John Brown

Extra Points: Meredith, Curry, Ravens, Vikes

Bears restricted free agent wide receiver Cameron Meredith took a visit with the Colts today, and he’s expected to meet with at least one more (unidentified) team, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Chicago somewhat surprisingly used an original round tender on Meredith, so it won’t receive any compensation if it decides not to match an offer sheet for the former undrafted free agent. Meredith, 25, is coming off a torn ACL, so the Colts (and the mystery club) likely want to check the condition of his affected knee. In 2016, Meredith posted 66 receptions and 888 yards in only 10 starts, so he could potentially be a bargain if he gets away from the Bears.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Defensive lineman Vinny Curry confirmed he had the chance to stick with the Eagles (almost assuredly at a reduced rate), but he ultimately secured interest from as many as seven teams before signing with the Buccaneers, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Curry joined fellow former Philadelphia defender Beau Allen in inking three-year deals with Tampa Bay, and their respective signings led the Bucs to cut ties with veteran defensive end Robert Ayers. The Eagles reportedly attempted both to trade Curry or lower his 2018 salary before releasing him, as his presence was made superfluous by Philadelphia’s acquisition of Michael Bennett.
  • New Ravens wide receiver John Brown was diagnosed with the sickle cell trait back in 2016, but he claims that’s not impacting his health. “I’m healthy. I’m feeling good,” said Brown, who signed a one-year, $5MM deal with Baltimore (link via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). “Sickle cell was never part of the problem.” Brown set career highs with 65 receptions for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns for Arizona in 2015, but has not reprised that performance in the last two years. Brown will team with fellow free agent addition Michael Crabtree to give Baltimore a new-look wide receiver corps in 2018.
  • The Broncos are still searching the free agent market for a tight end, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link), who suggests the recently-released Marcedes Lewis could get a look from John Elway & Co. Denver lost blocking tight end Virgil Green to the Chargers last week, and didn’t pursue any of the market’s top tight ends such as Jimmy Graham, Trey Burton, or Tyler Eifert. At present, the Broncos’ TE depth chart is topped by Jeff Heuerman and Jake Butt, but free agents that could speculatively be of interest may include Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates, Luke Willson, or Brent Celek.
  • Kicker Kai Forbath became the first Vikings unrestricted free agent to re-sign with the club earlier today, and Minnesota still has interest in retaining a number of UFAs, tweets Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Cornerbacks Terence Newman and Marcus Sherels are on the Vikings’ radar, as are offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles and defensive lineman Shamar Stephen. Minnesota could have competition for the latter two, as Sirles has taken a visit with the Panthers, while Stephen was hosted by the division-rival Lions.

Ravens To Sign WR John Brown

The Ravens have agreed to terms with free agent wideout John Brown, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Baltimore was reportedly in advanced talks with Brown, a former Arizona Cardinal, as of earlier today.

Brown will receive a one-year deal, per Adam Caplan of SiriusXM (Twitter links). The base value of his new contract is $5MM, but he’ll have the chance to max out at $6.5MM via incentives.

Baltimore is in dire need of wide receivers, as Mike Wallace is a free agent while fellow veteran Jeremy Maclin has been mentioned as a candidate for release. With limited cap space, however, the Ravens were forced to sit and watch as top-tier pass-catchers such as Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, and Marqise Lee came off the board.

Brown is coming off the worst season of his NFL tenure, as injuries limited him to just ten games. During that time, Brown managed only 21 receptions for 299 yards and two scores. As recently as 2015, however, the now 27-year-old Brown put up 65 catches for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns, and he’s reportedly healthy.

Heading into free agency, PFR ranked Brown as the 10th-best available wide receiver. He reportedly generated interest from at least seven clubs before inking his pact with the Ravens.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens, WR John Brown In Talks

The Ravens may have found the speedy wide receiver they’ve been looking for. John Brown is “pretty far down the road” in negotiations with Baltimore, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). 

Brown is coming off the worst season of his NFL tenure, as injuries limited him to just ten games. During that time, Brown managed only 21 receptions for 299 yards and two scores. As recently as 2015, however, the now 27-year-old Brown put up 65 catches for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns, and he’s reportedly healthy.

The Ravens, at one point, were connected to Jarvis Landry. Brown represents a cheaper, though less accomplished option for the slot. One could argue that he’s also quicker out of the gate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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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Latest On Cardinals’ Free Agent WRs

Two Cardinals free agent wide receivers are already drawing interest around the league: nine clubs are eyeing Jaron Brown, while seven teams have interest on John Brown, according to Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).Jaron Brown (vertical)

A number of clubs consider Jaron Brown a potential No. 2 wide receiver who can also play special teams, per Jurecki. Brown, 28, posted the best season of his career in 2017 by registering 31 receptions for 477 yards and four touchdowns. He’d previously been a key special teams player for Arizona, but as his role in the Cardinals’ offense grew, his ST playtime decreased. Last year, Brown played on only a third of Arizona’s special teams snaps, a career low.

