Erik Walden

NFL Workout Updates: 9/12/18

Today’s workout updates, with all links going to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM’s Twitter account:

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

49ers Hosting LBs Erik Walden, Hau’oli Kikaha

Free agent linebackers Erik Walden and Hau’oli Kikaha is visiting the 49ers today, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter links).

Walden, 33, signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks earlier this year, but didn’t make the final cut and was released from injured reserve last week. The veteran pass rusher spent the 2017 campaign with the Titans, appearing in all 16 games while managing four sacks and 36 tackles. Walden posted 11 sacks as recently as the 2016 season, but he’s struggled to find contracts in recent years despite that production.

Kikaha, meanwhile, was the 44th overall selection in the 2015 draft, but he’s been beset by injuries and ineffectiveness during his three-year tenure. After playing on 62% of the Saints’ snaps during his rookie campaign, Kikaha missed the 2016 season with a torn ACL (the third of his football career) and subsequently saw action on only 209 defensive snaps the following year. New Orleans shopped Kikaha ahead of the 2017 trade deadline, and waived him during final cutdowns.

Both Walden and Kikaha could conceivably play either outside linebacker or defensive end in the 49ers’ 4-3 scheme. At present, San Francisco is deploying former first-round picks Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead as its starting edge rushers, with Cassius Marsh, Ronald Blair, and Julian Taylor in reserve.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/7/18

Here are Friday’s minor moves:

Jacksonville Jaguars 

  • Waived from injured reserve: WR Tevaun Smith

Minnesota Vikings

  • Waived from injured reserve: OL Josh Andrews, RB Mack Brown, DB Craig James

New England Patriots

  • Waived from injured reserve: TE Will Tye

New York Giants

  • Waived from injured reserve: S Darian Thompson

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Waived: S Tre Sullivan

Seattle Seahawks

  • Waived: CB Simeon Thomas
  • Waived from injured reserve: CB Byron Maxwell, LB Erik Walden, QB Austin Davis

Seahawks Move Roster To 53

Placed on NFI:

Placed on injured reserve:

Cut:

NFC West Notes: Cardinals, Keim, Seahawks

The Cardinals‘ five-week suspension of GM Steve Keim ended on Wednesday, but he was nowhere to be found during Arizona’s morning practice, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic tweets. Keim is almost always in attendance for practices, so this may be a sign that he has not been fully reinstated just yet.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • The Seahawks are trying George Fant at right tackle and allowing him to compete with 2016 first-round pick Germain Ifedi, as Brady Henderson of ESPN.com tweets. Ifedi led the NFL in penalties last season and struggled in the team’s preseason game on Saturday. Fant started at left tackle as a UDFA in 2016 before tearing his ACL last summer, so the Seahawks have reason to believe that he can be a first-stringer on the other side. Ultimately, one has to wonder if the Seahawks could consider going out-of-house again for a tackle as they did by acquiring Duane Brown last year.
  • Erik Walden‘s deal with the Seahawks is worth $1.105MM and includes just $50K guaranteed, a source tells Henderson (on Twitter). The low guarantee means that the veteran pass rusher is far from a lock to make the Week 1 roster, though it is an area of weakness for Seattle. With the minimum salary benefit, Walden’s contract only counts for $720K against the cap.
  • The Rams have decided against signing Junior Galette, which may improve the Seahawks‘ odds of landing him.

Seahawks Sign LB Erik Walden

The Seahawks have signed linebacker Erik Walden, according to an announcement from his agents. Walden, who is pehaps best known for his time with the Colts, spent last season with the Titans.

Walden has managed to put together ten-year NFL career despite being selected in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. After serving as a starter with the Colts for four seasons (including a 2016 campaign where he compiled 11 sacks), the 32-year-old (33 later this month) spent last season as a backup with the Titans. He finished the year with 36 tackles and four sacks in 16 games.

In 2016, Walden amassed an eye-popping 11 sacks. Despite the gaudy total, he did not find an NFL home until late July of last year. His offseason took a similar trajectory this year.

The Seahawks project to start Barkevious Mingo, Bobby Wagner, and K.J. Wright at linebacker in their 4-3 scheme. D.J. Alexander, Josh Forrest, and rookies Shaquem Griffin and Jake Martin are among the reserve LBs under contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Work Out Three Defenders

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t the only defender the Seahawks will be hosting for a workout. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the organization will also be auditioning linebacker Lamarr Houston and defensive end Damontre Moore. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that the Seahawks will also work out linebacker Erik Walden.

