E.J. Gaines

Bills, E.J. Gaines Reach Injury Settlement

E.J. Gaines landed on the Bills’ IR list earlier this month, but the cornerback will nevertheless have a path to playing time this season. The Bills reached an injury settlement with the veteran corner to remove him from their IR list, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

The Bills placed Gaines on IR due to a groin injury on August 10; they signed Captain Munnerlyn to effectively replace him on the roster. Once Gaines heals up, he will have a chance to sign elsewhere and play in 2019.

This was Gaines’ second Bills contract. He started 11 games with the 2017 Bills and was a first-stringer in the team’s wild-card game. Gaines signed with the Browns last season but only played in six games, landing on IR in early November. The Bills signed him to a one-year, $2.1MM deal (with $250K guaranteed) in late March.

Should the former sixth-round pick suit up in 2019, this will be his age-27 season. Gaines has made 38 career starts, 25 of those coming for the Rams.

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Bills Place CB E.J. Gaines On IR

Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines has been placed on injured reserve due to a groin injury, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets

Gaines sustained the injury in practice and was expected to miss a few weeks initially. Following the IR designation, he will now not be eligible to return until after Week 8.

A sixth-round selection by the Rams in 2014, Gaines spent two seasons with the team before being dealt to the Bills in 2017 in the same deal that sent Sammy Watkins the other way. He played one season with the Bills before signing a one-year deal with the Browns for 2018. Following an injury-shortened campaign, the cornerback returned to the Bills for 2019 on a one-year, $3.6MM contract.

Plagued by injuries in recent years, Gaines is coming off his one season with the Browns in which he appeared in six games, including two starts, but was lost for the season after suffering two concussions in a month’s time.

After placing Gaines on IR, the Bills brought in veteran cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who is familiar with head coach Sean McDermott from their time with the Panthers.

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Bills To Sign CB E.J. Gaines

E.J. Gaines is returning to the Bills. The cornerback has agreed to a new one-year, $3.6MM deal with Buffalo, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). 

Gaines joined the Browns on a one-year, $4MM deal last year, but spent the 2017 season with the Bills after coming over in the Sammy Watkins trade with the Rams. In that season, he finished out as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 12 ranked cornerback and placed ninth in Football Outsiders’ success rate, though injuries limited him to just eleven games.

Last year, the injury bug bit Gaines once again. He appeared in only six games for the Browns (two starts), so he’s eager to re-assert himself.

The Bills’ cornerback room is starting to shape up with quality starters in Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace and support from Gaines and fellow new addition Kevin Johnson.

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Browns Place Kirksey, Gaines On IR

The Browns placed linebacker Christian Kirksey (hamstring) and defensive back E.J. Gaines (concussion) on injured reserve, according to a team announcement. Both players were forced out during the second half of Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs and those injuries have ended their seasons prematurely. 

Kirksey, a fifth-year veteran and team captain, started all seven of his games for the Browns this year. In that time, he racked up 29 tackles, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. Kirksey averaged 90 tackles and three sacks between 2016 and 2017, so those numbers were off of his usual pace. According to Pro Football Focus, it has been a subpar 2018 for Kirksey, who currently ranks as one of the ten worst qualified LBs in the league. Still, losing Kirksey is a blow to the Browns D.

The Browns are hoping to get Joe Schobert back on the field soon and his return should take some of the sting out out of losing Kirksey. Schobert has been held out of the last three games with a hamstring ailment of his own.

Gaines joined the Browns on a one-year, $4MM deal in the offseason. Unfortunately, he’s done for the year after suffering his second concussion of the season. Gaines started in two of his six games and snagged his lone interception of the year against the Raiders in September.

To fill one of the vacated roster spots, the Browns have signed defensive back Juston Burris off the Jets’ practice squad.

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Browns To Sign CB E.J. Gaines

The Browns have reached an agreement with free agent cornerback E.J. Gaines, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link). It’s a one-year deal worth $4MM, while an additional $1MM is available via incentives, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com first reported Cleveland was nearing a deal with Gaines.

After ranking 27th in pass defense DVOA in 2017, Cleveland has overhauled its secondary this offseason. Not only did the Browns trade veteran Jason McCourty to the Patriots in exchange for pennies, but they’ve also signed free agents T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell to multi-year deals. With Gaines in tow, Cleveland will now have a bit of depth in a defensive backfield that also includes Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun.

Heading into free agency, PFR ranked Gaines as the fourth-best cornerback on the market and the No. 18 free agent overall. While other corners such as Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler, and Aaron Colvin quickly flew off the board, Gaines’ market took longer to develop. He wasn’t exactly wanting for interest, though, as the Jets, Cardinals, and Texans all expressed some level of intrigue in Gaines.

Gaines, 26, appeared in 11 games for the Bills a season ago after being traded as part of the Sammy Watkins deal. During that time, Gaines ranked 12th in Pro Football Focus’ cornerback grades and ninth in Football Outsiders’ success rate. A former sixth-round pick, Gaines has started 37 total games and posted three interceptions during his four-year NFL career.

With Gaines off the market, the free agent cornerback class is now comprised of options such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Bashaud Breeland, Delvin Breaux, Dontae Johnson, and Jeremy Lane.

[RELATED: Browns Depth Chart]

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Jets, Browns To Meet With E.J. Gaines

The Jets and Browns have plans to meet with free agent cornerback E.J. Gaines, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. He’ll visit the Jets on Thursday and the Browns on Friday. 

Gaines met with the Cardinals last week, but left Arizona without a deal. Prior to that, he drew some interest from the Texans, but they seem pretty set at cornerback after adding Aaron Colvin and re-signing Johnathan Joseph.

