Manti Te'o

Bears Sign Manti Te’o To Practice Squad

Manti Te’o is back. The Bears are signing the veteran linebacker to their practice squad, the team announced on Tuesday. Thanks to the NFL’s new COVID-19 rules, veterans are allowed on practice squads for the first time.

Te’o, an extremely accomplished college player who was a Heisman finalist at Notre Dame, was originally drafted by the Chargers in the second-round back in 2013. He was mostly a starter during his time with the team, but also struggled with numerous injuries. After his rookie contract expired, he signed a two-year deal with New Orleans.

He appeared in all 16 games with the Saints in 2017 and started ten, but took on a much smaller role in 2018, when he only started twice and was a healthy scratch at times down the stretch. He sat out most of last season before suddenly reemerging and signing with the Saints in December of last year. He played in the final few games, starting two.

We didn’t hear anything of him this offseason until the Bears decided to work him out last week. Clearly they liked what they saw. Still only 29 he should have something left in the tank physically, and it’ll be interesting to see if he gets called up to the active roster soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Work Out LBs Manti Te’o, Deone Bucannon

The Bears have some veteran linebackers on their radar. They brought in Manti Te’o and Deone Bucannon for workouts on Wednesday, with second-year defender Justin Phillips taking part in the audition as well, per the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter).

While Bucannon has been involved in the 2020 season’s unusual fall workout circuit, this marks Te’o’s first known workout since last season.

Te’o, 29, caught on with the Saints again in 2019, signing in December. He spent parts of three seasons in New Orleans, starting 10 games for the 2017 Saints and playing eight games over the past two seasons. The former Heisman finalist and second-round Chargers pick has made 48 career starts.

A former first-round Cardinals pick, Bucannon played 14 games with the Buccaneers and Giants last season. The former college defensive back made 25 tackles in 2019. The Falcons released him from their practice squad late last month. A 2019 UDFA, Phillips spent last season with the Raiders.

Saints Sign LB Manti Te’o

Manti Te’o is back in New Orleans. On Tuesday, the Saints signed the 28-year-old linebacker, according to Sean Fazende of FOX8 (on Twitter). 

Te’o wrapped up a two-year pact with the Saints last year and did not sign on with another club for 2019, until now. He didn’t do a whole lot in 2018, but, in 2017, he started in eleven games for the Saints and played reasonably well.

For his career, the Notre Dame product has started in 47 contests, though he’s lost a good deal of time to injuries since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2013.

The Saints hope he can stay healthy, because he’s going to be relied upon for some badly needed depth in the linebacker group. There’s no word just yet on Kiko Alonso‘s status heading into Sunday’s game against the 49ers, but this probably isn’t a great sign for his availability.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Meet With Manti Te’o

The Lions hosted Saints free agent linebacker Manti Te’o on a visit, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Te’o, who also recently met with the Raiders, could be set to move on from New Orleans

The seem fairly well set at middle linebacker with Alex Anzalone, Craig Robertson, and Darnell Sankey in the fold, so the Saints might only be willing to go so far to retain the 28-year-old Te’o. Te’o, meanwhile, would probably prefer a situation that offers more playing time.

Te’o just finished a two-year pact that he signed with the Saints in 2017 and saw action in just five contests (two starts) last year, compiling 18 total tackles. However, in 2017, he started in eleven games and played reasonably well.

For his career, Te’o has started in 47 contests, though he’s lost a good deal of time to injuries since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2013. If he signs with Detroit, he may have a path to more playing time, provided that he can stay on the field.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Interested In Brandon Marshall; Also Interested In Vontaze Burfict?

The Raiders are interested in former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, according to Mike Klis of 9News (via Twitter). Marshall, who saw his 2019 option declined by the division-rival Broncos, has attracted the attention of at least five clubs.

He does have a concerning injury history, but Oakland has very little firepower in its LB corps, and Marshall, who compiled 102 tackles and three sacks in 2017, would represent an immediate upgrade if he can stay healthy.

Vontaze Burfict would also represent an upgrade, and the Raiders, never a club to shy away from controversial players and big personalities, may also may be interested in the recently-released linebacker, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Bengals cut Burfict today after a seven-year run that included one Pro Bowl berth and a whole host of fines and suspensions, and though he may have lost a step or two, there is clearly a need for someone of his ability in Oakland.

