Evan Smith

Bucs Release OL Evan Smith

The Buccaneers have released veteran offensive lineman Evan Smith, The Athletic’s Greg Auman tweets.

Entering his 11th season in the league and coming off two hip surgeries, Smith was due to make $2 MM in 2019. The move did not result in any dead cap space for Tampa Bay. Smith was slated to be a backup for the Bucs in 2019. His release now opens a spot as a backup guard/center for Earl Watford, Josh LeRibeus and undrafted rookie Nate Trewyn.

Undrafted coming out of Idaho State, Smith caught on with the Packers in 2009 and appeared in 13 games. He stayed in Green Bay as a versatile lineman for four seasons before joining the Buccaneers in 2014, with whom he started 15 games at center. Splitting time between both guard positions and center, Dietrich-Smith has been plagued by injuries in his last four season, playing in just 42 of a possible 64 games.

Injury Notes: Graham, Mariota, Darnold, Kupp

We learned earlier this week that Packers tight end Jimmy Graham had suffered a broken thumb, and it was expected that the former All-Pro would be out for the foreseeable future. However, head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that Graham is going to try to play on Sunday against the Vikings.

“I know he intends to try to go,” McCarthy said (via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky). “That’s his intention…There’s going to be a transition through the practice week and see different splints and things like that. So that’s why you have to work through it.”

The 31-year-old has 34 receptions for 452 yards and two touchdowns during his first season in Green Bay. If he was forced to miss time, the Packers would likely turn to Lance KendricksRobert Tonyan Jr., and/or Marcedes Lewis.

Let’s take a look at some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota didn’t suffer an elbow injury during Sunday’s loss to the Colts. Instead, as head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters, the signal-caller suffered a “stinger” (via Jim Wyatt of Titans Online via Twitter). Mariota may get a second opinion, and there’s still hope that the quarterback can play on Monday against the Titans. Through nine games this season, the 25-year-old has completed 67.6-percent of his passes for 1,583 yards, seven touchdowns, and six interceptions. He’s also rushed for 255 yards and two scores on 47 carries. If Mariota is forced to miss Monday’s game, Blaine Gabbert would likely earn the start for Tennessee.
  • Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had ditched his walking boot, and ESPN’s Rich Cimini writes that the rookie was seen jogging during Monday’s practice. “It feels good. It feels great,” Darnold said of his right foot. “Nothing for me to complain about. No pain, either.” The quarterback missed the team’s last game against the Bills, but he got an extra week off thanks to the bye. If Darnold misses this weekend’s contest against the division-rival Patriots, the team will turn to veteran Josh McCown again.
  • While Cooper Kupp‘s season-ending injury certainly wasn’t promising, Rams coach Sean McVay revealed that the wideout underwent successful ACL surgery. “It went really well,” McVay said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “He called right afterwards and he was in great spirits. I know if anybody is going to attack the rehab process the right way, it’s going to be Cooper Kupp. Fortunately, some of the things when you do get in there, none of the other things that sometimes can delay that rehab process were affected. It was a clean surgery, did a good job repairing that and we expect him to be able to make a good recovery. Looking forward to getting him back.” The 25-year-old was having another productive season before suffering the injury, hauling in 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games.
  • Buccaneers offensive lineman Evan Smith suffered torn labrums in both hips, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). The veteran will have surgery in New York next Monday. The 32-year-old had appeared in seven games with Tampa Bay this season, serving primarily in a backup role. The team placed him on the injured reserve last week.

Contract Details: 3/25/18

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed contracts:

Buccaneers Re-Sign OL Evan Smith

The Buccaneers have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman Evan Smith, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Tampa Bay has announced the transaction as a two-year deal.

Smith, who formerly went by the name Evan Dietrich-Smith, has started a whopping 111 games during his eight-year NFL career, but he’s coming back to Tampa Bay as a clear reserve. The Bucs made Ryan Jensen the NFL’s highest-paid center last week, and will now presumably move Ali Marpet to guard. With J.R. Sweezy holding down the club’s other guard spot, Smith will now act as an overqualified backup.

Given that he can play all three interior line positions, Smith could certainly see action during the upcoming season (especially given that Sweezy dealt with serious injuries as recently as 2016). Last year, the 31-year-old Smith made six starts and played 60% of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps, grading as the league’s No. 29 guard among 77 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

The interior offensive line market has thinned rapidly this week, as Smith joins Matt Slauson, D.J. Fluker, Jack Mewhort, Jonathan Cooper, Tom Compton, Kevin Pamphile, and Jeremiah Sirles as guard/centers who have landed new deals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

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. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they 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 are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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10 Centers The Saints Could Pursue

Saints center Max Unger went under the knife to help fix an issue with his foot, and that surgery will cause him to miss the start of the season. With no exact timetable in place for his return, the Saints will likely consider out-of-house options to help fill the void.

