Kai Forbath

Vikings Notes: Robison, Hughes, Carlson

Last month, it was announced that Vikings defensive end Brian Robison was taking a pay cut to stay with the team in the final year of his contract. The longtime Viking was scheduled to make $3.5MM initially, but his pay cut reduced his base salary to $1.015MM plus a $90K workout bonus.

Now Robison, who has been with the Vikings since being drafted by the team in the fourth round back in 2007, appears ready to hang up his cleats. He recently told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’ll “more than likely” retire after the 2018 season.

If the 2018 season is indeed Robison’s last in the NFL, it will be the end to an unusually long run with a single team for a role player. Normally only a star player would wind up playing for the same team for 12 seasons, but Robison has carved out a similar situational pass-rushing role with the Vikings year after year through multiple coaching staffs and front offices. He has 60 sacks, 19 passes defended, and 13 forced fumbles throughout his career, only missing three of a possible 176 games since entering the league.

Here’s more on the Vikings:

  • Vikings first-round cornerback Mike Hughes is “pretty close” to signing his rookie deal, Hughes told Tomasson. Hughes, the only Vikings draft pick yet to sign, was taken with the 30th overall pick in April’s draft out of Central Florida.
  • Tomasson reports that rookie kicker Daniel Carlson “has looked better than Kai Forbath in the battle to be Minnesota’s kicker.” Since the Vikings used a fifth-rounder on Carlson, they likely have every intention of having him be their kicker. Forbath, the incumbent, was underwhelming last year and appears likely to be cut.
  • Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph is working his way back from offseason ankle surgery, and recently returned to the field. Tomasson notes that Rudolph is ahead of schedule in his recovery and wasn’t supposed to get back to work for a few more weeks.

Contract Details: Burnett, Bodine, Williams

Let’s take a look at the most recent new contracts around the NFL:

AFC

NFC

Vikings Re-Sign K Kai Forbath

Kicker Kai Forbath is re-signing with the Vikings, Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press tweets. Terms of the deal are not yet known. 

Forbath earned just $775K in 2017 and will see a pay bump on his new contract after turning in one of the best seasons of his career. Last year, he converted 32 of his 38 field goal attempts and he nailed 34 of his 39 extra point tries. In 2016, he made all 15 of his FG tries for Minnesota across seven games.

With Forbath back in the fold, the Dolphins are left as the only team in the NFL without a kicker.

In other Vikings news, Minnesota landed defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson last week. Richardson’s deal includes an $8MM base salary and $3MM more in available incentives.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Notes: Cousins, Forbath, Johnson

Kirk Cousins appears to be atop the Vikings offseason wish list. Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com writes that the organization will “go hard” after the free agent quarterback, adding that negotiations with their 13 unrestricted free agents and three restricted free agents are on hold until the front office understands how much they’ll need to commit to a signal-caller.

The 29-year-old Cousins finished last season having completed 64.3-percent of his passes for 4,093 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. If the Vikings fail in their pursuit of the former Pro Bowler, they can turn their focus to any of the other three quarterbacks they were rostering in 2017: Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, or Sam Bradford.

Let’s take a look at some other notes out of Minnesota, all via Tomasson…

  • The Vikings want to re-sign kicker Kai Forbath, but the team has yet to make an offer to the veteran. The 30-year-old, who earned $775K last season, had one of the best seasons of his career with Minnesota in 2017. Forbath converted 32 of his 38 field goal attempts, and he made 34 of his 39 extra point tries.
  • The front office still hasn’t decided what tender they’ll place on restricted free agent offensive guard Nick Easton, but they want him back in 2018. A former undrafted free agent out of Harvard, the 25-year-old has started 17 of his 23 games over the past two seasons with the Vikings. Tomasson notes that the team is unlikely to tender restricted free agent running back Bishop Sankey or offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles.
  • There’s no guarantee that defensive tackle Tom Johnson will be back with the team next season. Tomasson notes that Minnesota is willing to pay the 33-year-old, but his return will “depend on other offers he might get.” The writer also writes that Johnson asked for a one-year, $4MM extension last season, but the Vikings ultimately balked. Johnson started 15 of 16 games last season, compiling 32 tackles and two sacks.

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

NFC Notes: Griffin, Stafford, Forbath, 49ers

The Seahawks defense continues to take hits on the injury front as the team has now learned that starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin has been ruled out for Sunday’s game vs. the 49ers with a concussion, according to Gregg Bell of The News Tribune (Twitter link). Bell adds that lineman Oday Aboushi will miss the matchup with a shoulder injury as well, so Seattle will once again have to expose backups to expansive playing time.

