Levine Toilolo

49ers To Sign TE Levine Toilolo

The 49ers are set to sign tight end Levine Toilolo, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The deal is pending a physical, but should become official before the end of the business day on Wednesday. 

Toilolo, 28 in July, spent the first five years of his career with the Falcons. Toilolo is mostly known for his blocking ability, but he did manage 31 catches for 238 yards in 2014 with Atlanta. He also stretched the field a bit with a 20.3 yards-per-catch average in 2016 on a limited sample of receptions. Last year, with the Lions, he had 21 catches for 263 yards.

Last year, the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus gave Toilolo an 87.0 score for pass blocking, the best of any qualified tight end in the NFL. With the Niners, the veteran will battle with sixth-round pick (and fellow Stanford product) Kaden Smith for playing time behind George Kittle. Garrett Celek, Ross Dwelley, and undrafted rookie Tyree Mayfield are also in the mix.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Mathieu, Pamphile, Watson, Weeden

Some details on recent free agent deals (all links via Twitter):

NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero also has signing bonus/guarantee details on players who signed one-year deals: TE Levine Toilolo $400K (Lions), LB Pernell McPhee $350K (Redskins), QB Brandon Weeden $90K (Texans), CB Leon Hall $45K (Raiders).

Lions To Sign TE Levine Toilolo

The Lions have signed veteran tight end Levine Toilolo to one-year deal, a source tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Toilolo spent the last five years with Falcons. 

The Lions have reinforced their tight end group after releasing starting tight end Eric Ebron earlier this month and allowing blocking specialist Darren Fells to leave in free agency. Toilolo and fellow free agent addition Luke Willson now lead the way at tight end for Detroit. 2017 draft pick Michael Roberts projects as their top TE in support.

The Lions also met with free agent tight ends Ed DicksonBrent Celek, and Logan Paulsen this offseason, but Dickson and Paulsen have since signed elsewhere. Celek remains in free agency limbo, but it seems unlikely that Detroit will sign him after adding two other veteran TEs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Host TE Levine Toilolo

The Lions met with free agent tight end Levine Toilolo on Tuesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Detroit released starting tight end Eric Ebron last week, and also witnessed top reserve Darren Fells ink a new deal with the Browns. At present, the Lions’ starting end is projected as 2017 rookie Michael Roberts, but the club is fully expected to sign a veteran tight end, per Rapoport. Thus far, Detroit has met with Luke Willson, Ed Dickson, Brent Celek, and Logan Paulsen, and all but Dickson remain on the open market.

Toilolo, who was recently released by the Falcons, has never been much of an offensive force, as he’s failed to top even 300 yards receiving in any of his five NFL campaigns. The 26-year-old was famously deployed as a tackle when Atlanta ran out of offensive linemen in a 2014 contest, but Toilolo didn’t grade well as a blocker in 2017, at least according to Pro Football Focus, which ranked Toilolo 23rd and 29th among tight ends in run-blocking and pass-blocking, respectively.

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:


  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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Falcons Cut TE Levine Toilolo

SUNDAY, 10:34am: The Falcons will designate Toilolo as a post-June 1 cut, meaning that they’ll see a cap savings of $3.5MM for this year rather than $2.5MM (Twitter link via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com). Cap space is at a premium for Atlanta, which currently ranks in the bottom third of the league in that regard.

FRIDAY, 1:46pm: The Falcons are releasing tight end Levine Toilolo, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). This comes just one year after Toilolo re-signed on a three-year, $12MM deal one year ago."<strong

Toilolo, 27 in July, has been mostly a complementary piece for Atlanta over the past few seasons. In his contract year, he had 13 catches and two touchdowns, but he stretched the field with 264 yards, good for 20.3 yards per grab. This past season, he had 12 catches for 122 yards and one score.

The Falcons are faced with a bit of a numbers crunch this offseason, which necessitated the release of Toilolo. With Austin Hooper already on board, Toilolo was a luxury they could not afford.

For the second straight year, Toilolo ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 27 ranked tight end. He’ll now join a free agent tight end crop that includes Trey Burton, Jimmy Graham, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons TE Levine Toilolo Sprains MCL

The Falcons face a win and in scenario in Week 17 when they take on the Panthers at home. However, they be could be without one of their tight ends going into the contest. Second-string tight end Levine Toilolo sprained his MCL in the team’s loss to the Saints on Sunday, making his status for next week’s game “in doubt”, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Levine Toilolo (Vertical)

Toilolo, 26, has been mostly a complementary piece in a dynamic Falcons offense over the past few seasons. He’s caught a combined 15 balls and scored three touchdowns in the last two years. Second-year tight end Austin Hooper has been one of the team’s best receiving threats after the Falcons drafted him in the third round in 2016.

The Falcons are just a win away from their second straight postseason appearance, although beating Carolina, who’s still in the running for the NFC South title, will be no walk in the park. Should Toilolo be unable to play in Atlanta’s regular season finale, third-string tight end Eric Saubert could see increased snaps. The team could also bring in a free agent tight end if the coaching staff is uncomfortable going into the contest with just two players available at the position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Re-Sign Two

The Falcons have re-signed tight end Levine Toilolo and linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, per a team announcement. Toilolo will get $12MM over three years, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The deal includes a $3MM signing bonus, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The tight end will earn $1.5MM in the first year, and his salary will then jump to $3.5MM and $4MM. There’s also a $500K receptions escalator added to the deal. Meanwhile, Wilson tweets that it’s a $1.3MM deal for Reynolds, which includes an $850K salary, a $250K signing bonus, and up to $550K in incentives.

