Justin Ellis

Trade Rumors: Cardinals, Armstead, Haskins

The Seahawks and Chiefs agreed to a blockbuster trade earlier today that will send Frank Clark to Kansas City. And as Albert Breer of SI.com writes, the veteran trade market is expected to remain hot this week. Breer says that rival clubs are “keeping an eye” on Cardinals‘ DL Robert Nkemdiche, and given that Nkemdiche suffered a torn ACL in December, it’s possible that he could be had for minimal compensation. He has battled injuries throughout his career and has not really lived up to his potential when on the field, but as a former first-round pick who won’t turn 25 until the regular season starts, it makes sense that he would draw some interest. He did post 4.5 sacks in 10 games (six starts) last year.

Now for more trade rumblings from around the league:

  • Assuming the Cardinals draft Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen expects the club to be patient with a Josh Rosen trade (Twitter link). If they cannot get fair value for Rosen prior to the draft, the Cards could wait until after a few signal-callers come off the board and QB-needy teams start to get a little anxious. We heard earlier today that Arizona is still undecided as to what it will do with the first pick in the draft, but if the Cardinals don’t nab Murray, it would be a major surprise.
  • Breer writes that 49ers‘ DE Arik Armstead is also expected to draw some trade interest, though he remains in San Francisco’s plans. Raiders‘ DT Justin Ellis is also said to be available, while Cowboys WR Allen Hurns is the best wideout that could be had via trade [SOURCE LINK].
  • In a separate piece, Breer writes that rival clubs are monitoring Jaguars LB Telvin Smith and Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr. as potential trade targets, though neither player is on the trade block just yet.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports continues to hear that the Lions and Jets are interested in trading down from their current first-round slots, and he sees the Falcons as a potential partner for Detroit (Twitter link). Interestingly, Breer hears the same [SOURCE LINK]. Clemson DT Christian Wilkins could be the target if Atlanta wants to move up, though Breer says the team has been “nosing around” offensive linemen as well as defensive linemen.
  • As La Canfora writes in a separate piece, the Redskins could be the Jets‘ trade partner if Washington feels it needs to trade up to land Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins. One way or another, JLC believes the Redskins will come away from the draft with Haskins in tow. This is at least the second time La Canfora has written about a potential deal between Washington and New York.
  • The Chargers are open to trading down from the No. 28 overall pick in Thursday’s draft, per the team’s official website. But given that there is a lot of depth in this draft and not many obvious first-round talents, GM Tom Telesco could find it difficult to execute such a deal.

Raiders Activate DT Justin Ellis

Justin Ellis played in just one game this season before being placed on IR. He will return, however, for the final games of Jon Gruden‘s first year back.

The Raiders activated Ellis from IR on Saturday, and the fifth-year defensive tackle will be in line to play Sunday against the Chiefs. Oakland waived offensive lineman Denver Kirkland to clear a roster spot.

Re-signed this offseason, Ellis is one of the few Reggie McKenzie draft picks still around in Oakland. The 2014 fourth-round selection has started for most of his career, producing his best season in 2017 — 48 tackles, a half-sack. He’s signed through the 2020 season.

Following Ellis’ IR move, Oakland signed both Johnathan Hankins and Clinton McDonald. Both have served as role players at a defensive tackle spot now housing new Gruden draftees P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst.

Kirkland played in six games for the Raiders in 2016 and ’18. He served as an extra offensive lineman in power sets during Oakland’s 12-4 2016 campaign but has only made one regular-season appearance since.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders DT Justin Ellis Designated For Return

Justin Ellis was back at practice yesterday, and the Raiders announced that they’ve designated the defensive lineman to return from the injured reserve. The team will now have 21 days to add the veteran to their active roster. We heard last week that the 27-year-old was nearing a return to practice.

“It was a great feeling [to get back on the field],” Ellis said. “I was smiling inside, I was working trying to knock the rust off. Inside, seeing my guys happy to have me back was a great feeling.”

Ellis originally suffered a foot injury during Oakland’s season-opener against the Rams, and the team subsequently placed him on the injured reserve. It was expected that the 27-year-old would return to practice in late October, but the defensive tackle apparently needed some extra time to recover.

“He looks good, it’ll be great to get him back,” said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. “We haven’t had him since the first ball game, he’s a big part of what we’re doing here. He practiced yesterday, but he looks good. He feels good, and hopefully he’ll be up and running Sunday.”

The Raiders’ new regime will certainly want to see what they have in Ellis, especially after he inked a three-year, $15MM extension with the team during the offseason. Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the league’s better run stopping tackles last year, and he finished the 2017 campaign with 48 tackles and 0.5 sacks in 16 games (14 starts).

Ellis was one of three Raiders defensive tackles currently sitting on the injured reserve (along with Eddie Vanderdoes and Ahtyba Rubin). When he’s ultimately added to the active roster, he’ll be joining a healthy grouping that includes P.J. HallMaurice HurstJohnathan Hankins, and Clinton McDonald.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders DT Justin Ellis To Return To Practice

Justin Ellis is (almost) back. Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the Raiders nose tackle is set to return to practice next week. The writer implies that the team will ultimately activate Ellis from the injured reserve once he’s ready to go.

It’s a lost season for the Raiders, but the team will surely appreciate the reinforcement along the defensive line. Ellis originally suffered a foot injury during Oakland’s season-opener against the Rams, and the team subsequently placed him on the injured reserve. It was expected that the 27-year-old would return to practice in late October, but the defensive tackle apparently needed some extra time to recover.

