Jimmy Graham

Contract Details: Cousins, Graham, Davis

Let’s take a look at the most recent new contracts around the NFL:

  • Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): Three years, $84MM. Guaranteed salaries of $22.5MM, $27.5MM and $29.5MM. Guaranteed $500K workout bonuses each year. Up to $2MM in incentives per year. No-trade clause and a no-transition tag provision in 2021 (Twitter link via Dan Graziano of ESPN).
  • Jimmy Graham, TE (Packers): Three years, $30MM. $11MM signing bonus, $300K per-game roster bonuses each year. $2MM base salary in 2018, $3.45MM in 2019 and $7.45MM in 2020. $5.67MM 2018 cap number. $5MM roster bonus due on third day of 2019 season (Twitter links via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein).
  • Demario Davis, LB (Saints): Three years, $24MM. $16MM guaranteed. $9.2MM signing bonus. Annual salaries of $850K, $5.95MM (guaranteed) and $7.35MM. (Twitter links via Graziano and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Jeremy Hill, RB (Patriots): One year, $1.5MM. $150K signing bonus. $1M base salary. (via Pelissero, on Twitter, and ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss).
  • Bruce Ellington, WR (Texans): One year, $1.25MM. $730K base salary, $200K signing bonus (via Wilson, on Twitter).

Packers To Sign TE Jimmy Graham

The Packers intend to sign tight end Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal, sources tell ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The deal provides Aaron Rodgers with a quality red zone target at TE, something they have been seeking for years. 

Last year, the Packers believed they had their answer at tight end in Martellus Bennett. That contract quickly proved to be a mistake, but the revamped Packers’ front office believes that they have a much better solution in Graham.

Heading into free agency, we had Graham ranked as the second-best tight end available. After Trey Burton agreed to terms with the Bears, Graham quickly ascended the ranks to become the No. 1 undisputed top tight end on the market.

Graham isn’t quite as dynamic as he was in his prime with the Saints, but he’s still trouble for opposing defenses, as evidenced by his ten touchdowns in 2017. The Saints were eager to facilitate a reunion, but the bidding got out of hand thanks to Green Bay.

Rodgers is now slated to have Graham, Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb as his top targets. However, that lineup could change in the coming days with either Nelson or Cobb being pushed out as cap casualties.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Talks Stall For Saints, Jimmy Graham

Hold the phone on the Saints/Jimmy Graham reunion. The two sides have been seriously discussing a deal, but talks have stalled in recent hours, sources tell Dianna Russini of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Discussions aren’t dead, however, as both sides are still hoping to reach agreement. 

Graham has a strong market in free agency with the Packers and other teams hoping to sign him. The Ravens are also hoping to get involved, but their cap situation may hinder them.

Trey Burton‘s new four-year, $32MM deal with the Bears will only help to push Graham’s market and that may be a roadblock in his talks with the Saints. The 49ers and Lions were said to have interest in Burton and they could get in the mix for Graham now that the younger TE is off the board.

This offseason marks Graham’s first experience as an unrestricted free agent. Last season, he caught ten touchdowns for the Seahawks. Graham remains a serious red zone threat, but his career-low 9.1 yards per catch underscores that he’s not the same player as he was during his prime in New Orleans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens In Mix For Jimmy Graham?

Jimmy Graham has drawn interest from both the Packers and Saints, but the Ravens are also believed to be pursuing the former All-Pro tight end.

Graham is on the Ravens’ radar, but Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun tweets they are likely not the favorites and could be fighting an uphill battle. This is presumably due to the Ravens’ cap situation compared to the Packers’ and Saints’.

The 31-year-old tight end has drawn interest from the Drew Brees– and Aaron Rodgers-centered teams and would make for an interesting component for two franchises with stacked offenses. Baltimore’s setup is less certain, and the Ravens do not have nearly as much cap space as their reported Graham competitors do.

Despite Graham having not quite been as good for the Seahawks as he was for the Saints, he was still a top-tier red zone option last season. He caught 10 touchdowns — his fourth season with double-digit scores — but averaged a career-low 9.1 yards per catch. But it appears the ninth-year pass-catcher still has a competitive market as a first-time UFA.

Baltimore has cycled through tight ends over the past few years, with injuries playing a key role in that rotation. Graham would represent a clear upgrade from the incumbents.

Packers Interested In Jimmy Graham

The Packers have reached out to the representatives for tight end Jimmy Graham, according to Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Graham is one of the best tight ends available in this year’s free agent crop and is PFR’s No. 2 ranked player at the position.

The Packers tried to upgrade at tight end last offseason by signing Martellus Bennett to a free agent contract. That deal quickly went sideways, but the Packers remain determined to find a quality red zone threat for Aaron Rodgers at tight end.

Graham was the league’s highest-paid tight end over the last four years with average annual salary of $10MM. He’s not quite the same player that he was in New Orleans, but he’ll also cost a lot less for any team that signs him.