Gaines, 26, appeared in 11 games for the Bills last year after coming over in the Sammy Watkins trade. He finished out as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 12 ranked cornerback and placed ninth in Football Outsiders’ success rate. Before the start of free agency, we ranked Gaines as the fourth-best corner on the market and the No. 18 free agent overall. It’s somewhat surprising to see him still on the board at this stage.

The Bills have not ruled out re-signing Gaines, but the addition of Vontae Davis probably means they’ll be moving on.

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E.J. Gaines To Visit Cardinals

The Cardinals are eyeing a cornerback to play opposite Patrick Peterson. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports (via Twitter) that Arizona will meet with E.J. Gaines today. The Texans had previously shown interest in the free agent cornerback.

Gaines, 26, appeared in 11 games for the Bills a season ago after being traded as part of the Sammy Watkins deal. During that time, Gaines ranked 12th in Pro Football Focus‘ cornerback grades and ninth in FO’s success rate. For that effort, PFR ranked Gaines as the fourth-best corner on the market and the No. 18 free agent overall. His final numbers included 48 tackles, nine passes defended, and one interception.

Arizona could surely use some reinforcement opposite Peterson. The team’s other cornerback options include Brandon Williams, C.J. Goodwin, Ronald ZamortJonathan Moxey, Jarell Carter, and Louis Young.

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The Top 25 Remaining NFL Free Agents

Many of this year’s top free agents came off of the board during the legal tampering period, including Kirk Cousins, Trumaine Johnson, Sammy Watkins, and Allen Robinson. Still plenty of the names from our list of the Top 50 Free Agents remain, including some new additions. Here’s a rundown of the players to keep an eye on as free agency officially begins, ranked roughly by their expected contract value:

1. Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): The Dolphins bailed on Suh’s mega contract midway through, freeing him up to sign another high-priced contract. He won’t get anything close to a six-year, $114MM deal this time around, but he should settle in at an AAV that keeps him among the best compensated players at his position. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Suh fifth among 122 interior defenders. 

2. Tyrann Mathieu, S (Cardinals): The Cardinals worked feverishly to hammer out a new contract with the Honey Badger, but the two sides could not come to terms on a deal to lessen his 2018 cap hit. He has been released, allowing him to hit free agency as the best safety available. The Jets are not believed to be interested, despite his connection with head coach Todd Bowles. The other tenant of the Meadowlands, however, could have interest thanks to the presence of former Arizona DC James Bettcher.

3. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson may have lost some luster following the trade that sent him from the Jets to the Seahawks, but he among the best defensive tackles currently available. With plenty of cap space remaining, Richardson should find a lucrative deal, though it probably won’t come from Seattle. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will fetch about $9MM/year.

4. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe missed out on a big payday last year when teams shied away from him due to lingering back issues. After turning in his second consecutive 16-game season, things could be different this time. For the record – Poe has missed only two regular season games over the course of his career, so he boasts a better attendance record than a lot of other veterans on this list. He’s unlikely to circle back to Atlanta.

5. Josh Sitton, G (Bears): With Andrew Norwell off of the board, Sitton stands as the best guard on the market. He’s missed six games over the last two years, but he has four Pro Bowl appearances to his credit. He’s set to meet with the Dolphins.

6. A.J. McCarron, QB (Bengals): It’s difficult to peg McCarron’s value heading into free agency. Outside of some quality starts in 2015, there isn’t much film out there on McCarron, despite that fact that he has spent four years in the NFL. Hue Jackson was itching to reunite with McCarron, but the Browns no longer seem a likely destination for him after the acquisition of Tyrod Taylor. It’s also hard to see him landing with the QB-needy Jets after they re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater. McCarron will find a home, but it may not be as a starter. [UPDATE: McCarron has signed with the Bills]

7. E.J. Gaines, CB (Bills): Injuries in the fall limited Gaines to just 11 games last season, but he proved to be a quality return for the Bills in the Watkins trade, in addition to the second-round pick that came with him. Gaines graded out as the No. 13 cornerback in the league last year, per PFF, and he just turned 26 in February. Gaines missed all of ’15 due to injury and didn’t look all that sharp in ’16, but timing is everything in free agency. You can expect multiple teams to call on him and the Texans could still have interest, even after inking Aaron Colvin.

8. Eric Reid, S (49ers): Reid is just 26 and is undoubtedly a starting quality safety. He has both youth and versatility on his side, but it’s possible that his anthem protest participation could hurt him when it comes to some suitors. Injuries over the last two seasons will hurt his market as well.

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Texans Interested In CB E.J. Gaines

The Texans have interest in free agent cornerback E.J. Gaines, who is “firmly” on the club’s radar, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

[RELATED: Texans Pursuing LT Nate Solder]

Houston is clearly attempting to upgrade its secondary this offseason, as the team is also reportedly eyeing free agent defensive back Malcolm Butler. That should come as no surprise given that the Texans struggled against the pass in 2017, finishing with a No. 25-rank in Football Outsiders‘ pass defense DVOA. Additionally, Houston has two cornerbacks — Johnathan Joseph and Marcus Williams — scheduled to hit the open market on Wednesday.

Gaines, 26, appeared in 11 games for the Bills a season ago after being traded as part of the Sammy Watkins deal. During that time, Gaines ranked 12th in Pro Football Focus‘ cornerback grades and ninth in FO’s success rate. For that effort, PFR ranked Gaines as the fourth-best corner on the market and the No. 18 free agent overall.

The Bills, for their part, haven’t ruled out a reunion with Gaines. Although they recently signed veteran cornerback Vontae Davis to pair with Tre’Davious White, Buffalo is still open to re-signing Gaines.

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PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

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