LeGarrette Blount

Raiders Work Out LeGarrette Blount

The Raiders worked out running backs LeGarrette Blount and Bo Scarbrough today, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Blount hasn’t been heard from this offseason, as he hasn’t take any known visits or workouts with NFL clubs. That’s perhaps to be expected after the veteran back struggled through a 2018 campaign with the Lions in which he managed an anemic 2.7 yard per carry on 154 rush attempts. Now 32 years old, Blount has nearly 1,500 carries on his ledger through nine pro seasons.

It’s unclear if Oakland is seriously considering a Blount addition or merely updating its emergency free agent list. First-round pick Josh Jacobs has shined in his rookie year, and the Raiders also have Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington in reserve.

Scarbrough, a seventh-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018, has also spent time with the Jaguars and Seahawks. He’s yet to post an NFL carry.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Compensatory Pick Formula Ends Today

Starting at 4pm ET/3pm CT, any unrestricted free agent that signs with a new team will not count towards the 2020 compensatory draft pick formula, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. This should quickly accelerate the market for several free agents of note, including:

Compensatory picks are given to teams that lose a greater number of compensatory free agents (or, a greater quality of free agents) than they acquire. The complicated formula that dictates how the picks are dispersed is not disclosed to the public, but teams are wary of signing even lower impact UFAs while it is in effect.

But, when the formula is turned off, veteran free agents should start flying off of the board.

Extra Points: Jets, Johnson, Jaguars, Yeldon, Fournette, Blount, Lions

We heard yesterday he was being fired, and the Todd Bowles era ended in very disappointing fashion today. The Jets were destroyed by the Patriots by a final score of 38-3. The defense was shredded by Tom Brady, and the unit was without one of their top players in Trumaine Johnson. Johnson was a healthy scratch, and it was because he was a no show for meetings and practice this week, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN (Twitter link).

Johnson said after the game that he overslept and was late to practice on Wednesday, and that that’s why he was benched, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com. Johnson was signed away from the Rams this offseason with a massive contract, and has mostly been a disappointment. He’s played pretty well overall, but not at the level to deserve the five-year $72MM contract New York handed him. While GM Mike Maccagnan likely wishes he had that one back, his contract makes it impossible to move on until 2020 at the earliest, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com thinks the Jets might be “trying to set the stage” for a suspension of some sorts that could void guaranteed money in his contract. Any such actions would surely draw a stiff challenge from the player’s union.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Jaguars running backs T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette were caught by TV cameras sitting on the bench for nearly the entire game today instead of standing on the sideline, and head of football operations Tom Coughlin ripped their actions after the game, per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. “I am disappointed in the behavior today from T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette. They were disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player,” Coughlin said. While Fournette is locked into Jacksonville’s future with his fully guaranteed contract, Yeldon is set to be a free agent at the end of the year and is highly unlikely to be brought back.
  • LeGarrette Blount didn’t seem to have much left in the tank this year with the Lions, but the 32 year old bruising runner wants to play in 2019. Blount only averaged 2.71 yards per carry this year and was an afterthought in the offense when Kerryon Johnson was healthy, so Blount might not be able to find a team willing to bring him in this offseason. He had a very quiet market this past spring before Detroit eventually decided to give him a one year deal.
  • In case you missed it, Matthew Stafford isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

NFC North Notes: Blount, Lions, Rudock

When LeGarette Blount starts the 2018 season with the Lions, it will be his third team in as many years. Blount has won the past two Super Bowls, first with the Patriots then with the Eagles. Blount rushed 766 yards and two touchdowns last season in Philadelphia, but wasn’t offered a contract by the team after the season.

When asked if he carried a grudge due to the snub, Blount replied “I’m past that”, according to Matt Lombardo of NJ.com. Blount emphasized that he’s looking forward to playing for the Lions and coach Matt Patricia, saying “fortunately, it worked out for me to wind up here with somebody that I’m familiar with, and like a lot.” Although the move means Blount is unlikely to win a third straight Super Bowl, it doesn’t sound like he’s losing too much sleep over the divorce.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

 

Lions To Sign RB LeGarrette Blount

The Lions beefed up their backfield Friday night, signing veteran running back LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal worth $4.5MM, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets

Justin Rogers of the Detroit News tweets Blount’s deal is worth a $2MM base salary with an extra $2.5MM in incentives.

