Kamar Aiken

Jets Audition DL Courtney Upshaw, WR Kamar Aiken

The Jets are working out defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw and wide receiver Kamar Aiken, reports Calvin Watkins of Newsday (Twitter links).

Upshaw, 28, entered the league as an outside linebacker, but has since morphed into a defensive end/tackle hybrid (the same role he’d likely play in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme). After joining the Falcons in 2016, Upshaw recorded 23 tackles, one forced fumble, and a half-sack in 13 appearances (five starts). Last year, Upshaw had nine total tackles and one sack and played on just 226 snaps. His only known interest this year came from the Eagles, who met with him in early May.

Aiken, like Upshaw, posted a disappointing 2017 campaign: instead of running with the Colts’ second wide receiver job, Aiken managed only 155 receptions and 133 yards in 15 games (seven starts). His last meaningful production came in 2015, when the former undrafted free agent put up nearly 1,000 yards with the Ravens. In New York, he’d compete for time on a crowded wideout depth chart that also includes Terrelle Pryor, Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, and Quincy Enunwa.

AFC Notes: Hopkins, Big Ben, Colts, Chiefs

Both the Texans and No. 1 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins would like to reach a long-term deal this summer, and odds are that it will happen, suggests John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Hopkins, due to make $7.9MM as a fifth-year option player this season, became all the more important to the Texans’ cause for 2017 after No. 2 receiver Will Fuller suffered a broken collarbone Wednesday. Fuller’s multi-month absence could mean even more opportunities for Hopkins, who easily led the Texans in both targets and receptions in each of the previous two seasons. Despite having to catch passes from middling or worse quarterbacks throughout his career, Hopkins has a history of terrific production. Thanks to his output thus far, the 25-year-old looks poised to become one of the NFL’s highest-paid wideouts in the coming weeks.

More from the AFC:

  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is keeping all options on the table beyond 2017, including retirement and playing a few more years. “I hope (to play multiple future seasons), but I’m only going to focus on this year,” Roethlisberger revealed Wednesday (via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review). Whether the 35-year-old sticks around will depend somewhat on how much of a beating his offensive line allows him to take this season. “If those guys up front are playing as well as they have been playing, getting sacked (a career-low) 17 times in (2016) — it might keep me around a little longer,” he said.
  • With 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett and free agent signing Kamar Aiken, the Colts have a pair of notable receivers behind starters T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. However, the unheralded Chester Rogers has emerged as Indy’s likely No. 3 wideout, according to Kevin Bowen of the team’s website. As an undrafted rookie last year, Rogers accrued 34 targets and 19 catches in 14 games (two starts), and he averaged 14.4 yards per catch. Both Dorsett and Aiken bettered Rogers’ counting stats in 2016, but the second-year man has nonetheless turned into a “virtual 12th starter for the Colts,” writes Bowen.
  • Defensive tackle Roy Miller‘s contract with the Chiefs is a one-year, $1.4MM pact that could be worth up to $2.5MM, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The deal includes $300K in guarantees.

AFC Notes: Jets, Bengals, Raiders, Fins, Colts

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson took to Instagram in an effort to combat a recent report that he’s “terribly out of shape” (via Connor Hughes of NJ.com). “They say I’m fat and out of shape?” Wilkerson said while running on a treadmill. “Haha. Keep sleeping on me. I’m telling you.” It seems the scout who assessed Wilkerson’s conditioning was exaggerating, as photos (links here) the 27-year-old posted on Instagram earlier this month shoot down the idea that he’s in poor shape. Still, though, Wilkerson is coming off a disappointing 2016 – the first season of a five-year, $86MM contract – and could end up a cap casualty as early as next offseason if he doesn’t bounce back. Wilkerson notched 4.5 sacks last year (down from 12 in 2015) and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 15th-worst qualified edge defender (109 qualifiers).

