Jacksonville Jaguars Rumors & News

Top 8 Fits For Free Agent TE Gary Barnidge

Gary Barnidge was a relative no-name until the 2015 season, when — at age 30 — the 6’5″ tight end broke out for 79 receptions, 1,043 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. Each of those totals were career-highs for Barnidge, and his yardage figure was the eight-highest single-season total for a tight end since 2010. The 2016 campaign wasn’t quite as fruitful for Barnidge, but he still managed 55 catches for 612 yards, solid numbers for a tight end in a weak Browns offense.Gary Barnidge (vertical)

There are certainly question marks that could lead a team to not pursue Barnidge. Chief among them is probably his age, as Barnidge is set to enter his age-32 season. That could conceivably make him an injury risk, although he’s appeared in all 32 possible games over the past two years. Bardidge’s blocking prowess is also a concern, as he ranked 50th out of 63 qualified tight ends in run blocking efficiency last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Still, Barnidge offers excellent receiving ability and should come relatively cheap. It’s tough to see Barnidge topping the $5MM and $5.3MM annual salaries earned by fellow tight ends Vernon Davis and Jared Cook respectively, and he likely won’t command a multi-year deal. So which NFL teams could possibly employ Barnidge in his 10th pro season? Let’s take a look…

Atlanta Falcons

Austin Hooper, the Falcons’ third-round pick in 2016, posted 271 receiving yards during his rookie campaign. That lowly figure was somehow the second-highest yardage total by an Atlanta tight end since Tony Gonzalez retired at the end of the 2013 season. Yes, the Falcons’ offense was the best in the NFL by a wide margin last year, but the unit could continue its dominance by adding another element at tight end. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has never worked with an elite tight end (not counting his one-game stint as O.J. Howard‘s OC at Alabama, Sarkisian’s best TE pupil was Austin Seferian-Jenkins), so it’s unclear if he can develop young options such as Hooper and 2017 fifth-rounder Eric Saubert. A veteran such as Barnidge would allow those youthful players to grow by lessening their responsibilities, at least for the upcoming season.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills were the first stop on Barnidge’s free agent tour following his release by the Browns, so Buffalo clearly has some level of interest. Charles Clay is currently atop the Bills’ tight end depth chart, but he hasn’t been worth the five-year, $38MM deal Buffalo gave him prior to the 2015 season. Despite being the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league, Clay has finished just 12th in approximate value since joining the Bills. Buffalo is stuck with him through at least 2018, as a 2016 contract restructure makes release unpalatable. Clay is a much better run blocker than Barnidge, so the latter would be able to play as a move tight end in the Bills’ offense. Given that Buffalo is fielding one of the league’s worst wide receiving groups, the club needs all the weapons it can get.

Carolina Panthers

After visiting with the Bills, Barnidge indicated he might take a meeting with the Panthers, and although it’s unclear if that visit ever took place, it stands to reason Carolina is still eyeing a tight end addition. Greg Olsen, clearly, is the No. 1 option for the Panthers, but the team’s depth at the position is shockingly sparse. Linked to a number of tight ends during the predraft process, Carolina ultimately stood pat, leaving only Ed Dickson and Chris Manhertz behind Olsen. Dickson, for his part, is essentially a non-factor in the receiving game and isn’t a great blocker — the Panthers could release him with a minimal dead cap charge. Barnidge spent the first four years of his career in Carolina, and a homecoming would make a lot of sense.

Cincinnati Bengals

Unquestionably one of the league’s more talented tight ends when healthy, Tyler Eifert just can’t seem to stay on the field. He’s never appeared in all 16 games, and has missed more than eight games in two of the past three seasons. Eifert’s 52-reception, 13-touchdown 2015 campaign showed him at his best, but he simply can’t be relied on. And the Bengals’ backup options are lackluster, as well, as C.J. Uzomah (25 catches, 234 yards) and Tyler Kroft (10, 92) struggled when asked to fill in for Eifert last season. Cincinnati has already bolstered its offense this offseason by adding wide receiver John Ross and running back Joe Mixon, and Barnidge would give the club another target and (much-needed) depth.