By joining Detroit, Blount reunites with new head coach Matt Patricia, who served as defensive coordinator of the Patriots when the running back was in New England.

Following his three-year run with the Pats, Blount joined the Eagles and produced 766 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. He helped Philadelphia claim its first Super Bowl title with a 41-33 win over New England.

The move gives Detroit something it hasn’t had in a long time — a physical back. In 2017, the team used Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick almost exclusively, giving the team a pair of solid pass catchers who lack between-the-tackles reliability. Blount should offer a solid change-of-pace to those backs.

The Lions ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing yards in 2017. That ranking is sure to improve with the signing of Blount.

[RELATED: Lions Depth Chart]

RB LeGarrette Blount To Visit Lions

Add another name to the list of Lions running back targets. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that free agent LeGarrette Blount is set to meet with Detroit. Earlier tonight, there were conflicting reports that the organization was closing in on a deal with free agent back Frank Gore. The organization also met with DeMarco Murray and Jonathan Stewart (before he inked a deal with the Giants).

Following three straight seasons with the Patriots, Blount joined the Eagles last offseason. The 31-year-0ld proceeded to play in all 16 games (11 starts) last season, collecting 766 rushing yards and two scores on 173 carries (4.4 yards per carry). Blount was plenty productive in the postseason, collecting three touchdowns en route to a Super Bowl championship.

Pro Football Focus wasn’t overly enthused with Blount’s performance in 2017, ranking him 41st among 58 eligible running backs. However, the veteran’s track record still earned him the 11th spot in our free agent running back rankings.

The 250-pound Blount would certainly provide the Lions with a change-of-pace running back. The team is already rostering Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Tion Green, and Dwayne Washington.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

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. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they 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 are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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The 10 Best One-Year NFL Contracts Of 2017

Signing a one-year contract is almost never ideal from a player’s perspective — while a single-season pact can often mean a larger salary, it doesn’t come with the security or guarantees that a multi-year deal offers. From a team’s vantage point, however, there’s essentially no such thing as a poor one-year contract. The player doesn’t work out? No problem: he’s off the books in one season and doesn’t hinder the club’s long-term financials.

Not every player listed below was inked with the presumption that they’d become an integral piece of their respective team’s roster, but they’ve all made good on their one-year pacts. Here are the ten best one-year NFL contracts signed in 2017:

Case Keenum, QB (Vikings)

In Week 9 of the 2016 season, Keenum was appearing in his final game as the Rams’ starting quarterback, and had led the club to a 3-5 record while ranking 29th in both quarterback rating and adjusted net yards per pass attempt. Fast forward to the 2017 campaign, and Keenum is 16th in quarterback rating, 11th in ANY/A, and fronting a Vikings team that leads the NFC North at 6-2 — not bad for a one-year, $2MM deal. It’s unclear how long Keenum will remain Minnesota’s starter under center (Teddy Bridgewater is due back next week), but Keenum, who will be 30 years old when free agency opens next spring, has put himself in line to compete for a starting job in 2018, either with the Vikings or with another club.

Josh McCown, QB (Jets)

Although the Jets were thought to be tanking this season, they’ve posted a 4-5 record (a mark that includes close losses to the Dolphins and Falcons), and McCown has been a key driver of that success. Now 38 years old, McCown is posting his best statistics since 2013, and has completed 70.4% of his passes for 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s been especially productive in the deep passing game, ranking second in touchdowns and third in passer rating on throws of 20 yards or more, per Mike Castiglione of Pro Football Focus. Given his performance and his locker room presence, McCown shouldn’t have any trouble landing another job next offseason.

LeGarrette Blount, RB (Eagles)LeGarrette Blount (Vertical)

While trade acquisition Jay Ajayi figures to take over as the Eagles’ starting running back going forward, Philadelphia has already gotten value out of Blount and his one-year, $1.25MM pact. Blount has handled at least 12 carries in seven of nine games this season while posting a robust 4.6 yards per rush. While he’s scored only two touchdowns thus far, Blount ranks first among all running backs with more than 25 touches with a broken tackle per touch ratio of 39.4%, according to Football Outsiders. The Eagles are the best team in the league right now, meaning they’ll be favored in a majority of their remaining games. Even with Ajayi in tow, positive game scripts should ensure Blount still has a role in Philadelphia’s backfield.

