Jon Bostic

Redskins Place Reuben Foster On IR, Sign LB Jon Bostic

Reuben Foster‘s season is officially over. On Wednesday, the Redskins placed the linebacker on IR and filled his spot on the roster by adding Jon Bostic

Foster went down during the very first drill of OTAs and the seriousness of the injury was immediately apparent after medical staff placed an air cast on his knee. It’s a bad blow for the Redskins, who were left with only late-round picks at the position after the release of Zach Brown.

To help fill the void, the Redskins signed Bostic, who ranked as one of the best off-ball ‘backers left on the market. Bostic doesn’t offer the same upside as Foster, but he did start in 14 games for the Steelers in 2018 before falling out of favor down the stretch. Last year, Bostic tallied 73 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and three passes defended while earning average marks from Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Work Out Jon Bostic

The Ravens have signed Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray, but they could still add to their front seven. On Friday, the Ravens auditioned a group of free agents, including linebacker Jonathan Bostic (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec). 

Bostic appeared in all 16 games for the Steelers in 2018 and started 14, but he fell out of favor with the coaching staff down the stretch. The journeyman said back in February he was hoping to stay in Pittsburgh in 2019, but the Steelers opted to instead draft Michigan’s Devin Bush and send the veteran packing.

Last year Bostic tallied 73 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and three passes defended while earning average marks from Pro Football Focus. If signed by the Ravens, he’ll look to improve on those numbers while getting opportunities to exact revenge on his former team.

Still only 28, Bostic still has time to prove that he was a worthwhile second-round pick back in 2013.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Release LB Jon Bostic

Right after the draft ended, the Steelers made a signifiant move. Pittsburgh is releasing linebacker Jon Bostic, the team announced in a tweet.

Bostic signed a two-year, $4MM deal with the team last March, but was unable to make it all the way through the pact. The Steelers traded up to draft inside linebacker Devin Bush from Michigan, which meant they no longer had any need for Bostic. After Ryan Shazier suffered his horrific injury during the 2017 season, inside linebacker became a huge need for the Steelers. They signed Bostic last offseason hoping he would be able to help vill the void, but things didn’t work out.

Bostic appeared in all 16 games last season and started 14, but he fell out of favor with the coaching staff down the stretch. The journeyman had said back in February he was hoping to stay in Pittsburgh in 2019 even with his reduced role. The Steelers wanted to address the position more permanently, and made the move up to get Bush.

Last year Bostic had 73 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and three passes defended while earning average marks from Pro Football Focus. Wherever he ends up signing next, it’ll be his fifth team. Bostic was originally drafted in the second round by the Bears back in 2013, but has bounced around ever since. He’s spent time with Chicago, New England, Detroit, and Indianapolis, and always seems to end up starting games while underwhelming.

Still only 27, he should resurface somewhere else before too long. Ever since Shazier went down, Pittsburgh’s run defense has been very vulnerable. They moved up to the tenth overall pick in order to get Bush, and the hope is he’ll stabilize things for the foreseeable future.

As for the financial implications, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic tweets that the Steelers will save $1.8MM in cash by cutting Bostic. There will be $700K of dead money, so they’ll only save $1.1MM against the cap. Kaboly points out that the Steelers now have a whopping $26.5MM of cap space committed to players not currently on the roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Tomlin, Bengals, Dolphins

Michael Lombardi of The Athletic takes a deep dive into the Antonio Brown saga, and he is pretty straightforward with his thoughts on the entire situation. He certainly puts much of the blame for the acrimonious relationship between Brown and the Steelers on Brown himself, saying that the talented wideout has a tremendous combination of selfishness, all-about-me attitude, and hostility towards the only team he has ever known. As one GM recently said, Brown is a a “[g]reat talent, but a huge pain in the ass.”

However, Lombardi also says that while Brown’s behavior has driven down his price on the trade market, interested teams are doing their homework to get to the true essence of the problem. Lombardi believes the Steelers’ culture is lost, and that head coach Mike Tomlin, despite his impressive 57-29-1 record over the last five seasons, loses critical games because he and his teams fail to handle small details and do not exhibit the physical and mental toughness they need in key situations. The Rooney family does not overreact, but Lombardi suggests the imminent departures of Brown and Le’Veon Bell will lead to a thorough evaluation of Tomlin, who will need to fix his team’s culture in order to secure his future in Pittsburgh.

