Kenny Vaccaro

South Notes: Saints, Vaccaro, Texans

Saints free agent safety Kenny Vaccaro is still on the market, but it’s not due to any health issues, Nick Underhill of The Advocate tweets. And, although the safety market didn’t develop as expected, Underhill anticipates that he’ll land somewhere before training camp starts.

It’s possible that Vaccaro turned down some low-cost deals early on in free agency, as Underhill notes that there was “no need [for him] to hurry and sign a deal when free agency opened.” He may have some regrets about that now, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Vaccaro won’t be able to find a team on a low-cost one-year deal.

The Colts, Jets, and Dolphins showed interest in Vaccaro earlier this offseason, but we haven’t heard much about him in recent weeks. While we wait to see where the former Saints safety will land, here’s more out of the South divisions:

The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

There are still plenty of impact free agents left on the board, including some big names. Here’s a look at some of the high-profile veterans that are still looking for work in advance of training camp: 

Kaepernick probably stands as the most talented quarterback left on the open market, but his ongoing collusion case against the NFL complicated matters. It seems unlikely that he’ll land anywhere between now and the start of the season, but friend and former teammate Eric Reid probably has a better chance of signing somewhere, despite being in a similar boat. Recently, the duo was spotted working out together in California.

It seems like just yesterday that Murray was the league’s most fearsome running back. Unfortunately, Murray’s age has caught up to him to some extent and he was overshadowed last year in Tennessee by the younger Derrick HenryThe Titans dropped Murray in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the LionsSeahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Recently, the Saints tried to include Murray in their cattle call for running backs, but he declined the invite.

Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. It’s possible that Murray and Peterson won’t sign unless a running back injury opens up an opportunity for them. Teams could also steer clear of Peterson altogether given his desire for a starring role despite his lack of star performance over the last two years.

Bryant is the biggest name on this list, but we shouldn’t expect to see him sign anywhere until July. There have been conflicting reports on his market, but the latest word indicates that he is receiving interest, despite concerns about his demeanor in the locker room.

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The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

The biggest names in this year’s free agent class such as Kirk Cousins, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Trumaine Johnson have long been spoken for, but plenty of notable players remain on the board here in June. With a hat tip to James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter), here’s a look at some high-profile veterans who are still seeking work this summer: 

Of course, Kaepernick’s situation is more complicated than the rest. Lately, the only updates we’ve heard regarding Kaepernick have been tied to his pending collusion case against the NFL. Former teammate Reid is certainly closer to the NFL radar after an April meeting with the Bengals, but he also believes teams are shying away from him due to his participation in anthem protests. Reid filed a grievance of his own against the NFL in May and has been spotted working out with Kaepernick.

Unfortunately for Murray and Peterson, filing a grievance for age bias against running backs is not an option. The Titans kicked Murray to the curb in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. Given Peterson’s reluctance to be on the lower end of a timeshare in New Orleans last year, one has to imagine that Peterson will not be a real consideration for teams unless a starter gets injured in camp. Murray could be a more attractive option for teams. Although he averaged just 3.6 yards per tote with the Titans last year, he contributed in the passing game with 39 receptions.

Bryant says he has no regrets about turning down a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens, but right now it looks like he blew his opportunity at a solid free agent deal. Reportedly, many teams are unwilling to consider him for even the league minimum, so it seems unlikely that he’ll find the lucrative one-year contract he’s seeking. On the plus side, his former employer says multiple teams have checked in on him.

Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin after he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him internally in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.

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Poll: Who Will Be Next FA Safety To Sign?

The slow development of the safety market has been one of the major storylines of the offseason, and while there are a number of reasons as to why some of the top available players at the position remain unsigned, it is still surprising to see players of their ilk without work at this point in the league year. Indeed, three of PFR’s top 10 remaining defensive free agents are safeties, and we would like to know which one you think will be the first to sign with a club.

Our top-rated defensive player still available, Eric Reid, could be having difficulty fining a team because of his history of protesting the national anthem. Indeed, the only team that has brought him in for a visit, the Bengals, asked him about his plans in that regard moving forward. But Reid’s fellow free agent safeties on our Top-10 list, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro, have not made the same public stances — though Boston was fairly outspoken following the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte police officer two years ago — and they haven’t had any better luck, so it could be his status as a safety, more so than his status as a political activist, that is dampening Reid’s market.

