Larry Warford

AFC East Notes: O’Shea, Warford, Ryan

The Dolphins fired former OC Chad O’Shea after just one season in his post, and the move surprised many at the time. After all, Miami’s offense wasn’t exactly brimming with talent, but O’Shea’s unit actually ranked in the top-10 in passing offense and top-15 in scoring offense after QB Ryan Fitzpatrick reentered the starting lineup in Week 7.

We had previously heard that O’Shea’s offense was overly complex for the young Dolphins talent, but as Barry Jackson, Adam H. Beasley, and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald write, the term “overly complex” may not be strong enough.

O’Shea, who brought in elements of the Patriots’ notoriously difficult offensive system after spending 10 years as New England’s WRs coach, tried to install especially advanced and complicated portions of the Pats’ scheme, which went over the heads of his new charges in Miami. And though he can’t be faulted for trying to replicate an offense that has thrived for years, players complained that he was a terrible teacher to boot, with one player calling his instruction during film study a “disaster.”

Head coach Brian Flores had O’Shea pulled out of his exit meeting with Fitzpatrick to advise him of his dismissal. O’Shea was reportedly blindsided by the news, and Fitzpatrick was apparently taken aback as well. It’s unknown if Flores asked Fitzpatrick about Chan Gailey — who was immediately hired as O’Shea’s replacement — prior to O’Shea’s firing. Fitzpatrick has played under Gailey for five seasons.

Let’s round up several more items from the AFC East:

  • In his most recent mailbag, Connor Hughes of The Athletic says the Jets should pursue former Saints guard Larry Warford, who was released by New Orleans earlier this month. Hughes believes Warford would represent an upgrade over incumbent RG Brian Winters — whose release would create a cap savings of $7MM — but he does not get the sense the Jets are interested. Warford does not fit the mold of the athletic, quick O-linemen that head coach Adam Gase wants in his system.
  • Hughes also notes that while the Jets are definitely interested in free agent corner Logan Ryan, Ryan will have to come off his current $10MM/year ask in order to reach an accord with Gang Green. We recently heard that New York believes it will sign Ryan, and it seems as if no team is willing to touch the $10MM sticker price at this point.
  • The Patriots have a talented crop of undrafted free agents, and their UDFA wideouts are particularly intriguing. Doug Kyed of NESN.com believes Miami product Jeff Thomas has the best chance to make the team, though Will Hastings — who received a salary guarantee of $57.5K and who served as Jarrett Stidham‘s slot receiver at Auburn — also has a good shot.

Larry Warford Targeting $7MM Per Year

Amassing a rare surplus of interior offensive linemen, the Saints released Larry Warford last week. In doing so, the team made one of the league’s better guards a mid-May free agent.

The Saints signed Warford to a four-year, $34MM deal back in 2017, and the three-time Pro Bowler wants to pick up nearly where he left off. The soon-to-be 29-year-old blocker is believed to be targeting around $7MM per year on his next deal, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link).

Twenty guards are currently signed for more than $7MM AAV; several are much less accomplished. Even at a point when NFL teams have mostly assembled their depth charts, this makes Warford’s ask quite reasonable. In three years with the Saints, Warford made three Pro Bowls. While each trip came as an alternate, he was still a key part of one of the NFL’s best offenses.

The Texans and Bears immediately surfaced as suitors. While the Bears are no longer believed to be in the mix, Rapoport adds that the former Lions third-round pick has already received plenty of interest. Warford has never missed more than three games in a season and has started all 101 NFL games in which he’s played.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Won’t Pursue Larry Warford

Bears fans have been clamoring for the team to improve its offensive line after that unit disappointed in 2019, but Chicago did not make many investments in the front five either in free agency or the draft. And it looks like that trend will continue.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune indicated that the Bears were considering a pursuit of former Saints guard Larry Warford after Warford’s release on Friday, but according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Chicago is no longer in the market for Warford. It’s unclear if Warford’s asking price is too high or if GM Ryan Pace is content with his personnel as is, but in any event, the soon-to-be 29-year-old will not end up in the Windy City.

The Bears inked former Seahawks first-rounder Germain Ifedi in March and added two offensive linemen in the seventh round of the draft, but the club’s O-line will largely look like it did last year. Ifedi, who was signed to a veteran minimum pact, will compete for the starting RG role along with Rashaad Coward.