More from the AFC:

  • Bengals cornerback Adam Jones is no longer facing a felony charge over a January confrontation with hotel security guards, police and a nurse, reports Lisa Cornwell of the Associated Press. The felony charge resulted from Jones’ alleged “harassment of a member of the medical staff in the justice center with a bodily substance.” Specifically, Jones was accused of spitting on a nurse at the jail. If found guilty, he could have gone to jail for six to 12 months. Jones is still up against three misdemeanor charges, including assault, and the Bengals aren’t sure if they’re going to retain him.
  • One of Jones’ Bengals teammates, reserve quarterback A.J. McCarron, wouldn’t mind a trade out of Cincinnati. But Andy Dalton‘s backup isn’t going to cause problems if the Bengals don’t deal him to a starter-needy team. On the possibility of once again reporting to camp in a No. 2 role, McCarron told Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer: “It’d be tough at first. Like, because I know I’m having to go through the whole backup process again. But at the same time, that’s my job. I need to be the best backup quarterback in the league and I’m going to go there and work my [butt] off to prove that and show that I am so that they’re proud, as an organization, to sit back and say at practice if they’re watching ‘like man, I’m glad we had that guy as our backup.’ I still want to make everybody proud.” McCarron, though, expects to end up a starter sometime. “Whether it’s this year or when I’m a free agent, I think somebody’s going to take a chance on me to be a starter,” said McCarron, who’s under Bengals control for two more years.
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf reached out to commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday night about continuing the discussion to keep the Raiders, a source tells Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (on Twitter). There has been no significant progress on that front, however. Despite Schaaf’s efforts, it appears the Raiders’ departure from Oakland is inevitable.
  • Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso‘s three-year extension adds an even $25MM to the $3.91MM he’ll earn in 2017, tweets Tom Pelissero of USA Today. The $28.91MM deal includes $16MM in fully guaranteed money for Alonso, who’s now slated to remain with the Dolphins through the 2020 season.
  • Wide receiver Kamar Aiken‘s one-year pact with the Colts is worth $2.6MM – $1.5MM of which is guaranteed – and features up to $600K in per-game roster bonuses, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Colts To Sign WR Kamar Aiken

Former Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken is expected to sign with the Colts, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). It’ll be a one-year deal, Stephen Holder of the Indy Star tweets. Kamar Aiken (vertical)

Aiken, 28 in May, had only 29 receptions for the Ravens in 2016 after putting up 75 catches the year prior. Still, we had Aiken ranked the best free agent receiver heading into today, putting him ahead of notables like Victor Cruz, Brian Quick, Brandon LaFell, Anquan Boldin, Ted Ginn, and Vincent Jackson.

Exact terms of the deal are not yet known, but this could prove to be a quality value signing for the Colts. From Aiken’s perspective, however, it’s surprising that this was apparently the best opportunity he had to rebuild his value. The Colts’ passing game figures to be strong in 2017 and Aiken is probably looking forward to catching passes from Andrew Luck. At the same time, the Colts already have T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett at receiver.

Before landing in Indy, the Seahawks also showed interest in Aiken.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Offense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive 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 offensive position for 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Jay Cutler
  2. Chase Daniel
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  4. Colin Kaepernick
  5. Josh McCown
  6. Robert Griffin III
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Christian Ponder
  11. Blaine Gabbert
  12. Ryan Nassib
  13. Shaun Hill
  14. Kellen Moore
  15. Austin Davis

Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.

Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018. Jay Cutler (Vertical)

Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.

Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.

Running back:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. LeGarrette Blount
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Rashad Jennings
  5. Tim Hightower
  6. DeAngelo Williams
  7. Chris Johnson
  8. Christine Michael
  9. Benny Cunningham
  10. Bobby Rainey
  11. Brandon Bolden
  12. Denard Robinson
  13. James Starks
  14. Matt Asiata
  15. Kenjon Barner

Honorable mention: DuJuan Harris, Antonio AndrewsKhiry Robinson

Adrian Peterson (vertical)The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.

Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.

In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.

