The Titans aren’t leaving any stone unturned as they search for Johnathan Cyprien‘s replacement at safety. Tennessee will meet with former 49ers defensive back Eric Reid on Friday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
Reid, of course, hasn’t had much success garnering interest this offseason, and that’s likely due to his intention to signal protest during the national anthem. He met with the Bengals earlier this year, but subsequently filed a collusion grievance after Cincinnati reportedly asked him to end his protests.
Reid, 26, was something of a playmaker during his first two NFL campaigns, as he posted seven total interceptions from 2013-14. While he hasn’t kept up that rate of turnover creation, Reid is still a solid starter, and Pro Football Focus graded him as the league’s No. 30 safety a year ago.
Vaccaro also offers years of starting experience, but he has been a victim of the league’s slow-moving free agent safety market this offseason. The Colts, Jets, and Dolphins showed interest in Vaccaro earlier this offseason, but we haven’t heard much about him in recent weeks. In his fifth season as a starter for the Saints last year, Vaccaro totaled 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven passes defensed, and a career-high three interceptions.
There are still plenty of impact free agents left on the board, including some big names. Here’s a look at some of the high-profile veterans that are still looking for work in advance of training camp:
Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin since he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.
We ranked Barwin as a top-10 free agent pass rusher when the market opened, but he hasn’t garnered much interest this offseason. The Rams reportedly expressed interest in re-signing Barwin in mid-March, but they have since revamped their front seven and there is little room for additions. The rival Cardinals kicked the tires on him in April, but for one reason or another, they did not add him to a unit that ranked 17th in pressure rate and 24th in adjusted sack rate in 2017. Barwin’s veteran leadership could help him find a deal in the coming weeks, but he’s probably not a starting-caliber player at this point in his career.
Last year, Hankins waited patiently before signing a three-year, $27MM free agent deal with the Colts. The Colts bailed on that contract this past March, putting him back in the free agent bin. Hankins, again, is patiently waiting for his market to develop. New defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus did not see Hankins as a fit for his scheme, but he could be a solid addition for plenty of other teams. Hankins played in a 4-3 with the Giants but did well in the Colts’ 3-4 setup last year. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 20 interior defender in the league last year with tremendous marks for his work against the run. The Redskins met with Hankins soon after his release, but first-round pick Da’Ron Payne is now slated to hold down the starting nose tackle position. The Jets met with Hankins in April and that still looks like a logical fit to us.
There’s no longer a place for Bowman in the Raiders’ front seven after the signing of former Chief Derrick Johnson, but some team out there is likely to make a play for the veteran. Bowman lost all of the 2014 season and most of 2016 to injury, but he was healthy and productive in 2017.
The biggest names in this year’s free agent class such as Kirk Cousins, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Trumaine Johnson have long been spoken for, but plenty of notable players remain on the board here in June. With a hat tip to James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter), here’s a look at some high-profile veterans who are still seeking work this summer:
Unfortunately for Murray and Peterson, filing a grievance for age bias against running backs is not an option. The Titans kicked Murray to the curb in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. Given Peterson’s reluctance to be on the lower end of a timeshare in New Orleans last year, one has to imagine that Peterson will not be a real consideration for teams unless a starter gets injured in camp. Murray could be a more attractive option for teams. Although he averaged just 3.6 yards per tote with the Titans last year, he contributed in the passing game with 39 receptions.
Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin after he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him internally in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.
We ranked Barwin as a top-10 free agent pass rusher when the market opened, but he hasn’t drawn a ton of interest over the last 12 weeks. The Rams reportedly expressed interest in re-signing Barwin in mid-March, but they have since revamped their front seven and there is little room for additions. The rival Cardinals kicked the tires on him in April, but for one reason or another, they did not add him to a unit that ranked 17th in pressure rate and 24th in adjusted sack rate in 2017. Barwin played on 71% of L.A’s defensive snaps last year, but the advanced metrics indicated that he was among the worst qualified pass rushers in the NFL. A team less focused on metrics and more focused on veteran leadership would do well to add Barwin as he enters his age-32 season.
Bowman graded as the Raiders’ best linebacker by a wide margin last season, which makes his ongoing unemployment a bit perplexing. Coach Jon Gruden didn’t rule out a reunion with Bowman even after signing former Chief Derrick Johnson, but that seems somewhat unlikely at this juncture.
Briggs continues by saying, “White is guaranteed a little more than $2.69MM this season. While there is offset language in his contract, there’s no way another team would pay him that kind of money, so the Bears would be on the hook for at least a portion if they were to release him. It’s not enough money to say he’s locked into a spot.”
The sentiment is not a shocker. After the Bears overhauled their receiving corps with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and rookie pass catcher Anthony Miller, the injury-prone wideout will have to make an impact on the field to assure his roster spot.