The Saints are said to have interest in a reunion with Graham, but the Packers also profile as a contender and should be of interest to the veteran.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

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Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

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. 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. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

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 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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Saints Expected To Target Jimmy Graham

Could a reunion be on the horizon for the Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham? The Saints are expected to be among the teams with interest in Graham when free agency opens on March 14, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

In line with what we’ve heard previously, Pelissero says that Graham is not expected to re-sign with the Seahawks this offseason. There should be plenty of opportunities out there for Graham, however, as he profiles as one of the top tight ends in this year’s class. Other big names include Eagles free agent Trey Burton (who should draw the most lucrative deal of any free agent TE) and Jets free agent Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Over the last four years, Graham has been the league’s highest-paid tight end with average annual salary value of $10MM. He’ll make less on his next contract, but he figures to do well on a multi-year deal.

The Saints have tight ends Coby Fleener, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui, Garrett Griffin, Clay Harbor, and Alex Ellis on the roster, but finding a difference maker at tight end is one of the team’s top priorities. Going for a proven free agent such as Graham would make sense, but the Saints also met with some of the draft’s top tight end prospects at the combine last week and they could fill the void there.

I think there are some players there,” GM Mickey Loomis said of this year’s tight end crop in the draft (via Herbie Teope of the Times Picayune). “I think there’s a good group of players, and so how they fit us, I think that remains to be determined yet. I think, in general, this is going to be a decent draft class.”

Graham, 32 in November, was among the league’s best tight ends while with New Orleans. From 2011-2014, Graham averaged 89 catches for 1,099 yards and 12 touchdowns per season. He earned back-to-back Pro Bowl nods in his two most recent seasons with the Saints, but his production has not been quite the same.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers To Prioritize Tight End In Free Agency?

Packers new general manager Brian Gutekunst has many routes he could potentially take in his first offseason at the helm. Making a splash at tight end in free agency is one of the possibilities according to USA Today’s Pete Dougherty"<strong

Going after a big name at tight end isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Packers, who swung and miss on their signing of Martellus Bennett in 2017. The team had some success with Jared Cook in recent years, but have lacked a consistent, big-bodied pass catcher at the position for years.

One name that Dougherty thinks should be on the team’s radar is Jimmy Graham, who is unlikely to return to the Seahawks in 2018. The veteran tight end secured his fifth Pro Bowl selection after tallying 57 receptions and 10 touchdowns in 2017.

Adding Graham to a receiver corps that includes Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb would give the team arguably the best pass-catching group in the NFL. Throw in the fact they would also have Aaron Rodgers slinging them the ball and Green Bay’s offense could be a matchup nightmare for defenses.

Graham was the NFL’s top-paid tight end the last four years with average annual salary valued at $10MM. He will almost assuredly not command that type of money after four underwhelming seasons in Seattle by Graham’s standards. A return to a pass-happy attack, however, could see the former Saints great reemerge as an elite option at the position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Willing To Trade Jimmy Graham?

Texans LT Duane Brown is expected to suit up for Houston for the first time this season as the club takes on the Seahawks in Seattle today. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, though, today might be Brown’s last day in a Texans uniform.

Jimmy Graham

Per Rapoport (Twitter links), the Seahawks are continuing their attempts to acquire a veteran left tackle, and Seattle and Houston have engaged in talks involving Brown. Brown, of course, has held out all season to express his dissatisfaction over his current contract, and he has only reported to the team in order to accrue a year of service time; if he missed any more game action, he would not receive any credit for the 2017 season and would remain under club control for two more years instead of being eligible for free agency at the end of the 2018 campaign.

Seattle, though, is pretty strapped for cap space, and as Rapoport points out, if the Seahawks were to trade for a left tackle like Brown — they are also interested in the Bills’ Cordy Glenn and the Colts’ Anthony Castonzo — they would need to cut or trade other players to remain under the salary cap. One player who could be moved is TE Jimmy Graham, who is earning $7.9MM in base salary this year and who is counting for $10MM against the cap. Rapoport says Seattle would be willing to move Graham if such a move would allow them to acquire a left tackle.

However, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll strong denied that Graham would be available before Tuesday’s deadline, calling any reports to that effect “total bull—-“, as Michael Silver of NFL.com tweets. Similarly, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) has been told Seattle has no plans to trade Graham.

Graham, 30, is averaging a career-low 9.6 yards per catch through six games this season, which comes on the heels of an excellent 2016 season, his best in Seattle. The Seahawks continue to believe Graham is a critical part of the offense, but they feel acquiring a quality left tackle is more important.

For what it’s worth, Rapoport says it is unlikely that the Seahawks and Texans agree to a one-for-one swap involving Brown and Graham, but it could be a possibility (Twitter link). Houston, however, is probably more interested in acquiring draft capital than a 30-year-old tight end on an expiring contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.