Now for more out of the AFC:

  • Linebacker Jon Bostic would like to return to the Steelers, but Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the club has no interest in re-signing Bostic. The Steelers could look to the draft to fortify their inside linebacker position, but this year’s collegiate crop of ILBs is a bit thin. Pittsburgh also needs to address its cornerback depth chart, but Dulac suggests the free agent market could be a better option in that regard given the club’s poor history of drafting CBs under Tomlin. Of course, the Steelers will use much of their time at this week’s Scouting Combine to explore the trade market for Brown.
  • The Bengals have historically been pretty conservative on the free agent market under owner Mike Brown, and Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com does not believe that will change going forward, even though Cincinnati has a new head coach for the first time in 16 years (Twitter link). That is in keeping with a piece that the Cincinnati Enquirer published several days ago.
  • The Dolphins have plenty of holes to fill during this year’s draft, and as Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald writes, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell could be a perfect fit for the team’s pass rush if the Fins do not use their first-round pick on a QB. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, citing the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, says Miami should be able to build its O-line throughout the draft, and that the team was not particularly impressed by West Virginia signal-caller Will Grier. Jackson also explores the Dolphins’ other options for their No. 13 overall pick, including trade-back scenarios.
  • Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com expects the Titans to sign a wideout and an interior lineman in free agency and to address those positions in the draft as well. The team may be getting Delanie Walker back in time for OTAs, but Wyatt also believes the Titans will add at least one TE to the mix, and he expects Tennessee will try to re-sign Luke Stocker.

Extra Points: Cowboys, Chiefs, Darkwa

Jerry Jones only helped add fuel to the fire today regarding Earl Thomas potentially joining the Cowboys. When asked if the organization would pursue some help at safety, the team’s owner made his answer pretty clear.

“Yes,” Jones told ESPN’s Todd Archer (Twitter link). “That’s about all I’ll say, but yes.”

Of course, it’s important to note that Jones never explicitly mentioned Thomas, but it’s pretty easy to assume that the organization will pursue the veteran defensive back. The mutual interest between the two sides has been covered extensively, although the NFL recently made it clear that the Cowboys didn’t tamper when it came to the 29-year-old.

Of course, Dallas ultimately may look to leverage Thomas’ interest in joining the Cowboys. The team is projected to have around $50MM in cap space, but a solid portion of that total will go towards a DeMarcus Lawrence franchise tag and other extensions. As a result, the team may not have a whole lot of money to give Thomas.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • The Chiefs have finalized their defensive coaching staff under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. As Brooke Pryor of KansasCity.com writes, the biggest addition was defensive line coach and run game coordinator Brendan Daly, who previously served in that role with the Patriots. The organization has also added linebackers coach Matt House, defensive backs coach Dave Merritt, defensive backs/cornerbacks coach Sam Madison, linebackers coach Britt Reid, defensive quality control coach Terry Bradden, and defensive assistant Alex Whittingham.
  • Steelers linebacker Jon Bostic may have appeared in all 16 games this season, but his role was reduced as the season went on. While the journeyman may be able to find a bigger role elsewhere, he’s still hoping to stay in Pittsburgh. “Obviously this is my first year here and whatnot; hopefully we can make this place a home,” Bostic told Chris Adamski of TribLive.com. “It’s been a fun year; definitely didn’t go the way we would have planned (missing the playoffs). But that’s football. You can’t plan everything out. But I do (feel like the Steelers’ organization can be home).” Bostic is set to earn $1.8MM next season, and the team would be left with only $700K in dead cap if they released the 27-year-old.
  • It sounds like we now have an explanation for why Orleans Darkwa never joined an NFL team last season. The veteran running back told ESPN’s Jordan Raanan that he tore the Achilles tendon in his right leg during an October audition with the Jaguars. The 26-year-old was coming off his most productive NFL season in 2017, rushing for 751 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 171 carries. The Giants had offered him a contract that would have kept him in New York, and he also received interest from the Redskins, Patriots, and Bills.

