Jermaine Gresham

Cardinals Notes: Rosen, Golden, LBs, Smith

With the Cardinals‘ prospects for a playoff berth looking as bleak as they have in a September since before Carson Palmer arrived, noise around the team beginning the Josh Rosen era has obviously increased. Arizona’s Sam Bradford-led attack did not cross midfield until the fourth quarter against the Rams, and the Cards have just six points this season — the fewest of any team through two games since the 2006 Buccaneers. However, don’t count on a Rosen in-game promotion if Arizona’s struggles continue against the Bears on Sunday. While Steve Keim said (via Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic) the first-round pick “has got to be ready,” he would prefer Steve Wilks give him a full week of first-string reps rather than throw him into the fire. As for Wilks, he does see the UCLA product making strides. Rosen was billed as the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft yet will be the last to see action of his first-round peers.

Number one, I think the guy is progressing,” Wilks said during an interview with Sirius XM’s Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan. “He does a great job each and every week trying to prepare himself. He does get some reps with the ones each and every week, so from that standpoint, it’s good. And then he does an excellent job just as far as running the show team as well, so his operation each week is with the ones as well as on the show team. Prep has been good.

“When the time is right, we’ll definitely get him in there.”

Here’s the latest out of the desert:

  • Markus Golden and Jermaine Gresham appear on track to make their 2018 debuts. Both players progressed to full practices this week for the first time this year, per McManaman. Golden’s been out since Week 4 of last season because of an ACL tear. Gresham hasn’t played since Week 17, when the tight end ruptured an Achilles’ tendon. Both began camp on the PUP list. This will be Gresham’s age-30 season, and it’s even more critical for Golden. The edge rusher is set to begin a contract year, so showing he’s recovered from the severe knee injury will be paramount for his stock. Golden finished with 12.5 sacks in 2016. Both players are listed as questionable for Sunday.
  • The Cardinals’ new 4-3 defense has looked more like a 4-2-5 look thus far, and that’s resulted in Haason Reddick seeing sparse action in his second season. The 2017 first-rounder’s played only 17 snaps thus far. The Cards’ 2014 first-rounder, Deone Bucannon, was benched against the Rams, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes. Bucannon’s been a full-time starter at either safety or linebacker since his rookie year. Bucannon is also in a contract year. Josh Bynes leads Cardinals linebackers with 141 snaps, and Pro Football Focus tabbed him as the No. 10 overall ‘backer through two games. Bucannon sits 70th on that list, mostly due to Week 1 struggles. Nomad defender Gerald Hodges replaced Bucannon in Week 2.
  • Andre Smith remains out for Arizona because of an elbow injury, meaning John Wetzel will start again for the Cards in Week 3, McManaman notes. Considering Khalil Mack frequently lines up opposite right tackles, this poses another problem for a Cards team that’s experienced many thus far this season.

Cardinals Cut Brice Butler, Others

The Cardinals have moved their roster to 53 players by making the following transactions:

Cut:

Placed on injured reserve:

Waived from injured reserve:

Additionally, the Cardinals activated both tight end Jermaine Gresham and linebacker Marcus Golden off the physically unable to perform list.

NFC West Notes: Cards, Pugh, Rams, Donald

Justin Pugh ultimately signed a five-year, $45MM deal with the Cardinals this offseason, but the phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook when Pugh hit the open market on the first day of free agency, as Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com writes. “I thought I would get all these calls,” said Pugh. “Saw [Andrew] Norwell get signed [to a 5-year, $66.5MM with the Jaguars] and thinking I’m breaking the bank. And, you know, coming off an injury, coming off the season that we had, you get humbled a little bit. That is kind of what happened. You win three games in a season, not many things are going to go well for you.”

