J.J. Wilcox

Steelers Release S J.J. Wilcox

The Steelers have released safety J.J. Wilcox, according to a team announcement. The move will save the team $3.125MM while leaving $675K on the cap in dead money. 

Wilcox’s spot was rumored to be in jeopardy throughout the offseason due to his salary. When the Steelers selected two safeties over the weekend (and signed one UDFA safety on Sunday), that all but confirmed the buzz. At one point in time, the Steelers appeared to consider retaining Wilcox at a reduced rate, but that option is no longer on the table.

Wilcox, 27, appeared in 12 games in his first season for Pittsburgh last year. The former third round pick was initially set to play out the 2017 season with the Buccaneers, but they shipped him to the Steelers after signing T.J. Ward in September. The Bucs may be a club to keep an eye on as Wilcox looks for his next deal.

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AFC North Notes: Browns, Gordon, Steelers

In a departure from comments made last offseason, Browns coach Hue Jackson says that he wants wide receiver Josh Gordon to be in Cleveland for a “long time.”

Well, I think the first thing, if we tender him, which we will, that’s where he’ll be,” Jackson said (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal). “But we want Josh Gordon to be a Cleveland Brown for a long time. We’ll see where that all goes, but he has to do his part in that. And we hope he will, and I’m sure he will.”

Gordon is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning that he’ll be back with the Browns on an inexpensive one-year deal. It’s not clear whether the Browns have discussed a multi-year extension with Gordon, but Jackson would be a proponent of a new contract.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • The Steelers recently reached out to safety J.J. Wilcox to express interest in a return for 2018, a source tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Steelers can save $3.125MM by cutting Wilcox with just $675K in dead money, but the Steelers have some interest in retaining him, perhaps under a reduced figure. The Steelers will also have to make a decision regarding fellow safety Mike Mitchell, who is slated to carry a $5MM cap hit.
  • With the Rams reportedly set to move on from wide receiver Tavon AustinJeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun wonders aloud if the Ravens could bring the former Dunbar star home. The Ravens need to overhaul their receiver corps this season with a particular emphasis on speed. The team has been widely connected to Jarvis Landry, but Austin would represent a much cheaper option in every sense of the word. The Dolphins hit Landry with the $16MM+ franchise tag in February with the hope of trading him, likely for draft compensation. Austin, meanwhile, seems likely to get released outright, even though the Rams would ideally like to recoup something for him. Because of the offset language in Austin’s contract, that means he could probably be had for the league minimum or close to it.
  • A deeper look at the contract of Bengals tackle Bobby Hart reveals that he is not a lock to make the team’s final roster.

North Notes: Vikings, Browns, McCarron

Now that’s been declared an unrestricted free agent, Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron says he’s “open to everything,” according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s just awesome just to be free now and to hopefully get that opportunity and be able to compete somewhere,” said McCarron. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted. I’m just super excited.” McCarron, who won a grievance against the Bengals, will now join a free agent signal-caller class that includes Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, and Sam Bradford, among others. In what sounds like speculation, the Browns (who nearly traded for McCarron last year) and the Vikings are two team to “keep an eye on” as McCarron hits the open market, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link).

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

  • The Steelers rank as a bottom-three NFL club in terms of 2018 cap space, and they’ll likely clear more room by releasing defensive backs Mike Mitchell and J.J. Wilcox over the coming weeks, as Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Pittsburgh can clear $5MM by cutting the 30-year-old Mitchell, and Dulac says it’s “become apparent” to the Steelers coaching staff that Mitchell can’t run as well as he used to. Wilcox, meanwhile, was a preseason trade acquisition who ended up playing only 14% of the Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps a year ago. If the Steelers do end up altering their defensive backfield, former second-round pick Sean Davis will likely transition from strong to free safety.
  • While Mitchell and Wilcox could be forced off the Steelers‘ roster, offensive tackle Chris Hubbard is likely to leave of his own accord, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Hubbard, 26, had only started four games during the first three years of his career, but was inserted into Pittsburgh’s lineup for 10 games in 2017. During that time, Hubbard offered league-average production, grading as the No. 40 tackle among 81 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. Per Fowler, Hubbard is going to “get paid elsewhere, and the Steelers know it.”
  • Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman is expected to retire or be released, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Freeman, 31, inked a three-year, $12MM contract with Chicago prior to the 2016 season, but injuries and two performance-enhancing drug suspensions have limited him to just 13 games over the past two years. Without Freeman, the Bears will likely field Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkowski at inside linebacker.
  • Updating a previous report, former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan is indeed still running his scouting service and has not been hired full-time by the Browns, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. McCloughan is providing consulting work for multiple NFL clubs.