Alshon Jeffery, WR (Eagles)

Following two consecutive down seasons in Chicago, Jeffery took a pillow contract with the Eagles — he’ll collect $9.5MM (and can earn $4.5MM via incentives) before searching for a long-term deal next spring. Jeffery is fresh off his best game of the season, as he posted six receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos’ vaunted pass defense. While he’s still not creating separation — dead last in the league in yards of separation among qualified wideouts — Jeffery and his contested catch ability are nevertheless a large part of the Eagles’ offense. He’s accounted for 35.03% of his club’s air yards (10th in the NFL), per Next Gen Stats, giving quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz a much-needed weapon on the outside.

Alex Okafor, DE (Saints)

After trying the likes of Bobby Richardson and Paul Kruger of the past two seasons, the Saints have finally found a counterpart to Cameron Jordan at defensive end in the form of Okafor, whom New Orleans lured away from Arizona with a $2MM contract. He’s since played more than three-quarters of the Saints’ defensive snaps, racking up 3.5 sacks in the process. Also excellent against the run, Okafor ranks second among 4-3 defensive ends with a 9.5% run stop percentage, per PFF. All told, Okafor has helped the Saints defense rebound to a No. 16 ranking in DVOA and No. 15 ranking in adjusted sack rate (and those numbers are prior to New Orleans’ five-sack performance against the Buccaneers on Sunday).

Julius Peppers, DE (Panthers)

Peppers is back in Carolina following a seven-year hiatus, and the former No. 1 overall pick is playing like it’s still 2008. He’s 37 years old now, so the Panthers are wisely limiting his snaps — he’s seen action on roughly half the club’s defensive plays through nine weeks. Peppers has racked up 7.5 sacks this season, a figure which ranks eighth among defenders this season and places him fourth all-time with 150.5 career sacks. If Carolina earns a postseason berth — FiveThirtyEight gives them a 52% chance to do so — it will be on the strength of the team’s defense, which currently ranks sixth in DVOA.

Zach Brown, LB (Redskins)

Coming off the best season of his career with the Bills in 2016, Brown was surprisingly forced to settle for a one-year, $2MM deal with the Redskins after initially searching for a $6MM/year contract. And that’s not due to lack of interest, as Oakland, Miami, Indianapolis, and Buffalo all expressed interest in the veteran linebacker before he landed with Washington. Several of those clubs (we’re looking at you, Raiders) would certainly love to have a defender of Brown’s caliber and price available right now. A playmaking machine who embodies a 21st-century linebacker, Brown should be able to land a multi-year pact next offseason, when he’ll still be only 28 years old.

Morris Claiborne, CB (Jets)Morris Claiborne (Vertical)

The Jets’ offseason was primarily dedicated to getting rid of veteran players, but general manager Mike Maccagnan‘s small-scale signings have worked out well, as Claiborne joins McCown as the second Gang Green addition on this list. Claiborne, 27, has always been an effective player when healthy, but injuries have often marred his performance. He’s never played an entire 16-game slate, and he’s managed more than 11 games just once during his five-plus year career. Like Brown, Claiborne can use 2017 as his platform season in order to secure a multi-year deal in 2018 — as long as stays healthy for the rest of this year, that is.

Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB (Rams)

A perfectly-named slot corner, Robey-Coleman was shockingly cut loose by the Bills earlier this year despite ranking as PFF’s No. 33 cornerback in 2016 and being on par to earn just $2.083MM in 2017. The Rams scooped him up on a one-year deal worth the minimum salary, and he’s been outstanding under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, helping Los Angeles to a No. 3 ranking in pass defense DVOA. Thus far, the 25-year-old Robey-Coleman ranks third among 64 qualified cornerbacks in success rate, per Football Outsiders.

Patrick Robinson, CB (Eagles)

While the Eagles certainly have leaned on their excellent young corps on the way to a 8-1 record, general manager Howie Roseman should be lauded for his one-year, cost-effective signings of Robinson, Jeffery, and Blount. Cast off by the Colts one year into a three-year deal, Robinson signed with Philadelphia for the minimum salary and has since become the Eagles’ best cornerback. Pro Football Focus ranks the former first-round pick as the No. 4 corner in the league, and Robinson is allowing only 56.3% of targets in his area to be caught. While Robinson may not be able to parlay his production into a hefty deal in 2018 given that he’ll be 31 years old when next season gets underway, he’s been a superb addition for the Eagles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fallout From Jay Ajayi Trade

The Dolphins sent their starting running back of the past two years to the Eagles, and Jay Ajayi will join the team with the best record in football. The teams look to view the ball-carrier differently. Here’s the latest coming out of Miami and Philadelphia regarding this high-profile swap.

