Kareem Martin

Contract Details: Lotulelei, Bradham, Lewis

Let’s take a look at the details from the latest contracts signed in the NFL:

Giants To Sign LB Kareem Martin

The Giants are expected to sign former Cardinals outside linebacker Kareem Martin, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Martin, of course, has history with new Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcherso he should be a natural fit. It’ll be a three-year deal for the defender worth $21MM ($7.5MM guaranteed), according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan (via Twitter).

Martin, our 14th ranked edge defender, appeared in all 16 games for the Cardinals last season, including ten starts. He finished out with 22 tackles, one sack, and nabbed his first career interception.

Martin earned a solid 75.2 overall score from Pro Football Focus, the best of his career. He ranked as the 57th best edge defender out of 106 qualified players.

The 26-year-old made a career-high 10 starts last season and recorded a sack and 18 tackles, along with his first career interception. The Cardinals took Martin in the third round of the 2014 draft out of North Carolina.

Martin is likely to work in a backup role with the Giants as they have Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon on the edges. He’ll work in with a group that also includes Ray-Ray Armstrong and Thurston Armbrister. The Giants were going to be thin with their depth at defensive end as Kerry Wynn is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Martin becomes the Giants’ second free-agent addition over the last two days, with the team agreeing to terms with running back Jonathan Stewart on Monday as well.

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

Extra Points: Nagy, Cowboys, Cards, Pugh

The Chiefs‘ offense bounced back after a rough stretch, going off for 31 points and four Alex Smith touchdown passes in a loss to the Jets. While Kansas City’s defense couldn’t hold up in a shootout, the team will be sticking with the offensive setup that authored the mini-turnaround. OC Matt Nagy will continue to call plays, B.J. Kissel of KCChiefs.com tweets. The 474 yards the Chiefs put up were the most since their 537-yard explosion against the Patriots in Week 1. The Chiefs host the Raiders in what’s close to a must-win game. Nagy has been mentioned as a head-coaching candidate, and these games he has play-calling responsibilities could be a key factor in whether he’ll get that opportunity in 2018.

Here’s the latest from around the league.

  • Despite a 2018 roster that almost certainly will still house Chandler Jones, Markus Golden and Haason Reddick, the Cardinals are interested in bringing back outside linebacker Kareem Martin, Mike Jurecki of Arizonasports.com tweets. Martin’s a pending UFA and has been a part-time starter since being selected in the 2014 third round. Jurecki notes the team likes Martin’s versatility. Although, Arizona has used plenty of capital in stocking this position already.
  • The Cowboys will be without Orlando Scandrick, David Irving and Justin Durant against the Giants on Sunday, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Scandrick suffered two transverse process fractures, while Durant and Irving remain in concussion protocol. The 6-6 Cowboys are clinging to contention and will need to complete a sweep of their NFC East rival to stay in the race.
  • Justin Pugh will be unavailable for the Giants. The upper-echelon blocker now faces the prospect of heading into free agency on a low note. Pugh’s back injury could force him to IR, Tom Rock of Newsday notes. Pugh said he wants to return this season but is also cognizant of his status. “I don’t want to,” he said of the prospect of being shut down for the season. “(But) I don’t want to make (the injury) even worse. It’s not at a point now where I have to get surgery or anything like that, and I don’t want it to get to that point.” Both Pugh and Weston Richburg, who is on IR, will see their contracts expire at season’s end. Pugh’s played in eight games this season.
  • Rookie Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson is expected to miss multiple weeks due to an ankle injury sustained against the Falcons, Nick Underhill of The Advocate tweets. A third-round pick, Hendrickson has played in 12 games for the Saints this season as a backup.

Cardinals Notes: Dennard, Collins, Martin

Bruce Arians said the Cardinals were “extremely comfortable” at cornerback after the recent draft in which they took zero cornerbacks. However, today’s signing of Alfonzo Dennard shows they’re still on the look for upgrades, Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com writes. Dennard, a seventh-round pick of the Patriots in 2012, started 20 games in three seasons with New England. The Cardinals are looking to keep a solid secondary following the departures of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, both now with the Jets. Here’s more out of Arizona..

  • In an interview on SiriusXM, Cardinals GM Steve Keim called this year’s UDFA class the best that the team has ever signed, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com tweets.
  • When asked about the possibility of signing La’el Collins, the Cardinals GM said it’s a “pretty tough decision” until there’s “some type of info you can hang your hat on,” Weinfuss tweets.
  • Keim says that the Cardinals will be moving defensive lineman Kareem Martin to outside linebacker in 2015, Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com tweets. Martin would make for a very menacing linebacker at 6’6″ and 270 pounds.

Cards Sign Second-Round Pick Troy Niklas

The Cardinals announced that they have signed second-round pick Troy Niklas, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The club also announced officially the signings of third round picks Kareem Martin and John Brown.

Niklas, a tight end out of Notre Dame, is a solid blocker but he also had 32 catches for 498 yards and five touchdowns in 2013, so opposing defenses will have to respect his pass catching ability. The Cardinals used offensive tackle Bobby Massie in jumbo packages last season, but plugging Niklas in that role in 2014 will help keep defenses honest. Arizona General Manager Steve Keim feels like he has a hybrid in Niklas and believes that he has an incredibly high ceiling. “This, to me, is a guy who could really transcend into being one of the top all-around tight ends at some point in his career,” Keim said, according to Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com.

