Earl Mitchell

Seahawks Host Earl Mitchell, Nick Bellore

The Seahawks are sniffing around some of the players left over from the first wave of free agency. Seattle hosted defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and fullback Nick Bellore for visits, a source told Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Mitchell spent the past two seasons as a division rival with the 49ers, while Bellore was with the Lions the last two years. Mitchell, an Arizona product, was drafted by the Texans in the third round back in 2010. He played well enough with the Texans to earn a four-year, $16MM deal from the Dolphins back in 2014. After three years of that deal, he was cut and signed in San Francisco.

Mitchell appeared in 14 games with 12 starts last season, filling a rotational role as a run-stuffing piece in the middle. Overall, he logged 33.8% of the defensive snaps for the 49ers. Pro Football Focus gave him average grades for his work.

Bellore is an interesting case, as he can play both linebacker and fullback. An inside linebacker coming out of Central Michigan, Bellore spent the first six seasons of his career as a linebacker with the Jets and 49ers. Prior to the 2017 season, he signed with Detroit and was converted to a fullback. He played just 11 percent of the offensive snaps as a lead blocker, but was a major contributor on special teams.

It’s unclear if he’d have any interest in moving back to linebacker with the Seahawks or if they view him strictly as a fullback. The Seahawks haven’t been the biggest spenders so far in free agency, so it makes sense they’d take a look at some more under the radar guys. According to Overthecap.com, the Seahawks have the seventh-least cap space left with $11.57MM.

Seahawks To Meet With Earl Mitchell

Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell will visit the Seahawks on Wednesday, a source tells Mike Florio of PFT (on Twitter). Mitchell became available earlier offseason when the Niners declined to pick up his option for 2019. 

Mitchell, 31, inked a four-year, $16MM deal with the 49ers last offseason after previously spending time with the Texans and Dolphins. In 2018, Mitchell appeared in 14 games and played on 39% of San Francisco’s defensive snaps, racking up 28 tackles (two for loss) in that time. Pro Football Focus graded Mitchell as just the No. 89 interior defender among 112 qualifiers.

After losing Shamar Stephen to the Vikings, the Seahawks are on the lookout for help in the middle. As it stands, the Seahawks have five DTs under contract in Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson, Nazair Jones, and Jamie Meder.

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49ers Shopping DT Earl Mitchell

The 49ers are attempting to trade defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Reports in January indicated San Francisco was planning to decline its 2019 option for Mitchell, but the 49ers didn’t announce that move among a series of housekeeping transactions earlier today (which included the club turning down wide receiver Pierre Garcon‘s 2019 option). As such, the 49ers are likely trying to recoup some sort of value for Mitchell before releasing him.

If/when San Francisco cuts Mitchell, his tenure with the team may not be over, as general manager John Lynch indicated he’s open to re-signing the veteran defensive lineman. Mitchell had been scheduled to collect roughly $3.6MM in 2019 via his base salary, roster bonus, and workout bonus, so he’d surely need to accept less than that figure in order to return to the Bay Area.

Mitchell, 31, inked a four-year, $16MM deal with the 49ers last offseason after previously spending time with the Texans and Dolphins. In 2018, Mitchell appeared in 14 games and played on 39% of San Francisco’s defensive snaps, racking up 28 tackles (two for loss) in that time. Pro Football Focus graded Mitchell as just the No. 89 interior defender among 112 qualifiers.

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49ers Open To Earl Mitchell Return

The Niners will not exercise Earl Mitchell‘s option for 2019, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s off the team. GM John Lynch has not closed the door on bringing the defensive tackle back at a lower price, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com tweets

Mitchell probably would have liked to play out the final two years of his four-year contract, but on the plus side, his release gives him an opportunity to explore the open market sooner. There should be a healthy market for his services as well – Mitchell offers plenty of experience and he won’t turn 32 until September.

