement, but he’ll be back in time for Week 15. This is Hopkins’ third NFL season; he’d kicked in 31 Redskins regular-season games prior to appearing in just five thus far this season.

Rose fared well in Hopkins’ absence, making 10 of 11 field goal tries. He made 18 of 20 extra point attempts in the eight games since being summoned to replace the incumbent. He’ll now head to waivers and could well warrant an opportunity as a free agent at some point soon if unclaimed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins K Dustin Hopkins Placed On IR

Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins is being placed on injured reserve with a strained rotator muscle in his right hip, a source tells JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington (on Twitter). Dustin Hopkins (vertical)

With Hopkins out, the Redskins are auditioning replacements. Andrew Franks, Marshall Koehn, Mike Nugent, and Nick Rose all showed their stuff in D.C. on Tuesday, Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link) reports. Franks, Koehn, and Nugent are well acquainted after they all participated in the Buccaneers’ workout last week.

Hopkins connected on 9 of 11 field goal attempts this season. In Sunday’s game against the Niners, he connected on tries from 21 and 48 yards, though he missed one extra point try.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Giants, Eli, Redskins, Eagles

Although the Jaguars have been speculatively mentioned as a trade destination for Giants quarterback Eli Manning given the presence of executive VP Tom Coughlin, Manning has no interest in being dealt, as Bob Glauber of Newsday writes. “I’ve not heard [the Jacksonville speculation], I’ve not felt it, not thinking about it,”Manning said. “I don’t want to play anywhere else. I love this team, love this organization, and I want to be here.” New York, of course, won its first game of the season on Sunday night, while Jacksonville fell to 3-3 with a loss to the Rams. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles‘ role in the team’s offense has been severely reduced, but general manager David Caldwell & Co. will likely finish out the campaign with Bortles under center before targeting signal-caller upgrades in the offseason, as Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com writes.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • On the heels of their dominant first win of the season over the Broncos on Sunday night, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY pointed out (Twitter link) that Giants coach Ben McAdoo gave play-calling responsibilities to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan for the team’s Week 6 affair. McAdoo had been a subject of criticism given the Giants nightmarish start to the season, but it looked like the change may have things turned around, at least for the time being, as New York avoided many big mistakes with the offense going to a more run-oriented approach. The team rushed for a total of 148 yards on the game, with starter Orleans Darkwa accounting for 117 of those yards on 21 carries.
  • In another Giants twist, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is scheduled to report to the team’s facility tomorrow morning for a meeting/update on his status, tweets Josina Anderson of ESPN.com. The 10-year cornerback was suspended indefinitely last week for a number of events, which included walking out on a team meeting as well as storming off the field after the Giants lost to the Chargers two weeks ago. Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the best nickelbacks in football last season with him being voted to a second team All-pro by Pro Football Focus and the Associated Press in 2016-17. However, New York’s defense didn’t seem to miss the veteran defensive back all too much as the team picked off Trevor Siemian twice and held the Broncos out of the endzone for much of the game last night.
  • The Redskins will likely work out free agent kickers this week as incumbent Dustin Hopkins battles a hip injury, head coach Jay Gruden told reporters, including Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Hopkins — who is dealing with a partially torn hip and will miss Week 7, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com — converted both of his field goal attempts on Sunday, but missed an extra point that nearly proved crucial in a tight victory over the 49ers. On the season, Hopkins has been successful on 81.8% of field goals, and both of his misses were on 50+ yard attempts.
  • The Eagles worked out linebackers Donald Butler, Sean Spence and Jelani Jenkins today, tweets Field Yates of ESPN.com. After starter Jordan Hicks suffered a foot injury this past Thursday night, it looks like Philadelphia is on the hunt for a potential replacement. Hicks, 25, does not yet have a timetable of when he’s likely to return, and with Joe Walker being the only other middle linebacker currently on the roster, if Philadelphia was to sign a free agent, the player would stand to have a legitimate chance of getting meaningful playing time.

Washington To Cut Forbath, Sign Hopkins

Washington plans to release kicker Kai Forbath and sign former Saints and Bills kicker Dustin Hopkins, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Forbath missed a 46-yard field goal against the Dolphins on Sunday and while that’s hardly considered to be a chip shot, one has to imagine that played a role in his release today. Heading into the season, Forbath owned a solid 88% completion percentage on field goals for his career. The 28-year-old inked a new deal to remain with Washington this offseason, but as we all know, kickers typically don’t have the best job security.

Hopkins inked a three-year futures deal with the Saints back in January and while the deal could have kept him there through 2017, his stay ended on September 5th when the team made their cuts to get down to a 53-man roster.

Saints Slim Down Roster To 53

One season and two training camps proved sufficient for the Saints to determine whether Stanley Jean-Baptiste was capable of making an impact for them.

They determined the 2014 second-round pick wasn’t good enough for their roster, notes Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com. Jean-Baptiste only played eight snaps last year and as a result of this move, Brandin Cooks is the only player remaining on the team from last year’s draft class.

The Saints instead kept 2014 undrafted free agent Brian Dixon, who played 166 snaps as a rookie, among their seven-cornerback contingent.

New Orleans did not keep veteran receiver Josh Morgan, either, and will go with a mostly young receiving stable, excepting Marques Colston.

Jairus Byrd also avoided having to start the season on the PUP list, per Terrell.

The Saints’ other cuts are as follows:

  • Justin Anderson, LB
  • Edwin Baker, RB
  • Nick Becton, OL
  • Orson Charles, TE
  • Henry Coley, LB
  • Jerry Franklin, LB
  • Mike Golic Jr., OL
  • Ryan Griffin, QB
  • Bryce Harris, T
  • Sean Hickey, OL
  • Seantavius Jones, WR
  • Dustin Hopkins, K
  • Cyril Lemon, OL
  • Chris Manhertz, TE
  • Joseph Morgan, WR
  • Toben Opurum, FB
  • Sammy Seamster, CB
  • Alex Smith, TE
  • Pierre Warren, S

NFC South Notes: Bucs, Falcons, Saints

The Buccaneers had been hoping to interview Titans tight ends coach Mike Mularkey for their open offensive coordinator job, but that won’t happen, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport tweets that Tampa Bay has been denied permission to speak to Mularkey.

NFL teams aren’t allowed to block assistant coaches from interviewing for – or accepting – a job as a head coach, but that rule doesn’t apply to other jobs, including coordinator positions. In this case, the Buccaneers’ job would qualify as a promotion for Mularkey, but the Titans are within their rights to deny the Bucs the opportunity to talk to him.

Here’s more from around the NFC South:

  • The Falcons will interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for their head coaching opening today, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, by way of his colleague Vaughn McClure (Twitter link).
  • Rex Ryan has also scheduled his interview with the Falcons — it’ll happen on Tuesday, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. While Ryan could be a good fit in Atlanta, some observers believe the ex-Jets coach is talking to NFL teams in order to squeeze more money out of ESPN, says Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (Twitter link).
  • Examining the reserve/futures contracts signed by the Saints, Evan Woodbery of the Times-Picayune points out that kicker Dustin Hopkins inked the longest deal, a three-year pact that keeps him under team control through 2017.
  • Saints defensive backs Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Corey White had somewhat frustrating 2014 seasons in New Orleans, and aren’t quite sure what the team has in store for them in 2015, writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com.