The Titans have signed safety Kendrick Lewis, according to a team press release. In a related move, the Titans released linebacker Denzel Johnson.
Lewis was out of football in 2017 but he offers a great deal of starting experience over the years. Out of 90 career games with the Chiefs, Texans, and Ravens, the safety was first-string for 81 of those contests.
Lewis turned in a standout season in 2014 with Houston as he finished the year with 84 tackles, six passes defended, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions. His 2015 with Baltimore wasn’t too shabby either. In 2016, unfortunately, he only saw time in six games as a reserve and was limited due to injury.
It was a quiet offseason for Lewis up until his deal with the Titans. His only other previously reported workout came with the Saints in January and he left New Orleans without a deal.
Lewis, who has nine career interceptions, will look to make the Titans’ final cut. By the sound of it, Lewis is probably playing on a one-year deal with little or no guarantees.
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 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 2017:
The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.
Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).
Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.
The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.
While players at other defensive positions have flown off the board, there’s been almost no movement among off-ball linebackers. Only five of PFR’s original top-15 free agent linebackers have signed new contracts, a group that includes Dont’a Hightower, our previous No. 1 ‘backer who re-signed with the Patriots today. Zach Brown, who now holds that honor, broke out in his fifth NFL campaign and played especially well in coverage, a skill that should lead to a handsome reward. Brown, 27, met with the Raiders today, while the Dolphins also hope to schedule a visit.
The Bengals, specifically, are in the linebackermarket, as they’ve met with both Kevin Minter and Keenan Robinson in recent days. But the rest of the players on this list aren’t drawing much interest as of yet, a fact that speaks to the devaluation of the linebacker position. Teams will pay up for a three-down linebacker like Hightower, but if a player can be formation-ed off the field, he’s not going to land a hefty deal.
One linebacker who did prove he could stay on the field on third down was Perry Riley, who played 370 coverage snaps for the Raiders last season. Riley is still only 28 years old, but posted awful marks from Pro Football Focus during his previous campaigns with Washington. Whether it was Oakland’s scheme (including its talented pass rushers) that allowed Riley to flourish, or a true breakout coming in the middle of a career, Riley could help a number of clubs. The Raiders are reportedly working to bring him back.
The top two corners still on the open market are both former Cowboys, and Brandon Carr looks like the surer bet to return to Dallas at this point. Morris Claiborne, meanwhile, has drawn interest from the Ravens, and most opposing clubs believe he’ll end up signing with Baltimore. Clairborne, 27, appeared to be a prime overpay candidate heading into the offseason, but if the Ravens can land him on a short-term deal, they’d be making a wise investment.
Now that all charges have been dropped against Darrelle Revis, he’ll make for an interesting test case in free agency. Clearly, Revis is not the shutdown corner he once was, and may even be mulling a move to safety as he closes his career. But clubs in the market for secondary help could do worse than Revis, and he should be on a roster when the regular season rolls around.
Most of the safeties on this list are in-the-box types — that’s thanks to the fact that center field-esque safeties are more rare and thus more expensive. Recently-released veterans such as Jairus Byrd, Lardarius Webb, and Corey Graham, however, offer coverage ability and would make for decent signings on short pacts. T.J. McDonald and Bradley McDougald, on other hand, are big hitters that will patrol near the line of scrimmage. McDougald, specifically, will take a visit with the Seahawks this week.
Chris Prosinski is just a special teamer, but he’s a great special teamer. While he only played 173 defensive snaps in 2016, he saw time on more than 80% of the Bears’ special teams plays, and was listed as one of the season’s best special teams players by Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus. Football Outsiders ranked the Cardinals, Jets, and Texans as the bottom-three teams in special teams DVOA, and any of those clubs would benefit from adding Prosinski.
Demand is not high for placekickers at the moment, as only the Giants and Bengals stand out as clubs that immediately need a kicker. Injuries and ineffectiveness are sure to strike the position, however, at which point the specialists on this list will surely receive calls. Dan Carpenter and Mike Nugent missed a combined 11 extra points in 2016, and given that he topped both Carpenter and Nugent in field goal percentage, Nick Folk should be the first kicker on clubs’ emergency list.
The Ravens have released cornerback Shareece Wright and safety Kendrick Lewis, per a team announcement. The moves will save a combined $4.9MM in cap space.
Wright signed with the 49ers prior to the 2015 season but wound up being a healthy scratch for the first four games of the year. He was then scooped up by the Ravens and wound up being the team’s best corner in those eleven regular season games. After that, he was rewarded with a three-year deal worth up to $16MM including $5MM guaranteed. This past season, however, his performance slipped and he missed one-quarter of the games.
Prior to this season, Lewis had been plenty productive. After spending the first four seasons of his career in Kansas City, the 2010 fifth-round pick had a standout campaign in 2014 with the Texans. The defender finished the year with 84 tackles, six passes defended, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions. His 2015 with Baltimore wasn’t too shabby either. Last year, unfortunately, was pretty much a lost season for Lewis as he appeared in just six games.
It’s time to add another name to the Ravens’ continually rolling list of running backs. According to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter), the Ravens will be activating running back Lorenzo Taliaferrofrom the PUP list. Zrebiec notes that the team has also promoted cornerback Robertson Daniel from the practice squad. Safety Kendrick Lewis has been placed on the injured reserve, while tight end Dan Brown has been waived.
