Lorenzo Alexander

Extra Points: Bennett, NFLPA, Cap, Kirksey

Although Michael Bennett went through a nomadic late-2010s stretch after the Seahawks traded him in 2018, he remained productive. The veteran defensive lineman has registered 15.5 sacks over the past two seasons and is a free agent for the first time since 2013. Bennett, who signed with the Seahawks in 2013, would like to return to the team to which he’s most linked. Asked if he would want to play for the Seahawks again, the 34-year-old defender said “hard yes.” Bennett, though, has not yet committed to playing a 12th NFL season.

I would love to end my career in Seattle,” Bennett said, via Joe Fann of NBC Sports Northwest. “It’s not up to you, though. It’s up to the team.”

The Seahawks gave Bennett two contracts, including a three-year, $31.5MM extension in 2016. That contract was set to run through 2020, but after the Eagles and Patriots traded him, Bennett and the Cowboys restructured the deal to direct him toward free agency this year. Seattle has most of its pass rushers — including Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed — as impending free agents, so the franchise will have critical decisions to make in the next week and change.

Here is the latest from around the league, moving first to the reconfigured NFLPA:

  • Russell Okung has enjoyed an eventful March, being traded from the Chargers to the Panthers and filing an unfair labor practice charge at the NFLPA staff. As for Okung’s status with the union, he will no longer be part of the NFLPA’s executive committee, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Okung dropped his bid for NFLPA president, throwing support behind Michael Thomas in a race that went to Browns center J.C. Tretter. Both of the players Tretter beat out for the job — Thomas and linebacker Sam Acho — will stay on as executive committee members.
  • Calais Campbell, Malcolm Jenkins and Wesley Woodyard will replace Mark Herzlich, Zak DeOssie and Adam Vinatieri on the executive committee. They will join Tretter, Acho, Thomas, Richard Sherman, Ben Watson, Alex Mack, Lorenzo Alexander and Thomas Morstead on the 11-man committee, the union announced.
  • Rumblings about the salary cap rising to around $230MM by 2021 have surfaced, but the 2020 cap will not move too far from the previously estimated $200MM amount. If the players approve the CBA proposal, the highest the cap would surge to in 2020 would be $206MM, per Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription required). While the salary ceiling could climb significantly by 2023, if the league’s TV negotiations go well, those spikes will not come until at least 2021.
  • Christian Kirksey may have a chance to land on his feet before free agency. Recently released by the Browns, the veteran linebacker has three visits scheduled, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. Kirksey’s travel itinerary is not yet known, but the 27-year-old defender’s first visit is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
  • The Texans will take a look at a notable wide receiver soon. They will work out former Broncos rotational cog Jordan Taylor, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. Taylor has not played since the 2017 season. He spent 2018 on the Broncos’ PUP list, and though he caught on with the Vikings last year, the 28-year-old target did not see game action.

Bills’ Lorenzo Alexander To Retire

Last January, Lorenzo Alexander said that 2019 would probably be his final season in the NFL. After the Bills’ heartbreaking loss to the Texans in Saturday’s wildcard playoff game, Alexander confirmed that he is going to retire, as Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic tweets.

Earlier this week, Alexander reiterated his retirement plans, even though he remains a productive member of Buffalo’s defense. 

Yes, obviously, it was a decision I made before the season, and at this point, we still have to play Houston,” Alexander said (via Leo Roth and Ryan Miller of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle). “My mind hasn’t even processed transition yet, so I’m still in this thing 100 percent. Once you start thinking about life after football, you kind of take some of the focus away from the guys and what’s important. The focus is on Houston now and we have to get a playoff win, obviously that would be huge for this organization and community.”

Alexander turned pro in 2005 but didn’t see his first NFL action until 2007 with the Redskins. He served mostly as a reserve and special teams player up until 2016, when he found a home with the Bills. In his age-33 season, Alexander started all 16 games and racked up 12.5 sacks en route to a Pro Bowl selection. All in all, he’s amassed 24 regular season sacks for the Bills.

Now, at the age of 36, Alexander is ready to move on from football. He’ll suit up for the Bills as they take on the Texans this weekend and he’s hoping for a February sendoff.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills’ Alexander Likely To Retire After Season

This week, Lorenzo Alexander agreed to a new deal with the Bills that will keep him away from free agency in March. It also sounds like this will be his last contract, period. 

If you ask me today, yeah, this is my last year,” Alexander said (via Nick Veronica of the Buffalo News). “At some point you’ve got to eventually walk away from the game and start the second half of your life. Obviously, I’ve got a lot of life to live and there are other things I want to do. I have four kids that I want to be a part of what they’re doing, whether that’s Little League sports, dance, soccer, whatever that may look like.”

