Josh Sitton is calling it a career. On Thursday, the four-time Pro Bowl guard announced his retirement from the NFL.
In an interview on ESPN Wisconsin, Sitton dropped a double dose of major news. First, he announced the birth of his son. Then, he told the radio hosts that he was done with football.
Sitton, an 11-year vet, spent the first eight years of his career with the Packers. That run came to an end just before the 2016 season when the Packers made the surprising decision to release him. The next day, he inked a three-year, $21.75MM deal with the rival Bears. That deal was terminated after two seasons, leading to him signing with the Dolphins last year as a free agent.
Throughout his Packers tenure, Sitton was known for his toughness and durability. However, injuries have held him back in recent seasons. With the Bears, he still managed to play at a high level, but he missed six games across his two seasons in Chicago. Then, last year, he suffered a shoulder injury in Week 1 that sidelined him for the rest of the year.
Sitton is the fourth former Packers Pro Bowler to retire this offseason, joining fellow guard T.J. Lang, receiver Jordy Nelson and fullback John Kuhn. We here at PFR wish Sitton the best in retirement.
Minutes after the 2019 league year began, the Dolphins parted ways with Sitton. The former Pro Bowl guard was limited to one game in Miami, with an injury shelving him after Week 1.
A longtime Packer-turned-two-year Bear, Sitton has played 11 NFL seasons. Should he opt to continue his career and land elsewhere, he will be entering his age-33 campaign. Sitton made Pro Bowls with both Green Bay and Chicago, his most recent coming in 2016. The Bears declined his 2018 option last year.
Sitton tore a rotator cuff, cutting short his Dolphins tenure. While he has been one of this decade’s better guards, Sitton will almost certainly have to accept a one-year deal — and at a lower rate than the two-year, $13.5MM pact he signed with the Dolphins — if he is to play in 2019.
The Dolphins have now cut ties with two of their guards, with Ted Larsen being the other departure, and saw their efforts to keep right tackle Ja’Wuan James end with the Broncos making James the NFL’s highest-paid right tackle. Brian Flores’ team will have a new-look line next season.
February 26th, 2019 at 10:13am CST by Zachary Links
Dolphins guard Josh Sitton expects to be released this offseason, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Sitton has one year remaining on the two-year, $15MM deal he inked with the club last year.
Sitton, 33 in June, suffered a season-ending torn rotator cuff injury in the very first game of the 2018 season. It was undoubtedly frustrating for the veteran who had been largely healthy over the course of his previous nine NFL seasons.
Sitton may not match the value of his last contract, but he should find plenty of suitors on the open market. In 2017, his final year with the Bears, Sitton graded out as the fifth-best guard in the league, per Pro Football Focus, and the advanced metrics show that he’s been consistently solid throughout his career.
If the Dolphins cut Sitton, they’ll save $5MM against the 2019 cap with $2MM left in dead money. They may also have to replace pending free agent tackle Ja’Wuan James, which would revamp the right side of their line.
September 14th, 2018 at 8:34am CST by Dallas Robinson
Dolphins guard Josh Sitton will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn rotator cuff against the Titans on Sunday, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Miami has officially placed Sitton on injured reserve.
Miami isn’t sure at what point in the game Sutton suffered his shoulder injury, as the veteran offensive lineman may have originally felt a strain before another hit exacerbated the ailment. Once Sitton was told the nature of the injury, he asked if he could play through it for the rest of the year, per Salguero. However, the Dolphins’ medical staff told Sitton he’d be risking further health issues by playing: indeed, the tear could become so severe that surgery wouldn’t even help correct it, making it a career-ender.
Although guard has been a perennial problem in Miami, the Dolphins do have a capable Sitton replacement in veteran guard Ted Larsen. The 31-year-old has been a full-time starter at various points in his career, and offers 111 career games under his belt. Per Salguero, Larsen filed in for Sitton when the latter was sidelined during the summer, so he should have a familiarity with the rest of Miami’s front five.
If Larsen proves to be incapable of taking over for Sitton, however, the Dolphins could choose to look at the free agent guard market. While there are obviously no stars left available, competent options still remain unsigned. Oday Aboushi, John Jerry, Alex Boone, Jonathan Cooper, Luke Joeckel, and Jahri Evans (who’s only played right guard) could potentially interest Miami.
Sitton’s contract will be worth $15MM in base value, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, adding that it could max out at $18MM. The veteran guard will receive $8MM in guarantees.
Guard has long been a problem in South Beach, but the Dolphins have now landed a former All-Pro in Sitton. The 31-year-old Sitton has experience at both left and right guard, and could conceivably slide into either spot for Miami. Whatever position he lands at, Sitton will be playing next to new Dolphins center, as the club released veteran Mike Pouncey earlier today.