While Pugh landed a $9MM annual average, he didn’t reset the positional market as did Norwell. Pugh, who has the ability to play tackle but will start at right guard for the Cardinals, ranks seventh at his position in terms of yearly value, and 14th in full guarantees. For what it’s worth, Pugh’s former employer — the Giants — never contacted the former first-round pick once he reached free agency.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • While Aaron Donald has certainly made a case to earn a hefty extension, the Rams have the option of exerting leverage over the All-World defensive tackle, per Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News. While Donald likely wants to allow Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack to reset the market for defensive players, Mack — thanks to his higher draft slot — will earn nearly double Donald’s salary in 2018. Donald, of course, has made a strong argument for his next contract by playing as the league’s best defender for some time. The 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, Donald has earned Pro Bowl nods in each of his four pro campaigns, and was named a first-team All-Pro from 2015-17. Donald predictably skipped Los Angeles’ organized team activities, but the Rams are reportedly “optimistic” they’ll get a new deal in place before the regular season kicks off.
  • Tight end Jermaine Gresham suffered a torn Achilles in Week 17 of the 2017 regular season, but the Cardinals are “hopeful” he’ll be ready to play in time for Week 1, tweets Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. If Gresham isn’t available, Arizona would turn to last year’s breakout in Ricky Seals-Jones, while fellow tight ends Gabe Holmes, Bryce Williams, and Beau Sandland could also be in line for more looks. Gresham, who turns 30 next week, posted 33 receptions for 322 yards and two scores last season. In other Gresham news, he’s recently become something of a viral sensation after helping a fellow airline passenger, as Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic details.
  • In case you missed it, Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark has stayed away from team activities, but there’s been no discussion of a contract extension for the fourth-year pro.

NFC West Notes: Cards, Bettcher, Seahawks

While the Cardinals will interview incumbent defensive coordinator James Bettcher as they seek to replace head coach Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin is unlikely to be granted a meeting, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Unlike Bettcher, Goodwin has actually interviewed for other NFL vacancies in the past, as he met with the Buccaneers, Bills, Jaguars, and Rams since 2016. Bettcher, meanwhile, will meet with Arizona’s decision-makers on Wednesday, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • Veteran defensive lineman Michael Bennett said he is committed to continuing his career in 2018 and hopes he’ll remain with the Seahawks, tweets Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Bennett, 32, is signed for three more years at affordable rates, and Seattle would only create ~$2MM by releasing him this offseason. Additionally, Bennett graded as the No. 38 edge defender among 108 qualifiers a season ago, per Pro Football Focus, meaning he’s more than worth his salary. Seattle may be without Cliff Avril (retirement) and Sheldon Richardson (free agency) in 2018, making Bennett’s presence all the more crucial.
  • The Seahawks have already begun exploring kicker upgrades, and former Jaguar Jason Myers is among the options on Seattle’s radar, per Condotta (Twitter link). Given that the Seahawks are narrowing in on street free agents (players who were cut before the 2017 regular season concluded), their options are certainly limited. But Myers, who was released by Jacksonville in October, could represent improvement over incumbent Blair Walsh, who missed eight field goals last year. Myers, meanwhile, owns a career field goal percentage of 81%.
  • Tight end Jermaine Gresham suffered a torn Achilles in the Cardinals‘ regular season finale, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com (Twitter link). Given the timeline of Gresham’s injury, he may not be ready to start the 2018 campaign. But Arizona would incur $2MM in dead money by releasing Gresham, who inked a four-year extension last spring. Gresham, 29, managed only 33 receptions and 322 yards last year, his third consecutive season with fewer than 400 yards receiving.

Contract Details: Jones, Gresham, Church

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

Cardinals Re-Sign TE Jermaine Gresham

The Cardinals and tight end Jermaine Gresham have reached agreement on a four-year deal, the team announced. NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo reports (via Twitter) that the veteran “doubled up” his $3.5MM salary from last season. Gresham is the first notable tight end to come off the market during the legal tampering period. Jermaine Gresham (vertical)

On my most recent rankings of this year’s free agent tight ends, I listed Gresham as the ninth-best TE available, behind Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook, Jack Doyle, Vernon Davis, Luke Willson, Dion Sims, Anthony Fasano, and Jacob Tamme. The 28-year-old (29 in June) had 37 catches and 391 yards last year, but he doesn’t offer much in the way of blocking.

The Cardinals still have a number of notable free agents to address, including Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, and linebacker Kevin Minter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Offense

NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.

Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.

Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Updated 3-7-2017, 2:55pm CT

Quarterback:

  1. Mike Glennon
  2. Nick Foles
  3. Brian Hoyer (story)
  4. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  5. Colin Kaepernick
  6. Josh McCown
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Christian Ponder
  12. Blaine Gabbert
  13. Geno Smith
  14. Matt Schaub (story)
  15. EJ Manuel

Honorable mention: Ryan Nassib, Landry JonesShaun Hill Mike Glennon (vertical)

Colin Kaepernick’s agents have (wisely) let everyone know that their client will stand for the National Anthem in 2017. That may seem like a minor point, but teams say they would have automatically removed him from consideration if he continued his attention-grabbing protest. He grabbed headlines for his actions on the sidelines last year, but he actually turned in an OK season. From a football standpoint, Kaepernick would make sense for a lot of teams as a QB2 with upside.

