Joe Hawley

Joe Hawley To Retire?

Last week, we learned that the Buccaneers declined center Joe Hawley‘s 2018 option, which means he is eligible to hit the open market. However, it sounds as if Hawley’s playing career may be over.

Joe Hawley (vertical)

As Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times observes, Hawley made an appearance on iHeart Radio on Friday morning, and during his interview, he said he has lost 40 pounds since the end of the 2017 season. He also announced that he plans to donate everything he owns to charity and families in need, and that he plans to travel the country in a van he recently purchased. He intends to live out of the van, to liveblog his journey, and to post videos to a YouTube channel he wants to create.

Those romantic ambitions are probably incompatible with a return to the NFL, and while Hawley did not explicitly say he is retiring, all indications are that he is done playing football for a living. He said, “When the season was over, I was thinking about what I wanted to do next, because I know my career is coming to a close.”

Hawley was the Bucs’ primary starter in the middle in 2015 and 2016. Last offseason, the team shifted Ali Marpet from right guard to center, pushing Hawley to a reserve role. He saw an uptick in playing time when Marpet hit the injured reserve list in November, but he made only four appearances with two starts on the year. For what it’s worth, the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus did not look kindly on his small sample of 203 snaps. Nonetheless, he would surely be able to find an NFL job in 2018 if he wanted one, but his current goals seem to be taking him down a rather different path.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs To Decline C Joe Hawley’s Option

The Buccaneers will decline their $2.5MM option for 2018 on center Joe Hawley, a source tells NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). They haven’t closed the door on bringing him back, but a veteran OL on the market. "<strong

Hawley was the Bucs’ primary starter in the middle in 2015 and 2016. Last offseason, the team shifted Ali Marpet from right guard to center, pushing Hawley to a reserve role. He saw an uptick in playing time when Marpet hit the injured reserve list in November, but he made only four appearances with two starts on the year. For what it’s worth, the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus did not look kindly on his small sample of 203 snaps.

It makes sense for the Bucs to explore re-signing Hawley on a cheaper deal, but he may look for a better situation in March before agreeing to anything. With 54 career starts to his credit, the 29-year-old probably feels deserving of more playing time than the Bucs are looking to give him.

Fellow Buccaneers interior lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith is also due for free agency in March, so there might not be room for both players in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

10 Centers The Saints Could Pursue

Saints center Max Unger went under the knife to help fix an issue with his foot, and that surgery will cause him to miss the start of the season. With no exact timetable in place for his return, the Saints will likely consider out-of-house options to help fill the void.

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. "<strong
  • 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 moving Ali 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.
  • Cameron Erving (Browns): The Browns are planning to move Erving to right tackle now that J.C. Tretter is in town, but perhaps the Saints would be interested in seeing what he can do in the middle. Then again, he was shifted to right tackle last year after performing poorly in 12 games at center.
  • 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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Njoku, Bucs, Saints, Te’o

The Buccaneers met with Miami tight end David Njoku earlier this week, per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Njoku, who registered 43 receptions and eight touchdowns last season, is expected to be one of two first-round picks at tight end, joining Alabama’s O.J. Howard. The Giants, who sit at pick No. 23 (four spots behind Tampa Bay) are also said to be “very high” on Njoku.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Prior to re-signing with the Saints, defensive back Sterling Moore came close to joining another — as yet unidentified — club, as he detailed to SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). A career journeyman prior to 2016, Moore started 12 games for New Orleans last season. As Moore explains, the Saints circled back to him with an offer after he’d been negotiating with another team, allowing him the return he’d always preferred. Moore, 27, earned $760K last year.
  • Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara is expected to meet with the Saints on Wednesday, tweets Sean Fazende of WVUE FOX 8. Kamara, who recently fired his agent, could sneak into Round 1 despite being viewed as a Day 2 prospect for most of last year. A committee back with the Volunteers, Kamara managed less than 1,300 yards rushing during two years in Tennessee, but also averaged more than six yards per carry during that time.
  • The second year of Buccaneers center Joe Hawley‘s two-year deal is an option year, Caplan tweets. As previously reported, the full two-year pact is worth $5.5MM with $1MM fully guaranteed. If Tampa Bay opts to pick up his 2018 option, Hawley will receive a $250K option bonus, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
  • Manti Te’o‘s two-year deal with the Saints is worth $5MM with $600K guaranteed, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Te’o can earn $500K annually in per-game roster bonuses, according to Rapoport, and can rake in another $1MM per year in incentives, tweets Wilson.