Sitton originally joined the Bears in 2016 after surprisingly being released by the division rival Packers. Although minor health issues have been a concern, Sitton has been outstanding in the Windy City. Just last season, Sitton ranked as the the fifth-best guard in the league, per Pro Football Focus, and his marks have remained steady throughout the duration of his career. Despite that production, Chicago opted to decline Sitton’s $8MM option for 2018.
Many of this year’s top free agents came off of the board during the legal tampering period, including Kirk Cousins, Trumaine Johnson, Sammy Watkins, and Allen Robinson. Still plenty of the names from our list of the Top 50 Free Agents remain, including some new additions. Here’s a rundown of the players to keep an eye on as free agency officially begins, ranked roughly by their expected contract value:
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): The Dolphins bailed on Suh’s mega contract midway through, freeing him up to sign another high-priced contract. He won’t get anything close to a six-year, $114MM deal this time around, but he should settle in at an AAV that keeps him among the best compensated players at his position. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Suh fifth among 122 interior defenders.
2. Tyrann Mathieu, S (Cardinals): The Cardinals worked feverishly to hammer out a new contract with the Honey Badger, but the two sides could not come to terms on a deal to lessen his 2018 cap hit. He has been released, allowing him to hit free agency as the best safety available. The Jets are not believed to be interested, despite his connection with head coach Todd Bowles. The other tenant of the Meadowlands, however, could have interest thanks to the presence of former Arizona DC James Bettcher.
4. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe missed out on a big payday last year when teams shied away from him due to lingering back issues. After turning in his second consecutive 16-game season, things could be different this time. For the record – Poe has missed only two regular season games over the course of his career, so he boasts a better attendance record than a lot of other veterans on this list. He’s unlikely to circle back to Atlanta.
6. A.J. McCarron, QB (Bengals): It’s difficult to peg McCarron’s value heading into free agency. Outside of some quality starts in 2015, there isn’t much film out there on McCarron, despite that fact that he has spent four years in the NFL. Hue Jackson was itching to reunite with McCarron, but the Browns no longer seem a likely destination for him after the acquisition of Tyrod Taylor. It’s also hard to see him landing with the QB-needy Jets after they re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater. McCarron will find a home, but it may not be as a starter. [UPDATE: McCarron has signed with the Bills]
7. E.J. Gaines, CB (Bills): Injuries in the fall limited Gaines to just 11 games last season, but he proved to be a quality return for the Bills in the Watkins trade, in addition to the second-round pick that came with him. Gaines graded out as the No. 13 cornerback in the league last year, per PFF, and he just turned 26 in February. Gaines missed all of ’15 due to injury and didn’t look all that sharp in ’16, but timing is everything in free agency. You can expect multiple teams to call on him and the Texans could still have interest, even after inkingAaron Colvin.
8. Eric Reid, S (49ers): Reid is just 26 and is undoubtedly a starting quality safety. He has both youth and versatility on his side, but it’s possible that his anthem protest participation could hurt him when it comes to some suitors. Injuries over the last two seasons will hurt his market as well.
11. Kenny Vaccaro, S (Saints): With the ability to play both safety and slot cornerback, Vaccaro will have a fair amount of suitors. Analytics-focused teams might not high on him after he ranked as the worst coverage safety in the league, according to PFF.
13. Ryan Jensen, C (Ravens): Jensen stepped into a starting role in 2017 and flourished, grading out as the No. 9 center in the NFL, per PFF. The former sixth-round pick also has previous experience at guard. The Jets were widely speculated to be a suitor, but they addressed their needs by signing Spencer Long instead. He has visits lined up with the Bucs and Colts.
14. Jack Mewhort, G (Colts): Mewhort’s season ended prematurely in October thanks to a knee injury, marking his second straight incomplete campaign. That’s not a great way to enter the open market, but he did have three quality years as an NFL starter before that. Mewhort doesn’t turn 27 until October, which helps his case.
17. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE (Jets): AS-J rebounded from personal issues to post the best season of his career with the Jets. He was impressive at times, but he is no better than the No. 3 TE in this year’s free agent crop. He’ll meet with the Seahawks and Jaguars. No word yet on whether the Saints, who missed out on a Jimmy Graham reunion, have any interest.
18. Tyler Eifert, TE (Bengals): Once one of the NFL’s brightest stars at tight end, Eifert has been limited by a host of injuries. You can expect Eifert to ink a one-year deal somewhere with a low base and ample incentives.
19. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Redskins): Pryor found himself disappointed by the 2017 free agent market, but that paled in comparison to the disappointment felt by the Redskins after signing him to a one-year deal. Pryor will benefit from a shallow WR crop, however. He is on the Browns’ radar, so a return to Cleveland is possible.