The Raiders’ new regime will certainly want to see what they have in Ellis, especially after he inked a three-year, $15MM extension with the team during the offseason. Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the league’s better run stopping tackles last year, and he finished the 2017 campaign with 48 tackles and 0.5 sacks in 16 games (14 starts).

Ellis is one of three Raiders defensive tackles currently sitting on the injured reserve (along with Eddie Vanderdoes and Ahtyba Rubin). When he’s ultimately activated from the IR, he’ll be joining a healthy grouping that includes P.J. HallMaurice HurstJohnathan Hankins, and Clinton McDonald.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Place Justin Ellis On Injured Reserve

The Raiders will be without defensive tackle Justin Ellis for a while, as they placed the veteran run-stuffer on injured reserve according to Michael Gehlken of the Las Veags Review-Journal (Twitter link).

The good news for Oakland is that Gehlken writes the “season [is] not considered over” for Ellis, posting in a follow-up tweet that Ellis is “expected to resume practice when first eligible in six weeks” and presumably return to the field when first eligible in eight weeks.

According to Gehlken, Ellis suffered a “foot strain” during the Raiders’ opener against the Rams. It’s a big blow to a defense that already saw its defensive front get dominated by the Rams’ offensive line on Monday night. Earlier this year, Ellis signed a three-year $15MM extension with the team, so the new regime led by Jon Gruden clearly thought highly of him.

Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the league’s better run stopping tackles last year, and the Raiders wasted no time in replacing him. They signed a pair of defensive tackles yesterday, adding Clinton McDonald as well as Johnathan Hankins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Prosise, Cards, Rams, Raiders

After a promising flash as a rookie, C.J. Prosise has not contributed much to the Seahawks‘ cause. He’s picked up 17 touches since December 2016 and is behind Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis on the Seattle running back depth chart. However, the team is discussing a position change for the third-year back. Pete Carroll said (via Pro Football Talk) his coaching staff is examining a possible Prosise switch to wide receiver, citing his background at the position in college. Prosise was a wideout at Notre Dame before being switched to the backfield. He caught 29 passes for 516 yards in 2014. The Seahawks are down Doug Baldwin for perhaps multiple weeks, and they have just four healthy wide receivers.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions, shifting to a running back who is also quite adept at the receiver role.

  • David Johnson is now the NFL’s second-highest-paid running back, holding a substantial lead over the No. 3 player in this hierarchy, and ranks close to the top in terms of fully guaranteed money, too. Johnson’s three-year, $39MM Cardinals extension will come with $24.682MM fully guaranteed at signing, Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweets. Adding in the amount guaranteed for injury increases the deal’s guarantees to $31MM, per Corry, who adds offset language is included in this contract. Johnson’s $24MM-plus full guarantee leads all running backs on veteran contracts, surpassing Todd Gurley‘s $21.9MM in guarantees.
  • Martavis Bryant is indeed back with the Raiders, as Jon Gruden suggested he could be. An illness and general inconsistency during camp led to Bryant being a preseason cut, Gruden said (via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic, on Twitter). Gruden said the perpetual suspension risk, who may or may not be facing another ban, is more focused and may suit up for the team on Sunday in Denver.
  • In addition to the Raiders’ interest in signing top free agent Johnathan Hankins, Gruden said they’re also interested in adding Clinton McDonald, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Hankins is visiting the Raiders on Wednesday. The Broncos released McDonald after the preseason slate. If signed, McDonald would add yet another 30-something to Gruden’s free agency haul. He’s 31.
  • The Raiders are in need of help at defensive tackle because of a Justin Ellis injury. The fifth-year veteran defensive tackle strained ligaments in his foot, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He’s week-to-week, prompting Oakland to pursue outside help.
  • Adam Jones signed with the Broncos late in the preseason, appearing to represent an upgrade at punt returner and No. 4 cornerback. However, the 35-year-old defender appears to have usurped Tramaine Brock for the nickel job, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com notes. Brock didn’t fare poorly in the preseason and graded as an upper-echelon corner during his last season of full-time work, with the 2016 49ers, but Jones has more experience in Vance Joseph‘s defense from their time together in Cincinnati. If he’s been demoted, it would mark a second straight season the 30-year-old defender’s resided out of a nickel picture. The Vikings carried Brock as a depth piece in 2017.
  • The Rams are going to need a new return man. Pharoh Cooper suffered an ankle injury and will be out for “some time,” Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com notes. Backup return man Michael Thomas is out for a few weeks, Sean McVay said, to prompt Los Angeles to seek alternative options. Cooper served as the Rams’ kick- and punt-return man last season, soaring to All-Pro honors.

Contract Details: CBs, McDougald, Ellis

Let’s take a look at the details from the latest contracts signed in the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

Contract Details: Brees, Butler, T. Johnson

Let’s take a look at the details from the latest contracts signed in the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

Raiders, Justin Ellis Agree To Extension

Raiders defensive tackle Justin Ellis has agreed to terms on a three-year deal worth more than $15MM, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal includes more than $6MM in guaranteed cash. 

Ellis was scheduled to reach free agency on Wednesday and ranked as one of PFR’s ten best available interior linemen. Ellis, 27, has been a staple on the Raiders’ defensive line for the last four seasons. Last year, he appeared in every game for Oakland and started in 14 of those contests.

Ellis doesn’t have gaudy stat lines on his resume, but he is a valuable run stuffer at nose tackle. Last season was his best campaign to date, according to Pro Football Focus, as he ranked 45th amongst interior defensive linemen.

In other Raiders news, coach Jon Gruden met with running back Doug Martin this week and came away impressed. Whether the Martin meeting results in a deal or not, it’s probably not a great sign for Marshawn Lynch‘s future with the team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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