  • Miami was planning to look for running back help this offseason regardless of an Ajayi trade, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com tweets. Robinson writes the team has been doing its due diligence on backs, and it looks like Miami could well pursue a new starter for 2018. Miami saw Ajayi average just 3.4 yards per carry this season after debuting as a starter at 4.9 per tote. But the Dolphins handed him the ball on 138 of their 168 rushing attempts thus far. Damien Williams (12 2017 carries) and Kenyan Drake (10) are the next men up.
  • The Dolphins also don’t think Ajayi has much longer to play before the knee problems that dogged him coming out of Boise State catch up to him, Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com tweets. Ajayi fell to the fifth round partially because of concerns about his knees. But he played in 15 games last season, missing the one because of a disciplinary issue, and has suited up for each of the Fins’ seven 2017 contests.
  • Roseman said the Eagles did “the necessary medical work” on Ajayi and are comfortable with his knees, per Jeff McLane of Philly.com (on Twitter). Ajayi will take a physical upon arriving in Philadelphia tonight, and McLane notes he’s expected to be at Eagles practice on Wednesday.
  • Ajayi won’t turn 25 until next summer, and much like Philadelphia’s Ronald Darby trade, a key part of this deal was Ajayi being under contract through 2018, Howie Roseman said (via Zach Berman of Philly.com, on Twitter). LeGarrette Blount, though, will remain the Eagles’ starter, per the GM. Roseman added the Eagles being 7-1 puts them in a better position to unload a draft pick — their third 2018 selection traded away.
  • The Dolphins believe this trade will represent an addition-by-subtraction effect, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports. Ajayi’s “selfish” attitude contributed to him falling out of favor with the Dolphins, with Salguero reporting the running back on multiple occasions stormed out of the locker room after games due to discontent about his workload. Ajayi had four games featuring 27-plus touches, but three others (all Dolphins losses) featured fewer than 17. Salguero reports Ajayi complained to Dolphins running backs coach Danny Barrett but never addressed his concerns with Adam Gase.

Extra Points: Eagles, Blount, 49ers, Marks

There has been speculation that LeGarrette Blount could be on the Eagles‘ roster bubble, but the running back seems to think that his job is secure.

Oh yeah. Without a doubt,” Blount said when asked if he feels like he’s a big part of the team’s game plan (via NFL.com). “And like I said, I’m excited and I love the opportunity that I’ve been presented here. Everybody’s been nothing but great towards me this whole entire time. And that’s a big thing for me, because you want to be comfortable with the guys you’re going to be working with every day.”

Earlier this week, coach Doug Pederson also characterized Blount as a “big part” of the offensive game plan. Despite some speculation to the contrary, it sounds like Blount’s spot is safe.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • We now have details on the 49ers‘ deal with new defensive lineman Sen’Derrick Marks, courtesy of ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). It’s a pact with $1MM in base salary, $600K in per-game roster bonuses, and $400K available through incentives. Most notably, the deal includes no guaranteed cash, so the Niners won’t be on the hook for his deal if he does not make the 53-man cut on Sept. 2.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looked at who is on the Falcons‘ roster bubble as the deadline approaches. The wide receiver group is one to watch as Justin Hardy, Nick Williams, and undrafted free agent Reggie Davis duke it out for one or possibly two spots. Through the preseason thus far, Davis leads the team with 114 receiving yards. However, coach Dan Quinn wants to find out if he can serve as a gunner on punt coverage. Meanwhile, as the Falcons look to replace Jalen Collins in the No. 4 cornerback role, CJ. Goodwin seems to have the leg up on Deji Olatoye and Akeem King. Former third-round pick Blidi Wreh-Wilson is among those listed as a longshot.
  • The Packers have to decide whether to keep Taysom Hill as a third quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley, Ryan Wood of USA Today writes. Hill, a 27-year-old UDFA, led two touchdown drives this preseason and boasts 4.4 second 40-yard-dash speed.