Interestingly, this list includes three quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it as the Jets’ starter and three rejects from the 49ers. They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all six of those players (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert) come with varying degrees of potential and proven effectiveness. Smith, somehow, could reportedly be retained by the Jets and installed as the starter in 2017.

Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.

Running back:

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Jamaal Charles
  6. Darren McFadden
  7. Jacquizz Rodgers
  8. Rex Burkhead
  9. Rashad Jennings
  10. Danny Woodhead
  11. Tim Hightower
  12. DeAngelo Williams
  13. Andre Ellington
  14. Chris Johnson
  15. Christine Michael

Honorable mention: Robert Turbin, Travaris Cadet, Benny Cunningham, Lance Dunbar, Bobby Rainey, Brandon BoldenDenard Robinson, James Starks

Adrian Peterson (vertical)As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.

The Patriots believe they won’t be able to match the offers that come in LeGarrette Blount‘s direction. Latavius Murray could circle back to the Raiders, but he won’t be agreeing to a deal with them before free agency opens on Thursday.

Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.

Read more

Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

[UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST EDITION OF THE TOP 2017 NFL FREE AGENTS BY POSITION]

NFL free agency will get underway on Thursday, March 9th, 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.

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 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Mike Glennon
  3. Nick Foles
  4. Brian Hoyer
  5. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  6. Case Keenum
  7. Matt McGloin
  8. Mark Sanchez
  9. Geno Smith
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Josh McCown
  12. Christian Ponder
  13. Blaine Gabbert
  14. Matt Schaub
  15. Ryan Nassib

Honorable mention: Shaun Hill

As of this writing, Kirk Cousins is far and away the best potential free agent quarterback in this year’s crop. By the time March gets here, we’re fully expecting Cousins to be spoken for. Ultimately, the Redskins could franchise tag him, work out a long-term deal with him, or swing some type of trade that nets them a massive haul of talent and picks. That will leave a crop of retread quarterbacks that would probably best serve as transitional options for QB-needy teams. Kirk Cousins

Mike Glennon hasn’t done much in his 18 career starts, but talent evaluators are still in love with his size and potential. The 6’7″ quarterback will get more money this spring than you might expect, particularly since there are no surefire QBs in this year’s draft.

Teams looking for stopgap QBs will find a plethora of experienced, though perhaps uninspiring, signal callers. Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick all have their best football behind them, but they could hold down the fort for a team in 2017 and maybe even find some success if the defense is strong enough. Of course, the ideal role for those guys would probably be as a backup to a better, younger quarterback.

Running back:

  1. Le’Veon Bell
  2. Eddie Lacy
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Darren McFadden
  6. Jacquizz Rodgers
  7. Rashad Jennings
  8. Danny Woodhead
  9. Rex Burkhead
  10. Tim Hightower
  11. DeAngelo Williams
  12. Andre Ellington
  13. Chris Johnson
  14. Christine Michael
  15. Robert Turbin

Consider Le’Veon Bell‘s name written in Etch-A-Sketch, because he is very unlikely to get near the open market. That could leave Eddie Lacy as the best tailback available in March. Lacy has struggled with weight issues in recent years and he lost much of the 2016 season to injury. Still, he is a bruising back that could nicely complement a quicker ball carrier. Before he was shut down for the year, Lacy was averaging 5.07 yards per carry in five games for Green Bay.

LeGarrette Blount (vertical)In the last two years, LeGarrette Blount seems to have put his off-the-field troubles behind him. Whether that’s a sign of his maturity or a product of the Patriots’ culture remains to be seen. Teams can ignore his past indiscretions, but they will be wary of his age. Blount turns 31 in December.

Latavius Murray has shown glimpses of being a special running back, but he has been inconsistent and his 4.0 yards-per-carry average of the last two years isn’t overly impressive. Darren McFadden ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2015, but 2016 was pretty much a lost year for him. Jacquizz Rodgers seemed to break out last year, but he wound up succumbing to the same injury bug that took down a host of other Buccaneers running backs. Speaking of injuries, Rashad Jennings was initially brought to the Giants to be a workhorse back, but two of his three years in New York were marred by ailments. Everyone in this tier has the potential to make a difference, but none should be counted on as anyone’s main guy in 2017.