In addition to their interest in Marshall and their potential interest in Burfict, the Raiders have also hosted Manti Te’o and Aaron Lynch, as Rapoport observes. Te’o, who just finished a two-year pact that he signed with the Saints in 2017, saw action in just five contests (two starts) last year, compiling 18 total tackles, but he did start 11 games in 2017 and played reasonably well. Plus, he is still only 28, and he would likely welcome a chance to sign with the Raiders given the playing time that might be available for him.

Unlike Burfict and Te’o, Lynch is an edge defender who can line up at DE or OLB. He was in for about 1/3 of the Bears’ defensive snaps in 2018, and he recorded three sacks in his 13 games played (three starts). The Raiders need someone who can get after the quarterback, and Lynch did post 12.5 sacks over his first two years in the league with the 49ers. At 26, he could be a low-risk, high-reward acquisition.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Saints, Fins, Cowboys, Ravens

The Saints have too many linebackers and not enough spots, which could lead to the ouster of either Manti Te’o or Stephone Anthony, writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Te’o hasn’t even played a down yet for the Saints, who signed him in May, but his two-year, $5MM deal includes just $600K in guarantees. With that in mind, the former Charger will be easy to jettison if he doesn’t impress Saints coaches in the coming weeks. Anthony’s contract, on the other hand, isn’t so team friendly. Cutting him wouldn’t save the Saints any money this year, yet it would leave them with $2.1MM-plus in dead money. While the 24-year-old was a first-round pick of the Saints not long ago, in 2015, he’s coming off a subpar second season that ended after 10 games on account of a knee injury.

More from around the NFL:

  • As of late June, the expectation was that Dolphins center Mike Pouncey would be ready for Week 1. That remains the case, it seems, as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Pouncey hasn’t had any setbacks during his recovery from the hip injury that kept him out of 11 games last year. As a result, both Pouncey and the Dolphins are “confident” a forthcoming hip exam will yield positive results. Still, for precautionary reasons, the Dolphins will limit Pouncey in practice throughout the year in hopes of having him for all 16 regular-season games (and potential playoff contests), relays Salguero.
  • Cowboys defensive end David Irving was a no-show for the team’s first day of camp on Friday, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com. It’s unclear why Irving was absent, but he’s now subject to a $40K fine for missing reporting day. Irving’s already set to serve a four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
  • With training camp approaching, Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun projects the Ravens’ season-opening roster. Veterans whose roster spots are in danger include tight end Maxx Williams, fullback Lorenzo Taliaferro, defensive ends Brent Urban and Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Brandon Boykin, writes Zrebiec. Urban is the only member of the group who appeared in every Ravens game last season, when he picked up two sacks on 150 snaps. Smith, a participant in over 47 percent of Baltimore’s defensive snaps and a starter in 13 appearances, played the biggest role of the five in 2016. But Smith only made a marginal impact statistically (20 tackles, sack, forced fumble), and his performance ranked a less-than-stellar 92nd among Pro Football Focus’ 106 qualified edge defenders.
  • Bears center Hroniss Grasu missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in August, and now it’s up in the air whether he’ll play another down for the team, suggests JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago. Grasu’s old starting job now belongs to Cody Whitehair, who more than held his own as a rookie after shifting from guard to center in the wake of Grasu’s injury. So, if the Bears only keep eight offensive lineman this year, it may lead to Grasu’s demise. The 25-year-old was a third-round pick in 2015, when he started in all of his appearances, though a neck injury limited him to eight games that season.

NFC South Notes: Njoku, Bucs, Saints, Te’o

The Buccaneers met with Miami tight end David Njoku earlier this week, per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Njoku, who registered 43 receptions and eight touchdowns last season, is expected to be one of two first-round picks at tight end, joining Alabama’s O.J. Howard. The Giants, who sit at pick No. 23 (four spots behind Tampa Bay) are also said to be “very high” on Njoku.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Prior to re-signing with the Saints, defensive back Sterling Moore came close to joining another — as yet unidentified — club, as he detailed to SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). A career journeyman prior to 2016, Moore started 12 games for New Orleans last season. As Moore explains, the Saints circled back to him with an offer after he’d been negotiating with another team, allowing him the return he’d always preferred. Moore, 27, earned $760K last year.
  • Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara is expected to meet with the Saints on Wednesday, tweets Sean Fazende of WVUE FOX 8. Kamara, who recently fired his agent, could sneak into Round 1 despite being viewed as a Day 2 prospect for most of last year. A committee back with the Volunteers, Kamara managed less than 1,300 yards rushing during two years in Tennessee, but also averaged more than six yards per carry during that time.
  • The second year of Buccaneers center Joe Hawley‘s two-year deal is an option year, Caplan tweets. As previously reported, the full two-year pact is worth $5.5MM with $1MM fully guaranteed. If Tampa Bay opts to pick up his 2018 option, Hawley will receive a $250K option bonus, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
  • Manti Te’o‘s two-year deal with the Saints is worth $5MM with $600K guaranteed, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Te’o can earn $500K annually in per-game roster bonuses, according to Rapoport, and can rake in another $1MM per year in incentives, tweets Wilson.