Of course, Reid himself feels differently, and he has filed a collusion grievance against the NFL. That will surely not help his cause, but on the field, Reid is a solid and versatile player capable of playing either defensive back or linebacker. His skillset would fit nicely on a team like the Cardinals or Buccaneers.

Boston, meanwhile, has drawn interest from a number of clubs, and he is coming off the best season of his career. He is far from a perfect player, but he does have the ability to play deep safety, and he picked off five passes for the Chargers in 2017. He appeared to be coming into his own after being released by the Panthers last year, and while he is not great in coverage, he has shown that he can at least be serviceable in that regard. He is also a capable pass rusher.

Vaccaro, on the other hand, was terrible in coverage in 2017, but he has shown the ability to line up at safety or at slot corner in his career, and he could theoretically play linebacker in sub-packages as well. He recently met with the Colts, and two weeks ago we heard that he was going to meet with the Jets, though it is unclear whether his summit with Gang Green has actually happened yet. He met with the Dolphins earlier in the offseason, but after the Fins used their first-round pick on Minkah Fitzpatrick, they are probably no longer interested in Vaccaro.

Again, these three players are not without flaws, particularly in coverage, and with the league moving further and further away from traditional in-the-box safeties, maybe we shouldn’t be as shocked that they remain without work. After all, younger players on rookie contracts frequently offer a strong presence in the run game while they work on their coverage skills, so it could be that teams just don’t want to pony up the cash for a veteran to do the work that a less experienced player can do.

Presumably, however, Boston or Vaccaro will eventually find a new team, and Reid may as well, despite his grievance. Let us know which of them you think will sign first, or if you think another safety like Corey Graham will get a chance before they do. We’d also like you to explain your choice in the comments section and let us know what you believe is holding up the safety market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Julio, Panthers, Bucs, Rams

As expected, Julio Jones reportedly did not attend the opening day of Falcons organized team activities, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

He adds head coach Dan Quinn will address the situation on Tuesday and did not respond to questions about the reports that Jones wants an update to his contract. Though he is absent, the two sides appear amenable and are likely to work things out in due time.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio speculates Jones, who has three years left on his current deal, could be trying to get the team’s attention after Matt Ryan‘s new contract is set to pay the quarterback ($30MM) twice the amount that Jones is to receive ($14.25MM). His current deal slots him in as the No. 8 receiver on the pay scale, behind players like Jarvis Landry, Sammy Watkins and Davante Adams.

Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap says that the word “update” could mean the Falcons moving money forward in Jones’ contract to make the team’s key player happy. On a team in win-now mode, the move could be seen as avoiding potential chemistry issues in the locker room. A recent example of this, according to Fitzgerald, is a similar situation with Antonio Brown and the Steelers.

“The Steelers twice moved money forward in Brown’s contract to prevent a player from being unhappy. In 2015 the Steelers moved $2 million from 2016 up to 2015 and in 2016 they moved $4 million from 2017 into 2016. Overall the team fronted him $4 million and then extended him in 2017.”

Regardless of what the course of action Atlanta chooses to pursue, it is unlikely to hinder it from fielding one of the top three receivers in the league in 2018.  

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Panthers sale to David Tepper is expected to go through without “any surprises,” Houston Texans owner Bob McNair told ESPN’s David Newton. Tepper needs 24 votes — 23 with the absence of former Panthers GM Jerry Richardson — on Tuesday when the 31 NFL owners convene. Richardson is unlikely to attend, but nothing has been set in stone.
  • Florida Football Insiders posted a list of potential free agent targets for the Buccaneers, and named DeMarco Murray and Kenny Vaccaro as possibilities. Murray would make for a solid one-two punch with rookie running back Ronald Jones, while Vaccaro would bring a veteran presence to a shaky pass defense.
  • Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, the Rams‘ fifth-round pick, underwent surgery on his foot and is expected to return sometime during training camp, head coach Sean McVay told ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry (Twitter link). Okoronkwo starred at Oklahoma in 2017, earning Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big 12 after logging 17.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.