Warford, who was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his three years with the Saints, would represent a marked upgrade over Ifedi and Coward, but Chicago is hopeful that it can help Ifedi reach his potential by kicking him into the interior of the line. Meanwhile, the Texans presumably remain in the hunt for Warford, and other teams are surely interested in his services as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Release Larry Warford

The Saints released guard Larry Warford on Friday in a move that cleared $7MM+ from the salary cap. As expected, the multiple-time Pro Bowler is already drawing interest from teams. The Texans are one club that’s already considering Larry Warford, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Same goes for the Bears, who would offer considerably more upside than new pickup Germain Ifedi.

[RELATED: Saints To Be Sanctioned for Tommy Stevens Pursuit?]

Warford, 29 in June, has earned Pro Bowl nods in each of the last three seasons. However, the Pro Bowl selection process for offensive linemen tends to be less than scientific, and Sean Payton was less than thrilled with his performance in 2019. The Saints made that crystal clear late last month when they drafted interior lineman Cesar Ruiz in the first round. Ditto for their re-signing of Andrus Peat on a five-year, $57.5MM deal in March. Ruiz will now battle with Erik McCoy – a center, by trade – for a starting guard spot on the line.

Before the release, Warford was set to play out the final season of the four-year, $34MM deal he inked as a free agent in 2017. Now released, Warford will count for $5.125MM in dead money against the cap, but they’ll save $7.75MM in cap dollars.

Warford scored that deal off of the strength of his play in Detroit. As a third-round pick of the Lions, he went on to start in all 57 of his games and he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 20th-best guard in his walk year.

The Texans could use a guy like Warford, who could supplant Zach Fulton as their top right guard.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Rework Larry Warford’s Contract

The Saints have created a bit of financial breathing room by restructuring the contract of guard Larry Warford, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). New Orleans has converted $5.5MM of Warford’s base salary into a signing bonus, opening up $2.75MM worth of cap space in the process.

Prior to reworking Warford’s deal, the Saints possessed the fourth-least amount of cap space in the league ($1.754MM), per Over the Cap. Now, they’ll have a little more room if they need to make more transactions — in-season signings, moving players to injured reserve, practice squad, etc. — throughout the remainder of the season.

Warford, 28, inked a four-year, $34MM deal with New Orleans prior to the 2017 campaign. After re-doing his contract, Warford now have cap charges of $7.85MM and $13.35MM in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Through three games this year, Warford has played 100% of the Saints’ offensive snaps while grading as the No. 9 guard in the league, per Pro Football Focus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Burton, Foles, Saints, Floyd

Trey Burton has been a quality under-the-radar performer for the Eagles this season and he could find himself with a very robust market entering free agency this offseason, opines Mike Garafolo of NFL.com in a video on Twitter.

Burton, 26, has produced solid numbers as the backup to one of the best tight ends in the game in Zach Ertz. However, the former undrafted free agent has stepped up when Ertz has been banged up. Garafolo notes that Burton has caught three touchdown passes in the last two games, when Ertz has not been 100%.

Coming from the University of Florida, Burton didn’t really have a position entering the draft, but has seemingly found a role as a versatile tight end/receiver in the Philadelphia offensive scheme. The tight end market is not very deep either, with their being a noticeable dip after the likes of Jimmy Graham and Tyler Eifert. Given his recent play, you can expect Burton could be a name that gets more money than you may expect given his relative lack of a track record.

Let’s take a look at more notes throughout the NFC:

