Luke Willson

Contract Details: Burnett, Bodine, Williams

Let’s take a look at the most recent new contracts around the NFL:

AFC

NFC

Lions Sign TE Luke Willson

The Lions are signing former Seahawks tight end Luke Willson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). It’s a one-year deal worth $2.5MM with some upside potential in his deal. Willson will receive $1.5MM guaranteed, tweets Adam Caplan of SiriusXM.

Willson also visited the Panthers and Jaguars before agreeing to sign with Detroit. It’s not clear if he had viable offers from Carolina or Jacksonville, but in any case, the Lions will probably give him a better chance to showcase his talents. With the Panthers, Willson would have been playing behind Greg Olsen. And it’s possible that the Jaguars would have passed on Niles Paul had they signed Willson, but he probably still would have been playing alongside Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

The Lions had a clear need for a tight end after cutting Eric Ebron and watching Darren Fells sign with the Browns. The Lions missed out on Trey Burtonbut they have added a promising (and cheaper) option in Willson..

Willson failed to top 200 yards receiving in either of the past two seasons, but he graded out as the league’s No. 26 run-blocking tight end among 69 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

The Lions’ tight end depth chart is comprised of Willson, Michael RobertsHakeem Valles, and Brandon Barnes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Host TE Luke Willson

The Lions have completed a free agent visit with tight end Luke Willson, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter link).

Detroit has released Eric Ebron and witnessed Darren Fells sign with the Browns over the past week, so the club is clearly in need of a new tight end. The Lions were reportedly interested in Trey Burton before he signed with the division-rival Bears, while they also met with veteran Brent Celek after he was released by the Eagles.

Willson has been busy in his own right, as the former Seahawk has been hosted by the Jaguars and Panthers this week. The 28-year-old has never been much of an offensive force, but his usage took a serious hit when Seattle acquired fellow tight end Jimmy Graham in 2015. Willson failed to top 200 yards receiving in either of the past two seasons, but he did grade as the league’s No. 26 run-blocking tight end among 69 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

At present, the Lions’ tight end depth chart is comprised of Michael Roberts, Hakeem Valles, and Brandon Barnes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars To Host TE Luke Willson

The Jaguars will meet with free agent tight end Luke Willson on Friday, according to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM (Twitter link). Despite signing both Niles Paul and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets that the team is still interested in adding another player at the position. After all, “they love tight ends,” a source told Garafolo.

The 2013 fifth-round pick had spent his entire career with the Seahawks, earning himself a Super Bowl championship along the way. The 28-year-old wrapped up the 2017 season having hauled in 15 receptions for 153 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Pro Football Focus ranked Willson 43rd among 71 tight end candidates, but the site was fond of his run-blocking skills.

We learned earlier this week that Willson was set to visit with the Panthers.

TE Luke Willson To Visit Panthers

Luke Willson‘s tenure with the Seahawks may be over. The free agent tight end is set to visit with the Panthers this evening, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (via Twitter).

The 2013 fifth-round pick has spent his entire career with Seattle, earning himself a Super Bowl championship along the way. The 28-year-old finished the 2017 campaign having hauled in 15 receptions for 153 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Pro Football Focus ranked Willson 43rd among 71 tight end candidates, but the site was fond of his run-blocking skills.

The Panthers and Seahawks could effectively be swapping tight ends, as Ed Dickson is set to meet with Seattle tonight. If he joins the Panthers, Willson would presumably slide into a backup role behind Greg Olsen. Meanwhile, after having lost Jimmy Graham, the Seahawks are currently rostering only a pair of tight ends in Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes.

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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West Notes: Lynch, Staley, Buchanon

The Broncos turned to another quarterback, but got the same results in today’s loss to Oakland. Second-year signal caller Paxton Lynch was the latest passer to rack up a defeat during the team’s seven game losing streak. However, the loss was not the only thing the former first round pick suffered on Sunday.

Lynch was forced to exit the game in the third quarter after an apparent right ankle injury, reports Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post. The quarterback was seen very emotion on the sideline when he learned that his day would be done. It’s a crushing development for Lynch, who’d been waiting for his chance to get on the field as he’d been recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered in the preseason.

Trevor Siemian was good in relief, but with the team at 3-8 and clearly out of the playoff hunt, I’m sure head coach Vance Joseph wanted to see what he had in his young gunslinger. It remains to be seen just how serious the injury actually is, though it appears to be distinct possibility that the team will have to switch starters again in Week 13.

  • The 49ers have dealt with a variety of injuries this year, but seemed to avoid another to one of the team’s best players. Left tackle Joe Staley left the game for just one play after an apparent leg injury, but was able to return without much issue. The veteran lineman clarified after the game that he simply hyperextended his knee and is fine, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link).
  • Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians confirmed that linebacker Deone Bucannon has injured right leg, says Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. While the news is concerning on its own, there is added negativity because it’s the same leg that Bucannon had surgery on during offseason, which forced him to miss the first three games of the year. It’s not known just how long it’s expected to keep the 25-year-old out, but the team does have three reserves in Josh Bynes, Scooby Wright and Bryson Albright to take those snaps should the injury force Bucannon to miss time.
  • The Seahawks came out of their win over the 49ers with few injuries of their own. Head coach Pete Carroll said that defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was “Ok” after leaving in the fourth quarter, reports Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. However, Henderson also passes along that second-string tight end Luke Willson suffered a bit more serious of an injury after he was removed in the second quarter with a concussion. Carroll did mention to reporters that the tight end has a chance to play in next week’s game, but he obviously must pass concussion protocol first. In the meantime, both Jimmy Graham and third-stringer Nick Vannett were able to find the end zone without Willson in the lineup.