With some help from PFR’s Dallas Robinson, here are centers that New Orleans could look into acquiring:

  • Nick Mangold (free agent): Mangold remains on the open market and he stands as the most obvious choice for the Saints to consider. The Saints would be hard-pressed to find anyone with a resume as impressive as Mangold’s and the seven-time Pro Bowler probably wouldn’t cost all that much at this stage of the offseason. At the same time, there’s a reason why he is still available here in May and word of clubs asking him to change positions isn’t exactly encouraging. "<strong
  • Jason Kelce (Eagles): Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com was quick to connect the dots on Monday morning after word of Unger’s injury broke. The Eagles reportedly have had Kelce on the trading block for some time now and the Saints would now be a logical landing spot for him. The Eagles beat writer suggests that a Kelce deal could see running back Mark Ingram going to Philly, but I personally have a hard time seeing that happen. If the Saints are unable to meet the Eagles’ asking price for Kelce, however, they might be able to swing a deal for another interesting option on their roster.
  • Stefen Wisniewski (Eagles): If the Eagles were to trade Kelce, Wisniewski or guard Isaac Seumalo would be the top candidates to step into the starting role. However, Wisniewski himself would make lots of sense as a stopgap for the Saints. Wisniewski was a starter for five straight years with the Raiders and Jaguars before landing with the Eagles as a reserve. In addition to that starting experience, he also offers experience at guard, so he could be used at multiple spots once Unger returns to action. Pro Football Focus ranked him 39th among 72 eligible guards last season with strong marks for his pass blocking skills.
  • Joe Hawley (Buccaneers): The Buccaneers are moving Ali Marpet to center and he could very well wind up as the starter. There’s also Evan Dietrich-Smith and guard/tackle Ken Pamphile to consider for the No. 1 job and that could make Hawley expendable. The 28-year-old (29 in October) has been the Bucs’ primary center for the last two years, but he could be on the outside looking in after camp concludes. This offseason, he re-signed with the team on a two-year, $5.5MM deal with just $1MM guaranteed. It’s an affordable deal that the Saints could easily wiggle out of next year, if need be. Alternatively, the Bucs may want to dangle Dietrich-Smith in New Orleans’ direction.
  • Tim Barnes (49ers): Barnes just showed up in San Francisco, but indications are that the Niners will use Jeremy Zuttah as their starting center in 2o17. Before getting cut this offseason, Barnes spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the Rams’ starter. Another Niner, Daniel Kilgore, could have appeal for the Saints.
  • Cameron Erving (Browns): The Browns are planning to move Erving to right tackle now that J.C. Tretter is in town, but perhaps the Saints would be interested in seeing what he can do in the middle. Then again, he was shifted to right tackle last year after performing poorly in 12 games at center.
  • Matt Slauson (Chargers): Slauson isn’t guaranteed to start this year thanks to the presence of Max Tuerk, Forrest Lamp, and Dan Feeney. All three players are rookies (Tuerk didn’t play in 2016 thanks to his knee injury) but the team is high on each of them. In theory, Slauson could be shifted over to guard with Tuerk starting in the middle, but it’s also possible that Feeney starts at right guard over him. Slauson would be a valuable swing reserve for Los Angeles, but the Bolts might also be willing to trade him thanks to their glut of O-Line options.
  • Joe Berger (Vikings): Vikings coach Mike Zimmer sees third round rookie Pat Elflein as a center, and that could potentially make Berger expendable. Berger, 35 later this month, has started 68 games over the course of his career. He graded out as the 12th best guard in the entire NFL last season, according to PFF. He earned an even stronger overall score in 2015 when he primarily played in the middle. Berger still has plenty in the tank, so it would be harder to pry him away than some of the other names on this list.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Ravens, Mangold, Bucs, Watson