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Colts, Seahawks Meeting With Kamar Aiken

Free agent wide receiver Kamar Aiken is visiting the Colts today, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). If he doesn’t sign right away, Aiken will then travel to Seattle to meet with the Seahawks on Monday. Kamar Aiken (vertical)

Aiken, 28 in May, had only 29 receptions for the Ravens in 2016 after putting up 75 catches the year prior. Still, we had Aiken ranked as one of the 15 best available receivers heading into free agency, slotting him ahead of notables like Victor Cruz, Brian Quick, Brandon LaFell, Anquan Boldin, Ted Ginn, and Vincent Jackson. When we update the offensive positional rankings later today, Aiken will be at or near the top of the WR list.

We haven’t heard a lot about Aiken in the last week or so, but it sounds like his market is starting to pick up. Baltimore may or may not be looking to bring him back, but we do know that the team has been looking to fortify its wide receiver group. The Ravens thought they were close to a deal with Torrey Smith until he chose the Eagles instead.

The Colts wouldn’t give Aiken a clear path to playing time with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett already on the roster. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson, and Jermaine Kearse in their top four spots. Seattle could give Aiken a better opportunity to occupy a WR3 role.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Pats, Bengals, Mixon, Fins, Aiken

Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy has completed his visit with the Patriots and will continue taking meetings with other clubs, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). The Ravens, meanwhile, would still like to re-sign Guy, but their overall level of interest is unclear. PFR ranked Guy as the No. 12 interior defender heading into the free agent period.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • The Bengals will host controversial Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon on a private visit, reports Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com. Cincinnati was one of four clubs — including Cleveland, Detroit, and New Orleans — that met with Dixon last week. Because Mixon was not invited to the combine, the Bengals want the opportunity to speak “extensively” with Mixon about his character, per Terrell.
  • Although the Dolphins made a “late attempt” to retain tight end Dion Sims, they offered roughly $2MM less per season than the Bears, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Chicago ultimately signed Sims to a three-year, $18MM deal that features $6MM in guarantees. Miami has since signed veteran Anthony Fasano to fill the void at tight end.
  • Three teams are interested in free agent wide receiver Kamar Aiken, tweets La Canfora (although he doesn’t identify the clubs). Aiken, 27, managed only 29 receptions for the Ravens in 2016 after putting up 75 catches the year prior.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Offense

NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.

Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.

Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Updated 3-7-2017, 2:55pm CT

Quarterback:

  1. Mike Glennon
  2. Nick Foles
  3. Brian Hoyer (story)
  4. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  5. Colin Kaepernick
  6. Josh McCown
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Christian Ponder
  12. Blaine Gabbert
  13. Geno Smith
  14. Matt Schaub (story)
  15. EJ Manuel

Honorable mention: Ryan Nassib, Landry JonesShaun Hill Mike Glennon (vertical)

Colin Kaepernick’s agents have (wisely) let everyone know that their client will stand for the National Anthem in 2017. That may seem like a minor point, but teams say they would have automatically removed him from consideration if he continued his attention-grabbing protest. He grabbed headlines for his actions on the sidelines last year, but he actually turned in an OK season. From a football standpoint, Kaepernick would make sense for a lot of teams as a QB2 with upside.

Interestingly, this list includes three quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it as the Jets’ starter and three rejects from the 49ers. They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all six of those players (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert) come with varying degrees of potential and proven effectiveness. Smith, somehow, could reportedly be retained by the Jets and installed as the starter in 2017.

Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.

Running back:

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Jamaal Charles
  6. Darren McFadden
  7. Jacquizz Rodgers
  8. Rex Burkhead
  9. Rashad Jennings
  10. Danny Woodhead
  11. Tim Hightower
  12. DeAngelo Williams
  13. Andre Ellington
  14. Chris Johnson
  15. Christine Michael

Honorable mention: Robert Turbin, Travaris Cadet, Benny Cunningham, Lance Dunbar, Bobby Rainey, Brandon BoldenDenard Robinson, James Starks

Adrian Peterson (vertical)As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.

The Patriots believe they won’t be able to match the offers that come in LeGarrette Blount‘s direction. Latavius Murray could circle back to the Raiders, but he won’t be agreeing to a deal with them before free agency opens on Thursday.

Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.

