In need of a guard after Nick Easton‘s neck surgery, the Vikings reached out to retired lineman Joe Berger to see if he would be willing to come out of retirement, a source tells Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter). However, Berger informed the team that he plans to stay retired.
A former sixth-round pick, Berger started at least ten games only one time during the first decade of his career before signing with Minnesota in 2015. Berger then became a fixture on the Vikings’ front five, starting 46 games over the next three campaigns. Capable of playing both center and guard, Berger was still effective in 2017, as Pro Football Focus graded him as the NFL’s No. 23 guard among 77 qualifiers.
The Vikings would have loved to get another season out of Berger, but he’ll move on to other endeavors instead. And, with that, the Vikings will have to move on in their search for interior line help.
Longtime NFL offensive lineman Joe Berger has announced his retirement following a 13-year career, according to a statement provided to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).
“After a lot of careful though and prayer I have decide(d) to retire from football,” reads the statement, in part. “I have been fortunate to enjoy seasons and have had the opportunity to play with so many good players and coaches. I was on some great teams before the Vikings, but it wasn’t until I got to Minnesota that I really felt at home. For seven years I was able to play for a great organization and in front of the best fans. U.S. Bank Stadium is an incredible place to play football.”
Berger, 35, certainly isn’t hanging up his cleats due to lack of interest. Both the Vikings and the Lions had standing offers out to Berger, while at least two other unidentified clubs may have also been involved in talks. However, reports had surfaced as early as last June indication that Berger was expected to retire following the 2017 campaign, so after testing free agency, he’s following through on what was likely his original plan.
A former sixth-round pick, Berger started at least 10 games only one time during the first decade of his career before signing with Minnesota in 2015. Berger, who also spent time with the Dolphins and Cowboys, became a fixture on the Vikings’ front five, starting 46 games over the next three campaigns. Capable of playing both center and guard, Berger was still effective in 2017, as Pro Football Focus graded him as the NFL’s No. 23 guard among 77 qualifiers.
PFR extends its best wishes to Berger and his family as he enters retirement.
Offensive lineman JoeBerger may hang up his cleats. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that the veteran is considering retirement. The reporter notes that the lineman already has offers on the table from both the Vikings and Lions. We heard earlier this week that at least three teams were eyeing Berger.
The 35-year-old has spent the past seven seasons with the Vikings, where he’s started of each his 46 games over the past three seasons. Capable of playing guard or center, Berger ranks as PFR’s No. 8 interior lineman heading into free agency. Berger had previously indicated that he’d likely retire following the 2017 season, but he’s since walked that back.
The lineman started all 16 games for the Vikings last season, and Pro Football Focus ranked him 23rd among 77 guard candidates following the campaign. MikeRemmers and DannyIsidora are currently slotted in as the Vikings starting guards, while JoeDahl and T.J.Lang hold that distinction for the Lions.
While the Vikings have interest in re-signing offensive lineman Joe Berger, at least three other teams are also eyeing the veteran guard/center, tweets Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. Meanwhile, Minnesota is also open to reunion with defensive tackle Tom Johnson, but he’s expected to first test the market, reports Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Twitter link).
Berger will be 36 years old when the 2018 campaign gets underway, but he’s still an effective player. Capable of playing guard or center, Berger ranks as PFR’s No. 8 interior lineman heading into free agency. Berger had previously indicated that he’d likely retire following the 2017 season, but he’s since walked that back.
Like Berger, Johnson has long since reached veteran status, as he’s heading into his age-33 season. Last year, Johnson appeared in all 16 games and managed 23 pressures two sacks from the interior. He reportedly asked for a one-year, $4MM extension last season, but the Vikings refused, which could give an idea where Minnesota stands on Johnson’s value. He’s PFR’s No. 9 free agent defensive tackle.
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:
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.
Carlos Hyde didn’t have the kind of platform year he was hoping for, but he’s still just 26 and could headline a running back by committee group.
Jerick McKinnon‘s placement on this list figures to be controversial, but his athleticism and pass-catching ability can blow a game wide open. No one will bank on McKinnon to carry the ball 20 times per game, but he can be a real difference maker for a team out there.
Can Frank Gore outrun father time? History indicates that he can’t and so does his 3.7 yards per carry average in 2017. You have to give credit where credit is due, however. Gore has been ruled out by many for years, but he has not missed a regular season game since the 2010 season. He’s also just one year removed from cracking 1,000 yards and he almost did the same last year.
