The Raiders have signed defensive lineman Frostee Rucker to a one-year deal, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link). Originally drafted by the Bengals in the third round back in 2007, the 2018 season will be Rucker’s 12th in the league. Schefter reports that Rucker “wanted to play for a team that he thought had a Super-Bowl chance.”
Rucker spent the past five seasons with the Cardinals, and started all 16 games for for them last season. Rucker has always been a solid role player, grading out as an average 76.4 in Pro Football Focus’ 2017 rankings. This past year he had 24 tackles with 1.5 sacks and one pass defended.
Rucker visited the Jets back in April, but didn’t draw much interest otherwise up until now. The Raiders will be Rucker’s fourth team as he spent a season with the Browns in addition to his time in Cincinnati and Arizona.
The move continues a trend for the Raiders that’s been apparent ever since Jon Gruden took over of the team pursuing veteran players on short-term deals. Earlier today, the team signed veteran defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin. The Raiders will be hoping Rucker still has something left in the tank at age 34, and will be able to help a defense that has been one of the league’s worst units the past couple years.
The Jets recently hosted defensive lineman Frostee Rucker on a free agent visit, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Rucker would be a logical fit for the Jets since he played under Todd Bowles in Arizona.
Rucker, 35 in September, profiles as a potential low-cost addition for Gang Green. Last year, he re-upped with the Cardinals on a one-year deal worth less than $1.1MM.
Earlier this month, Bowles signed another former Cardinals pupil in linebacker Kevin Minter. Minter is one of several new linebackers in New York – along with Avery Williamson, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Brandon Copeland, Neville Hewitt, and Micah Awe – but the Jets have yet to do much along the defensive line. Rucker, who spent time on the interior and at defensive end last year, could serve as a versatile backup in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme.
Let’s take a look at the details of some recently-signed contracts:
Morris Claiborne, CB (Jets): One year, $5MM. $2.5MM base salary. $2MM signing bonus. $31K per game bonus if on 46-man roster. (Twitter link via Manish Mehta of the Daily News).
Lorenzo Alexander, LB (Bills): Two years, $5.95MM. Cap numbers of $2.55MM (2017) and $3.4MM (2018). $1.1MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $2MM (2017, fully guaranteed) and $2.45MM (2018; $300K fully guaranteed; $1MM guaranteed for injury only). $300K roster bonus due on third day of the 2018 league year and additional per-game roster bonuses of $6K+ in 2018. Incentives up to $850K (2017) and $1.25MM (2018) in playing time and Pro Bowl incentives. (Twitter link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
Geno Smith, QB (Giants): One year, $775K base. $25K workout bonus. $800K in play time incentives. $12.5K per-game roster bonuses. Max value of $2MM. (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com).
EJ Manuel, QB (Raiders): One year, $800K. No guaranteed money. (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com).
Kellen Moore, QB (Cowboys): One year, $755K. $100K fully guaranteed (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).
Tyson Alualu, DL (Steelers): Two years, $6MM. $1.75MM fully guaranteed. (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).
Kevin Minter, LB (Bengals): One year, $4MM. $2.1MM guaranteed. (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com).
Frostee Rucker, DE (Cardinals): One year, $1.08MM. $80K fully guaranteed. $500K+ available through incentives. (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).
Rucker, 34 in September, probably didn’t find much of a market this offseason. He started in 13 games for the Cardinals in 2015, but he was bumped down to a reserve role last season. In 13 games (one start), Rucker had 13 total tackles. In the previous year, he had three sacks, 28 total tackles, and one safety. In both seasons, Pro Football Focus gave him mediocre overall scores, though their advanced metrics weren’t high on him during his prime either.