Read more

Extra Points: McGloin, Boldin, Gresham

Let’s take a look at some assorted NFL notes as we wrap up this Monday night…

  • Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin, an impending free agent, said that he is seeking a place where he will get “a chance to compete for a starting role,” Josh Dubow of the Associated Press tweets. The 27-year-old has nine career starts under his belt, and he’s connected on 58-percent of his career passes for 1,868 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
  • It sounds like Lions wide receiver Anquan Boldin is leaning towards a return in 2017. “I haven’t sat down with my family yet, but there’s still a passion that runs in me for football,” he said (via Nate Atkins of MLive.com). Boldin, 36, caught 67 passes for 584 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns in 2016.
  • Tight end Jermaine Gresham may have taken less money last offseason to stay with the Cardinals, but Kent Somers of AZCentral.com says we shouldn’t expect a repeat this time around. The 28-year-old impending free agent is probably eying his final chance to get paid, and he posted a solid statline of 37 receptions, 391 yards, and two touchdowns in 2016. Somers notes that the organization would like to re-sign the veteran tight end.
  • Farhan Lalji of TSN reports (via Twitter) that the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL have released outside linebacker Frank Beltre, allowing him to sign with the Jets. It was reported this weekend that the 26-year-old had signed with New York.
  • One of the more intriguing names featured on today’s reserve/futures contract signings was cornerback Mitchell White, who signed with the Eagles. The defensive back was a standout in the CFL, leading the Ottawa Redblacks to the Grey Cup. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets that the Michigan State product also worked out for the Texans, Bears, and Bengals. As Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets, this is the second straight season the Eagles have added a CFL cornerback, as they inked Aaron Grymes to a contract last year.

NFC Notes: Panthers, Bears, Eagles, Cards

Multiple concussions have felled superstar Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly this season, though the 25-year-old unsurprisingly told media Wednesday that he isn’t mulling retirement. “I’m holding off that retirement word for a little ways down the road,” he said (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “It’s something you appreciate everybody concerned with how you’re doing, but whenever my opportunity comes back I’ll be back out there.” Kuechly has recovered from the concussion that he suffered Nov. 17, but the Panthers haven’t cleared him to return to action. Considering they’re 6-8 and all but out of playoff contention, it would behoove the defending NFC champions to keep Kuechly out until next season.

More from the NFC:

  • The Bears designated cornerback Kyle Fuller to return from injured reserve last month, but it turns out they won’t activate him, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. There’s now a belief within the organization – including from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio – that Fuller wasn’t eager to come back this season from August knee surgery, per Biggs. Head coach John Fox addressed that, saying, “That’s hard to measure. Looking inside people is not real easy.” The likelihood now is that Fuller – a 2014 first-round pick – has played his final game with the organization, suggests Biggs, who notes that the Bears would take a late-round choice for him. Fuller, who appeared in all 32 games (30 starts) in his first two years and racked up six interceptions, is under contract next season for a relative pittance ($1.74MM-plus). He’s also controllable for 2018 by way of a fifth-year option, but it’s likely his employer – whether it’s the Bears or another team – will decline to exercise it by next spring’s deadline.
  • After Eagles left tackle Jason Peters earned his ninth Pro Bowl selection Tuesday, head coach Doug Pederson spoke out against the idea that the soon-to-be 35-year-old could be an offseason cap casualty. “I love him,’’ Pederson said (per Paul Domowitch of Philly.com). “I want him on the team. I don’t want him to go anywhere. I want him to be an Eagle for the rest of his career. Once we get through these next two games, we’ll address all of that.” Notably, Howie Roseman – not Pederson – has final say when it comes to the Eagles’ roster. Further, releasing Peters in order to avail the left tackle position for well-compensated right tackle Lane Johnson would free up $9.2MM in cap space against $2MM in dead money next year. Moving on from Peters would also significantly weaken the Eagles’ line, though, evidenced by his ninth-place ranking among 79 qualifying tackles at Pro Football Focus.
  • The Cardinals have an impressive class of 2017 free agents on the horizon, and general manager Steve Keim says he’s already touched base with the agents for many of those players, a list that includes Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, Andre Ellington, and Jermaine Gresham, among others. “One thing public does not generally know, we have spoken to many agents regarding players whose contracts expire after the season and some whose contracts do not expire after the season that we’d just like to try to extend,” Keim told Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. “There are several players we’d like to have back, but it takes two sides.”
  • The Packers worked out former Aggies punter Taylor Symmank on Wednesday, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).
  • The 49ers plan to sign former Texas kicker Nick Rose to a reserve-future deal in the the offseason, tweets Wilson.

Zach Links contributed to this post.