For most teams, Allen Robinson would be a franchise tag candidate. However, that may be too much of a luxury for the cash-strapped Jaguars. He presents a fascinating free agent case. Robinson missed all but three snaps of the 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on the board in the eyes of many. His 2015 season – 80 catches, 1,400 yards, and a league-leading 14 touchdowns – makes GMs drool. His quieter year in 2016 (73 catches, 883 yards, and six touchdowns) is less worthy of salivation. His 2017 season, of course, was a lost cause. For all the question marks, you can expect Robinson to see more dollars than any other free agent WR this year, particularly since Jarvis Landry has been held back by the tag.
Some in the football world may prefer Sammy Watkins for his big-play ability, but his down contract year amidst a capable offense is cause for concern. His injury history doesn’t do him any favors either. No matter your feelings on Watkins, there’s no debating that this year’s WR market has a top tier comprised of just two players – Watkins and Robinson. With few quality receivers out there, they’ll both get paid.
Marqise Lee represents a much less sexy option (speaking in football terms, of course), but he had the most receptions of any Jaguars receiver in 2017 (56) and finished second in receiving yards (702). Teams looking for a quality WR2 in free agency could do a lot worse than Lee and he’ll be far cheaper than the two-man top tier.
Danny Amendola hauled in 61 receptions for 659 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season and continued his strong play in the playoffs. However, teams will wonder if he can thrive in his age-33 season while playing outside of the Patriots’ offense. It’s also quite possible that he never tests the market as his stated preference is to remain in New England.
After that, you’ll notice a pretty significant drop off. That’s because this year’s WR class isn’t all that deep. Terrelle Pryor had to settle for a one-year prove-it contract last year and, to put it mildly, he did not prove it. Paul Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns in 2017, but that marked his first NFL season of real note.
Trey Burton spent most of the year behind Zach Ertz on the Eagles’ depth chart, but he emerged late in the season and set himself up nicely for free agency. Given his age and potential, there’s no question that he is the belle of the ball at tight end.
The rest of the tight end crop is not nearly as inspiring. Jimmy Graham has enjoyed back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Seahawks, but he’ll turn 32 in November and he’s no longer the monster playmaker that he was in New Orleans. He had ten touchdowns in 2017, but his 9.1 yards per reception average is a career low.
Odds are, you have Tyler Eifert ranked over Austin Seferian-Jenkins given the fact that Eifert has played just ten games over the last two years. ASJ, meanwhile, rebounded from personal issues to post a 50-catch season for the Jets. Personally, I’m picking Eifert based on upside. Hopefully, we can still be friends.
Offensive line play is down across the board and evaluators around the league have been openly complaining about an increasing dearth of tackles coming out of college. That makes for a generally uninspiring lot in free agency.
Nate Solder battled through injuries in 2017 and did not miss a game. He’s no longer a top-flight option, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 32 tackle last year, meaning that he’s starter quality at left tackle. You’ll notice that three of the top five tackles on this list are Patriots. There’s little chance that the Pats let all three get away.
Justin Pugh offers the ability to play both guard and right tackle, though he might not do either one particularly well.
Andrew Norwell is the undisputed king of this category after netting an All-Pro selection in 2017. Norwell also earned a career-high 88.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus, which positioned him third in the entire NFL amongst guards. A team with greater means than the Panthers might have used the franchise tag on him. Fortunately for rival teams in need of interior help (such as the Giants), they won’t cuff him with the one-year placeholder.
February 28th, 2018 at 12:57pm CST by Zachary Links
Last year, interior lineman Joe Berger considered retirement. This year, he mulled leaving the game once again, but he has decided to continue playing, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter).
Berger will test free agency, though a return to the Vikings remains possible. Pelissero also speculates that he may be a fit for the Giants, where former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is now the head coach.
Last year, Berger appeared in all but two of the Vikings’ 1,115 snaps. Even though he’ll turn 36 in May, it’s clear that he still has plenty of quality football left in him. Playing mostly at right guard, Berger graded out as the No. 23 ranked guard in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
With 145 NFL games (84 starts) to his credit, Berger figures to garner serious attention for his experience level and versatility.
David Johnson is doing his part to keep the Cardinals‘ offense together. Since he was last on the field, Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer retired. And Larry Fitzgerald isn’t certain to come back for a 15th season. Johnson, though, tried to coax Palmer into a 16th slate — one for which he was under contract.
“I think Carson’s done,” Johnson said on the Pro Football Talk PM Podcast (via PFT’s Mike Florio). “I’ve talked to him. I was trying to get him to come back just because he was another person who was very impactful not just on the field but also off the field. I was trying to recruit him to come back but I think his mindset is [to retire] — and I definitely understand where he’s coming from.”
