Jeff Locke

AFC North Notes: Browns, Steelers, Ravens

Prior to the Browns waiving kicker Zane Gonzalez, Hue Jackson did not know the second-year specialist was dealing with a groin injury. The third-year Browns HC (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk) said he knew “nothing about an injury whatsoever” and that no one from the Browns’ medical department told him Gonzalez was hurt, which could set up for an interesting situation as Cleveland pivots to another kicker. It hasn’t been reported that Gonzalez was waived with an injury designation, and Florio posits an injury grievance from Gonzalez could be in the cards. Gonzalez’s groin malady required an MRI, but he still attempted a 52-yard field goal in the final seconds Sunday. This information also doesn’t put Jackson in an especially positive light, given Gonzalez’s struggles on Sunday — ones that led directly to Cleveland’s 21-18 loss.

Shifting from a player the Browns just cut to one they opted not to draft, here’s the latest from the AFC North:

  • Sam Darnold did his best to not offer much regarding his draft-night mindset, but he did say he expected the Browns to take him at No. 1 due to the amount of time John Dorsey and Co. spent with him leading into the draft, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. The Browns spent time with all four of the top quarterback prospects before narrowing their decision to Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. “We spent time with (Darnold) and his family, and obviously, every quarterback. We feel very comfortable with the guy that we selected in Baker, and I’m sure they do with him,” Jackson said. “He’s a fine prospect and is going to be a fine player. I think they got a good one, but we feel we have a really good one, too.”
  • The Ravens are not counting on having C.J. Mosley available for their Week 3 game against the Broncos, David Ginsburg of the Associated Press notes. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker suffered a bruised left knee in Baltimore’s loss in Cincinnati. Rookie Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor were called to action in place of Mosley, who’s only missed two games (both in 2016) in his career. A fourth-round pick, Young looks like the Sunday starter, per Ginsburg.
  • Broncos rookie UDFA Phillip Lindsay sits third among the league’s rushing leaders going into Week 3’s Baltimore trip, and Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets the Colorado product narrowed his post-draft choices to the Broncos and Ravens. Lindsay (178 rushing yards on 6.1 per carry) is part of a two-rookie backfield in Denver. The Ravens opted to retain their status quo at running back, with Alex Collins, Kenneth Dixon and Javorius Allen back.
  • Allen is now on IR, though the Ravens would’ve preferred to keep both he and cornerback Maurice Canady on their active roster rather than shelve them for at least two months, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes. Neither’s injury is a season-ending setback, and Dixon is a candidate to return from IR later in the season.
  • Le’Veon Bell‘s agent, Adisa Bakari, attended the Steelers‘ season-opening tie in Cleveland, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes the vibe between he and Steelers brass wasn’t particularly uncomfortable. Bakari also represents Tyrod Taylor. Nothing on the Bell front’s transpired in several days, and Pittsburgh’s bracing for a long absence.
  • Mike Tomlin expressed frustration with punter Jordan Berry, per The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly (on Twitter), and he may be on the verge of losing his job. The Steelers brought in free agent punters Jeff Locke and Justin Vogel for workouts today, Kaboly tweets. Berry’s been Pittsburgh’s punter since 2015, and the Steelers signed him to an extension in February.
  • With Joe Mixon out for a bit, the Bengals brought in a host of running backs for Tuesday workouts. Thomas Rawls, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Troymaine Pope and Matthew Dayes trekked to Cincinnati for auditions, Sirius XM’s Adam Caplan tweets.

NFL Workout Updates: 9/12/18

Today’s workout updates, with all links going to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM’s Twitter account:

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

NFL Workout Updates: 9/10/18

Today’s workout updates, with all links going to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter account unless otherwise noted:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans 

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

49ers Announce Roster Cuts

The 49ers acquired offensive tackle Shon Coleman earlier this evening, but that wasn’t the only transaction for the club. San Francisco has also begun trimming its roster in advance of Saturday’s roster deadline.

The following players have been cut by the 49ers:

Williams was a fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft, but he’s being pushed off the roster by veterans such as Alfred Morris and Raheem Mostert. Locke lost out in his camp battle with fourth-year punter Bradley Pinion. Robinson has followed 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan to each of his three stops.

49ers Sign P Jeff Locke

The 49ers have signed punter Jeff Locke, according to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM (on Twitter).