Taliaferro, 24, has had issues staying healthy since entering the league as a fourth-round pick in 2014. The Coastal Carolina product has made 16 appearances over two seasons, running for 339 yards and five touchdowns on 81 carries (4.2 average). Taliaferro also has 13 career receptions for 114 yards. He’ll presumably compete with Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon and Javorius Allen for snaps in the backfield.
Lewis will certainly be missed in the Ravens secondary, although the 28-year-old hasn’t played a significant role this season. After starting 15 games for Baltimore in 2015, Lewis had only collected six tackles this season. The team will be replacing the veteran with Daniel, who has also spent time with the Redskins, Raiders, and Packers. The cornerback was signed to the Ravens’ practice squad earlier this month.
Brown, a former undrafted free agent, had issues establishing himself on a team that also features tight ends Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, and Darren Waller. In eight career games, the 24-year-old has six receptions for 64 yards.
The Ravens have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with former Texans safety Kendrick Lewis, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN (via Twitter).
The deal is pending a physical, expected for early next week, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter).
Lewis graded out positively in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus, leading the Texans’ secondary in snap count (subscription required). He will join a secondary that struggled last season. He will likely compete with Matt Elam for the starting spot opposite Will Hill, who was arguably the best member of the defensive backfield by the end of the year.
The Texans wanted to keep Lewis in Houston, but he was not interested in backing up Rahim Moore in 2015, so he decided to pursue a starting role elsewhere, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter).
As anticipated, Derrick Morgan left his meeting in Tampa Bay today without signing with the Buccaneers, tweets Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. The Cowboys are expected to be next on Morgan’s list of visits, and the Titans still want to re-sign him as well. As for the Bucs, if they decide to move on from Morgan, it’s not clear who they’d target instead. Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that the club has yet to reach out to George Selvie, who played his college ball at the University of South Florida.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham paid a visit to the Raiders this week, and still could sign with the team, but nothing is imminent at the moment, tweets Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
There’s “genuine mutual interest” between the Packers and free agent cornerback Tramon Williams, reports Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com (via Twitter). Having lost Davon House in free agency, Green Bay could use some depth at corner, and Williams, who has received some interest from around the league, is certainly a player the team is familiar with.
Despite locking up free agent safety Rahim Moore today, the Texans would still like to bring back their own free agent, Kendrick Lewis, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). As McClain notes, Houston often utilizes three safeties on defense.
Washington has inquired on free agent safety Taylor Mays and there’s “mutual interest” between the two sides, but it’s not clear if a visit has been scheduled yet, tweets John Keim of ESPN.com. Mays was primarily a special-teamer for the Bengals last season.
After also being linked to the Cardinals earlier today, Brian Orakpo will visit the Titans to start his first free agency foray, according to Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com on Twitter.
The Titans have more than $44MM in cap room, according to OverTheCap, and do not have much money currently allocated to their linebacking corps as free agency enters warp speed. Tennessee’s highest-paid linebacker is 3-4 inside man Wesley Woodyard, who signed with the Titans last year, with a $3.5MM number for this season.
An older first-time free agent who enters his age-29 season, Orakpo made more than triple that on the franchise tag for Washington last season before suffering a pectoral tear for the third time in his career, weakening the edge-rusher’s momentum.
In other news in the opening stage of real free agency …
Antrel Rolle will visit the Bears, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus’ Twitter, but has no agreement in place. The Bears are the highest bidder for the 32-year-old free safety’s services, according to ESPN’s Michael C. Wright on Twitter.
The player Rolle could be replacing in Chicago, 26-year-old Chris Conte, will visit the Buccaneers, ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure notes on Twitter. Conte was the fourth-worst safety Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded last year.
More from the safety market: the Jets will host former Chargers back-line starter Marcus Gilchrist tonight, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). Gilchrist started all 16 games for the Chargers the past two years.
Veteran defensive end Cory Redding announced (Twitter link) he intends to visit the Cardinals on Wednesday. Now 34, Redding started at least 14 games for the Colts the past three years.
Chargers backup linebacker Andrew Gachkar has visits booked with two potential suitors, the Panthers and Vikings, notes Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). The Vikings appear to be the frontrunner for Gachkar’s second contract, adds Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Twitter.
After a four-year stint in Kansas City, Texans safety and New Orleans native Kendrick Lewis is happy to be closer to home, writes Hank Brady of The Times-Picayune. Now that he’s closer to home, he’s started a football camp for children from the area. “It’s just a blessing to be able to come out here and get with these kids from these same playgrounds, these same parks and these same high schools,” said Lewis. “This (camp) is really important. It’s something that we’ve been meaning to do for a while now.” More from around the NFL..
The Chiefs cut defensive tackle Risean Broussard from injured reserve, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter).
The Raiders made stopgap solutions this offseason rather than look for younger players that could help them going forward, and that could wind up hurting them, writes Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA Today. The new crew of veterans could create an atmosphere that attracts young talent, but if it doesn’t, GM Reggie McKenzie will have to answer for that.
Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy was found guilty Tuesday night of assaulting a female and communicating threats, writes Steve Reed of the Associated Press. It’s unclear at this point how the verdict will affect Hardy’s long-term future with the Panthers. Hardy will play out the 2014 season before hitting the open market next offseason.