Saints To Sign LB Manti Te’o

Manti Te’o has agreed to a deal with the Saints, a source tells ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett (Twitter link). The linebacker will receive a two-year deal. "<strong

Te’o, the 38th overall pick in the 2013 draft, has been hindered by injuries throughout his career. As a rookie in 2013, Te’o suffered a foot injury in the preseason which sidelined him for the first part of the regular season. In the following year, the linebacker missed six games due to a foot fracture. In 2015, Te’o missed four games as the result of an ankle injury.

All told, the Notre Dame product has managed only 30 starts in four years with the Chargers, and he hasn’t been especially productive. Still, he ranks as the No. 7 free agent linebacker on PFR’s updated list, mostly based on potential upside.

The Saints have remade their linebacker group a bit this offseason, adding middle linebacker A.J. Klein and outside linebacker Alex Okafor. The addition of Te’o would give New Orleans nine LBs in total, for the time being. It’s not clear how New Orleans will use Te’o given the presence of Klein and last year’s starting middle linebacker Craig Robertson. Robertson, in theory, could see time on the outside, allowing Te’o to play predominantly in the middle. Klein could also see some snaps at outside linebacker, but the inside is his best position.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (on Twitter) first reported that a deal was close.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Manti Te’o Visiting Saints

Linebacker Manti Te’o will visit the Saints today and tomorrow, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.Manti Te'o (vertical)

Te’o, the 38th overall pick in the 2013 draft, has been hindered by injuries throughout his career. As a rookie in 2013, Te’o suffered a foot injury in the preseason which sidelined him for the first part of the regular season. In the following year, the linebacker missed six games due to a foot fracture. In 2015, Te’o missed four games as the result of an ankle injury.

All told, Te’o has managed only 30 starts in four years with the Chargers, and he hasn’t been especially productive. Still, he ranks as the No. 13 free agent linebacker on PFR’s list, mostly based on perceived upside.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Thursday, March 9th, 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. After looking at offense, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

[RELATED: Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense]

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These 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, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

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

Edge defender:

  1. Chandler Jones
  2. Melvin Ingram
  3. Jason Pierre-Paul
  4. Nick Perry
  5. Jabaal Sheard
  6. James Harrison
  7. John Simon
  8. DeMarcus Ware
  9. Lorenzo Alexander
  10. Andre Branch
  11. Julius Peppers
  12. Charles Johnson
  13. Datone Jones
  14. Mario Addison
  15. Dwight Freeney

The Cardinals have already made it abundantly clear that Chandler Jones will see the franchise tag this offseason, and Melvin Ingram and Jason Pierre-Paul are also candidates to be tagged by the Chargers and Giants, respectively. If the latter two are able to hit the open market unfettered, however, they both figure to break the bank. Ingram, Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 edge defender, could be a fit for both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, while JPP will be looking for a long-term commitment after signing consecutive one-year deals.Chandler Jones (vertical)

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among the players with youth still on their side, Packers edge defenders Nick Perry and Datone Jones figure to interest different clubs, as Perry is a better match for a 3-4 defense while Jones needs to restart his career as a 4-3 defensive end. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. James Harrison and Charles Johnson, meanwhile, look like good bets to return to Steelers and Panthers, respectively, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Kawann Short
  2. Calais Campbell
  3. Johnathan Hankins
  4. Brandon Williams
  5. Dontari Poe
  6. Chris Baker
  7. Bennie Logan
  8. Nick Fairley
  9. Alan Branch
  10. Jared Odrick
  11. Karl Klug
  12. Terrell McClain
  13. Lawrence Guy
  14. Earl Mitchell
  15. Stacy McGee

Unlike the edge defender market, the 2017 cadre of interior defensive lineman shouldn’t be overly affected by the franchise tender. Head coach Ron Rivera recently confessed the Panthers will “probably” have to use the tag on Kawann Short, but the rest of the defensive tackles listed here should be able to hit the open market. Of the remaining defenders, Campbell is the best overall player, but given that he’s entering his age-31 season, he may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Earl Mitchell), and run stoppers (Karl Klug, Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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