Denver Broncos

Denver has reached out to Barnidge in recent days, and the Broncos have a level of familiarity with Barnidge given that many of their coaches — notably offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and tight ends coach Jeff Davidson — worked with Barnidge in Carolina. While the tight end position isn’t quite the integral position in McCoy’s offense that it was in former head coach Gary Kubiak‘s, Denver still needs an infusion of talent at the position. The selection Jake Butt, of course, marked the initial step in the Broncos’ tight end revamp, but the former Michigan Wolverine may not be ready for Week 1 as he recovers from a torn ACL. Barnidge would instantly become Denver’s No. 1 tight end if signed, although head coach Vance Joseph said he’s currently pleased with the Broncos’ tight end group, tweets Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Like the Panthers, the Jaguars may try to set up a visit with Barnidge, and Barnidge confirmed that he has in fact heard from the Jacksonville staff. The Jaguars parted ways with free agent bust Julius Thomas this offseason, shipping him to Miami for a late-round pick, but the club’s only addition at the position was the signing of former Raider Mychal Rivera, who hasn’t topped 300 yards receiving since 2014. Incumbent Marcedes Lewis continues to strike new deals with the Jaguars (the latest a three-year, $12MM pact) despite last being productive at the turn of the decade, so Barnidge would represent an immediate upgrade for quarterback Blake Bortles & Co.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings may have landed a draft steal in Virginia Tech Bucky Hodges, who was projected to come off the board on Day 2 but lasted until the sixth round. Still, Hodges is more an oversized wideout than a typical tight end, as Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote in Hodges’ predraft profile. No. 1 tight end Kyle Rudolph posted the best season of his career in 2016, as he hauled in 83 passes for 840 yards, so Barnidge would clearly be the No. 2 in Minnesota. Given quarterback Sam Bradford‘s proclivity for the short passing game, adding another tight end who can play over the middle wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Pittsburgh Steelers

After releasing Ladarius Green last week, the Steelers appear set to roll with Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, and TE/FB David Johnson at tight end for the 2017 season. Pittsburgh didn’t address the position during the draft, which could mean the club is content with its current options. James, specifically, posted a nice season last year (39 receptions, 338 yards), but it’s hard to argue that he’s true No. 1 tight end for a contending team. Clearly, with Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and (hopefully) Martavis Bryant in the fold, the Steelers don’t exactly need a dynamic weapon at tight end, but Barnidge would give the Steelers a veteran option for at least one year.

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Latest On Jaguars’ Branden Albert

The Jaguars have touched base with Branden Albert, but they’re not expecting things to get patched up overnight. The team is not anticipating the arrival of Albert as OTAs get underway on Tuesday, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweetsBranden Albert (vertical)

[RELATED: Jaguars Touch Base With Albert]

Meanwhile, the Jaguars do not sound inclined to do anything about Albert’s contract, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (on Twitter) hears. Albert is seeking a deal similar to what Russell Okung and Andrew Whitworth received in free agency this offseason, but Jacksonville has no intention of meeting those demands. For now, Albert is slated to play out the 2017 season at an $8.9MM cap number. Next year, that figure jumps to $9.6MM, but there is zero guaranteed money left on the deal he initially signed with the Dolphins.

Albert cannot be fined for his absence until next month when mandatory camp gets started. Disgruntled players usually buckle by that point in June, but it’s possible that Albert will hold the line in an effort to get Jacksonville to give him what he wants.

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Jaguars Place Bryan Walters On IR

The Jaguars re-signed Bryan Walters in March on a two-year deal, but a sudden development affecting the wide receiver’s timeline looks to have changed the plans. Walters sustained a foot injury recently that will send him to the Jags’ IR, according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

While the precise injury isn’t specified, it looks to end Walters’ season. It would have been the veteran’s third with the Jaguars. To replace Walters on the 90-man roster, Jacksonville signed cornerback Brian Dixon. The Jags also added now-well-traveled corner Tyler Patmon in a separate transaction Monday.

The 29-year-old Walters finished last season as a backup but one who served as the team’s No. 4 wide receiver. The former Seahawks special-teamer caught 24 passes for 231 yards and two scores. He was more productive a year earlier, recording a career-high 368 air yards on 32 receptions. The Jaguars added Dede Westbrook in the fourth round of the draft and still have Rashad Greene and Arrelious Benn on their roster.

Dixon, 27, comes to Jacksonville after the Cardinals cut him to make room for newer UDFAs earlier this month. The former UDFA out of Northwest Missouri State spent more than two seasons with the Saints, playing in 37 games. The 26-year-old Patmon also entered the league as a 2014 UDFA, doing so with the Cowboys. He made two starts for Dallas but was cut during the 2015 season. The Jags will be his sixth team. The Panthers cut Patmon on the same day Dixon was waived.

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Cecil Shorts III Eyeing 2018 Return

After suffering a series of gruesome knee injuries last year, Cecil Shorts III won’t be able to take the field in 2017, he tells SiriusXM (on Twitter). He’ll take the year off and work towards an NFL return in 2018. Cecil Shorts III (vertical)

Shorts suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and PCL along with a dislocated knee midway through his season with the Buccaneers. That was just the latest setback for Shorts who missed 19 regular season games between 2011 and 2015. Shorts managed to gut his way through some hamstring issues, but this is the toughest challenge he has ever faced.