The Ravens traded center Jeremy Zuttah earlier today, but they haven’t made contact with free agent pivot Nick Mangold as of yet, tweets Jeff Zriebec of the Baltimore Sun. Instead, Baltimore is likely to turn over center to internal option John Urschel, or look for another free agent on the open market. While contending clubs were expected to pursue Mangold, he hasn’t drawn any known interest so far this offseason. Teams are reportedly asking the 33-year-old if he’s willing to shift to guard.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Interior offensive lineman Evan Smith received a $1MM roster bonus on Wednesday, a clear indication that he’ll be a member of the Buccaneers‘ 2017 roster, as Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times details. Smith has only started seven games over the past two seasons, and will likely remain the Bucs’ top reserve at the pivot and both guard spots after center Joe Hawley re-signed earlier today. As Auman writes, Tampa Bay’s front five is currently in flux, and a number of line combinations could be in play next year. Smith, 30, will earn a base salary of $3.5MM in 2017 while carrying a cap charge of $4.5MM.
  • Although one report indicated Buccaneers offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus retired yesterday, the veteran lineman has not formally decided to hang up his cleats, as Auman tweets. However, Cherilus is not seeking a new contract and won’t participate in the free agent process. This could be a “soft retirement” for Cherlius, could simply be a matter of semantics. Cherilus, 32, has played nine NFL seasons.
  • Free agent linebacker Dekoda Watson is visiting a team tonight and has another meeting scheduled for Thursday, though it’s not clear at present exactly which clubs are involved, as Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post tweets. The 28-year-old Watson appeared in all 16 games for the Broncos in 2016, playing on 84% of the team’s special teams snaps. Denver is reportedly interested in retaining him.

Buccaneers OL Evan Smith To Miss Time

Buccaneers offensive lineman Evan Smith suffered a grade-2 MCL sprain, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). He is expected to miss about three weeks. Evan Smith (vertical)

The loss of Smith comes at a bad time for Tampa Bay with left guard Kevin Pamphile and center Joe Hawley also nursing injuries. Both players were sidelined for Week 10 and it’s not immediately clear whether they will be in action for Week 11 against the Chiefs.

Hawley, 28, has only been so-so according to the advanced metrics, but he is the anchor for Tampa Bay’s O-Line and his tough, gritty style is missed on the field. If he remains out while Smith nurses his sprain, the Bucs will likely have to turn to Ben Gottschalk to bridge the gap. It also stands to reason that the Buccaneers could add an offensive lineman if all three players are ruled out for this weekend.

Previously known as Evan Dietrich-Smith, Smith de-hyphenated his name prior to the 2015 season. He discussed the change with Joe Kania of Buccaneers.com.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Bolden, Buccaneers, Raji

Some assorted notes from around the NFC…

  • After having worked under Andy Reid for several years, Doug Pederson is now in full control as the head coach of the Eagles. Reid had guided the Eagles to the playoffs during his second season as head coach in Philly, but Pederson believes he inherited a better team than his mentor. “This team today is better than that team,” Pederson told Jeff McLane of Philly.com. “I just think that we’re in a better position.”
  • Safety Omar Bolden was released by the Bears yesterday, but Troy Renck of Denver7 ABC tweets that the 27-year-old “will land on his feet.” Renck notes that the former Broncos draft pick could wind up in Denver, and he adds that his release from the Bears was due to the team’s “logjam” at defensive back.
  • If Buccaneers offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus proves to be nothing more than a backup to Demar Dotson, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times could see the team letting go of him and his $4.5MM salary. Other veterans who could find themselves on the hot seat include offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith, defensive end George Johnson, tight end Brandon Myers, and safety Major Wright.
  • The Packers had offered B.J. Raji a “lucrative” contract, indicating that they expected him to play a major role on their 2016 squad. However, as ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky writes, the defensive lineman’s one-year hiatus from the NFL suddenly changed the organization’s offseason plans.

 

NFC Notes: Hardy, Kalil, Bucs

The arbitrator assigned to Greg Hardy‘ suspension appeal backed the NFL in the Adrian Peterson case, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports writes. That could be bad news for the Cowboys star as he looks to cut down his 10-game suspension. Hardy’s deal, signed in March, gives him a base value of $11.3MM for 2015, though much of it is tied into per-game roster bonuses. More out of the NFC..

  • Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees this offseason, two people with knowledge of the procedures told Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports. Kalil had his 2016 option exercised on Monday despite a frustrating 2014 campaign.
  • The Vikings “tried hard” to land LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets, but he rightly notes that most of the NFL did as well. Earlier today, Collins signed with the Cowboys. Collins wasn’t expected to make a decision on his NFL future for some time, but owner Jerry Jones clearly won him over.
  • Buccaneers center Evan Dietrich-Smith has legally changed his name to Evan Smith, which is what he went by until he went to college, Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com tweets.
  • The Buccaneers have fired pro scouting director Scott Cohen, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (on Twitter).