  • Nick Foles led the Eagles to victory over the Giants in his first start since Carson Wentz was lost for the season. It was an encouraging performance for the former third round pick, who pondered retirement just two years ago, reports Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia. It was after the 2015 season when the quarterback really gave some thought to hanging it up. “Yes, I sat there and talked with my wife,” Foles said. “You go through a lot of emotions. Changing teams, being traded, going there, going through that year, and once I was a free agent, we just sort of sat there and said, ‘Hey what do we want to do?'” Nick Foles eventually decided to stay in the league and was a backup for a season in Kansas City before making his way to the Eagles this past offseason. Foles has a bit of a track record in the league and is looking to continue to build on his rebound story in the playoffs.
  • The Saints lost a few players to injury during their win over the Jets on Sunday afternoon. Guard Larry Warford and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui both were forced to leave the game with concussions, according to Joel Erickson of The New Orleans Advocate. Erickson adds that guard Andrus Peat was also active to start the contest, but was held out because of a groin injury. He was available in an emergency role, with backup guards Senio Kelemete and Josh LeRibeus taken the starting sports when both starting offensive lineman were unable to play. Hopefully all three players will recover fully for the team’s critical Week 16 affair against the Falcons. The game will have major implications to who ultimately will win the ultra-competitive NFC South.
  • Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd expressed that he is more at peace and hopes to be back in Minnesota next year, in a deep diving piece from Chris Tomasson of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “I would like to stay here, for sure,” Floyd said. “I love this place.” While the former Cardinals and Pats wideout has seemingly got his life together, it’s an uphill battle considering the quality depth of the position on the team, which includes Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright.

NFC Notes: Winston, Wilson, Lane, Saints O-Line

We now know that the NFL is investigating an incident regarding Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and an uber driver from last year. The female uber driver claimed that the former number one overall pick groped her during a ride, but Winston has denied those allegations. but adding onto this story, Steve Wyche of NFL.com reports in a Twitter video, that the 23 year-old signal caller will not go on the exempt list because no charges have filed as of yet.

However, it might not be long until the quarterback faces suspension from the league, according to Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders. Cummings says that while Winston may avoid suspension for the rest of the year because the investigation could take some time, but notes that sexual assault allegations have resulted in missed time in the past. The writer points to when Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for four games back when he faced similar charges in 2010.

The story is still unfolding, so while Winston’s playing outlook is in flux given his current injury, this situation adds an unexpected twist to his 2017 season and perhaps even in 2018.

  • Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson shed some light on the jaw injury that he suffered vs. Arizona last Thursday in a session with the media today. The signal caller said that while he wasn’t concussed in the game, his jaw injury forced him to undergo some drastic treatment in the days after, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.  Condotta relays that Wilson was forced to wear a mouthguard and could not eat solid foods for the three days following the midweek contest. “Basically, the game was on Thursday, so Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, I was pretty sore,” he said. “Tons of ice and treatment and all of that, so I feel good now. … the first two-and-a-half, three days, I couldn’t really eat anything. I was just doing smoothies and all that kind of stuff.” While the injury does sound painful, it looks like Wilson is going to tough it out for Monday night’s game vs. the Falcons.
  • While Wilson will remain in the starting lineup, another team leader in Richard Sherman will miss the rest of the season. With that news finally settling in for Seahawks fans, Condotta also passes along that cornerback Jeremy Lane will replace him in the defensive backfield (Twitter link). Lane was notably rescinded in the Duane Brown trade because he failed the Texans physical, and now finds himself as a key cog to Seattle staying afloat in a competitive NFC playoff picture.
  • The Saints have been one of the hottest teams in football winning their last seven games after dropping their first two at the start of the regular season. A big reason for this has been the emergence of arguably the league’s best 1-2 backfield punch that includes veteran Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. However, Joel Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate notes that the team has been helped by some notable early returns on their offensive line. Erickson states that three of the team’s starting lineman have returned sooner than expected, including guard Larry Warford, center Max Unger and left tackle Terron Armstead. Warford returned this past Sunday from an abdominal strain, missing only two games, Unger progressed ahead of schedule from offseason Lisfranc surgery and Armstead’s return was premature after suffering a torn labrum. All three lineman have helped the Saints offense change it’s identity to a more ground and pound style, which has been on full display in the past seven weeks.

Saints’ Larry Warford Out For Several Weeks

One of the Saints bigger free agents signings from this past offseason will be out for an extended period of time. Guard Larry Warford is expected to miss several weeks with an abdominal injury, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Larry Warford

There was no exact timetable given for when New Orleans should expect their big ticket guard back, but it will be a rather large loss for a team that has won their last four games after dropping the first two. Warford was expected to be an anchor to the Saints offensive line when he signed a four year, $34 MM in the offseason, which gave him the seventh most guaranteed dollars ($17 MM) of any guard in the NFL. The former second round pick started every game at right guard this season, after starting a combined 57 contests in his four years with the Lions.