Alexander, who turns 36 in May, ranked eighth on the team in both defensive snaps played (62%) and special teams snaps played (39%). He also finished out with the second-highest Pro Football Focus score of any Bills player last season at 85.7 and finished with the second-most sacks on the team. Defensive end Jerry Hughes was the only teammate to finish higher than him in those categories.

Alexander’s new deal can pay him up to $4.55MM and carries a base value of $3MM. Given his past production and the league’s tendency to pay handsomely for pass rushers, one has to imagine that Alexander would have gotten more on the open market.

In addition to spending more time with the family, Alexander says he would like to go into broadcasting after his playing career is through.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Sign Lorenzo Alexander To Extension

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander signed a one-year contract extension with the Bills, according to a team announcement. The new deal will keep Alexander in Buffalo through 2019, his age-36 season. 

Alexander’s one-year extension has a max value of $4.55MM, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The base value of the pact is $3MM, including a $550K signing bonus.

Alexander first joined the Bills in 2016 as a well-traveled veteran who could provide depth and special teams help. As it turns out, he brought much more to the table.

Since signing with Buffalo three years ago, Alexander has started in 35 games, recorded 22 sacks, and made three interceptions. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and, last season, he was elected to be a team captain.

His 12.5 sacks in 2016 were especially impressive, but he quietly had another strong year in 2018. His 6.5 sacks were second only to Jerry Hughes (7) and his 73 tackles put him in Buffalo’s top five.

In 2018, Pro Football Focus ranked Alexander as the fourth-best linebacker in the entire NFL. He placed behind only Bobby Wagner, Luke Kuechly, and Zach Brown.

Alexander would have had plenty of suitors in March, but he made it clear that he wanted to stay in Buffalo.

Obviously, I’m invested,” Alexander said earlier this month when asked about re-signing with the Bills. “I’ve been here three years, I’m invested in the community. I’m invested in this team and this organization. I would like to be able to continue to play here and be able to retire here.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Claiborne, Geno Smith

Let’s take a look at the details of some recently-signed contracts:

  • Morris Claiborne, CB (Jets): One year, $5MM. $2.5MM base salary. $2MM signing bonus. $31K per game bonus if on 46-man roster. (Twitter link via Manish Mehta of the Daily News).
  • Lorenzo Alexander, LB (Bills): Two years, $5.95MM. Cap numbers of $2.55MM (2017) and $3.4MM (2018). $1.1MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $2MM (2017, fully guaranteed) and $2.45MM (2018; $300K fully guaranteed; $1MM guaranteed for injury only). $300K roster bonus due on third day of the 2018 league year and additional per-game roster bonuses of $6K+ in 2018. Incentives up to $850K (2017) and $1.25MM (2018) in playing time and Pro Bowl incentives. (Twitter link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
  • Geno Smith, QB (Giants): One year, $775K base. $25K workout bonus. $800K in play time incentives. $12.5K per-game roster bonuses. Max value of $2MM. (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com).
  • EJ Manuel, QB (Raiders): One year, $800K. No guaranteed money. (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com).
  • Kellen Moore, QB (Cowboys): One year, $755K. $100K fully guaranteed (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).
  • Tyson Alualu, DL (Steelers): Two years, $6MM. $1.75MM fully guaranteed. (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).
  • Kevin Minter, LB (Bengals): One year, $4MM. $2.1MM guaranteed. (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com).
  • Frostee Rucker, DE (Cardinals): One year, $1.08MM. $80K fully guaranteed. $500K+ available through incentives. (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).

AFC East Rumors: Cutler, Hightower, Bills

The team most linked to Jay Cutler now that he’s a first-time free agent, the Jets may be split on acquiring the former Broncos and Bears quarterback. Gang Green is intrigued by the 12th-year passer, and the feeling is believed to be mutual. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News notes a faction of the Jets wants the 33-year-old Cutler on the roster, linking former Broncos and Bears assistant Jeremy Bates — the Jets’ new quarterbacks coach — to being in the pro-Cutler camp. The Jets, though, aren’t presently inclined to spend much on Cutler, with Mehta noting if he were available for “a few million” the Jets’ brass would probably sign him. Cutler played three seasons of the seven-year, $126MM Bears deal he signed in 2014.

Here’s more from the Jets and some of their division rivals.