AFC Notes: Dolphins, Brady, Taylor, Colts

The NFL postponed the DolphinsBuccaneers‘ Week 1 game until Week 11 due to Hurricane Irma (Twitter link). Both teams had byes that week, making this rare postponement easier. Both south Florida teams will now play 16 straight games.

Here’s the latest from several other AFC cities on Wednesday morning.

  • After a joint review by the NFL and NFLPA, the Patriots were determined to have followed protocol regarding a potential Tom Brady concussion last season, the sides said in a statement (via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, on Twitter). Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, said earlier this offseason her husband suffered a concussion last season that wasn’t reported by the Patriots. Brady issued a vague response when asked about this in July, but the quarterback turned over his medical records during this investigation — one that examined film from all 19 Patriots games, along with reports from unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants and concussion spotters assigned to those respective games. While the NFL isn’t claiming Bundchen is lying about the concussions, Volin tweets this examination merely determined the Patriots followed protocol. This matter appears to be closed, from the league’s perspective.
  • Tyrod Taylor‘s agent contacted the Browns, Jets and 49ers prior to the Bills agreeing to a revamped deal with their incumbent starter, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports. After those discussions, Carucci reports Taylor’s camp decided it was best to agree to the reworked Bills pact. The three teams possessed some degree of interest in Taylor had he hit free agency, but it evidently wasn’t enough to dissuade Taylor from staying with the Bills on a contract that now pays him $10MM less over the next two years than it would have under the previous terms. “Maybe a couple less touchdowns, but as far as yardage, I did what I did to get that deal in the first place,” Taylor said, via Carucci, about the adjusted contract. “So whether they thought that I didn’t deserve it, I don’t know. That’s up to them.” Taylor threw for just 12 fewer yards last season (3,023) and rushed for 12 more (580) than he did in 2015. Although, the quarterback played in one more game last season than he did during his first year as Buffalo’s starter.
  • The Texans‘ deal with cornerback Marcus Burley is for two years, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. A former sixth-round pick, Burley’s played in 38 games during his three-year career. After two seasons with the Seahawks, Burley played with the Browns in 2016. Cleveland cut him last week.
  • The Colts worked out offensive lineman Emmett Cleary, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The Cowboys cut Cleary on Saturday after he played in 13 games for them last season.
  • Newly acquired Steelers defensive backs Joe Haden and J.J. Wilcox account for a combined $5.541MM in 2017 cap hits, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes. Pittsburgh now holds $11.07MM in cap space.

Steelers Acquire DB J.J. Wilcox

The Steelers have acquired safety J.J. Wilcox from the Buccaneers, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Pittsburgh will receive Wilcox and a 2019 seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2018 sixth-round pick, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).J.J. Wilcox (Vertical)

Tampa Bay had just signed Wilcox to a two-year deal this spring, but given that it inked T.J. Ward earlier today, the club no longer need Wilcox around for depth. The Buccaneers won’t take on any dead money by trading Wilcox because they didn’t employ a signing bonus on his contract.

The Steelers had also been mentioned as a potential destination for Ward, but they’ve instead picked up the 26-year-old Wilcox, who boasts 58 career games (38 starts). Wilcox will earn $3.25MM in 2017 and serve as depth behind Pittsburgh starting safeties Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis.

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Contract Details: Jones, Gresham, Church

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

Buccaneers Sign J.J. Wilcox

J.J. Wilcox has found a new home. Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports (via Twitter) that the safety has signed a deal with the Buccaneers. NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo says (via Twitter) that it will be a two-year deal worth up to $8.5MM.

J.J. Wilcox (Vertical)We’ve been hearing all week that there was mutual interest between both sides. However, Wilcox appeared to have a number of suitors. His former team, the Cowboys, were interested in bringing him back following the departure of Barry Church. The Seahawks and Dolphins were also connected to the free agent.

The former third-round had played his entire four-year career in Dallas. Wilcox served mostly as a sub during his first season in the league, but he established himself as a starter between 2014 and 2015. Last season, the safety reverted to a backup, as he finished with a career-low four starts (in 13 games) after losing his job to rookie Byron Jones.

The 26-year-old was still plenty productive. Wilcox finished the campaign with 49 tackles, one forced fumble, one interception, and a career-high six passes defended. Thanks to his performance, PFR listed him as the 12-best available safety in our positional free agent rankings.

Wilcox will joined a Buccaneers safety corps that includes Chris ConteKeith Tandy, and Ryan Smith.

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J.J. Wilcox To Visit Seahawks

In addition to meeting with the Buccaneers, free agent safety J.J. Wilcox will visit the Seahawks, reports Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Wilcox spent the first four seasons of his career with the Cowboys, but they won’t attempt to re-sign the 26-year-old, per George.

