October 11th, 2019 at 10:37am CST by Zachary Links
The Falcons will sign punter/kickoff specialist Kasey Redfern, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Redfern will join the practice squad on Friday but will be added to the active roster for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.
Redfern, it seems, will take the place of Matt Wile, who was signed after Matt Bosher landed on injured reserve. The Falcons, just a couple of days ago, also inked former University of Arkansas punter Sam Irwin-Hill to the practice squad, so there’s still some punter shuffling to be sorted out.
Wile struggled against the Texans and launched multiple kickoffs out of bounds. The Falcons lost 53-32, dropping them to 1-4 on the season.
September 2nd, 2019 at 8:32pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
In the wake of all the cuts that have taken place over the past few days, there are a ton of players looking for new homes. Many teams are bringing guys in for tryouts, and we’ll keep track of all of today’s here, all courtesy of veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (on Twitter).
There were a few notable names, including former-first round pick offensive guard Joshua Garnett, who worked out for the Seahawks. The 49ers drafted Garnett 28th overall in 2016, and he started 11 games as a rookie. He then missed the entire 2017 season with an injury, and didn’t make any starts last year. The 49ers were able to save $1.7MM by cutting him, and they jumped at the opportunity. Perhaps he’ll be able to revive his career with an NFC West rival.
The Dolphins are hosting offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb, who has plenty of starting experience. After trading away Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins are understandably looking for tackle help. Webb started 16 games for the Raiders as recently as 2015, and one for the Colts last season before being placed on IR. He’s been around since 2010, and spent his first three seasons as a starter with the Bears. As Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald quipped in a tweet, it’s “not optimal” that the Dolphins are potentially looking for a starting tackle six days before the opener.
The Bills appear to be looking for a punter, as they worked out a group of them today.
August 31st, 2019 at 8:27pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The Cowboys have made their cuts to get down to 53 players. Nothing too surprising on this list, although there is at least one interesting takeaway. The Cowboys cut three running backs, leaving Alfred Morris and Tony Pollard as the only two currently with the team. That’s a strong indicator that the team is expecting Ezekiel Elliott back before Week 1.
Receiver Devin Smith also made the roster as their final receiver, which is a nice feel-good story. Drafted by the Jets 37th overall back in 2015, multiple ACL tears derailed his promising career. Smith has had brutal injury luck and hasn’t appeared in a game since 2016, so this is nice to see.
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:
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 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
Although there are a number of high-quality starting linebackers available in free agency this year, I predict most contracts signed by LBs over the next few weeks will come in lower that most expect. The linebacker market is relatively stagnant, and unless the player is a legitimate star or inking an extension with his original club, he’s usually disappointed with his annual value. The most expensive deal for an unrestricted free agent ‘backer who signed with a new team was Bruce Irvin‘s $9.25MM/year pact with the Raiders, and Irvin can almost be considered an edge rusher. After Irvin, it’s Danny Trevathan, whom the Bears signed for a $7MM annual value in 2016.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if no linebacker listed above is able to top Trevathan’s two-year-old average, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t starting-caliber LBs on the market. Zach Brown, the poster boy for having to accept cheap contracts, is coming off another solid season, but is reportedly asking for top-three inside linebacker money. Good luck. Similarly, Demario Davis is looking for $8-10MM annually, while the Jets — who have interest in re-signing him — view him as a $3-4MM/year player.
Nigel Bradham and NaVorro Bowman should both come in around Trevathan’s $7MM average after posting excellent 2017 campaigns. While the Eagles would surely prefer to re-sign Bradham, the club’s dire cap situation may mean Bradham will hit the open market next Wednesday. Bowman, meanwhile, was traded from the 49ers to Raiders last season, and he seems like a good bet to stay with Oakland after new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther heaped lavish praise on the 29-year-old.
Top-to-bottom, the cornerback market is the deepest positional group on the defensive side of the ball. Need a No. 1 defensive back with experience in both man and zone? Trumaine Johnson is your guy. How about a top-end cornerback who, while admittedly up-and-down at times, has the ability to shut down opposing wide receivers? Malcolm Butler has you covered. A former first-round pick who has finally played up to his potential over the past two seasons? Take a look at Morris Claiborne. Or is a career journeyman who posted 10 excellent games last year more your speed? Look into Rashaan Melvin.
Slot cornerbacks are also prevalent in this year’s defensive back market, and while I ranked Aaron Colvin, T.J. Carrie, Patrick Robinson, and Nickell Robey-Coleman in order of my preference, they could each be plugged into a starting nickel package immediately. I originally though Robinson could land a disappointing deal given his age (31) and his track record of underwhelming play prior to 2017, but he’s already garnering interest from the Giants, Raiders, and Cardinals, so his market should allow him to reach at least $5MM annually. Colvin could garner even more than Robinson thanks his youth (26), and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com expects Colvin to have a “legit” market.
If teams are looking for a bargain at cornerback, they should target Ross Cockrell, whom the Steelers dealt to the Giants last year for a seventh-round pick. Cockrell has always been overlooked in the NFL, but he keeps producing results. In 2017, Cockrell finished first in Football Outsiders’ success rate, which measures cornerbacks on their ability to consistently stop opposing wideouts short of the sticks. In fact, Cockrell was one of only eight defenders who stopped a receiver short of a successful gain on over half their tackles a season ago, as FO’s Aaron Schatz recently tweeted, but the league consistently undervalues him and his skill-set.