The 25-year-old Toilolo has spent the first four seasons of his career in Atlanta, which selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. He has since appeared in 64 straight regular-season games and amassed 62 catches, including 13 last year. While his reception total was low for the NFC champs last season, Toilolo averaged 20.3 yards per grab, added two touchdowns and started in 11 games. He also ranked a decent 27th among Pro Football Focus‘ qualified tight ends.

After spending his first three years between Jacksonville and Chicago, Reynolds found a home in Atlanta in 2016. He made 16 appearances, including three starts, and totaled 23 tackles. The majority of Reynolds’ work last year came on special teams, where he saw action in 57.3 percent of snaps.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Offense

NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.

Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.

Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Updated 3-7-2017, 2:55pm CT


  1. Mike Glennon
  2. Nick Foles
  3. Brian Hoyer (story)
  4. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  5. Colin Kaepernick
  6. Josh McCown
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Christian Ponder
  12. Blaine Gabbert
  13. Geno Smith
  14. Matt Schaub (story)
  15. EJ Manuel

Honorable mention: Ryan Nassib, Landry JonesShaun Hill Mike Glennon (vertical)

Colin Kaepernick’s agents have (wisely) let everyone know that their client will stand for the National Anthem in 2017. That may seem like a minor point, but teams say they would have automatically removed him from consideration if he continued his attention-grabbing protest. He grabbed headlines for his actions on the sidelines last year, but he actually turned in an OK season. From a football standpoint, Kaepernick would make sense for a lot of teams as a QB2 with upside.

Interestingly, this list includes three quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it as the Jets’ starter and three rejects from the 49ers. They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all six of those players (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert) come with varying degrees of potential and proven effectiveness. Smith, somehow, could reportedly be retained by the Jets and installed as the starter in 2017.

Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.

Running back:

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Jamaal Charles
  6. Darren McFadden
  7. Jacquizz Rodgers
  8. Rex Burkhead
  9. Rashad Jennings
  10. Danny Woodhead
  11. Tim Hightower
  12. DeAngelo Williams
  13. Andre Ellington
  14. Chris Johnson
  15. Christine Michael

Honorable mention: Robert Turbin, Travaris Cadet, Benny Cunningham, Lance Dunbar, Bobby Rainey, Brandon BoldenDenard Robinson, James Starks

Adrian Peterson (vertical)As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.

The Patriots believe they won’t be able to match the offers that come in LeGarrette Blount‘s direction. Latavius Murray could circle back to the Raiders, but he won’t be agreeing to a deal with them before free agency opens on Thursday.

Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.

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FA Rumors: Pats, Jefferson, Jags, Falcons

Free agency officially opens on March 9, so let’s round up a few FA-related notes and rumors from around the league:

  • Although it is difficult, as usual, to pin down the Patriots‘ free agency plans, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe does his best, writing that the club is “taking a long look” at the tight end position but that Martellus Bennett could certainly be back, that the team is in the defensive end market now that Chris Long is gone and Jabaal Sheard appears unlikely to return, and that Logan Ryan is likely to price himself out of the Patriots’ price range. Volin names the Jaguars and Raiders as two teams with serious interest in Bennett.
  • Speaking of the Jaguars, the club is expected to let Tyson Alualu hit the open market, as Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union writes.
  • In a separate piece, O’Halloran lists the Jaguars‘ most pressing needs in free agency and examines how they could address those needs with an aggressive approach or with a more disciplined approach. He predicts that the Jags will land this year’s top FA cornerback, A.J. Bouye, if Bouye does not re-sign with Houston.
  • Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, citing an agent who represents a FA safety, says that the CardinalsTony Jefferson can expect to land a contract that will pay him $7MM per year (Twitter link). Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, though, tweets that Jefferson is likely to get paid closer to $10MM per year.
  • D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the Falcons, who are moving towards an extension for Desmond Trufant, want to re-sign tight end Levine Toilolo, safety/linebacker Kemal Ishmael, and fullback Patrick DiMarco before free agency opens. The team is expected to let Jacob Tamme hit free agency and to wait until after the draft to make a decision on Dwight Freeney. Atlanta is also waiting to hear back from guard Chris Chester, who is contemplating retirement.
  • The Falcons plan to upgrade their defensive front in free agency and the draft, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. The club is expected to re-sign Courtney Upshaw, and McClure names Cowboys’ DT Terrell McClain as one potential target for Atlanta.
  • Mike Klis of 9News.com writes that the Broncos are seeking help on both the offensive and defensive line in free agency, but he observes that the club may be operating with two budgets: one that includes Tony Romo, and one that doesn’t. Even if Denver does not land the long-time Cowboys signal-caller, Klis says the Broncos will have to manage the cap creatively, as they have a number of housekeeping moves to make that will eat into their $35MM of cap room, and offensive and defensive linemen do not come cheap on the open market.