Extra Points: Rams, Manziel, Eagles, Colts

The majority of the 2018 NFL Draft class is now signed, but that’s not the case in Los Angeles. The Rams have yet to sign a single pick.

Should fans be concerned? To put it simply, no.

This isn’t new to the team, as Michael David Smith of PFT writes, as it likes to address financial planning with its players before giving them a large signing bonus. Like in years past, the Rams rookies will all generally sign at once sometime in the next few weeks.

“One of the things that we think is important with that is bringing the rookies in as a group, having them live together as a group, and not having any real differentiation between the first-round pick and the undrafted rookie,” Demoff said. “They’re in the hotel together. They’re eating meals together. They’re doing things together. And then [by the time] they all scatter, we’ll sign their contracts. They’ll leave knowing the contract’s done, so they don’t have to worry about that headache when they go on vacation.”

So no need to panic Rams fans. This is par for the course.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Eagles signed running back Matt Jones earlier in the week. The Philly Voice’s Jimmy Kempski has the details at two years for $1.5MM, none of which are guaranteed (Twitter link). He joins a crowded backfield that includes Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles.
  • The Colts have had visits from Kenny Vaccaro, Tre Boston and Bashaud Breeland in recent days. Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star tweets, however, the meetings were merely informational and no signings are imminent.
  • And we’ll also make pitstop in the CFL, where Johnny Manziel is not guaranteed to start for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith writes. Smith quotes head coach June Jones, who praised current starter and former Oregon standout Jeremiah Masoli. “Let me tell you something right now, he’s got his work ahead of him to beat out Jeremiah,” Jones said of Manziel. “He’s got a lot to catch up on, but he’ll spend the time to get that done. I know he will because he’s already learned that lesson.” Though Masoli has the leg up, it won’t be long before Manziel is given the reins, given he can stay out of trouble.

AFC Notes: Bengals, Jefferson, Colts

The College Advisory Committee told Malik Jefferson to stay in school for another year. After becoming a third-round pick of the Bengals, Jefferson is glad that he didn’t listen.

It’s not really good feedback,” Jefferson said, via Max Olson of The Athletic. “If a guy wants to come out early, they have to make a decision on their own. Really, if you’re not like a top-10 guy coming out early, it’s just up in the air from there. You just don’t know. Anything can happen.”

Instead of continuing his education without being compensated for playing, Jefferson will now back up Nick Vigil and Vontaze Burfict with a contract worth $3.4MM over four years.

You say stay in school, but a kid wants to better himself and his future,” Jefferson said. “So you can be making money for the university, struggling, trying to eat dining hall food, waking up early, having to go through extreme pressures and not getting paid for none of that. Or you can not go to school, just play football all day, study film and get better and work out all day and max yourself out.”

Jefferson may be happy with his choice, but in defense of the CAC, the Texas product probably anticipated going late in the first round or somewhere in the second when he declared for the draft.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • The Colts met with safeties Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro on Monday, but Stephen Holder of the Indy Star (on Twitter) hears that nothing is imminent with either player at this time. Boston and Vaccaro both offer significant starting experience, but the free agent market has been painfully slow to develop for them and other safeties this year.
  • Jets linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis struck an agreement with Kansas prosecutors to have his drug-possession charge dropped if he completes one year of probation, as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes. While with the Chiefs in January, Pierre-Louis was charged with several misdemeanors, including marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Jets signed him to a two-year, $5.25MM deal this offseason.
  • The Bills are taking a look at former Cowboys and Bucs defensive end Ryan Russell.

Jets Planning Kenny Vaccaro Visit

After months of gridlock, teams are making arrangements to meet with some of this free agent class’ top safeties.

Kenny Vaccaro could be on his way to a second visit this week. If the Colts summit does not produce a signing, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (on Twitter) Vaccaro will visit the Jets.

A Jets fit would be interesting, with New York having invested its 2017 first- and second-round picks in the position, but Vaccaro also has experience in the slot. And Garafolo notes he could potentially play linebacker in sub-packages.

