Jon Bostic

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.

Colts Sign LB Jon Bostic

The Colts have signed linebacker Jon Bostic, according to a team announcement. Bostic will look to get back on track after spending the entire 2016 season IR all last season. Jon Bostic (vertical)

Indianapolis ranked 32nd in DVOA against the run in 2016, and placed 31st in DVOA against opposing tight ends, so the team has been prioritizing help in the front seven. Bostic becomes the fourth free agent linebacker to join the Colts this season, following John Simon, Sean Spence, and Barkevious Mingo.

Bostic, a former second-round pick, began his career with the Bears and played in all 16 games with nine starts in his frosh campaign. He finished up that season with 57 tackles, two sacks, and an interception. In 2014, he set a new career watermark with 83 tackles. A trade shipped him to the Patriots before the 2015 season, but he wasn’t as productive. He was again traded to Detroit in 2016, but it turned out to be a lost season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Eyeing Free Agent Linebackers

The Colts have interest in adding a free agent linebacker, and have hosted Kevin Minter (previously reported), Sean Spence, and Jon Bostic on visits, reports Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link)."<strong

Indianapolis ranked 32nd in DVOA against the run in 2016, and placed 31st in DVOA against opposing tight ends, meaning the club needs to add defenders who are able to cover the middle of the field. The Colts began their offseason by releasing inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who at age-33 has lost some of his luster. New general manager Chris Ballard then brought edge rushers Jabaal Sheard and John Simon, but Indy still needs inside ‘backers to complement Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison.

Minter, 26, is the best of the free agent linebacker trio hosted by the Colts, and ranks as the No. 2 LB on PFR’s most recent edition of the top remaining free agents. After starting all 16 games in each of the past two seasons, Minter has created a healthy market for himself, and has already met with the Bengals. The former second-round posted 81 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2016, grading as the league’s No. 25 linebacker, per Pro Football Focus.

Spence, meanwhile, wasn’t a full-time starter for the Titans last year, but did play on nearly 50% of the club’s snaps, managing 50 tackles and three sacks. He’s No. 8 on PFR’s ranking of free agent linebackers. Bostic, 25, missed the entirety of the 2016 campaign with injury, and probably wouldn’t be counted on for anything besides special teams duty with the Colts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Still Deciding On IR Return Player

The Lions have yet to decide which player they will reinstate off the injured reserve list, and the possibility remains that running back Ameer Abdullah could be the returnee, according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com. Detroit is thought to be choosing between Abdullah and linebacker Jon Bostic, both of whom have been sidelined since early this season.Ameer Abdullah (vertical)

[RELATED: Detroit Lions Depth Chart]

Bostic, who underwent foot surgery earlier this season, technically could have come off IR as soon as Week 8, and was participating in running drills during practice sessions during the past few weeks. He’d certainly be a welcome addition to a Lions linebacking corps that has already traded away Kyle Van Noy and will likely be without starter DeAndre Levy on Sunday against the Jaguars.

Abullah, however, would also be able to help the first-place Lions — though the club is excelling on the offensive side of the ball, most of that success has been through the passing game, as Detroit’s rushing attack ranks just 27th in DVOA. Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said earlier this month that Abdullah was a candidate to return, and he’d add a stabilizing presence to a backfield that has seen Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Zach Zenner and Justin Forsett earn carries.

Caldwell also told reporters that Detroit’s record and/or playoff position won’t factor into the club’s decision on which player to activate, per Twentyman. “You look at the next game, see where you are, see what kind of injuries you have,” said Caldwell. “You make adjustments and then put yourself in the best position to win the next game. That’s how we look at it and I think that’s the only way you should look at it. There’s too many things that can happen along the way, every game is extremely important.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions HC: Ameer Abdullah Could Return

Could Ameer Abdullah return from IR this season? Lions coach Jim Caldwell told reporters today that he’s not ruling it out (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein). Ameer Abdullah (vertical)

There are two important caveats to keep in mind with Caldwell’s comments. One is that linebacker Jon Bostic returned to the practice field this week and was seen running on Wednesday. The Lions can only bring one player back from IR and Bostic certainly seems primed to be that guy. Secondly, Caldwell is notoriously coy when it comes to his interactions with the media. Publicly, he says he’s not shutting the door on Abdullah coming back, but that should perhaps be taken with a grain of driveway salt.

In the first month of the season, Abdullah was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his left foot. Typically, that injury is a season-ender. Heading into the season, the Lions were hopeful that Abdullah would anchor their backfield, but he was ultimately shut down after two appearances.

Since then, the Lions have shuffled through a number of different looks in the backfield as Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington have also dealt with injuries. Assuming everyone is healthy for Sunday, the Lions will be starting Riddick with Washington, mid-season pickup Justin Forsett, and the agile Zach Zenner in support.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Place Jon Bostic On IR

The Lions have placed linebacker Jon Bostic on IR, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter). Bostic, who had surgery last month, was previously given a timetable that could allow him to return as early as October and as late as December. Depending on how his recovery goes, he could be a candidate to return from IR. Jon Bostic (vertical)

Bostic, a former second-round pick, represented the first deal between Lions general manager Bob Quinn and his former team, as Detroit acquired Bostic from the Patriots in May. The former Florida Gator is no stranger to being traded after a September swap shipped him from the Bears to the Pats. In 2015, he appeared in eleven games (one start) for New England, recording two tackles.

As a rookie with the Bears, Bostic played in all 16 games with nine starts on the year. In total, he notched 57 tackles, two sacks, and an interception in 2013. He followed that up in 2014 with a career high of 83 tackles. If Bostic doesn’t take the field this year, then the Lions will not have to send a seventh-round pick to New England for him. If he does play and reach a certain playtime threshold, then the Lions will still be on the hook.

Moving Bostic to IR will create a roster spot for tight end Khari Lee, who was claimed off waivers earlier today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.