Contract Details: Folk, Hawley, Sensabaugh

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

Buccaneers Re-Sign C Joe Hawley

The Bucs announced that they’ve re-signed center Joe Hawley. It’s a two-year deal. "<strong

Hawley was ranked as one of our top 15 centers on the open market heading into free agency. He’ll now return to Tampa Bay and likely continue as the starting center. Hawley has been the Bucs’ No. 1 man in the middle since 2015.

The Buccaneers did have a couple of free agent options left to survey at center if they wanted to move on from Hawley. Former Jet Nick Mangold remains on the board and ex-Bucs center Jeremy Zuttah became a late addition when the Ravens cut him on Wednesday. However, Tampa Bay did not want to lose the 28-year-old (29 in October).

As Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter) notes, Hawley is the seventh free agent to re-sign with Bucs, joining Bryan Anger, William Gholston, Jacquizz Rodgers, Chris Conte, Josh Robinson and Sealver Siliga.

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.

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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.

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NFC Notes: Hester, Hawley, Graham

Falcons returner Devin Hester was activated from the IR-DTR yesterday, and the 33-year-old is set to return to the field for the first time this season. After having dealt with a turf-toe injury for the past three months, Hester acknowledged how good it feels to be back.

“It was a long process of rehabbing,” he told D. Orlando Ledbetter of MyAJC.com. “It’s was hard work getting up every morning and going in for treatment. If feels great to back in the locker room, in the huddle and out of the field with the teammates that I have.”

While Hester is generally regarded as the best returner of all time, veteran Eric Weems has filled in admirably this season. The 30-year-old has returned 15 kicks for 403 yards, and he’s fielded another 19 punts for 221 yards.

Let’s check out some other assorted notes from around the NFC…

  • Joe Hawley‘s two-year contract with the Buccaneers called for four $250K bonuses based on playing time, TampaBay.com’s Greg Auman passes along. Considering he’s already played 94-percent of the team’s snaps in 2015, the 27-year-old is in good position to practically double his $1.25MM salary.
  • Hawley was released by the Falcons days before the season opener. Despite returning from a torn ACL, Buccaneerss offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter knew the veteran could help his offensive line. “When Joe became available, I went to Coach (Lovie Smith) and went to Jason (Licht, general manager), and said, ‘Look, we have a chance to get this guy,’ “ Koetter told Auman. ” ‘He may not be quite healthy yet, but he is going to get better.’ I know what kind of player Joe is.”
  • Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said surgery on Jimmy Graham‘s torn patellar tendon went as planned. ““[E]verything, as the doctors would report, it went really well,” he said on Friday (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “He was uncomfortable, I know, the next couple of days. He was fighting through it to get back, started getting back. Looking forward to his return and his spirits are looking ahead and all that. It was a difficult surgery for him.” 

NFC Notes: Hawley, Lions, Cassel, Saints

Buccaneers center Joe Hawley feels like he got a raw deal from his former team, the Falcons. On a conference call, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked Hawley if he felt that he was given enough time coming back from the injuries to win the starting job.

“Uh, honestly, no. I think they kind of used it as an excuse,” Hawley said. “When I got here I wasn’t 100 percent yet. But they gave me a chance. Now, I’m feeling like the knee is back to new. But it just took four or five more weeks that I thought it would. Yeah, I think they kind of cut me short of that.”

The Bucs (5-6) are set to host the Falcons (6-5) on Sunday.

  • With Matt Prater battling an illness, the Lions tried out free agent kickers Kyle Brindza, Billy Cundiff, and Garrett Hartley, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). However, Prater will be able to play tonight against the Packers after all, so the team didn’t sign anyone.
  • If Matt Cassel plays the final five games of the Cowboys‘ season, that extra playing time could earn him $1.2MM in incentives, as Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com explains. Cassel’s deal includes incentives for playing a certain percentage of the team’s snaps, and he’s projected to play over 55% ($1.2MM), but not up to 65% ($1.6MM).
  • The performance of certain players over the course of the Saints‘ final five games this year could help dictate some of the salary cap decisions the club makes in the offseason, writes Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. I examined the Saints’ cap outlook for 2016 earlier this fall.
  • Edge defender Willie Jefferson, a former Texan who spent the last two seasons with the CFL’s Edmonto Eskimos, will work out for two NFC teams next month, and is drawing a lot of interest, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post (Twitter link). Jefferson had six sacks this season for the Grey Cup champions.

Zach Links contributed to this post.