Eugene Sims

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Defense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

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. Dwight Freeney
  2. Elvis Dumervil
  3. Chris Long
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Connor Barwin
  6. Paul Kruger
  7. Trent Cole
  8. Erik Walden
  9. Jason Jones
  10. Darryl Tapp
  11. Devin Taylor
  12. Eugene Sims
  13. Howard Jones
  14. Wallace Gilberry
  15. Sam Acho

The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).

Chris Long has already indicated he won’t be returning to the Patriots, indicating he wants to join a roster where he’ll earn more playing time. Erik Walden, too, won’t re-sign with his 2016 club (the Colts), but he has taken a visit with the division rival Titans. Further down the list, Howard Jones has also met with at least one club, as he was hosted by the Jets on Tuesday. Jones, 27, is recovering from a torn ACL, but did post five sacks in five starts last season.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Johnathan Hankins
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Jared Odrick
  4. Vance Walker
  5. Sen’Derrick Marks
  6. Ricky Jean-Francois
  7. Roy Miller
  8. Al Woods
  9. Tony McDaniel
  10. Cullen Jenkins
  11. Frostee Rucker
  12. Cam Thomas
  13. John Jenkins
  14. Tyson Jackson
  15. Tyson Alualu

Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.

The remaining defensive interior players are mostly over-30 veterans, with names such as Tony McDaniel, Cullen Jenkins, Frostee Rucker, and Tyson Jackson still looking for new deals. While most of these guys can still play, they may have to wait awhile — possibly into the summer — before signing on with their next club. Jared Odrick (Patriots) and Vance Walker (Bears) have both taken visits, but the most intriguing lineman here may be Sen’Derrick Marks, who offers a good amount of pass rush from the interior.

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Extra Points: Lang, Jones, Jeffery, Cyprien

Some assorted notes from around the NFL…

  • Free agent guard T.J. Lang will not be visiting the Broncos following the team’s signing of lineman Ronald Leary, tweets Mike Kliss of 9News. The second-best free agent interior lineman still has plenty of suitors, as he’s set to meet with the Lions and Seahawks. The Packers, his former team, also have interest.
  • Had the Cardinals not extended Chandler Jones, the pass rusher would have eaten up over $14MM of spending space as their franchise player in 2017. He’ll instead take up around $10MM of cap room in 2017, tweets Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.
  • Alshon Jeffery‘s one-year, $14MM deal with the Eagles is the largest non-franchise tag one-year pact in NFL history, according to the NFL Media Research Group (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Jeffery’s pact eclipsed Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s one-year, $12MM deal with the Jets.
  • The Jaguars didn’t make a contract offer to strong safety Jonathan Cyprien, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union tweets. After spending four seasons in Jacksonville, the 26-year-old joined the Titans on a four-year, $25MM contract.
  • The Rams‘ release of defensive end Eugene Sims came with a failed physical designation, Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch tweets. The 31-year-old was let go by the team early this morning.
  • Akeem Spence said the Buccaneers expressed interest in bringing him back next season, but the defensive tackle needs a “fresh start,” tweets ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. Spence ultimately inked a three-year, $10.5MM deal with the Lions.
  • Rudy Ford ran a 4.25 at today’s Auburn Pro Day, tweets agent Blake Baratz. The safety was told earlier this week that he wasn’t healthy enough to participate at the combine. Baratz declares Ford “the most underrated prospect in the draft.”

Rams Cut Lance Kendricks, Eugene Sims

The Rams announced they are cutting tight end Lance Kendricks and defensive end Eugene Sims. In total, the Rams have purged four players in a 24 hour span, including their surprising trade of William Hayes to the Dolphins.

[RELATED: Rams Trade William Hayes To Dolphins]

Sims, 31 later this month, appeared in all 16 games for the Rams last season and made eight starts. He had 25 total tackles and 2.5 sacks on the year. From 2012-2016, Sims amassed 12 total sacks. For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus has never been high on his play and last year he was given a dreadful score 48.2 overall score by their advanced metrics.

Kendricks was in the midst of a contract that was supposed to pay him $18.5MM over four years. Instead, the Rams are getting out of the deal two years early. Kendricks had a career-high 50 receptions last year for 499 yards and two scores, but the new regime didn’t feel he was worth keeping. The 29-year-old might not be out of work for long.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams DE Robert Quinn Hospitalized

Rams defensive end Robert Quinn went to the hospital on Monday morning with a non-football-related illness, the team confirmed in an announcement. Details of the issue have not been disclosed yet, but coach Jeff Fisher did sound upbeat when discussing Quinn’s early prognosis. Robert Quinn (vertical)

[RELATED: Doubt Emerging On Rams-Chargers L.A. Deal?]