  • One team involved in talks with UFA linebacker Dont’a Hightower is convinced he will sign to stay with the Patriots, Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com tweets. Breer doesn’t specify the team here, but the Patriots have been connected to the sixth-year ‘backer throughout free agency despite not placing the franchise tag on him. New England has been the only known team to be pursuing Hightower. While there are surely others in the hunt for a top-level free agent, none have been revealed yet.
  • Lorenzo Alexander expects the two-year, $9MM contract he signed with the Bills to be his last. “I see myself walking off into the sunset and transitioning into life after football after I’m done,” the soon-to-be 34-year-old pass-rusher said, per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. The Bills re-signed the 2016 wonder despite being set to shift to a 4-3 defense. Prior to last season, Alexander (12.5 sacks in ’16) had nine career sacks in nine seasons.
  • The Jets would be interested in acquiring Trevor Siemian from the Broncos in the event they sign or trade for Tony Romo, Mehta reports. Unloading a late-round pick for Siemian would be something the Jets would consider. Cutler might be the Jets’ backup plan behind Siemian, Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com reported earlier this week. But there are a lot of moving parts to this string of deals, one that became murkier when the Texans cleared eight figures in cap space via their unorthodox Brock Osweiler trade. That opens the door for Houston to pursue Romo, and it’s unlikely the team will look to move Tom Savage in that event. The Broncos, though, would have less use for Siemian if they land Romo since Paxton Lynch is still tentatively viewed as their quarterback of the future. Siemian has two years remaining on his rookie contract.
  • In addition to keeping Alexander, the Bills re-upped right tackle Jordan Mills on Saturday.

Bills To Re-Sign Lorenzo Alexander

The Bills have agreed to re-sign linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, as Alexander himself posted on Twitter. He’ll sign a two-year, $9MM deal that includes $4.1MM guaranteed, reports Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Lorenzo Alexander

Alexander settled for a minimum salary benefit deal with the Bills in free agency last spring, when he was a special teams-first journeyman who had racked up only 9.5 sacks in his first nine NFL seasons. But Alexander broke out last season in Buffalo, where he accumulated 76 tackles, 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception across 16 starts en route to second-team All-Pro honors and the only Pro Bowl berth of his career.

The first real defensive success of Alexander’s career came under the Bills’ previous head coach, Rex Ryan, whom they fired with a week left in the season. Buffalo has since replaced Ryan with another defensive-minded coach, Sean McDermott, but the team clearly regards Alexander as a player capable of thriving in its new system.

Heading into the free agent period, PFR ranked Alexander as the fifth-best pass rusher available.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: Charles, Hightower, Cutler, Bills

The latest free agency rumors from around the league:

  • Jamaal Charles will visit the Seahawks next week, a source tells Mike Florio of PFT. The Seahawks’ interest in Charles was first reported on Thursday morning. If he signs with Seattle, he’ll join Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise on the RB depth chart.
  • A Dont’a Hightower/Patriots re-up remains on the table, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reporting (on Twitter) the parties remain in good communication about keeping Hightower in New England.
  • The Jetsinterest in Jay Cutler is being reciprocated by the veteran quarterback, Rapoport notes (on Twitter). The Bears released Cutler today after eight seasons.
  • Malcolm Smith will receive a raise from the 49ers after his two years with the Raiders. Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets it’s a five-year, $26.5MM deal for the outside ‘backer, with $13MM guaranteed. This $5.3MM-AAV pact represents quite the bump from his $3.5MM deal in Oakland, one that didn’t come with rave reviews from the advanced metrics community.
  • The Bills remain interested in retaining Lorenzo Alexander, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News tweets. The sides are continuing to work at completing a deal for the edge defender. Although the Bills are moving to a 4-3 scheme, Alexander — who thrived as a 3-4 outside ‘backer in the form of 12.5 sacks in 2016 — looks to still be part of their plans.
  • It sounds like the Bills and Lions are in the lead for wide receiver Russell Shepard (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler). He could still wind up returning to the Buccaneers.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

Bills Prioritizing Lorenzo Alexander Deal

On the heels of his stunningly excellent 2016 campaign, the Bills aren’t ready to watch linebacker Lorenzo Alexander depart in free agency. The team is prioritizing re-signing Alexander and “working hard” to lock him up, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Lorenzo Alexander

Alexander settled for a minimum salary benefit deal with the Bills in free agency last spring, when he was a special teams-first journeyman who had racked up only 9.5 sacks in his first nine NFL seasons. But Alexander broke out last season in Buffalo, where he accumulated 76 tackles, 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception across 16 starts en route to second-team All-Pro honors and the only Pro Bowl berth of his career.

The first real defensive success of Alexander’s career came under the Bills’ previous head coach, Rex Ryan, whom they fired with a week left in the season. Buffalo has since replaced Ryan with another defensive-minded coach, Sean McDermott, but the team clearly regards Alexander as a player capable of thriving in its new system.

If the Bills prevent Alexander from hitting the market, it would remove yet another quality edge rusher from a thinning class of free agents. PFR’s Dallas Robinson ranks Alexander as the fifth-best rusher available, and the defender’s agent, Peter Schaffer, expects him to garner anywhere from $5MM to $10MM per year on his next deal.

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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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