We learned earlier today that the Cards agreed to terms with Martin, a defensive end out of UNC. Division II Pittsburg State isn’t known as a football powerhouse, but Brown, taken with the No. 91 overall pick, showed that he was NFL material during his time there. A three-time Division II All-American, the wide receiver virtually re-wrote the record books, setting new watermarks in career catches (185), receiving yards (3,330), and touchdowns (32).

Draft Signings: Chiefs, Cards, Texans, Cowboys

We’ve already rounded up several draft pick signings a couple times today, but with teams and players motivated to hammer out deals, there are another handful of updates to pass along this afternoon. Let’s dive right in….

  • The Chiefs have locked up third-round cornerback Phillip Gaines, his reps tell ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link). Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s James Walker reports (via Twitter) that fourth-rounder De’Anthony Thomas has also signed with Kansas City. According to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com, Gaines should receive a signing bonus worth about $549K, while Thomas’ will be worth around $420K.
  • The Cardinals have agreed to terms with third-round pick Kareem Martin, a source tells Caplan (Twitter link). That would make Martin the first Arizona draftee to sign so far.
  • After signing Ben Gardner earlier today, the Cowboys have agreed to terms with two more draftees, according to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who writes that seventh-round linebacker Will Smith has agreed to his deal, and tweets that seventh-round cornerback Terrance Mitchell has done the same.
  • The Texans have agreed to terms with quarterback Tom Savage, tweets John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Houston’s fourth-round pick will be in line for a bonus of just over $300K, according to Fitzgerald.
  • A couple agents broke their clients’ own news this afternoon, with Mike McCartney tweeting that Princeton DT Caraun Reid has signed his contract with the Lions, while Blake Baratz announced (via Twitter) that sixth-rounder Zach Moore is the first draftee to sign with the Patriots.
  • The Colts have signed sixth-round linebacker Andrew Jackson, the team announced today in a press release.
  • According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter), the Packers have signed fifth-round pick Corey Linsley. Linsley’s signing bonus should be worth $185K, based on Fitzgerald’s figures at OTC.
  • The Seahawks have signed Kiero Small to his rookie contract, a source tells Curtis Crabtree of KJR in Seattle. The seventh-round fullback is the second of nine Seahawks draft picks to sign.
  • The Texans and Eagles have signed seventh-rounders, according to various reports. Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston has the details on Texans cornerback Andre Hal, while Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com tweets the new on Eagles defensive tackle Beau Allen.

NFC Notes: Will Hill, Julio Jones, Vikings

We rounded up several NFC West notes earlier this morning, but there are plenty more items to pass along from around the rest of the conference. Let’s dive in and check out the latest….

  • Giants safety Will Hill is facing another drug-related suspension and plans to appeal the results in hopes of avoiding a lengthy absence. However, as Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News writes, Hill is likely “done” with the Giants regardless of the appeal’s outcome, since the club is “livid” at the 24-year-old’s continued drug issues.
  • Speaking to reporters today, including ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure (Twitter link), Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated Julio Jones “is going to be an Atlanta Falcon for a long, long, long time.” Smith didn’t specifically address Jones’ fifth-year option, but I imagine the only way that won’t be exercised is if Atlanta reaches a longer-term agreement with Jones before the May 3 deadline.
  • Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) adds offensive tackle Greg Robinson to the list of prospects visiting the Falcons this week.
  • A source tells Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link) that Blake Bortles won’t be visiting or working out for the Vikings. It’s hard to know how to interpret the report — if it’s Bortles’ decision, he may be confident he’ll be drafted before the Vikings pick at No. 8. If it’s Minnesota’s decision, perhaps the team simply knows all it needs to after watching Bortles and meeting with him at his Pro Day.
  • Speaking of Vikings quarterbacks, Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune, with the help of cap expert Joel Corry, explains why the club’s decision on Christian Ponder‘s fifth-year option isn’t as simple as it may seem on the surface.
  • We heard yesterday that Kareem Martin has visited the Vikings, and Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link) says the Cowboys and Panthers will also be hosting the UNC defensive end.
  • The Lions invited five tryout players to minicamp, according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com (via Twitter): Kevin Matthews (C), Sherman Carter (G), Josh Jenkins (G), Cordaro Howard (T), and Jordan Thompson (TE).

NFC Notes: Clayborn, Falcons, Vikings, Lions

Although a number of teams exercised fifth-year options on 2011 first-rounders today, one player who doesn’t appear likely to have his option picked up is Adrian Clayborn of the Buccaneers, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. A source tells Florio that the Bucs aren’t expected to exercise the defensive end’s option, and also aren’t considering trading him to another team that would pick up the option. As such, it looks like the former 20th overall pick will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2014 season.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Jadeveon Clowney‘s visit with the Falcons will happen on Wednesday, tweets Josina Anderson of ESPN.com. Meanwhile, running back Carlos Hyde will pay a visit to Atlanta on Wednesday as well, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (via Twitter). Hyde has also visited the Titans and Patriots, adds Pelissero (via Twitter).
  • Kurt Coleman‘s new one-year contract with the Vikings is worth $900K, but none of that total is guaranteed, says Ben Goessling of ESPN.com.
  • The Vikings hosted North Carolina defensive end Kareem Martin for a pre-draft visit last week, a source tells Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Tomasson’s source suggests that Martin, who figures to be a second- or third-round pick, would be a nice fit in Minnesota.
  • USC center Marcus Martin and Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste both visited the Lions today, and Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com has details on the pair of prospects.
  • The Seahawks also hosted a couple of prospects today — Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post says Washington State safety Deone Bucannon has a two-day visit with the club, while Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net tweets that Fresno State wideout Davante Adams was also in Seattle.