It would seem that cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane will get the starts on the outside, with either rookie Ethan Pocic or third-year lineman Mark Glowinski filling in for Aboushi at right guard.

Seattle’s roster looks a whole lot different without the likes of Griffin, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the starting lineup, which has contributed greatly to the Seahawks up-and-down sort of season. The team still has an outstanding defensive line and is right in the thick of the playoff race, but is currently facing a lot of adversity as it continues to lose quality players as the season wears on.

  • In what was a tremendous show of resiliency on Thanksgiving, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford actually finished the game after he suffered what looked to be a serious leg injury. However, even though the talented QB was able to return, you can clearly see that he is not 100% in a video posted to Instagram by Davie Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, depicting Stafford hobbling away after his postgame press conference. It remains to be seen whether Stafford can continue to play in the weeks to come, but we should learn more about the overall severity of the injury next week.
  • Vikings kicker Kai Forbath apparently cut his foot on the nullified block field goal, but should not miss any time moving forward, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Forbath had been one of the best kickers in the league up until the last few weeks when he missed two field goals against the Rams and suffered the aforementioned blocked kick yesterday.
  • The 49ers are as expected not in playoff contention this year, but still await some key decisions on potential free agents at season’s end. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, looked at six impending free agents who could be on the way out after the 2017 season is over. Branch noted running back Carlos Hyde, safety Eric Reid, center Daniel Kilgore, defensive end Aaron Lynch, defensive lineman Tank Carradine and cornerback Dontae Johnson as all guys that seemed primed to test the open market. There are a variety of factors that go into these decisions, but it’s interesting to see how the team may approach these players in the final six weeks of the season given their impending free agency.

North Notes: Browns, Ravens, Lions, Vikings

Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett, the first pick in this year’s draft, suffered a left foot injury Wednesday that left him in “obvious pain,” reports Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland. A day later, Garrett sat out practice as team doctors evaluated his foot, a club spokesman announced. The Browns won’t provide further details on Garrett’s ailment, per Cabot, who relays that the injury likely isn’t serious. Meanwhile, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Garrett should be “fine.” Foot issues are nothing new for Garrett, who dealt with soreness throughout organized team activities and battled a high ankle sprain during his final year at Texas A&M last season. Fortunately, though, it looks as if he and the Browns will escape relatively unscathed in this instance.

More from the NFL’s North divisions:

  • Unsurprisingly, it appears injured tight end Dennis Pitta‘s release from the Ravens last week will bring an end to his career. When speaking with reporters Thursday, Pitta didn’t announce his retirement, but he conceded, “I’m not delusional” (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun). Hip problems limited Pitta to seven games from 2013-15, but he returned last season to post a 16-game campaign and catch a team-high 86 passes. The soon-to-be 32-year-old suffered a hip dislocation earlier this month, though, leading the Ravens to cut ties after seven seasons.
  • In his first meeting with the Detroit media on Thursday, newly acquired Lions offensive tackle Greg Robinson called the trade that sent him from Los Angeles to the Motor City “a big surprise,” per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Robinson busted with the Rams, who selected him second overall in 2014, and acknowledged that things “haven’t really went the way I would like” to this point. The 24-year-old expects to jump-start his career in Detroit, however. “I plan on benefiting from (my fresh start) tremendously,” Robinson declared. “It’s really refreshing and I plan to make the most out of it.”
  • Browns quarterback Brock Osweiler has been “very happy” with his performance this spring, and the ex-Texan explained Wednesday why his play has improved from his disastrous 2016 in Houston. “The best part is I’m getting coached hard on my fundamentals,” Osweiler said, via Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com. “And I believe firmly that when your fundamentals and your feet are right as a quarterback, you’re going to make great decisions and you’re going to throw accurate footballs.” Osweiler added that his “fundamentals slid” last year, but he declined “to go into great detail” on why. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk interprets Osweiler’s remarks as a shot at the Texans’ coaching staff, particularly Bill O’Brien, who didn’t get along well with the signal-caller last season.
  • Defensive back Lardarius Webb experienced a “tepid market” during his month of unemployment before re-signing with the Ravens in May, as Zrebiec details. The only club known to have expressed interest in the 31-year-old Webb was the Vikings, although Baltimore reportedly had interest in bringing Webb back almost instantly after releasing him. The Ravens saved $5.5MM in cap space by originally cutting ties with Webb, who has since inked a new three-year deal worth $6.3MM (with another $1.4MM available annually via incentives).
  • Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer indicated Wednesday that both kicker Kai Forbath and punter Ryan Quigley will have to fight for their jobs this summer, telling reporters that “there’s an open competition” at both spots (via Mark Craig of the Star Tribune). Forbath, whom the Vikings signed last November after releasing Blair Walsh, made all 15 of his field goal attempts with Minnesota in 2016 but will battle second-year man Marshall Koehn to stay with the club. “He’s got the stronger leg,” Priefer said of Koehn. “This kid is coming on strong. It’s a great competition.” Quigley, an April signing, will try to fend off another second-year player, Taylor Symmank, after averaging a career-worst 41.6 yards per punt on 34 attempts with the Cardinals last season.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