Still, Mitchell may have to wait until after the first wave of free agency in March to find his next landing spot. Typically, teams are focused on higher-ticket items when free agency first gets underway and players of Mitchell’s caliber usually don’t get real attention until the end of the month.

Mitchell finished out the 2018 season with 28 tackles across 14 games (12 starts). Had he been retained by the Niners, he would have counted for a $4.45MM cap figure in 2019.

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49ers To Release Earl Mitchell

The 49ers are not picking up the contract option for veteran defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Mitchell provided the Niners with a solid locker room presence, but they’ll have to find that leadership elsewhere. 

The Niners used D.J. Jones as their nose tackle down the stretch of the season so it’s likely that Jones will continue to be the team’s answer in the middle, unless they replace him with someone better between now and September. Mitchell leaves the Bay Area two years into a four-year deal.

At the time of signing, Mitchell’s contract was reported to be a straight-up four-year deal with no option years. Instead, the deal was believed to be a four-year, $16MM pact with a $4.45MM cap figure for the 2019 season. Releasing Mitchell under those terms would call for a $1.5MM dead money charge with $2.95MM in cap savings. Regardless of whether there is an option or not, the outcome is likely the same.

Mitchell finished out the 2018 season with 28 tackles across 14 games (12 starts).

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West Notes: Mitchell, Broncos, Poe, Raiders

Despite being released off a defense that ranked 29th last season, Earl Mitchell logged an extensive street free agency tour before signing with the 49ers. After a Broncos offer to Mitchell was reported last night, the new 49er said the Seahawks also made him an offer, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com (on Twitter), before he opted for the Bay Area. The Seahawks joined the Falcons as fellow NFC teams pursuing Mitchell, who played four seasons with the Texans and three with the Dolphins. This is his third four-year contract.

That pact came partially because of Mitchell’s history in Houston. New 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina coached Mitchell with the Texans, and DeMeco Ryans being hired as defensive quality control coach meant a former teammate was going to be on staff. Both hires helped sway Mitchell, per Wagoner (on Twitter). New GM John Lynch also called Mitchell “a priority for us to sign.”

Here’s more from some teams out west, beginning with one of the suitors Mitchell declined:

  • The Broncos lost an assistant offensive line coach who was affiliated with the organization for less than a month when John Benton agreed to become the 49ers’ O-line instructor. They plan to fill his position by bringing in a college coach of their top lineman, with former Boise State and Washington offensive line coach Chris Strausser set to succeed Benton, Mike Klis of 9News reports. Strausser coached Broncos center Matt Paradis — and Bears left tackle Charles Leno — during his time in Idaho before spending the past three seasons with the Huskies. Strausser has coached in college for more than 25 years; this will be his first NFL job.
  • Spotrac calculates Dontari Poe‘s market value as being just north of $12MM per year, putting the Chiefs defensive tackle on the Gerald McCoy/Michael Brockers plane. But someone like Nick Fairley on a shorter-term, lower-cost deal be more effective, Conor Orr of NFL.com writes. Poe hasn’t made the Pro Bowl since 2014 and only has 2.5 sacks since his six-sack slate that year. He stands to join Brandon Williams, Johnathan Hankins and Bennie Logan among free agent defensive tackles. The Chiefs are negotiating with Poe and Eric Berry, with the franchise tag almost certainly coming into play for one.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul could also make it to free agency, although there’s a reasonable chance the Giants tag him. However, should he venture onto the market, Matt Mosley of the Dallas Morning News writes the Broncos or Raiders could be fits. Pass rush isn’t exactly high on the Broncos’ radar, with Von Miller and Shane Ray under contract, but it wasn’t two years ago when Denver drafted Ray in Round 1. However, the Broncos have plenty of greater needs and JPP could aim for Olivier Vernon-type money — which they don’t realistically possess. The Raiders play a 4-3 scheme but obviously have Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin employed, so that would be an interesting fit.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Thursday, March 9th, 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, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