Johnson was more bullish on Fitzgerald’s chances of coming back following another 100-reception, 1,000-yard campaign.
Johnson told Florio he hopes the team and his representation can begin negotiations on a new contract but added he remains focused on his rehab process.
Here’s the latest from the NFC:
Vic Fangio‘s new Bears contract is a three-year agreement, Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com reports. The veteran DC said he had “a lot” of options but chose to stay in Chicago because he’s confident in Matt Nagy‘s direction for the team. Fangio said he won’t be gaining more defensive responsibility under Nagy than he had under the defensive-oriented John Fox, per Dickerson, because Fox gave him full autonomy to run the Bears’ defense.
Eli Manning and Dave Gettleman met recently, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports. While the new Giants GM described this as a “great conversation,” he added “I don’t want to go there” when asked about if the parties reached any closure about Manning’s status following the summit. Schwartz adds the Giants are “very likely” to select their quarterback of the future with the No. 2 overall pick.
The Giants are still likely to reach out to Patriots OC Josh McDaniels on Monday to see if he’s committed to becoming the Colts‘ HC as has been reported, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv reports. A source told Vacchiano that McDaniels would be the favorite if all of their finalists wanted the job, although Vacchiano reports a Giants source also described this year’s HC candidate pool as “uninspiring.” Pat Shurmur remains in line to become Big Blue’s next HC.
While it still sounds like Joe Berger has a maximum of two NFL games left, the Vikings guard (via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press) said he won’t decide until March or April if he’s done after this season or not. Berger said before the season he was likely to retire after 2017 and added one of the reasons he decided to come back was Mike Remmers‘ addition. “My thought is that this is it, but I’m not going to try to make that decision now in the middle of all this,” Berger said. Pro Football Focus graded the 35-year-old blocker as the No. 15 NFL guard this season.
Conversely, the Vikings winning a Super Bowl would not seem to dissuade Terence Newman from coming back for a 16th season and what would be his age-40 campaign. Newman said he’s optimistic he can remain an impact player in 2018, were he to decide to come back. “Let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, that I was able to (win a Super Bowl), then why not try to get two?’’ Newman said, via Tomasson. “You can look at it at both sides.” PFF graded Newman as a middle-of-the-pack corner this season. Newman’s playing on a one-year contract.
Vikings center Joe Berger realizes that he’s getting towards the end of his career. The 35-year-old says that 2017 will probably be his final NFL season.
“You never know what the circumstances are going to be, but in my mind, that’s the way I’m looking at it,” Berger told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “It’s year 13 and it’s been fun. It’s a young man’s game, though.’’
Berger first broke into the league as a sixth-round pick of the Panthers, but never wound up taking the field for them. After trudging along in a largely reserve role for the Dolphins and Cowboys, he found a more permanent home with the Vikings in 2011. In 2015, he became a full time starter at center and that’s the role he’ll likely reprise for the third straight season this year.
In 2016, Berger saw time at center, left guard, and right guard. Listed as a guard by Pro Football Focus, he was given a strong overall score of 85.0 and ranked as the 12th best guard in the NFL. In the year prior, he pulled down a career best 88.0 mark. Berger is doing the best work of his playing career, but it sounds like he wants to leave the game with his health in tact.
“Not everybody gets the opportunity in this game to walk away on their own,” Berger said. “So, for [Chad Greenway] to have a great career like he did, all (with the Vikings), to be able to step away on his own with his timing, if I were able to get that opportunity, that would be great.”
With some help from PFR’s Dallas Robinson, here are centers that New Orleans could look into acquiring:
Nick Mangold (free agent): Mangold remains on the open market and he stands as the most obvious choice for the Saints to consider. The Saints would be hard-pressed to find anyone with a resume as impressive as Mangold’s and the seven-time Pro Bowler probably wouldn’t cost all that much at this stage of the offseason. At the same time, there’s a reason why he is still available here in May and word of clubs asking him to change positions isn’t exactly encouraging.
Jason Kelce (Eagles): Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com was quick to connect the dots on Monday morning after word of Unger’s injury broke. The Eagles reportedly have had Kelce on the trading block for some time now and the Saints would now be a logical landing spot for him. The Eagles beat writer suggests that a Kelce deal could see running back Mark Ingram going to Philly, but I personally have a hard time seeing that happen. If the Saints are unable to meet the Eagles’ asking price for Kelce, however, they might be able to swing a deal for another interesting option on their roster.