Locke spent the early part of 2017 with the Lions as he filled in for Sam Martin. He was released in October when Martin made his way back to the roster and did not hook on with another team, despite auditioning for a few.

The 49ers have relied on Bradley Pinion, a former fifth-round pick, as their punter for the last three seasons. It’s not clear whether Pinion will be a part of a competition with Locke or if he will be out of the picture altogether.

Last year, Locke averaged a career-high 45.3 yards per punt in a limited sample.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

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. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

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 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

NFL Reserve/Future Contracts: 1/3/18

Here are the latest reserve/futures contract signings from around the NFL. These deals will go into effect on the first day of the 2018 league year, with players joining their respective clubs’ offseason 90-man rosters:

Green Bay Packers

  • G Kofi Amichia

Kansas City Chiefs

Minnesota Vikings

  • WR Brandon Zylstra

Philadelphia Eagles

  • CB Elie Bouka
  • P Cameron Johnson
  • TE Adam Zaruba

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Redskins

Extra Points: Browns, Pryor, Jets

In a reply to on an Instagram post by Duke Johnson, Terrelle Pryor seemed to hint at having interest in returning to the Browns, as ESPN.com’s Pat McManamon writes. The Browns did express interest in reuniting with Pryor before the trade deadline, but it’s not clear whether new GM John Dorsey would want to sign him.

Pryor, who is scheduled to be a free agent in March, had a breakout season with the Browns in 2016, catching 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns. This past year, however, he had only 20 catches for 240 yards and one score in nine games.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has hired Doug Hendrickson as his agent in advance of free agency, according to Manish Mehta of the Daily News (on Twitter). Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times (on Twitter) wonders if ASJ could be a fit for the Seahawks and notes that Hendrickson has gotten deals done for Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch, Dion Jordan, and other players in Seattle.
  • The Seahawks could be looking to replace kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jon Ryan, as Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times writes. This week, the team is meeting with kicker Jason Myers and punter Jeff Locke. Myers was with the Jaguars from 2015 through the first six games of the 2017 season. He was released after missing three pivotal field goals, though they were all from 52 yards or longer. All in all, he connected on 64-of-79 field goal attempts (81%) and 76-of-88 extra points (86.4%) in 38 games with the Jags. Locke, meanwhile, appeared in five games for Detroit.
  • Center Corey Linsley‘s new three-year deal with the Packers is worth $27.3MM and includes an $8MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Tom Silverstein of the Journal-Sentinel). His cap numbers are: $3.85MM in 2017, $4.85MM in ’18, $8.15MM in ’19, and $10.5MM in ’20.

Browns Work Out Roberto Aguayo

The Browns are kicking the tires on some notable names as the season winds down. Kicker Roberto Aguayo and tight end Gavin Escobar were among the players to audition for Cleveland on Monday, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Roberto Aguayo (Vertical)

Last year, the Bucs traded up to select Aguayo in the second-round. It was a perplexing move at the time and it backfired even quicker than anyone could have imagined. Prior to this season, the Buccaneers waived the kicker.

You never feel good when you shatter someone’s dream,” GM Jason Licht said at the time. “That is always tough, especially someone you had such high hopes for. You don’t have good feelings about that. It is a little bit of a sense of, I don’t want to say relief, but we’ve ripped off the band-aid, and we move on. We’re moving forward.”

Luckily for the Bucs, the Bears claimed Aguayo and took on the remainder of his contract. He never saw live action in Chicago, however, and the Bears quickly waived him. This time around, there were no takers for his $400K+ salary guarantee. He went on to have a stint on the Panthers’ practice squad, but that too was short lived.

Escobar, also a former second-round draft pick, never blossomed into the downfield threat the Cowboys hoped he’d be. The tight end worked out for roughly one-third of the league’s teams this year and had a cup of coffee with Baltimore before being put back on to the free agent pile. He appeared in two games for the Ravens, but did not record a reception.

In Escobar’s four seasons with Dallas, he started just seven games. His had at least 100 receiving yards in his first two seasons, but combined for just 12 receptions, 94 yards, and two touchdowns in 2015 and 2016.

Quarterback Stephen Morris, punter Jeff Locke, and four other players also worked out for the Browns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Workout Updates: 11/29/17

Today’s workout updates, with all links going to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter account unless otherwise noted:

Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Redskins