The second receiver taken in 2015, behind Amari Cooper, White boasted an impressive combination of size, speed and strength that projected the West Virginia product to be Chicago’s future No. 1 receiver. Instead, he has been ravaged by injuries that have limited him to just five games in three seasons. He flashed signs of progress in 2016 with back-to-back six-catch games, but he immediately suffered a high ankle sprain that resulted in a fracture and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Briggs notes that he has made progress and all signs are pointing positive early at OTAs. “The coaches are saying the right things about him. They like the way he looks. They like his work ethic and approach.”
If White is able to produce at even a fraction of his potential in 2017, Mitch Trubisky will have plenty of weapons to operate with in his sophomore campaign.
Here’s more from around the NFC:
The Giants and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could be nearing a contract showdown, writes Ralph Vacchiano of SportsNet New York. Once the Pro Bowl pass catcher is cleared to fully practice he could opt for a holdout since he has yet to publicly dismiss an earlier report that he “will not set foot on a field without a contract extension.” Though that option is not a certainty, Vacchiano notes Beckham’s leverage is rather strong, in that the Giants are in win-now mode with an aging quarterback who has struggled without his go-to receiver. Holdouts rarely go the way of the player, but we’ll see if Beckham tries to buck the trend.
When the Packers sit down at the negotiating table with Aaron Rodgers on an extension, one thing the quarterback will be looking for is a possible out on his deal, reports NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (Twitter link). “Another aspect that I’m told is extremely important to [Rodgers] is player control — How much control can he have on his future,” Garafolo said. The All-Pro quarterback will almost assuredly become the highest-paid player in the league when he signs a deal, which seems like a slam dunk at this point, but his ability to have an out in the deal is one thing to keep an eye on.
The attorney for former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid, Mark Geragos, told reporters, “I would stay tuned because this case is about to take a dramatic turn.” Asked about the claim, Geragos added, “somebody has decided they were to dime out the NFL for what they were doing.” This implies there being a witness who can contradict the NFL’s stance that each team decided neither player can help their roster. There is sure to be more to develop in this case in the coming days.
The slow development of the safety market has been one of the major storylines of the offseason, and while there are a number of reasons as to why some of the top available players at the position remain unsigned, it is still surprising to see players of their ilk without work at this point in the league year. Indeed, three of PFR’s top 10 remaining defensive free agents are safeties, and we would like to know which one you think will be the first to sign with a club.
Our top-rated defensive player still available, Eric Reid, could be having difficulty fining a team because of his history of protesting the national anthem. Indeed, the only team that has brought him in for a visit, the Bengals, asked him about his plans in that regard moving forward. But Reid’s fellow free agent safeties on our Top-10 list, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro, have not made the same public stances — though Boston was fairly outspoken following the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte police officer two years ago — and they haven’t had any better luck, so it could be his status as a safety, more so than his status as a political activist, that is dampening Reid’s market.
Of course, Reid himself feels differently, and he has filed a collusion grievance against the NFL. That will surely not help his cause, but on the field, Reid is a solid and versatile player capable of playing either defensive back or linebacker. His skillset would fit nicely on a team like the Cardinals or Buccaneers.
Boston, meanwhile, has drawn interest from a number of clubs, and he is coming off the best season of his career. He is far from a perfect player, but he does have the ability to play deep safety, and he picked off five passes for the Chargers in 2017. He appeared to be coming into his own after being released by the Panthers last year, and while he is not great in coverage, he has shown that he can at least be serviceable in that regard. He is also a capable pass rusher.
Vaccaro, on the other hand, was terrible in coverage in 2017, but he has shown the ability to line up at safety or at slot corner in his career, and he could theoretically play linebacker in sub-packages as well. He recently met with the Colts, and two weeks ago we heard that he was going to meet with the Jets, though it is unclear whether his summit with Gang Green has actually happened yet. He met with the Dolphins earlier in the offseason, but after the Fins used their first-round pick on Minkah Fitzpatrick, they are probably no longer interested in Vaccaro.
Again, these three players are not without flaws, particularly in coverage, and with the league moving further and further away from traditional in-the-box safeties, maybe we shouldn’t be as shocked that they remain without work. After all, younger players on rookie contracts frequently offer a strong presence in the run game while they work on their coverage skills, so it could be that teams just don’t want to pony up the cash for a veteran to do the work that a less experienced player can do.
Presumably, however, Boston or Vaccaro will eventually find a new team, and Reid may as well, despite his grievance. Let us know which of them you think will sign first, or if you think another safety like Corey Graham will get a chance before they do. We’d also like you to explain your choice in the comments section and let us know what you believe is holding up the safety market.
Reid, 26, has made 69 starts in his career. The 49ers experimented with using him at linebacker at times, but the bulk of his work has come at safety since being taken in the first round of the 2013 draft.
The NFLPA will be filing a non-injury grievance for Eric Reid against the Bengals and other parties, according to Mike Florio of PFT (Twitterlinks). Reid recently filed a collusion grievance against the NFL for blackballing him for his participation in anthem protests and the union is officially entering the ring in support.