Stefen Wisniewski (Eagles): If the Eagles were to trade Kelce, Wisniewski or guard Isaac Seumalo would be the top candidates to step into the starting role. However, Wisniewski himself would make lots of sense as a stopgap for the Saints. Wisniewski was a starter for five straight years with the Raiders and Jaguars before landing with the Eagles as a reserve. In addition to that starting experience, he also offers experience at guard, so he could be used at multiple spots once Unger returns to action. Pro Football Focus ranked him 39th among 72 eligible guards last season with strong marks for his pass blocking skills.
Joe Hawley (Buccaneers): The Buccaneers are movingAli Marpet to center and he could very well wind up as the starter. There’s also Evan Dietrich-Smith and guard/tackle Ken Pamphile to consider for the No. 1 job and that could make Hawley expendable. The 28-year-old (29 in October) has been the Bucs’ primary center for the last two years, but he could be on the outside looking in after camp concludes. This offseason, he re-signed with the team on a two-year, $5.5MM deal with just $1MM guaranteed. It’s an affordable deal that the Saints could easily wiggle out of next year, if need be. Alternatively, the Bucs may want to dangle Dietrich-Smith in New Orleans’ direction.
Tim Barnes (49ers): Barnes just showed up in San Francisco, but indications are that the Niners will use Jeremy Zuttah as their starting center in 2o17. Before getting cut this offseason, Barnes spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the Rams’ starter. Another Niner, Daniel Kilgore, could have appeal for the Saints.
Matt Slauson (Chargers): Slauson isn’t guaranteed to start this year thanks to the presence of Max Tuerk, Forrest Lamp, and Dan Feeney. All three players are rookies (Tuerk didn’t play in 2016 thanks to his knee injury) but the team is high on each of them. In theory, Slauson could be shifted over to guard with Tuerk starting in the middle, but it’s also possible that Feeney starts at right guard over him. Slauson would be a valuable swing reserve for Los Angeles, but the Bolts might also be willing to trade him thanks to their glut of O-Line options.
Joe Berger (Vikings): Vikings coach Mike Zimmer sees third round rookie Pat Elflein as a center, and that could potentially make Berger expendable. Berger, 35 later this month, has started 68 games over the course of his career. He graded out as the 12th best guard in the entire NFL last season, according to PFF. He earned an even stronger overall score in 2015 when he primarily played in the middle. Berger still has plenty in the tank, so it would be harder to pry him away than some of the other names on this list.
September 14th, 2016 at 3:34pm CST by Zachary Links
Should the Patriots trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo if the option arises next offseason? Doug Kyed of NESN.com looks at all of the Patriots’ options for their young quarterback and reasonably concludes that no team could meet the high asking price that the Pats would put on him. The Pats already have a franchise QB in Tom Brady, but Garoppolo is 15 years younger and its obviously hard to find quality players at the position. Looking ahead, Garoppolo will be eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. The Patriots could, in theory, discuss an extension with him before that point, but it’d be a tough sell unless he was assured a starting job at some point and given starting money.
Here’s more from around the NFL:
In addition to Aaron Dobson, the Eagles‘ Monday workout included three other wide receivers and quarterback Brad Sorensen, Geoff Mosher of 97.5 tweets. Sorensen, 28, was signed by Minnesota in August, released later that month, re-signed after Teddy Bridgewater’s season-ending injury, then cut again in early September. He has yet to throw a pass in an NFL regular season game.
The Buccaneers brought in former New England and Carolina defensive tackle Kyle Love for workout on Tuesday, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. However, they are not signing him at this time and are only evaluating their options, Auman adds.
Vikings center Joe Berger gets a $915K signing bonus and $250K roster bonus with his $1MM base salary in 2017 on his new deal, Ben Goessling of ESPN.com tweets. Berger will carry numbers of $1.61M and $1.88M in each of the next two seasons (link). Berger’s deal includes $900K in NLTBE (not likely to be earned) incentives in 2017 and he could make up to $2.2MM next year.
Coach Sean Payton said the Saints waited to release running back C.J. Spiller because they were looking for a potential trade partner, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com tweets. New Orleans couldn’t wait any longer, however, after cornerback Delvin Breaux went down with an injury and the team needed a roster spot.
Kenny Hilliard is drawing interest from the Seahawks, Bengals, and Cardinals, a source tells Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Hilliard was cut loose by Houston earlier this month.
The Chiefs had former Norfolk St. linebacker Deon King in for a workout on Tuesday, Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star tweets.