The Cardinals have some more work to do on the defensive line after losing Calais Campbell to the Jaguars in free agency. Rucker won’t fill a starting position, but he could offer some reserve help at both end and tackle.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
While players at other defensive positions have flown off the board, there’s been almost no movement among off-ball linebackers. Only five of PFR’s original top-15 free agent linebackers have signed new contracts, a group that includes Dont’a Hightower, our previous No. 1 ‘backer who re-signed with the Patriots today. Zach Brown, who now holds that honor, broke out in his fifth NFL campaign and played especially well in coverage, a skill that should lead to a handsome reward. Brown, 27, met with the Raiders today, while the Dolphins also hope to schedule a visit.
The Bengals, specifically, are in the linebackermarket, as they’ve met with both Kevin Minter and Keenan Robinson in recent days. But the rest of the players on this list aren’t drawing much interest as of yet, a fact that speaks to the devaluation of the linebacker position. Teams will pay up for a three-down linebacker like Hightower, but if a player can be formation-ed off the field, he’s not going to land a hefty deal.
One linebacker who did prove he could stay on the field on third down was Perry Riley, who played 370 coverage snaps for the Raiders last season. Riley is still only 28 years old, but posted awful marks from Pro Football Focus during his previous campaigns with Washington. Whether it was Oakland’s scheme (including its talented pass rushers) that allowed Riley to flourish, or a true breakout coming in the middle of a career, Riley could help a number of clubs. The Raiders are reportedly working to bring him back.
The top two corners still on the open market are both former Cowboys, and Brandon Carr looks like the surer bet to return to Dallas at this point. Morris Claiborne, meanwhile, has drawn interest from the Ravens, and most opposing clubs believe he’ll end up signing with Baltimore. Clairborne, 27, appeared to be a prime overpay candidate heading into the offseason, but if the Ravens can land him on a short-term deal, they’d be making a wise investment.
Now that all charges have been dropped against Darrelle Revis, he’ll make for an interesting test case in free agency. Clearly, Revis is not the shutdown corner he once was, and may even be mulling a move to safety as he closes his career. But clubs in the market for secondary help could do worse than Revis, and he should be on a roster when the regular season rolls around.
Most of the safeties on this list are in-the-box types — that’s thanks to the fact that center field-esque safeties are more rare and thus more expensive. Recently-released veterans such as Jairus Byrd, Lardarius Webb, and Corey Graham, however, offer coverage ability and would make for decent signings on short pacts. T.J. McDonald and Bradley McDougald, on other hand, are big hitters that will patrol near the line of scrimmage. McDougald, specifically, will take a visit with the Seahawks this week.
Chris Prosinski is just a special teamer, but he’s a great special teamer. While he only played 173 defensive snaps in 2016, he saw time on more than 80% of the Bears’ special teams plays, and was listed as one of the season’s best special teams players by Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus. Football Outsiders ranked the Cardinals, Jets, and Texans as the bottom-three teams in special teams DVOA, and any of those clubs would benefit from adding Prosinski.
Demand is not high for placekickers at the moment, as only the Giants and Bengals stand out as clubs that immediately need a kicker. Injuries and ineffectiveness are sure to strike the position, however, at which point the specialists on this list will surely receive calls. Dan Carpenter and Mike Nugent missed a combined 11 extra points in 2016, and given that he topped both Carpenter and Nugent in field goal percentage, Nick Folk should be the first kicker on clubs’ emergency list.
While a strategy is in place to market quarterback Colin Kaepernick to the “right” team, NFL clubs are pessimistic Kaepernick will be able to land a “decent” deal, per La Canfora. Kaepernick, 29, opted out of the final year of his 49ers contract, and San Francisco likely would have released him had he not made that decision. Having said that he’ll stand for the national anthem in 2017, Kaepernick ranked as PFR’s No. 6 free agent quarterback heading into the free agent period.
After agreeing to a new deal with the Cardinals, Andre Ellington may be playing more wide receiver than running back in 2017, per Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Ellington will spend time at both positions, according to Somers, but Arizona wants to see what the 28-year-old can do at wideout. While he posted 85 receptions during his first two years in the league, Ellington has only managed 27 catches from 2015-16.