Both Vaccaro and Tre Boston are meeting with the Colts on Monday, with Garafolo adding the Vaccaro/Indy meeting will begin tonight. Veteran signings teams make now do not count toward the compensatory formula, likely accelerating the action on the non-Eric Reid safety market.

A 2013 Saints first-round pick and five-year starter, Vaccaro also visited the Dolphins this offseason. Behind Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, the Jets are thin at safety. The recently re-signed Terrance Brooks and 2016 UDFA Doug Middleton comprise Gang Green’s depth here. Slot corner Buster Skrine remains on the roster despite a hefty salary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Meet With Tre Boston, Kenny Vaccaro

The Colts are taking a look at two of the best safeties left on the free agent market. Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro will meet with the Colts on Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

The market has been slow to develop for veteran safeties this year as many clubs opted to go for younger and cheaper alternatives in the draft. The Colts already have one high-potential safety in Malik Hooker and either Boston or Vaccaro would provide them with another quality starter in the secondary. Last week, PFR’s Dallas Robinson ranked both players in the top 10 of the remaining free agents on defense.

The Cardinals, Raiders, Browns, and Giants expressed interest in Boston back in March, but we haven’t heard much on that front in recent weeks. Needless to say, it has been a frustrating offseason for the former Charger.

It’s kind of unbelievable to me,” he said. “We’re talking about a position that’s needed more and more on the field in today’s game. “There are about five or six valuable starting safeties in free agency right now. But I guess it’s just trying to get us to take peanuts like the rest of them have. That’s just the business of the game.”

Vaccaro, meanwhile, met with the Dolphins in April, but left Miami without a deal. The lack of interest has been surprising given Vaccaro’s starting experience and ability to play slot cornerback, but he is coming off of a down season in New Orleans.

Neither player is without warts, but the Colts may have an opportunity to add one or both of them at an extremely discounted rate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Rumors: Witten, Cowboys, Eagles

Although Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn’t seem ready to admit it, tight end Jason Witten is fully expected to follow through on retirement and become an analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link), who called Witten’s shift to the Worldwide Leader a “done deal.” If Witten does indeed hang up his cleats, he could be stuck in a thorny contractual issue with Dallas. The Cowboys converted $4.7MM of Witten’s base salary into a signing bonus earlier this year, but could now ask for that money back, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. Dallas released quarterback Tony Romo last summer, allowing him to retain all of his bonus money in the process, and it’s fair to wonder if the club will do the same for Witten, who is expected to command a salary of $4-4.5MM at ESPN.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • Despite not adding a single defensive back in last weekend’s draft, the Cowboys are not expected to have interest in free agent safeties Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro, or Tre Boston, reports Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Dallas did’t have any interest in either of the three veterans pre-draft and doesn’t believe any would fit its defensive scheme. For what’s it worth, the Cowboys reportedly tried to acquire Vaccaro at the 2017 trade deadline. Safeties in general have had a hard time generating buzz this offseason, with one agent telling Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com that defensive backs aren’t getting offers of even “one year, $3MM.” For now, Dallas will likely roll with Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath at safety after moving former first-round pick Byron Jones to cornerback.
  • If the Redskins had released defensive tackle Terrell McClain earlier this year (instead of on Monday), he’d likely already be back on the Cowboys roster, tweets David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Dallas picked up former second-round interior defender Jihad Ward from the Raiders in a draft-day exchange that sent wideout Ryan Switzer to Oakland, but they’re still expected to express interest in McClain. The 29-year-old McClain spent the 2014-16 campaigns in Dallas, and was a 15-game starter during his final season with the Cowboys.
  • Eagles defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan recently underwent surgery for a herniated disc, per Howard Eskin of WIP-FM (link via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer). As such, Jernigan won’t participate in spring workouts but is fully expected to be ready for 2018 regular season. Philadelphia acquired Jernigan from the Ravens last April, sacrificing just a 25-slot drop in the third round in order to land the now-25-year-old. After a productive debut year with the Eagles, Jernigan inked a four-year, $48MM extension that should keep him in town through 2021.