NFC Rumors: Vikes, Saints, Hawks, Eagles

A left knee injury will shelve Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford for the second straight game on Sunday, but it’s not necessarily time to panic, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network says (video link). While Bradford’s knee is “painful,” according to Pelissero, doctors have not told the quarterback that it has any structural that would require surgery. Notably, Bradford underwent procedures for two torn ACLs in that knee earlier in his career. For now, Bradford and the Vikings are hoping he’ll return for their Week 4 home game against Detroit – the first of three divisional matchups in a row.

  • A lack of continuity is one of the key causes of the Saints’ years-long defensive struggles, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com observes. The Saints have started the most defenders (55) in the NFL dating back to 2014, and have also seen a league-high 23 defensive backs start at least two games in that span, per Triplett. The club has simply missed on too many defensive free agent signings and draft picks – including linebacker Stephone Anthony – to establish a rhythm on that side of the ball, Triplett contends. The Saints traded Anthony, a first-round selection in 2015, to Miami this week for a 2018 fifth-rounder after he failed to live up to his draft status in New Orleans. Safety Kenny Vaccaro, a 2013 first-rounder, may also find himself in another uniform soon. A starter in 57 of 58 career appearances, Vaccaro sat on the bench for a large portion of the Saints’ blowout loss to New England last week. Former teammate Scott Shanle, a retired linebacker, informed Triplett that Vaccaro is “the most bipolar player I’ve ever seen as far as consistency. When he’s on, he’s one of the best players in the league. When he’s off, I just don’t get it.”
  • Seahawks tight end Luke Willson told Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times that he expected his offseason foray into free agency to go better than it did. Willson was on the market for a week before re-signing with the Seahawks on a modest deal worth between $1.8MM and $3MM. “To be honest with you it was a miserable process,’’ Willson said. “Not what I expected. I don’t know what day I officially signed back but it wasn’t the first few days and it was, whatever it was — four days of being unemployed felt like about four months.’’ Willson added that he has no complaints about the end result, noting that he’s still “making quite a bit of money playing football.” The 27-year-old has never been a prolific pass catcher during his four-plus seasons, meaning he could once again have trouble scoring a coveted long-term contract by next spring.
  • Eagles executive vice president Howie Roseman erred in handing guard Isaac Seumalo a starting job before training camp began, Paul Domowitch of Philly.com opines. Roseman traded Allen Barbre to Denver on July 26 to further drive home the point that he wanted Seumalo in the starting lineup, but the second-year man is already headed to the bench in favor of Chance Warmack after a pair of rough games. The Eagles’ hope was that Seumalo would start all 16 games at left guard this year and then, perhaps as early as next season, shift to center to take over for Jason Kelce, Domowitch suggests. Kelce’s under contract for a few more years, so if Seumalo doesn’t return to a No. 1 role this season and show marked improvement, perhaps the former will stick around in 2018.

Contract Details: Taylor, Cook, Willson

The latest contract details from around the NFL:

  • Tyrod Taylor, QB (Bills): Taylor earns an additional $500K if the Bills make it to the divisional round of the playoffs in 2017, which becomes $1MM if they advance to the AFC Championship, and $2MM if they advance to the Super Bowl. The same package of incentives applies to 2018 (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).
  • Jared Cook, TE (Raiders): Two years, $10.6MM, $1.6MM in incentives (effectively a one-year $5.3MM deal with $800K in incentives) (Twitter link via Ben Volin of The Boston Globe).
  • Luke Willson, TE (Seahawks): One year, $1.8MM, $1MM in incentives (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle).
  • Kayvon Webster, CB (Rams): Two years, $7.75MM. Salaries of $2.75MM (guaranteed), $3MM. $1MM 2017 roster bonus guaranteed, $500K 2018 roster bonus guaranteed. (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Sean Spence, LB (Colts): One year, $2.5MM. $750K signing bonus. $500K in incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Kendall Wright, WR (Bears): One year, $2MM. $250K signing bonus. $2MM in incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).

Seahawks To Re-Sign Luke Willson

The Seahawks have agreed to re-sign tight end Luke Willson to a one-year deal worth up to $3MM, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com.Luke Willson (Vertical)

Seattle reportedly offered Willson a new deal during the 2016 season, but Willson didn’t consider it a serious proposal and didn’t even respond to it. Things have seemingly changed, as Willson will now return to the Pacific Northwest for a fifth campaign. He’ll work with alongside Seahawks tight ends Jimmy Graham and Nick Vannett.

Willson, 27, ranked as PFR’s No. 5 tight end heading into the free agent period. In 2016, Willson dealt with injuries and only managed to appear in 11 games, playing in roughly a third of Seattle’s offensive snaps. During that time, he posted 15 receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.