NFL Draft Rumors: Chubb, Bucs, Steelers

Long considered to be a top-three pick, Bradley Chubb might be sliding down mock drafts after the Jets traded with the Colts to get to No. 3 in the upcoming NFL Draft. The move, which could signal a run on quarterbacks early in the draft, isn’t slowing down the N.C. State pass rusher, however.

According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who spoke with Chubb’s agent, the top defensive end in the rookie class already has meetings scheduled with five teams between Sunday night and Monday before his pro day. All of those teams currently are slated to pick in the top seven spots in the draft.

Florio also spoke with longtime assistant coach Jim Washburn, who praised the defensive end as a potential perennial double-digit sack producer if he ends up in the right system. “If I was the team in need I would be very, very careful on passing on him,” Washburn said.

The flurry of moves could push down one of the top talents in the draft past the top five and to a team like the Buccaneers at pick No. 7. The move would be a steal for Tampa Bay, who is already locked in to Jameis Winston as the team’s franchise quarterback and ranked dead last in the NFL in sacks a year ago.

Regardless where he goes, Chubb is slated to be an impact performer from the moment he steps on the field.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Earlier in the week, the Steelers signed linebacker Jon Bostic to a two-year deal to potentially replace Ryan Shazier, who is recovering from a devastating injury in 2017. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, however, tweets the former Colts linebacker is merely just a seat warmer for whoever the team drafts in the first two rounds. One of those players who could be available is Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch, who Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller projected to Pittsburgh in his latest mock draft. On Vander Esch, Miller writes: “Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch is a 6’4″, 256-pound linebacker with good speed (4.65 in the 40) who possesses the ability to take on tailbacks in run support, the speed to pursue on the edge and the instincts to cover pass-catchers over the middle.”
  • The Browns signed one of this year’s top free agent running backs in Carlos Hyde, but they have not ruled out selecting Penn State star Saquon Barkley.

AFC Contract Details: Butler, Johnson, Bridgewater

Here are figures on some of the recent contracts signed around the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless noted otherwise.

Steelers Sign LB Jon Bostic

The Steelers have signed LB Jon Bostic to a two-year deal, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Pittsburgh has been quiet since free agency officially opened earlier this week, and Bostic represents the club’s first free agent signing of the new league year.

And it’s a signing the team needed to make. As PFR observed last month, the Steelers’ top priority this offseason was to find a way to replace the production of Ryan Shazier, who will miss the entirety of the 2018 season (at least). Pittsburgh’s run defense collapsed after Shazier’s horrific injury last season, as five of the Steelers’ final six opponents surpassed 100 rushing yards, and the team yielded 164 yards on the ground to the Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Round matchup, damaging the franchise’s hopes of parlaying its first bye in seven years into at least a return to the AFC title game.

Bostic, whom the Bears selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, was a solid, if unspectacular, performer for Chicago during his first two years in the league. He was traded to the Patriots prior to the 2015 campaign but was not as productive in New England as he had been in the Windy City. However, after spending all of 2016 on IR following a trade to Detroit, he turned in a strong 2017 season for the Colts, starting 14 games and posting a career-high 97 tackles along with one sack, one fumble recovery, and three passes defended. He also graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 40 linebacker in the NFL, a career best, and he was listed as PFR’s 14th-best FA linebacker in this year’s free agent class.

Unless the Steelers make another move either in free agency or the draft, Bostic will pair with Vince Williams to form the starting ILB tandem for Pittsburgh in 2018.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

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. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These 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, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

Colts Place C Ryan Kelly, LB Jon Bostic On IR

The Colts have placed two starters on injured reserve. Linebacker Jon Bostic and center Ryan Kelly will both be shut down in advance of Saturday’s penultimate game against the Ravens. In a related move, the team has signed free agent defensive tackle Caraun ReidRyan Kelly (Vertical)

Kelly has played only seven games this season thanks to injuries. The center missed the start of the year due to foot surgery. Unfortunately, a concussion in Week 12 has kept him out of action for the last three games. It’s hardly the encore that the No. 18 overall pick in the 2016 draft was hoping for.

Bostic spent all of 2016 on IR but managed to start in 14 games in 2017. His season ends with a career-high 97 tackles along with one sack, one fumble recovery, and three passes defended. He also graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 40 linebacker in the NFL, a career best. He’s eligible for free agency this offseason but it seems likely that the Colts will discuss an extension with him before he can reach the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.