[RELATED: Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense]

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 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Chandler Jones
  2. Melvin Ingram
  3. Jason Pierre-Paul
  4. Nick Perry
  5. Jabaal Sheard
  6. James Harrison
  7. John Simon
  8. DeMarcus Ware
  9. Lorenzo Alexander
  10. Andre Branch
  11. Julius Peppers
  12. Charles Johnson
  13. Datone Jones
  14. Mario Addison
  15. Dwight Freeney

The Cardinals have already made it abundantly clear that Chandler Jones will see the franchise tag this offseason, and Melvin Ingram and Jason Pierre-Paul are also candidates to be tagged by the Chargers and Giants, respectively. If the latter two are able to hit the open market unfettered, however, they both figure to break the bank. Ingram, Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 edge defender, could be a fit for both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, while JPP will be looking for a long-term commitment after signing consecutive one-year deals.Chandler Jones (vertical)

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among the players with youth still on their side, Packers edge defenders Nick Perry and Datone Jones figure to interest different clubs, as Perry is a better match for a 3-4 defense while Jones needs to restart his career as a 4-3 defensive end. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. James Harrison and Charles Johnson, meanwhile, look like good bets to return to Steelers and Panthers, respectively, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Kawann Short
  2. Calais Campbell
  3. Johnathan Hankins
  4. Brandon Williams
  5. Dontari Poe
  6. Chris Baker
  7. Bennie Logan
  8. Nick Fairley
  9. Alan Branch
  10. Jared Odrick
  11. Karl Klug
  12. Terrell McClain
  13. Lawrence Guy
  14. Earl Mitchell
  15. Stacy McGee

Unlike the edge defender market, the 2017 cadre of interior defensive lineman shouldn’t be overly affected by the franchise tender. Head coach Ron Rivera recently confessed the Panthers will “probably” have to use the tag on Kawann Short, but the rest of the defensive tackles listed here should be able to hit the open market. Of the remaining defenders, Campbell is the best overall player, but given that he’s entering his age-31 season, he may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Earl Mitchell), and run stoppers (Karl Klug, Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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Extra Points: Bills, Redskins, Bengals, 49ers

Bills general manager Doug Whaley might be content to go into 2017 with Cardale Jones at quarterback, but the team is only going to release Tyrod Taylor if rookie head coach Sean McDermott signs off on it, according to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Whaley and McDermott have equal say in how the Bills assemble their roster, per Carucci, who notes the coach hired an offensive coordinator, Rick Dennison, who might be able to get more out of Taylor. Dennison is a Taylor fan, having previously coached him in Baltimore, and Albert Breer of The MMQB senses that the coordinator would like for Buffalo to continue with Taylor under center.

More from around the NFL:

  • The Redskins haven’t engaged in negotiations with any of their impending free agents yet, but talks will take place at next week’s combine, reports Mike Jones of Washington Post. John Keim of ESPN.com passed along slightly different information earlier this month, writing that the Redskins had held discussions with unsigned tight end Vernon Davis. Regardless, no deal has materialized for Davis, who’s on a list of UFAs that also includes quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, and defensive lineman Chris Baker.
  • The torn ACL Giovani Bernard suffered in November could help spur the Bengals to select a running back as early as Round 1 of the draft, writes Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com. Neither Bernard nor Jeremy Hill reached the 4.0 yards-per-carry mark last year, though the former posted strong pass-catching numbers and the latter scored nine touchdowns. Hill is set to enter the last year of his contract in 2017, while Rex Burkhead is on track to hit free agency next month after putting up a lofty 4.6 YPC on 74 tries in 2016. Head coach Marvin Lewis spoke on both Hill and Burkhead on Friday, telling Geoff Hobson of the team’s website: “We have to coach [Hill] better. We bet on him. We have no other choice. We bet on Jeremy to continue to progress and move forward. Our job is to try and re-sign Rex. That doesn’t affect Jeremy.”
  • After spending 12 years with the 49ers, including the past four as their director of college scouting, Matt Malaspina took a job as a college scout with the Packers on Friday, per Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. In doing so, Malaspina became the second front office member to leave the San Francisco organization this week. The 49ers and assistant general manager Tom Gamble parted ways Wednesday.
  • In other 49ers news, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell‘s four-year, $16MM agreement with the club includes $6.5MM in guarantees, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.