Even before the injury last winter, Shorts wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire. In nine games, he had just eleven catches for 152 yards.

Shorts will turn 30 in December, so he’ll be looking to get back into football on the verge of his age-31 season.

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Jaguars Work Out LB Sam Barrington

The Jaguars worked out linebacker Sam Barrington last Friday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Barrington went to high school at nearby Terry Parker High, so this would mark a homecoming for the veteran. Sam Barrington

[RELATED: Jaguars Meet With OL Orlando Franklin]

Barrington spent the first three years of his career with the Packers but was waived before last year’s 53-man cut, leading him to the Packers. The Chiefs claimed him off waivers, but he did not record an official statistic in his two games there and was quickly cut. In November, he signed with the Saints and finished out the year there.

The Jaguars have been kicking the tires on veteran LB help by meeting with Gerald Hodges as well as Mike Morgan. Jacksonville also worked out a notable name in cornerback Alterraun Verner. This week, they’ll host wide receiver Victor Cruz on a visit.

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Jaguars Meet With OL Orlando Franklin

Orlando Franklin is a free agent after getting released one week ago by the Chargers and he’s now looking for a new home. Today, he’s meeting with the Jaguars, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Orlando Franklin (Vertical)

Franklin, 29, came to the Chargers as a free agent prior to the 2015 season, but things did not go according to plan. In his first year with San Diego, Franklin was sidelined for six games. Last year, he had a perfect attendance record in the regular season, but he was one of the seven worst qualified guards in the NFL, according to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus.

In Franklin’s first three NFL seasons, he started at right tackle for the Broncos and it wasn’t until his final year in Denver that he switched to left guard. The Jaguars might not have a starting position available for Franklin, but they could theoretically use him as a swingman to help fill in off the bench. Jacksonville already has three versatile O-Line reserves who seem likely to make the final roster in Patrick Omameh (G/T), Earl Watford (G/T), and Luke Bowanko (C/T). Adding Franklin could give the Jags one of the most flexible offensive line groups in the NFL.

Speaking of the Jaguars’ offensive line, the team finally touched base with Branden Albert. It remains to be seen whether they can get the veteran in the building before mandatory camp begins.

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Jaguars Worked Out CB Alterraun Verner

The Jaguars worked out veteran cornerback Alterraun Verner last week, a source tells Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Verner’s audition apparently didn’t go well, per O’Halloran. “He was a little out of shape,” the source said. “Word is they will do a do-over.”Alterraun Verner (Vertical)

[RELATED: Checking In On The Cornerback Market]

Jacksonville is set to field one of the league’s better cornerback tandems, as free agent signee A.J. Bouye will pair with 2016 first-round pick on the outside. After that duo, however, the club’s depth is questionable. Aaron Colvin is projected to start in the slot, but only played 10 games last year thanks to a four-game suspension and an ankle injury. Josh Johnson, Tracy Howard, and Jalen Myrick comprise the remainder of the Jaguars’ cornerback depth chart.

Verner, 28, could compete with Colvin to serve as Jacksonville’s nickelback and also offer depth at outside corner. Released by the Buccaneers in February, Verner reportedly drew immediate interest as soon as being cut loose, but still has yet to land a contract. Originally signed to be a starter for Tampa Bay, Verner’s playing time had dwindled over the past two campaigns, and he saw action on less than a quarter of the Bucs’ defensive snaps a season ago.

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Fournette's Language Does Not Include Offset Language; Cummings On Albert

Leonard Fournette recently inked his rookie deal with the Jaguars, and as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports, Fournette is the only 2017 top-10 draft choice under contract to entirely avoid offset language. Executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin is apparently unconcerned about being on the hook for the full amount of Fournette’s rookie contract if Fournette should be cut within the first four years of his contract, or maybe he is just confident that Fournette will not fizzle out that quickly. This is in keeping with Jacksonville’s standard operating procedure, as the Jags have not included offset language for former top-5 picks Blake Bortles, Dante Fowler, Luke Joeckel, and Jalen Ramsey.

  • The Jaguars recently touched base with left tackle Branden Albert, who continues to stay away from the team as he pushes for a new contract. Albert still has roughly a month before he can be fined for his absence, but Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders believes he is only hurting himself. The club drafted Cam Robinson in the second round of this year’s draft and has already stated that he will compete for the starting LT position, and given Robinson’s upside, there’s reason to think that he could win it. As such, Cummings does not believe that Albert will hold out of training camp.

6 Possible Fits For Victor Cruz

Victor Cruz is starting to generate some interest months after the Giants ended his lengthy New York tenure in February. But the slot receiver is far removed from his best seasons, ones that occurred before multiple leg injuries sidetracked his career.