The Bengals find themselves in Reid’s crosshairs after asking him whether he plans to demonstrate during the anthem. Reid and the NFLPA believe that to be an inappropriate – and perhaps illicit – pre-employment question. The NFLPA also has filed a broader “system arbitration” based on the argument that teams are ignoring the absence of a league rule that mandates standing during the anthem, Florio hears.
Here is the complete statement from NFLPA, confirming the news:
The NFLPA has filed a non-injury grievance and a system arbitrator case on behalf of free agent safety Eric Reid. Prior to the start of the current NFL off-season, our Union directed the agents of free agent players who had participated in peaceful on-field demonstrations to collect, memorialize and report any relevant information about potential violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by teams. These cases were filed based upon the following:
– There is no League rule that prohibits players from demonstrating during the national anthem.
– The NFL has made it clear both publicly and to the NFLPA that they would respect the rights of players to demonstrate.
– The Collective Bargaining Agreement definitively states that League (NFL) rules supersede anyconflicting club rules.
– According to our information, a club appears to have based its decision not to sign a playerbased on the player’s statement that he would challenge the implementation of a club’s policy prohibiting demonstration, which is contrary to the League policy.
– At least one club owner has asked preemployment interview questions about a player’s intent to demonstrate. We believe these questions are improper, given League policy.
Our Union continues to monitor these developments.
It is surprising to see Reid without work at this stage of the offseason, from a football perspective. Then again, longtime starting safeties Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro are also unemployed as of this writing.
Last year, Reid started in 12 of his 13 games for the Niners and totaled 66 tackles and two interceptions.
Despite being a five-year starter and still in the prime years of his career, Eric Reid remains unsigned. And he’s filed a grievance against the NFL as his free agency tenure nears the two-month mark.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com reports the former 49ers safety has an interesting name at the root of his case: President Donald Trump. Robinson reports Trump is the “crystal-clear target” in Reid’s case.
The president’s vulgar 2017 comments about players who chose to kneel during the national anthem amid the inequality-themed protests sparked a slew of NFL players kneeling during the anthem in Week 3 of last season. And Reid’s grievance claims Trump had direct communications with NFL owners about players who engaged in these protests. Although, the specifics of some of these alleged discussions aren’t known.
Jerry Jones discussed this issue with the president on verified phone calls, per Robinson, and the Cowboys owner has been the most outspoken owner against these protests. Jones is spearheading a group of owners’ effort to prevent players from having the right to protest during the anthem, Robinson reported earlier this spring. The New York Times recently reported a portion of the November 2017 owners-players summit was secretly recorded, and several owners expressed concern over Trump’s attacks on the NFL because of kneeling players.
This grievance also indicates Trump communicated with owners about this issue both publicly and privately, Robinson reports, adding the public communications may be the string of comments directed at players during various speeches over the past several months.
Reid began kneeling during anthems shortly after Colin Kaepernick did in 2016, and he continued the practice throughout the 2017 season. Although the 26-year-old safety said he would no longer use this form of protest next season, reports out of Cincinnati indicated Bengals owner Mike Brownasked Reid if he would continue to kneel during what was his only known free agency visit. Other than the Bengals’ visit, Reid’s seen a quiet market despite his first-round pedigree and Pro Bowl honor. He’s not the only safety to say social activism has played a role in his current unemployment, with Tre Boston saying the same recently.
Robinson notes the difference in Reid’s claim and Kaepernick’s collusion lawsuit is Kaepernick’s effort was aimed at widespread targets whereas the Reid’s grievance centers on Trump being the “driving force” on keeping Reid and Kaepernick out of the league. Robinson adds that discoveries during the Kaepernick depositions may well have played a role in Reid making Trump the target.
Former 49ers safety Eric Reid has filed a collusion grievance against the NFL, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. He adds that Reid has hired attorney Mark Geragos, who has also represented Colin Kaepernick. In a statement, the NFLPA expressed support for Reid and indicated that the union will also explore other avenues in the legal process to support his fight.
Reid entered free agency as one of the best safeties available, but there hasn’t been much of a market for him so far. The NFL veteran personally believes that his participation in anthem protests has kept him from finding work.
“The notion that I can be a great signing for your team for cheap, not because of my skill set, but because I’ve protested systemic oppression, is ludicrous. If you think is, then your mindset is part of the problem too,” Reid tweeted in March.
Before the start of free agency, I ranked Reid as the 23rd best player available on our top 50 list with the caveat that Reid’s protest participation could hurt him. That does appear to be the case, as lesser free agents at his position have already found NFL homes for 2018. However, it should also be noted that Reid is not the only talented safety who is out of work. Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston are also floating in free agent limbo despite years of starting experience.
For his part, Reid believes that football evaluators are interested in signing him, but owners of teams are standing in the way of a deal. It’s unclear how Reid’s legal action will impact his bid to land with a club.