J.J. Wilcox (Vertical)

Wilcox is now poised to become the second safety to leave Dallas in free agency this year, joining soon-to-be Jaguar Barry Church. Functioning as the Cowboys’ third safety behind Church and Byron Jones last season, Wilcox appeared in 13 games and picked off the fifth pass of his career. Wilcox only started four contests – down from 16 in 2014 and 13 in 2015 – but Pro Football Focus ranked his performance a terrific 27th among 89 qualified safeties.

The next chapter of Wilcox’s career could take him to Seattle, which boasts a highly accomplished secondary and two star safeties in Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Chancellor is currently scheduled to become a free agent next offseason, though, and Thomas flirted with retirement after an injury-shortened 2016.

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Bucs To Meet With J.J. Wilcox

The Buccaneers have scheduled a visit with free agent safety J.J. Wilcox, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports.J.J. Wilcox (Vertical)

Wilcox appeared in 13 games last year as the Cowboys’ third safety behind Church and Byron Jones, but given that Dallas is reportedly bracing to lose many of its internal free agents, Wilcox appeared to be a goner. But with Church out of the picture, the Cowboys may push harder to re-sign Wilcox, as the club might not be comfortable starting special-teamer Jeff Heath in the back end.

Safety is a definite need area for the Buccaneers. Chris Conte has been re-signed, but Bradley McDougald is a pending free agent. Keith Tandy figures to take at least one of Tampa Bay’s starting safety jobs after playing well down the stretch in 2016, but the club could use another defensive back. Wilcox ranks 12th on PFR’s list of free agent safeties.

Conte’s deal, meanwhile, is a two-year, $5MM pact with $2.5MM guaranteed, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. The max value is $7MM.

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Several FAs On Dolphins’ Radar

Already set to meet with Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons after the market opens Thursday, the Dolphins have several other players on their radar on the eve of free agency, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Duron Harmon

With injured safety Isa Abdul-Quddus questionable to take the field in 2017, the Dolphins are prioritizing the position and could pursue the Patriots’ Duron Harmon and the Cowboys’ J.J. Wilcox, to name a couple. Harmon ranks as PFR’s 12th-best free agent and, although he figures to come at a high price, would perhaps form a quality tandem with star strong safety Reshad Jones.

The 26-year-old Harmon hasn’t been a full-time player in New England, where he only started four of 16 appearances there last season (and 12 of 63 since his career began in 2013) and partook in 48.6 percent of defensive snaps. The same has been true for Wilcox in Dallas, where he started 38 of 58 appearances from 2013-16. Only four of his starts (13 games) came last year, though his performance did rank an above-average 27th among Pro Football Focus’ 89 qualified safeties (Harmon was 54th). If the Dolphins want to add Wilcox, it appears they’ll have to compete with another Florida-based franchise, the Buccaneers, for his services.

Miami agreed to re-sign defensive end Andre Branch to a big-money deal Thursday, but that might not be the last time it addresses the position this offseason. The team would like to add two more ends, though it has so far passed on top available names like Calais Campbell and Jabaal Sheard, per Jackson. The Dolphins have reached out to a less notable player, the Cardinals’ Alex Okafor, who’s coming off a 15-appearance, 3.5-sack season. Okafor, 26, didn’t start a game last year, but he did line up with Arizona’s No. 1 defense 12 times in 2014, when he posted a career-high eight sacks, and 13 times in 2015.

Along with Okafor, the Dolphins have fellow D-linemen – tackles Terrell McClain and Lawrence Guy – on their radar, Jackson writes. The Dolphins are at least the fourth team eyeing McClain, a 28-year-old who spent the previous three seasons in Dallas and is coming off the most productive showing of his career. McClain tallied personal bests in appearances and starts (15 apiece), tackles (39), sacks (2.5) and forced fumbles (two) in 2016.

The 26-year-old Guy, meanwhile, played the majority of the past three seasons in Baltimore, where he picked up a career-high 10 starts across 16 appearances in 2016. In 484 snaps, Guy only registered one sack – down from a personal-best 4.5 in 2015 – though his performance did rank an impressive 38th among PFF’s 127 qualified interior defensive linemen.

Shifting to the offensive side of the ball, Miami wants “two reasonably priced guards” and hasn’t ruled out re-signing Jermon Bushrod, relays Jackson. After playing with the Saints and Bears from 2007-15, Bushrod signed a cheap pact ($1.5MM) with Miami last offseason and proceeded to start all of its games this past year. PFF pegged him as one of the four worst guards in the league, however.

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