24. Demario Davis, LB (Jets):Davis wants $8-$10MM per year, but he’ll get about half of that. [UPDATE: Davis is off the board after signing a three-year, $24MM deal with the Saints, so he achieved his yearly goal after all. The deal includes $18MM guaranteed.]
25. Jordan Matthews, WR (Bills): Injuries held Matthews back in 2017, but he’s not far removed from posting 73 receptions for 804 yards and three touchdowns with the Eagles.
Sitton has missed six games over the last two years, but he has four Pro Bowl appearances to his credit. With Andrew Norwell already spoken for, he’s the best interior lineman a team can sign at this point.
That’s not to say Sitton, 32 in June, is a bad consolation prize. Just last season, Sitton ranked as the the fifth-best guard in the league, per Pro Football Focus, and his marks have remained steady throughout his career.
Sitton had been scheduled to collect $8MM cash in 2018 between his $7.4MM base salary, $500K roster bonus, and $100K workout bonus. The Bears are moving on from him, but Chicago’s trash could be Miami’s treasure.
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 20th, 2018 at 3:28pm CST by Dallas Robinson
The Bears will decline their 2018 option on guard Josh Sitton, meaning he’ll become a free agent next month, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).
Sitton had been scheduled to collect $8MM cash in 2018: $7.4MM in base salary, $500K in roster bonus, and $100K in workout bonus. All told, Sitton would have counted for roughly $8.573MM on the Bears’ 2018 salary cap. By declining Sitton’s option, Chicago will create nearly $8MM in additional cap space.
The 31-year-old Sitton originally joined the Bears in 2016 after surprisingly being released by the division rival Packers. Although minor health issues have been a concern, Sitton has been outstanding in the Windy City. Just last season, Sitton ranked as the the fifth-best guard in the league, per Pro Football Focus, and his marks have remained steady throughout the duration of his career.
Going forward, the Bears will have a hole to fill at left guard without Sitton in tow. Chicago has the option of moving 2015 third-round pick Hroniss Grasu to guard, or shifting 2016 second-rounder Cody Whitehair back to guard and allowing Grasu to play the pivot. Alternatively, the Bears might look to replace Sitton with another free agent, or a draft pick who is not yet on the roster.
Although Sitton is over the age of 30, it’s hard to argue he’s not one of the best guards available on the open market. He likely won’t command the sort of years or dollars that Andrew Norwell will, but Sitton could make for a sensible veteran option for a number of clubs with issues along the interior.
New Vikings OC John DeFilippo is viewed as a rising star in the coaching world, and Minnesota is obviously high on the former Eagles quarterbacks coach, as it targeted DeFilippo as soon as former OC Pat Shurmur left for the Giants’ head coaching job. The Vikings were also willing to wait for Philadelphia’s season to be over before naming Shurmur’s replacement, which shows just how much they liked DeFilippo. Despite the hire, though, the Vikings denied the Giants’ request to interview Minnesota quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski for the New York OC gig, and Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio suggests that there are two reasons for that (Twitter link). Obviously, the Vikings value Stefanski and want him around in 2018, but the team also thinks there is a good chance DeFilippo could get his own head coaching opportunity in 2019, so Minnesota views Stefanski as a potential replacement (after all, the Vikes did interview Stefanski for the OC position this year before hiring DeFilippo). However, Marvez reports that Stefanski only has one year left on his current contract, so he could become a coaching free agent in 2019.
Now for more from the league’s North divisions:
The Bears‘ offensive line will be one of their biggest priorities this offseason, and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune says the team could use one of its top two picks in this year’s draft on an O-lineman. Of course, Chicago will also have to decide what it wants to do with guard Josh Sitton, who has a club option worth $8MM for 2018 (the Bears have until March 9 to exercise that option, and if they do not, Sitton will become a UFA). It is a tough call; on the one hand, Sitton is an accomplished player whose departure will make the team’s O-line situation even more dire, but on the other hand, he is an aging veteran and, if the Bears decline the option, Sitton will count only $666K against the cap in 2018. Biggs does not give an indication as to which way Chicago is leaning at this point.
In a piece that is well worth a read, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press chronicles Matt Patricia‘s rise from a low-level assistant in New England to Lions head coach, a rise that was accelerated in 2012 when Detroit GM Bob Quinn — then the director of pro scouting with the Patriots — heard Patricia deliver a poignant speech to New England coaches and players about the recently-deceased Junior Seau.
Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, whom the team selected in the first round of last year’s draft, was recently arrested for stealing a $15 phone charger, as Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes. Humphrey has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 1 in Tuscaloosa County District Court, at which time a judge will determine whether to dismiss the case or to proceed. Humphrey turned in a strong rookie campaign, and Baltimore will rely on him heavily in 2018.