Backup lineman Senio Kelemente stood in for Warford when he exited and looks to be the primary fill-in as Warford works to get back on the field. The Saints will look to extend their winning streak when they take on the Bears this Sunday.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints To Sign Larry Warford

The Saints have agreed to sign free agent guard Larry Warford, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. It’s a four-year deal worth $34MM ($17MM guaranteed), reports Rapoport (via Twitter).Larry Warford

New Orleans was also in the running for Kevin Zeitler, a sure sign the club was hoping to improve the interior of its offensive line. Given that quarterback Drew Brees is on the shorter side, keeping him away from interior pressure is key, and a central factor in why the Saints have always invested in guard play. Warford will slot in at right guard opposite former first-round pick Andrus Peat, with Max Unger at center.

Warford, 25, is a former second-round pick, and though he’s been a full-time starter for the entirety of his career, he’s never been able to match the production exhibited during his rookie campaign. In 2016, for example, Warford started 15 games for the Lions and graded as the league’s No. 20 guard, per Pro Football Focus. That’s solid production, to be sure, but not evident of the elite level of talent Warford displayed in 2013.

Detroit was hoping to retain Warford, who ranks as PFR’s No. 4 free agent guard and No. 21 free agent overall. Instead, the Lions have now lost Warford and aren’t likely to re-sign fellow free agent offensive lineman Riley Reiff. Detroit hasn’t stopped paying for offensive lineman, however, as the team made Ricky Wagner the NFL’s highest-paid right tackle yesterday.

Warford’s addition in New Orleans likely signals the end of veteran Jahri Evans‘ run with the Saints. Evans, who had spent 11 season with New Orleans, only plays right guard, so he probably wouldn’t make sense even as a backup option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents

It’s free agency week! This year, thanks to the salary cap increase, the dollars will be flying and players will make more than you ever could have expected. Our lists for offense and defense rank free agents based on overall ability, but our Top 50 ranks players based on earning power. Here, you’ll get a good sense of what the market will be like this week and who the big fish are.

The league’s “legal tampering” window will open on Tuesday at 11:00am CT. Technically, teams and players aren’t permitted to finalize agreements on contracts during that legal tampering window, but that’s often treated as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. We will almost certainly see handshake agreements go down on Tuesday and Wednesday before they become official on Thursday, the technical beginning of free agency.

Our list of 2017’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or franchise tagged players, since they’re effectively restricted free agents as well.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2017, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:

1. A.J. Bouye, CB (Texans): Bouye is an overnight sensation, going from unknown to elite talent in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what to make of Bouye, but his upside is too much for teams to pass up. The Texans declined to use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old (26 in August), but they’re still hoping to get a deal done this week. The Jets are said to have interest, but it’s not clear if they’ll have the room to get something done. Cornerback-needy teams like the Panthers, Saints, Jaguars, Titans, Bears, and Eagles can be expected to at least kick the tires on this year’s top player in the secondary. Could something like Janoris Jenkins‘ five year, $62.5MM contract ($28.8MM fully guaranteed) from last year be within reach? Jenkins had a longer history of success than Bouye, but consider these facts: Bouye nearly two years younger than Jenkins was at time of signing and the salary cap has risen by about $12MM.
Signed with Jaguars for five years, $67.5MM.A.J. Bouye (vertical)

2. Alshon Jeffery, WR (Bears): He was hurt for most of 2015 and he slumped along with the entire Bears offense in 2016, but his natural ability is still evident and he is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. At one point, it seemed like Jeffery could wind up as the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. That won’t be the case, but he will likely get more cash than any other wide receiver in this year’s class. The Eagles and Titans have been hot on his tail for some time now. The 49ers could also get involved and a return to the Bears cannot be ruled out either. Ultimately, Jeffery should wind up fetching at least $10MM per year and perhaps as much as $12MM per year on his next deal.
Signed with Eagles for one year, $9.5MM.

3. Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins): Jeffery isn’t the only wide receiver who could fetch $12MM per year. Stills isn’t necessarily the best wide receiver on his own team, but he is just on the cusp of his 25th birthday and his ability to stretch the field is tantalizing. It doesn’t sound like the Dolphins are ready to be the highest bidder for his services and it’s not hard to imagine a team like the Eagles landing him. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the potential suitors for Jeffery and Stills: the Eagles, Titans, Bears, and 49ers will probably come calling. The Rams may not have enough room to squeeze in Stills, but they could certainly use a playmaker like him if they do not re-sign Kenny Britt. Stills reportedly likes the West Coast (who doesn’t?) so the Niners and Rams could have a leg up on the others if the bidding is close.
Re-signed with Dolphins for four years, $32MM.