Frostee Rucker may follow Ellington in re-signing with the Cardinals, as Somers tweets he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Rucker is the next player to land a new contract with Arizona. Rucker, 33, appeared in 13 games (one start) with the Cards in 2016, posting 13 tackles and grading as the league’s No. 96 interior player among 127 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. Rucker earned nearly $1.4MM last year under the terms of an extension he agreed to in 2015.
Longtime Chargers safety Eric Weddle “seems destined to depart San Diego as a free agent” when his contract expires after the 2015 season, says Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Acee, who reported on Monday that the team has told Weddle and agent David Canter that they won’t negotiate a new contract this year, says the bridge between the two sides may not be irreparable. However, head coach Mike McCoy is believed to be siding with management in Weddle’s contract dispute – reportedly rubbing some veteran players the wrong way in the process – and Canter describes the Chargers’ current stance as “disgusting.”
“It’s blatantly obvious after me asking the team time and again to extend us that Eric isn’t wanted,” Canter said. “So it’s time for Eric to move on [to] where he can win and is wanted.”
Weddle is still expected to play out the 2015 season in San Diego, and anything could happen between now and March, when he’s slated to hit the open market. But at this point, the two-time All-Pro appears to be preparing to play his last 16 games with the Chargers.
Here’s more from out of the NFL’s two West divisions:
Field Yates of ESPN.com has the details on Frostee Rucker‘s new deal with the Cardinals, tweeting that the extension includes $500K guaranteed, a $1MM base salary for 2016, and $2MM in total new money. Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post provides a few more specifics on Rucker’s contract, which includes bonuses and incentives as well.
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians thinks his team is set at the quarterback position, but Bob McManamon of AZCentral.com makes a case for why the club should consider bringing in another veteran signal-caller.
$500K of Phil Dawson‘s $3.134MM base salary for 2015 became fully guaranteed this week, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The veteran 49ers kicker is eligible for free agency after the coming season.
While Floyd Kephart is expected to propose a financing plan for a stadium in Oakland, the executive director of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, Scott McKibben, says his group is prepared to move on to “other options” quickly if a deal with Kephart doesn’t happen, writes Bill Williamson of ESPN.com. “We need to get something done sooner than later,” McKibben said, addressing the possibility of the Raiders remaining in Oakland.
The Cardinals have reached an agreement with defensive lineman Frostee Rucker on a one-year contract extension, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). Rucker’s deal had previously been set to expire after the 2015 season, so the extension will keep him locked up through 2016 instead.
Rucker, 31, re-signed with the Cardinals last March on a two-year, $2.1MM contract, and enjoyed one of his best seasons in 2014. Starting seven of his 15 games for the Cards, the former third-round pick recorded 28 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles. According to Pro Football Focus’s grades (subscription required), Rucker was the 21st-ranked 3-4 defensive end out of 47 qualified players.
Rucker received more playing time in 2014 due in part to a handful of injuries to Cardinals defenders, including a season-ending ACL tear for Darnell Dockett. While Dockett is expected to be healthy for the coming season, he’ll be playing for Arizona’s division rivals in San Francisco, so Rucker currently appears to be penciled in for a regular role once again.
Michael Bennett took to SiriusXM NFL Radio and talked to hosts Bruce Murray and Rich Gannonabout his future with Seahawks, writes Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. The defensive end revealed that discussions “have been positive,” adding that the team wants him “to be a Seahawk for the rest of (his) career.”
While it certainly sounds like the Seahawks will bring back their defensive end, Bennett admitted that his brother, Martellus Bennett, is still trying to recruit him to come to the Bears. The Bears would have to “open up their wallet” for that to happen, Bennett said.
Let’s take a look at what else is happening around the NFC West…
Considering the safety’s connection to St. Louis, Jairus Byrd could potentially be a target of the Rams, writes Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. Byrd played high school football near St. Louis, and Wagoner believes the prospective free agent would be a great fit for the team. Still, the writer thinks it’s unlikely the Rams would dish out the kind of money that would be required for Byrd’s services.