Extra Points: Anderson, Branch, Logan, Lions

Broncos running back C.J. Anderson is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a torn meniscus, tweets Troy Renck of Denver7. Anderson was placed on injured reserve in late October, but Denver could choose to designate him as their IR returner if it so chooses. Anderson must miss a minimum of eight games, meaning he could come back for important late-season divisional contests against the Chiefs and Raiders, then presumably stay on the roster for a potential playoff run.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Andre Branch is enjoying a career resurgence with the Dolphins and he says he would like to continue in Miami beyond this year. “One hundred percent,” the pending free agent told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald when asked if he wants to re-sign. “We got something going here, and it’s fun. I wake up every morning, and you have a reason to wake up. It’s not just, ‘I woke up to another one.’ The coaching staff brings energy each and every day. The players bring energy each and every day. And if anyone’s slacking, you’re going to know. I’m my biggest critic, and I never want to let my brothers or my coaches down. So for me, it’s starting to feel like family. It’s a lot of things that when you wake up, I haven’t felt in a very long time. So I’m happy here.” After playing out his one-year, $2.75MM deal, Branch will be seeking a pay bump and a longer commitment on his next deal. While there will be (presumably) mutual interest between him and the Dolphins, money may be a factor.
  • When asked about a potential extension for defensive tackle Bennie Logan, Eagles executive Howie Roseman said he “would love to keep Bennie, ” according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Logan, 27 next month, will become a free agent next spring. Through six starts this season, Logan ranks the No. 44 interior defender among 122 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.
  • Kai Forbath‘s contract with the Vikings is for two years at minimum salary, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN.com (Twitter link). However, the deal contains no guaranteed money, so Minnesota will easily be able to escape the pact if Forbath struggles to close the 2016 campaign. Forbath was signed to replace Blair Walsh, who was finally waived after missing several kicks this season.
  • The Lions worked out wide receiver Tyler Murphy today, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of he Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Murphy, a 2015 undrafted free agent, was waived off Miami’s injured reserve list in August and hadn’t been heard from since.

Vikings Sign Kai Forbath

The Vikings officially announced the signing of kicker Kai Forbath. It was widely reported yesterday that Forbath would be signed after Blair Walsh was handed his pink slip. Kai Forbath (vertical)

Forbath was one of several kickers to audition for the Vikings earlier this month, along with veteran Randy Bullock. He left Minnesota without a contract, but the Vikings felt compelled to make a move roughly one week later after Walsh’s latest slip up. On Sunday against Washington, Walsh missed an extra point, his fourth missed XP of the season.

Forbath split the 2015 season with the Saints and Redskins and made only 10 of his 15 attempts. He has only three missed extra points out of 127 tries, but he has yet to kick one from the new 33-yard range. Over the course of four NFL seasons, Forbath has nailed 84.1% of his field goal tries. His career-long came last year when he sank a 57-yarder.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings Release Kicker Blair Walsh

After weeks of speculation, the Vikings have given Blair Walsh his walking papers. The Vikings have released the veteran kicker, and are likely replacing him with Kai Forbath, as Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports tweetsBlair Walsh (vertical)

Walsh’s struggles have been well-documented and they reach back to last season’s unfortunate mishap in the playoffs. This year, Walsh missed more “easy” field goals and the team decided that they cannot wait any longer for him to get over the yips. Walsh leaves Minnesota with a 75% field goal percentage including one miss inside of 39 yards and two misses inside of 49 yards. Walsh has also missed four extra points from the league’s new extended range. His latest XP miss came during this past weekend’s loss to the Redskins.

Last week, special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer expressed optimism that the team’s kicker tryouts would light a fire under Walsh. He did improve in practice, but the on-field results were still shaky. Now, Forbath will try to do better as he joins his third NFL team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.