But there’s still a market for the 30-year-old wideout, probably on a short-term arrangement to see what the former Pro Bowler has left. Cruz met with the Panthers before the draft, but they went in another direction. The 2012 Pro Bowler also went on visits to discuss a potential role with the Jaguars and Bears last week, and the Ravens expressed interest as well.

Here are some of the fits for Cruz as he attempts to re-establish himself on another team following the down years that marred the second half of his Giants tenure:

  • Ravens — Baltimore lost both Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken and has done little to help its receiving corps this offseason. The Ravens did not draft a wideout despite a depth chart that’s headlined by 2016 street free agent Mike Wallace and injury risk Breshad Perriman. Cruz would stand to be a far more proven inside complement for this team compared to what is currently on the roster. A rumored Cruz/Ravens summit hasn’t occurred yet, but the Ravens are believed to be targeting veteran UFAs that would likely serve niche roles this season.
  • Raiders — Oakland made some flashy additions to an offense that was already among the league’s best. Marshawn Lynch, Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson will see plenty of time for the rejuvenated team, but the Raiders still don’t have a surefire No. 3 wide receiver. Former UDFA Seth Roberts did not build on his promising spurts in 2015, and Patterson has made his name as a kick returner. The former first-round pick hasn’t been a consistent receiving threat. The Raiders are targeting extensions for Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson and Khalil Mack, but a low-end Cruz pact — likely for one year — wouldn’t stand to impede those pursuits much.
  • Browns — If Cruz visited the Bears, he’s not dead set on playing for a team in position to contend now. The Browns look to have made a mistake by cutting Taylor Gabriel last summer, and they don’t have much beyond Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman despite a sizable wideout corps acquired in last year’s draft. Cruz doesn’t fit a rebuilding team, but Cleveland has young quarterbacks Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer. A better target to help over the middle would stand to aid in these passers’ development. Cruz did haul in 39 passes for 586 yards last season; that’s over 300 more than any current Browns WR3 candidate did.
  • Jaguars — The obvious connection to Tom Coughlin makes this avenue somewhat viable, and the parties getting together for a meeting makes Jacksonville a candidate. It’s just more difficult to see where Cruz would play than some of these other teams. The Jags already have starters Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee put together his best season in 2016. While Robinson and Lee are UFAs after the season, Cruz as of now does not profile as a player that would command a multiyear deal and factor into longer-term planning.
  • Lions — Detroit has two locked-in starters in Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, and the franchise selected 6-foot-4 wideout Kenny Golladay in Round 3. The Lions, though, could still use another veteran here, especially if Ameer Abdullah‘s injury history continues to force passing-down specialist Theo Riddick — himself a season-ending injury casualty last season — into the backfield. That said, the Lions are a candidate to re-sign Anquan Boldin, which would negate this path.
  • Bears — Also an interesting match despite the visit, Chicago has lost some marquee receiving weapons in recent years. Brandon Marshall made another franchise regret a trade in 2015, and Alshon Jeffery‘s defection to the Eagles leaves the Bears in transition mode here. Kevin White‘s rampant injury struggles don’t make the former top-10 pick a safe bet either, leaving Cameron Meredith as their de facto WR1. But the Bears signed both Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton. While neither can match Cruz at his best, and both did not thrive in their contract years, but Chicago adding both may make the ex-Giant superfluous and create some interesting debates on which wideouts to shuttle to special teams.

Which of these teams do you think would be the best fit for the would-be eighth-year veteran? Who did we leave off that you think would make for a logical destination? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

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Jaguars Touch Base With Branden Albert

There has been communication this week between the Jaguars and left tackle Branden Albert, according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union (on Twitter). This is a positive development since head coach Doug Marrone, as of one week ago, had not spoken to the lineman.

I just want to know so when you ask me, I can answer it or when [Coughlin or Caldwell] asks, I can answer them,” Marrone said on May 13. “They ask me, ‘Have you talked to him? Is he going to come? Is he going to play?’ I don’t know. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had a player on the [franchise] tag and they would say, ‘Hey, I’m not signing the tag, I’m not going to [show up], but I’m going to be working out and training.’ … You just want to know where everyone is at and that’s all I was expecting [from Albert].”

Albert still has roughly a month before he can be fined for his absence, but the lack of dialogue between Jacksonville and the offseason pickup is noteworthy. After Albert was traded to the Jaguars this offseason, free agent tackles like Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff and Russell Okung cashed in on the open market, and that likely led Albert to push for a better contract. The Jaguars reportedly are unwilling to renegotiate his deal.

As it stands, Albert has two years to go with cap numbers of $8.9MM in 2017 and $9.6MM in 2018. There is no guaranteed cash in either season.