4. Dont’a Hightower, LB (Patriots): The market is capped for non-rush linebackers, but Hightower is pretty much the best at what he does and is also lauded for his intangibles. The Patriots have always embraced the “next man up” philosophy, so it is possible they will allow him to go elsewhere. The Dolphins have been frequently connected to Hightower, but that might be too ambitious for a team that has multiple major needs to address. The Colts might also make sense, but the price might be too rich for their blood. A Patriots return appears to be the most likely outcome, but anything is possible.
Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $35.5MM. 

5. Kevin Zeitler, G (Bengals): Zeitler has age on his side and he’s one of the safest free agents in the top ten after three consecutive years of dominance. Interior offensive linemen don’t get as much love as their counterparts on the outside, but they are still incredibly vital and Zeitler’s next contract will reflect that. If he doesn’t circle back to the Bengals, the Jaguars, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks all make varying degrees of sense for Zeitler. From a football standpoint, you can add the Jets to that group too, but I’m not sure they can meet a ~$12MM/year asking price.
Signed with Browns for five years, $60MM.

6. Logan Ryan, CB (Patriots): There are bigger names available at the cornerback position, but Ryan slots ahead of many of them after a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that this fresh-faced Super Bowl champ only just turned 26 in February. If the Patriots don’t tie him down, Ryan’s earning power could conceivably vault him past Trumaine Johnson in terms of guaranteed cash. The Jaguars and Titans would be wise to zero in on Ryan if they can’t land Bouye and it’s possible that some of their evaluators might even prefer Ryan over the Houston standout. Ryan’s next deal will probably pay him eight figures per year and it should be a lengthy pact.
Signed with Titans for three years, $30MM.

7. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Browns): There is strong mutual interest in a new deal between Pryor and the Browns. Still, the Browns passed on the opportunity to franchise tag the Ohio State product and he now appears poised to test the open market. With pretty much just one year to show, how will Pryor fare in free agency? His next deal should pay him at least $10MM/year and he could get up to $12MM/year. In addition to the Browns, the usual suspects for this year’s high-end WRs will explore signing Pryor (say it with me): Eagles, Titans, and 49ers. There’s conflicting word about whether the Steelers will get involved. The Giants are known to have interest, but I don’t think they’ll be splurging on free agents like they did one year ago.
Signed with Redskins for one year, $6MM.

8 .Ricky Wagner, OT (Ravens): There’s already talk of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year and it’s not like this year’s free agent market is flush with young, quality tackles. When you also consider the lack of quality tackles in the draft, it’s apparent that Wagner is about to get PAID, in all caps.Believe it or not, $10MM/year might be his floor. When all is said and done, he’ll be the league’s biggest earner at right tackle. The Bears are particularly interested in Wagner, so he could go from the AFC North to the NFC North this week.
Signed with Lions for five years, $47.5MM.

Calais Campbell (vertical)9. Calais Campbell, DL (Cardinals): Campbell was supposed to be an afterthought in Arizona after the addition of Chandler Jones. Perhaps motivated by a perceived slight, Campbell turned in a stellar year. Now, the Cardinals would very much like to keep him, but they can only go so far as they back up the Brinks truck for Jones and look into retaining other key free agents. If Jones does not agree to a cap-smoothing long-term deal between now and March 9th, the odds of Campbell leaving increase. The Jaguars are said to be a leading contender for Campbell while the Titans, Broncos, Colts, and Bears could also use a force like him. His age (31 in September) gives him a bit of a ceiling in terms of overall compensation, but he should still do nicely this month.
Signed with Jaguars for four years, $60MM.

10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (Bills): In terms of pure talent, Gilmore might be the best cornerback available. Trouble is, no one knows what to make of him after a down 2016. Some have openly theorized that Gilmore was playing it safe to avoid injury in his pivotal contract year. It’s also possible that Buffalo’s injuries in the front seven put undue stress on the secondary. The Bears are reportedly high on Gilmore and he may represent a cheaper option than Bouye or Ryan. A Bills return would also make sense here.
Signed with Patriots for five years, $65MM.

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