The best free agent safety was taken off the board earlier today when the Rams used the franchise tag on Lamarcus Joyner, and the remaining market is extremely top-heavy. Eric Reid, Morgan Burnett, Tre Boston, and Kenny Vaccaro could all be in line for at least $5MM annually, but the rest of the class could struggle to find multi-year deals. Among the top-tier safeties, Vaccaro stands out as perhaps the most interesting name. A first-round pick in 2013, Vaccarro has posted three exemplary campaigns and two dreadful years; in 2017, Pro Football Focus ranked Vaccaro as the single-worst safety in the league among 87 qualifiers. But given his draft pedigree and his ability to man the slot, Vaccaro should land a solid deal.
While I like Reid and Burnett a bit more as players, it wouldn’t be a shock if Boston actually lands the largest contract. Reid and Burnett spend a lot of time close to the line of scrimmage, and both have been used as de factor linebackers from time to time. Boston, on the other hand, is a deep safety who can play coverage, and that repertoire is much more difficult to find on the open market. Similarly, Tyvon Branch has been great in coverage during his career with the Raiders, Chiefs, and Cardinals, so he could also see a nice pay bump next week.
After Branch, the crop of available safeties steeply drops off. Every other free agent we’ve listed above will be at at least 29 years old when the 2018 gets underway except for the Lions’ Tavon Wilson, and he was one of the NFL’s worst starting defensive backs last season. Veterans like Corey Graham or Ron Parker can still play as third safeties who see time in “big nickel” packages, but if you’re looking for a starting safety, you’ll want to bring in one of the top six defensive backs on the board.
September 11th, 2017 at 11:20am CST by Zachary Links
Lions punter Kasey Redfern is done for the year. Redfern suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and partial tear of the patellar tendon in Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Redfern will be placed on injured reserve, likely later today or tomorrow.
The injury took place after Redfern bobbled a snap in the Lions’ end zone and ran with the ball. He was hit hard around the ten-yard line – shy of the first down marker – causing his leg to hit the ground at an awkward angle.
Redfern was signed to serve as the team’s punter while Sam Martin is on the non-football injury list. The Lions will now have to look into a Plan C. Kicker Matt Prater took over punting duties on Sunday, but the Lions will almost certainly sign a full-time punter this week.
September 10th, 2017 at 9:01pm CST by Dallas Robinson
Former NFL wide receiver Jordan Norwood has announced his retirement, tweets Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. Norwood, played in parts of five seasons with the Eagles, Browns, and — most recently — Broncos, totaling 79 receptions, 844 yards, and two touchdowns during that time. Norwood’s most notable NFL time came in Denver, with whom he won a Super Bowl in 2015. PFR extends it best wishes to Norwood in retirement.
Here’s more from around the league:
While Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t active for tonight’s Giants game against the Cowboys, he’s expected to be a full go when New York faces Detroit in Week 2, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Beckham, of course, suffered an ankle injury during the preseason that forced him to sit out for Week 1. The dynamic wideout’s absence has unsurprisingly affected the Giants’ offensive output thus far, as Big Blue has yet to score a single point against Dallas.
Responding to a report that he was “irate” at the Browns‘ decision to release cornerback Joe Haden, head coach Hue Jackson said he works in “lockstep” with Cleveland’s front office, reports Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (Twitter link). The Browns parted ways with Haden just before the season in a move that will cause them to absorb $10.9MM in dead money over the next two year. Playing against his old team as a member of the Steelers today, Haden graded as the NFL’s No. 53 cornerback among 75 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.
Offensive guard Alex Boone‘s one-year deal with the Cardinals is worth $1.4MM, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link). Boone, 30, can also make another $600K via playtime incentives. Additionally, Boone is scheduled to earn $3.4MM as part of his Vikings contract, which does not contain offset language. Boone will begin his Arizona tenure as a backup, but could conceivably start later in the season.
The Lions may be on the lookout for a new punter, as Kasey Redfern suffered a “significant” injury during today’s contest, head coach Jim Caldwell told reporters, including Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. Redfern is already an injury replacement, as he’s filling in for incumbent Sam Martin, who was placed on the non-football injury list during final cutdowns.
Restricted free agent wide receiver Dontrelle Inman has signed his second-round tender, the Chargers announced today. Inman will now earn a non-guaranteed $2.797MM base salary for the 2017 campaign. The 28-year-old former undrafted free agent broke out last season, catching 58 balls, 810 yards, and four touchdowns from quarterback Philip Rivers. Inman will return to a Los Angeles wideout corps that includes Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, and Travis Benjamin.
The Lions have signed free agent punter Kasey Redfern, according to a team announcement. Redfern, 25, was sent to the Browns last August as part of the Panthers’ Andy Lee acquisition, but didn’t end up making Cleveland’s final roster. A Wofford alum, Redfern has bounced around the NFL since entering the league in 2014, but has yet to appear in a pro contest. Detroit signed punter Sam Martin to a four-year extension in September, so Redfern won’t act as anything more than a camp body in the Motor City.