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Ravens WR Kamar Aiken Drawing Interest

Wide receiver Kamar Aiken has roughly six teams interested in him, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets. The Bills, Browns, and Seahawks appear to be the strongest candidates for his services at this time. It’s not immediately clear whether the incumbent Ravens are among the teams with interest. Kamar Aiken (vertical)

Late last month, we ranked Aiken as one of the 15 best wide receivers available. However, he’s not exactly coming off of a banner year. Aiken was a central piece in the Baltimore offense in 2015 with 75 receptions (127 targets), 944 yards, and five touchdowns. This past year, his numbers dropped dramatically as he recorded just 50 targets, 29 receptions, 328 yards, and only one TD. He also had just six starts as opposed to his 14 in the previous campaign.

During the season, Aiken lobbied offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg for an increased role. Nothing came of those talks and Mornhinweg will return for another season, so we probably shouldn’t bank on a reunion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

[UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST EDITION OF THE TOP 2017 NFL FREE AGENTS BY POSITION]

NFL free agency will get underway on Thursday, March 9th, 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.

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 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Mike Glennon
  3. Nick Foles
  4. Brian Hoyer
  5. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  6. Case Keenum
  7. Matt McGloin
  8. Mark Sanchez
  9. Geno Smith
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Josh McCown
  12. Christian Ponder
  13. Blaine Gabbert
  14. Matt Schaub
  15. Ryan Nassib

Honorable mention: Shaun Hill

As of this writing, Kirk Cousins is far and away the best potential free agent quarterback in this year’s crop. By the time March gets here, we’re fully expecting Cousins to be spoken for. Ultimately, the Redskins could franchise tag him, work out a long-term deal with him, or swing some type of trade that nets them a massive haul of talent and picks. That will leave a crop of retread quarterbacks that would probably best serve as transitional options for QB-needy teams. Kirk Cousins

Mike Glennon hasn’t done much in his 18 career starts, but talent evaluators are still in love with his size and potential. The 6’7″ quarterback will get more money this spring than you might expect, particularly since there are no surefire QBs in this year’s draft.

Teams looking for stopgap QBs will find a plethora of experienced, though perhaps uninspiring, signal callers. Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick all have their best football behind them, but they could hold down the fort for a team in 2017 and maybe even find some success if the defense is strong enough. Of course, the ideal role for those guys would probably be as a backup to a better, younger quarterback.

Running back:

  1. Le’Veon Bell
  2. Eddie Lacy
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Darren McFadden
  6. Jacquizz Rodgers
  7. Rashad Jennings
  8. Danny Woodhead
  9. Rex Burkhead
  10. Tim Hightower
  11. DeAngelo Williams
  12. Andre Ellington
  13. Chris Johnson
  14. Christine Michael
  15. Robert Turbin

Consider Le’Veon Bell‘s name written in Etch-A-Sketch, because he is very unlikely to get near the open market. That could leave Eddie Lacy as the best tailback available in March. Lacy has struggled with weight issues in recent years and he lost much of the 2016 season to injury. Still, he is a bruising back that could nicely complement a quicker ball carrier. Before he was shut down for the year, Lacy was averaging 5.07 yards per carry in five games for Green Bay.

LeGarrette Blount (vertical)In the last two years, LeGarrette Blount seems to have put his off-the-field troubles behind him. Whether that’s a sign of his maturity or a product of the Patriots’ culture remains to be seen. Teams can ignore his past indiscretions, but they will be wary of his age. Blount turns 31 in December.

Latavius Murray has shown glimpses of being a special running back, but he has been inconsistent and his 4.0 yards-per-carry average of the last two years isn’t overly impressive. Darren McFadden ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2015, but 2016 was pretty much a lost year for him. Jacquizz Rodgers seemed to break out last year, but he wound up succumbing to the same injury bug that took down a host of other Buccaneers running backs. Speaking of injuries, Rashad Jennings was initially brought to the Giants to be a workhorse back, but two of his three years in New York were marred by ailments. Everyone in this tier has the potential to make a difference, but none should be counted on as anyone’s main guy in 2017.

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