Houston, 31, will be looking to catch on with his fourth NFL team. He split last season between the Bears and Texans, compiling 17 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble in 10 games (one start). While the veteran has clearly lost a step, he could still provide the Seahawks with some leadership and depth. The former second-rounder previously met with the Jets and Raiders.

Walden has managed to put together 10-year NFL career despite being selected in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. After serving as a starter with the Colts for four seasons (including a 2016 campaign where he compiled 11 sacks), the 32-year-old spent last season as a backup with the Titans. He finished the year with 36 tackles and four sacks in 16 games (two starts).

If Houston or Walden catch on with Seattle, they’d presumably compete with Shaquem Griffin, D.J. Alexander, and Jake Martin for backup outside linebacker reps.

Moore, 25, has bounced around the NFL since breaking out with the Giants in 2014. After serving a two-game suspension, Moore played in three games for the Cowboys last season, compiling five tackles. His last notable contribution came in 2015 with New York, when he finished with 23 tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble. Moore would compete with Rasheem GreenMarcus Smith, Branden Jackson, and Quinton Jefferson for backup snaps at defensive end.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Texans, Watson, Titans, Bucs

Given that he tore his ACL in early November, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to be available for organized team activities, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). While losing a dynamic talent like Watson clearly cratered Houston’s 2017 campaign, the fact that he went down relatively early in the season does have a silver lining, as he’ll now be ready for offseason work. The Texans don’t have a first- or second-round pick in 2018, so they’ll rely on free agency and Watson returning to his excellent form in order to compete next year.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

  • Although the Titans spoke with Erik Walden‘s agent at the scouting combine, the veteran edge defender is expected to test the open market, tweets Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com. Earlier this offseason, I noted that finding a young pass rusher should be at top priority for Tennessee, so the 32-year-old Walden may not be a fit. Walden managed four sacks as a rotational rusher during his first season with the Titans, but he posted 11 sacks as recently as 2016. Entering the free agent period, PFR ranked Walden as the 15th-best free agent edge defender.
  • The Buccaneers are targeting free agent kicker Chandler Catanzaro, reports Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Tampa Bay has been atrocious at kicker for the better part of two years, as Roberto Aguayo, Nick Folk, and Patrick Murray have all struggled as the club’s primary kicker. Indeed, Football Outsiders ranked the Bucs 30th in the NFL with -13.2 points created on field goals and extra points. Catanzaro, who converted 83.3% of his field goals in 2017, isn’t the only kicker Tampa Bay is looking at, as the Redskins’ Dustin Hopkins is also on the team’s radar.
  • Buccaneers free agent guard Kevin Pamphile is drawing interest from eight-to-ten teams, per Laine. Pamphile, 27, has been a full-time starter over the past two seasons, and last season played 70% of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps, third among Bucs offensive linemen. Additionally, while Pamphile is typically a guard, he does offer the ability to play all five positions along the offensive line. That versatility could be attractive to a number of clubs, as Pamphile could fill in at tackle or center if a need arises.

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

AFC Notes: Patriots, Freeney, Bengals, Iloka

Now that defensive end Rob Ninkovich has officially retired, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com wonders if the Patriots might consider signing free agent edge defender Dwight Freeney. Freeney, 37, is arguably the best pass rusher left on the market, and New England doesn’t have a true edge bender on its roster (Trey Flowers earned the highest pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus last season with a 76.8 mark). As Reiss notes, the Patriots brought Freeney in for a visit prior to the 2013 campaign, but oddly didn’t discuss a potential deal. Freeney indicated last month that he intends to continue his career in 2017.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Bengals safety George Iloka is expected to miss three-to-four weeks after suffering a knee sprain Sunday, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The diagnosis could have been worse, as Iloka went down with a non-contract injury (typically indicative of a torn ACL), but the five-year veteran didn’t suffer any ligament tears, a source tells Owczarski. While Iloka will likely be sidelined for the preseason, he should be ready by the time Week 1 rolls around. If not, Derron Smith would step into the starting lineup.
  • Erik Walden‘s one-year. deal with Titans is worth up to $3.25MM, Terry McCormick of Titan Insider tweets. The deal includes a $1.35MM base, a $300K signing bonus, a $1.1MM roster bonus, and $500K in incentives. It’s a decent package for Walden considering the tepid market he was met with this offseason. Meanwhile, the Titans are making only a small investment in a player who recorded 11.0 sacks in 2016.
  • You can cross Robert Griffin III off of the Ravens‘ list.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.