AFC Notes: Jags, Broncos, Chiefs, Browns

Jaguars vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin said Friday he “doesn’t see any reason” why the team’s trades with the Dolphins involving tight end Julius Thomas and left tackle Branden Albert would fall through before they become official March 9. That indicates Albert has passed a physical with the Jags, notes Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union (Thomas has also passed his with Miami). As for free agency, with upward of $70MM in cap space, Coughlin expects the Jaguars “to be very competitive” in bidding for outside help.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Before defensive tackle Earl Mitchell agreed to a deal with the 49ers on Friday, the Broncos offered him a three-year contract featuring a $4.5MM salary in 2017, reports Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). He ended up with a four-year, $16MM pact that includes $5.5MM next season.
  • Kansas City could pursue soon-to-be former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in the coming weeks, but it would be unwise to regard the Chiefs as one of the favorites for his services, argues Adam Teichner of ESPN.com. If the Chiefs were to fail in an attempt to reel in Romo, they’d risk causing irreparable damage to their relationship with Smith, opines Teichner. Considering that, the Chiefs might only get involved in the Romo sweepstakes if they’re sure they’re going to come out on top.
  • The Browns could turn to quarterback Tyrod Taylor in free agency if the Bills release him, and after studying tape of the dual threat, Dan Labbe of cleveland.com contends that he’s “no less intriguing” than much-ballyhooed New England backup Jimmy Garoppolo. By opting for Taylor, the Browns would save the premium in draft picks they’d have to pay for Garoppolo – whom they’d nonetheless prefer to acquire – and would still have the option of selecting a QB to develop behind Taylor, Labbe writes.
  • Tight end Rob Gronkowski doesn’t expect the back injury that kept him out of the Patriots’ lineup from late November onward, including for their Super Bowl-winning playoff run, to limit him in 2017. Gronkowski told ESPN on Friday that there’s “no doubt” he’ll be ready for Week 1. Longer term, the 27-year-old said earlier this month he’d like to play at least six more years, though he wasn’t willing on Friday to put a number on how much longer he’ll last. “I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play,” Gronkowski said. “My mindset is to keep on going” (via Ryan Hannable of WEEI).

49ers Sign Earl Mitchell

The 49ers are making a free agency splash well before March 9: The club has agreed to a four-year, $16MM deal with defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, reports Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link). The team announced the signing of the veteran lineman Saturday.

Earl Mitchell (Vertical)

Mitchell, who will enter his age-30 season in 2017, came available when the Dolphins released him last week. The 49ers were among several teams to show interest in Mitchell, who also visited with the Seahawks, Broncos and Falcons. Mitchell would have made $4MM next season had the Dolphins retained him, but he’ll now rake in $5.5MM as a Niner, per Garafolo.

A seven-year veteran who went in the third round of the 2010 draft, Mitchell divided his career between Houston and Miami before reaching a deal with the 49ers. He has collected 100 appearances, 38 starts and 5.5 sacks to this point, and is coming off a season in which he only played nine games on account of a calf injury.

In his previous trip to free agency, in 2014, Mitchell landed a richer deal – four years and $19MM – though he did it as an in-his-prime player fresh off a 14-start season. While the full details of his new pact aren’t yet known, Mitchell has landed an impressive payday in the wake of both an injury-shortened season and a release. He’ll now join a 49ers defense that finished last season 28th in DVOA and will attempt to turn things around under new coordinator Robert Saleh.

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