John Brown, meanwhile, is coming off the worst season of his NFL tenure, as injuries limited him to just 10 games in 2017. During that time, Brown managed only 21 receptions for 299 yards and two scores. As recently as 2015, however, the now 27-year-old Brown put up 65 catches for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns, and he’s now finally healthy, per Jurecki, meaning it shouldn’t be a surprise if clubs see Brown as an upside play.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Vikes, Bills, Cardinals, Patriots

Although his house arrest doesn’t end for another month, newly-signed Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd will report to Minnesota on Friday after having his confinement transferred from Arizona, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter links). Floyd was able to secure the transfer because of his change in employment status, but he’ll still need to return to his residence when he’s not training with the Vikings, reports Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. Floyd pleaded guilty to extreme DUI in February.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Bills have hired Malik Boyd as their new director of pro personnel, the club announced today. General manager Brandon Beane has worked quickly to revamp Buffalo’s front office, as he’s hired former Texans executive Brian Gaine and former Dolphins staffer Joe Schoen this week. Boyd, meanwhile, has worked for the Cardinals for the past 12 years, and spent the past three season as Arizona’s assistant director of pro scouting. He’s also spent time with the Colts, had a three-year career as an NFL defensive back.
  • In addition to carrying the sickle cell trait, Cardinals wide receiver John Brown was also dealing with a cyst on his spine in 2016, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. Brown has since had the cyst drained, and now says he feels “normal” again, per Weinfuss. Brown, 27, posted the worst season of his three-year career in 2016, as he managed only 39 receptions for 517 yards and two touchdowns. With Floyd now out of the picture, Brown figures to slide into Arizona’s starting lineup full-time, and with his health concerns hopefully behind him, could come closer to his 2015 production (1,000+ yards receiving and seven scores). Brown is slated to earn $1.797MM in 2017 before becoming an unrestricted free agent next spring.
  • The Patriots worked out wide receiver Reggie Diggs on Wednesday, a source tells Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Diggs, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Richmond in 2016, landed with Washington last year but spent the entirety of his rookie season on injured reserve. The Redskins waived Diggs earlier this month, and his visit with New England is the first known interest he’s drawn. The Patriots, of course, already have a well-stocked wide receiver depth chart, and auditioned veteran pass-catcher Andrew Hawkins earlier today.
  • The Saints signed former Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas on Monday, but Thomas probably won’t be under center in New Orleans, reports Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Thomas was listed as a defensive back on the Saints’ roster, and could also play wide receiver, per Triplett. At the Senior Bowl, Thomas played defensive back and kick returner, and worked out as a defensive back, wideout, return man, and quarterback at his Pro Day. Thomas, who stands 5’9″, 185 pounds, ran a 40-yard dash in the 4.3-4.4 second range, so he clearly has the speed required to make a position change.

2017 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Donte Moncrief (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.8MM in 2017. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2017 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Aaron Lynch, LB; Marcus Martin, OL

Bears: Charles Leno, T; Will Sutton, DT

Bengals: Russell Bodine, C

Bills: Preston Brown, LB; Seantrel Henderson, T

Broncos: Michael Schofield, OL

Browns: Christian Kirksey, LB

Buccaneers: Kevin Pamphile, G

Cardinals: John Brown, WR

Chiefs: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G; Zach Fulton, G; Phillip Gaines, CB

Colts: Donte Moncrief, WR

Cowboys: Anthony Hitchens, LB

Falcons: Devonta Freeman, RB

Giants: Devon Kennard, LB

Jaguars: Aaron Colvin, CB; Brandon Linder, G; Telvin Smith, LB

Lions: Nevin Lawson, CB; Travis Swanson, C

Packers: Corey Linsley, C; Richard Rodgers, TE

Panthers: Tre Boston, S; Trai Turner, G

Raiders: T.J. Carrie, CB; Justin Ellis, DT; Gabe Jackson, G

Rams: Maurice Alexander, S; E.J. Gaines, CB

Redskins: Bashaud Breeland, CB; Spencer Long, G; Morgan Moses, T

Texans: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE; Andre Hal, S

Titans: DaQuan Jones, DL; Avery Williamson, LB

Vikings: Shamar Stephen, DT

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

John Brown Has Sickle-Cell Trait

The Cardinals listed John Brown as doubtful for Sunday night’s game against the Seahawks, and it’s now believed a sickle-cell trait is contributing to why.