I spoke with Rob several hours ago, in addition to Christina, his wife,” Fisher said (via the team website). “He was, in fact, admitted to the hospital this morning for tests. He’s feeling much better. He kept saying to me over and over, ‘Coach, I just want to get back and get my body right and get back to the practice field as fast as I can.’ So, we’re still undergoing tests, and things look encouraging.”

Fisher added that it is “highly unlikely” that Quinn’s current issue is related to any past malady. That would include the benign brain tumor that he was diagnosed with as a teenager.

By the end of the week, we should know much more about Quinn and fellow defensive end Eugene Sims. Sims left Sunday’s game with concussion-like symptoms, leaving Quinn to play an uncommonly high number of snaps. Next up for Los Angeles is a home game against the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Freeman, Sims, Claiborne

Here are the latest contract details for players who have agreed to new deals and/or signed them in recent days. Unless otherwise specified, all links are courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle…

NFC:

  • Jerrell Freeman, LB (Bears): Three years, $12MM. Deal maxes out at $14.25MM with incentives/escalators. $6MM guaranteed at signing (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of USA Today).
  • Eugene Sims, DE (Rams): Three years, $10MM. $3.75MM in guarantees. $2.25MM salary for 2016 guaranteed. $750K roster bonus due this week. $500K roster bonuses due on the fifth day of the 2017 and 2018 league years. $750K annual incentives for sacks and playoffs (Twitter links).
  • Jon Ryan, P (Seahawks): Four years, $10MM. $3.4MM guaranteed. $2.4MM signing bonus. $1MM salary in 2016 guaranteed. $100K incentives for Pro Bowl and playoffs (Twitter link).
  • James Hanna, TE (Cowboys): Three years, $8.25MM. $2.25MM signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Emmanuel Lamur, LB (Vikings): Two years, $5.5MM. $2MM guaranteed. $1MM roster bonus due Monday. $15,625 per-game active roster bonus in both seasons (Twitter link).
  • Gino Gradkowski, OL (Panthers): Three years, $3.15MM. $450K signing bonus. $25K annual workout bonus (Twitter link).
  • Morris Claiborne, CB (Cowboys): One year, $3MM. Deal maxes out at $3.375MM with incentives. $500K signing bonus. $1MM in per-game active bonuses (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Keenan Robinson, LB (Giants): One year, $2.6MM. $1MM roster bonus due on the 10th day of the 2016 league year. $21,500 per-game active bonus. Up to $900K in playing-time incentives (Twitter link).
  • Sean Weatherspoon, LB (Falcons): One year, $1.5MM. $500K in per-game active bonuses. $750K in playing-time incentives (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Travaris Cadet, RB (Saints): One year, $840K. $80K signing bonus (Twitter link)

AFC:

  • Eddie Pleasant, S (Texans): Two years, $2.15MM. $311K roster bonus for 2016. $36K roster bonus for 2017 (link).
  • Matt Cassel, QB (Titans): One year, $2MM. $750K signing bonus. $500K in incentives (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Shane Lechler, P (Texans): One year, $1.8MM. $500K signing bonus (link).
  • Nick Novak, K (Texans): One year, 965K. $80K roster bonus due Monday (link).

Rams Re-Sign Eugene Sims

SUNDAY, 9:08am: The Rams have officially re-signed Sims, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). It will be a three-year, $10MM deal for Sims, including $3.75MM in guarantees.

SATURDAY, 3:08pm: After releasing Chris Long before free agency opened, the Rams appear to be set to retain another defensive end. Following William Hayes‘ re-signing to join the team in Los Angeles, Eugene Sims will sign to stay with the Rams, according to his Instagram account (via Vincent Bonsignore of InsideSoCal.com).

An unrestricted free agent, Sims started nine games for the Rams last season after previously starting three in his initial five years in the league — all in St. Louis. He registered 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Sims attended a team meeting in Los Angeles last week, per Bonsignore, a sign the UFA intended to stay with the Rams.

The soon-to-be-30-year-old Sims served as defensive line depth during his previous five seasons after arriving via sixth-round draft pick of the Rams’ in 2010. He should be in line to back up Hayes and Robert Quinn next season.