Inconclusive MRIs led the Cardinals to conduct blood tests, and Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com notes those revealed this condition is causing the third-year pass-catcher’s hamstring pain. Brown’s dealt with constant leg discomfort over the past two seasons, and this diagnosis helps explain the issues.

Sickle-cell-afflicted people often don’t see symptoms arise, but muscle pain can be one of them in certain cases, Bob McManaman of the Arizona Daily Republic writes. Bruce Arians said Friday this is likely the cause of the former third-round pick’s frequent leg pain last season. Although it’s not curable, it’s a treatable condition, one that retired safety Ryan Clark played with during his lengthy career.

We’re investigating how to help him,” Arians said. “I think he’s very happy that he found out why his legs are hurting so bad.”

Brown continued the Cardinals’ borderline-historic run with third-round picks under Arians, whose team selected Tyrann Mathieu, Brown and David Johnson in this round from 2013-15. The 26-year-old target hasn’t gotten off to the same kind of start that pushed him past 1,000 yards last season. The former Division II All-American has 24 receptions for 301 yards and no touchdowns thus far. He jumped from 696 yards as a rookie to 1,003 as a second-year player, one who could take on a bigger role in 2017 if Michael Floyd departs as a free agent or Larry Fitzgerald decides to retire.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

King On Lynch, Fairley, Martin, Pats

Let’s check out some of the highlights from Peter King’s weekly MMQB column..

  • King agrees with ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and feels that this is the end for Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. However, he doesn’t see him getting moved by Tuesday’s deadline unless the Seahawks are blown away by an offer. Even a team desperate for a running back isn’t going to give the Seahawks anything like the third-round pick that they would need to start considering a deal, King opines. Lynch is set to earn $6.5MM in 2015 but Seattle might cut him loose instead.
  • The Lions initially believed that defensive tackle Nick Fairley hadn’t suffered a season-ending knee injury in London on Sunday, but King is now hearing that the injury is bad. Fairley’s MRI results should be in later today.
  • King notes that on NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecast, Mike Florio noted that the Patriots could be in the market for Buccaneers running back Doug Martin. Martin is in the midst of a down year and injured his ankle yesterday.
  • John Brown was the Cardinals‘ hero on Sunday and that may have surprised some, but not Cardinals GM Steve Keim. When Keim traded the No. 20 pick in the draft to New Orleans for the Nos. 27 and 91, he was hoping and praying Brown would fall to him at No. 91. Brown, who doesn’t have a big program pedigree, was available, and it would appear that the Cards made one heck of a selection.

NFC West Links: Sam, Williams, Harvin, Brown

As the final cut from 75 to 53 is only a week away, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes some time to break down where everyone on the Rams’ roster stands. Thomas divided each player on the roster into one of three categories: safe and sound, on the bubble, or probably not. The big name that is still on the bubble is rookie defensive end Michael Sam. With a crowded defensive line, Sam has only a week left to make his final impression and land on the team’s roster.

Here are some other links from around the NFC West:

  • While Brian Hoyer has earned the starting job for the Browns, Rams‘ head coach Jeff Fisher is looking forward to seeing a lot of Johnny Manziel, writes Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat“I’m hoping he gets to play a lot,” Fisher said. “He’s an outstanding athlete, and he’ll test our defense if he breaks the pocket and takes off running.”
  • 49ersIan Williams had won the starting nose tackle job last season before being sidelined with an injury, but he is healthy again and head coach Jim Harbaugh thinks he looks better than he did before the fractured leg, writes Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com“Just in the movement, in the quickness, the burst of separation, driving to the ball,” Harbaugh said. “He looks better than before. That’s what I’ve seen so far.”
  • Seahawks‘ receiver Percy Harvin has flashed his playmaking ability this preseason, and has fans imagining what he could do if he stays healthy for a full season, writes Dave Boling of the News Tribune. “The Seahawks finished 18th in the NFL in offensive gains last season,” writes Boling. “Harvin will get them near the top 10 with his efforts alone.”
  • Harvin has drawn praise from his fellow Seahawks as well, with quarterback Russell Wilson touting his top target, writes Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. What Percy brings to the offense is grit, and a desire to get into the end zone, a desire to get the ball in his hands and make something happen,” said Wilson. “Every time he touches the football, he’s either going to run over you or run by you, one of the two. That’s what he brings to the table, his explosive mentality.”
  • Cardinals‘ rookie receiver John Brown has taken camp by storm, and Peter King of Sports Illustrated is the latest to join the bandwagon of praising the young Division II wideout. King notes that he has had success working in a number of different packages and should be heavily involved in the offense this season.