Mark Barron

Steelers To Sign LB Mark Barron

The Steelers have agreed to sign linebacker Mark Barron to a two-year, $12MM deal, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Barron, 29, was released by the Rams earlier this month in a move that saved Los Angeles $6.5MM in cap space. He was due a $5MM base salary and a $3MM roster bonus in 2019, so Barron won’t recoup his single-season earnings under his new contact with the Steelers.

A former safety, Barron was traded from the Buccaneers to the Rams during the 2014 campaign. In each of his first two full seasons with Los Angeles, Barron posted at least 100 tackles, and compiled 16 tackles for loss in 2016. The No. 7 overall selection in the 2012 draft, Barron has 104 appearances and 93 starts under his belt.

Pittsburgh is in need of help at inside linebacker, as neither Vince Williams nor Jonathan Bostic graded as a top-40 LB league-wide in 2018, per Pro Football Focus. Specifically, the Steelers needed to reinforce their second-level pass defense after ranking 31st in DVOA against opposing tight ends and 15th against running backs, according to Football Outsiders.

The Steelers have only ~$6.8MM in cap space, so Barron’s deal — even if it likely has a cheap cap charge in 2019 — will push them closer to the brink. Given that he was cut, Barron won’t factor into Pittsburgh’s compensatory pick formula.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams To Release LB Mark Barron

A Rams starter since their St. Louis days, Mark Barron will be looking for a new team. The defending NFC champions are releasing the veteran linebacker, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

While this move will create another need on Los Angeles’ defensive second level, it will free up $6.3MM in cap space. Barron becomes the second starter the Rams made the decision to jettison on Tuesday, joining center John Sullivan.

The No. 7 overall pick in 2012, Barron signed a five-year, $45MM deal to stay with the Rams after the 2016 season. Following the team’s trades of Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn, Barron became the preeminent veteran on Los Angeles’ linebacking corps — a group otherwise stripped of high salaries to cover costs elsewhere. Now, with Dante Fowler also expected to hit the market, the Rams do not have a veteran contract at any linebacker spot.

No guaranteed money remained on Barron’s deal, which called for him to play for a $5MM base salary. This move also comes before Barron, who accepted a $500K pay cut last year, was due a $3MM roster bonus. The 29-year-old defender started 12 regular-season games last season and 56 as a Ram.

A former safety, Barron revived his career as a Rams linebacker, peaking between the 2015-16 seasons. He registered more than 110 tackles in each and made 16 stops for loss in 2015. The Rams have only second-year player Micah Kiser under contract at inside ‘backer, though it should be expected the team will tender and retain 2o18 starter Cory Littleton, who is an RFA.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Rams, Singleton, Pats

There is a definite post-Super Bowl lull in the NFL world right now, and while we will soon be talking about free agent rumors and the April draft in earnest, today is not that day. But there is still professional football to watch if you’re interested, and there are a few NFL items of note to discuss, so let’s get to them:

  • Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic examines how the Rams might address some of their biggest needs this offseason. The club is projected to have about $41MM in salary cap space, and Bonsignore suggests that LA must find a dominant edge rusher to take some pressure off of Aaron Donald. Luckily, this year’s draft features quite a bit of pass rushing talent if the Rams choose to steer clear of the pricey free agent market for edge defenders.
  • Todd Gurley will obviously be back with the Rams, but given his history of knee problems, and the impact that his most recent knee injury had on the team’s playoff run, Bonsignore says LA will think long and hard about adding another back to share the load (we learned last week that the club is interested in bringing back C.J. Anderson). He also suggests that the Rams could bring back Ndamukong Suh on a two-year deal, and that Mark Barron could be a cap casualty.
  • The Bengals will hire Jemal Singleton as their running backs coach, per Jeremy Rauch of Fox 19 (via Twitter). Singleton previously served in the same capacity with the Colts from 2016-17 and with the Raiders in 2018.
  • Jenna Laine of ESPN.com examines a few free agents that the Buccaneers might consider, a list that includes safety Tyrann Mathieu — who of course has a history with new head coach Bruce Arians — and kicker Matt Bryant.
  • After the recent exodus of coaching talent, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com names a few Patriots coaching assistants who could be elevated to position-coach roles. Cole Popovich, Mike Pellegrino, DeMarcus Covington, and Brian Belichick could all be promoted in short order.
  • Pro Football Focus released its list of the top 10 players eligible for free agency in March and projected the contracts those players might land. Five of the top six players are edge rushers, including Jadeveon Clowney, the top player on the list, whom PFF expects to land a six-year, $135MM deal with $85MM in guarantees. Clowney, of course, is expected to be hit with the franchise tag, so if he gets a contract of that size this year, it will likely come from the Texans.

Injury Notes: Fournette, Ansah, Michel, Burkhead, Barron

Inactive lists for the late slate of games are starting to roll in, and are providing answers to some key injury questions. Perhaps the biggest mystery of the week was the status of Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. We finally have clarity, as Fournette will officially miss Jacksonville’s Week 2 game against the Patriots with his hamstring injury according to Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link).

It’s a big blow for the Jaguars who like to establish the running game and make things easy for Blake Bortles. They did get some good news however as Calais Campbell, who was a very late add to the injury report, will play. Here are more injury notes from around the league:

  • The Lions’ already weak defense will be without their best player, as Ezekiel Ansah will be sidelined with a shoulder injury per Michael Rothstein of ESPN (Twitter link). Ian Rapoport had previously tweeted Ansah was expected to play, so this is a bit of a surprise.
  • The Patriots’ backfield got some good news as both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead will suit up per Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). Burkhead was cleared from the concussion protocol while Michel will make his NFL debut after missing most of the offseason with a knee injury.
  • The Rams will be without starting linebacker Mark Barron for a second straight week per ProFootballTalk (Twitter link). It’s bad news for Los Angeles as their linebackers were shredded over the middle last week by tight end Jared Cook for 180 yards.

Rams’ Mark Barron, Matt Longacre Accept Pay Cuts

Two Rams defenders — linebacker Mark Barron and edge rusher Matt Longacre accepted pay cuts prior to the beginning of the regular season, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). In total, the dual moves saved Los Angeles more than $2MM on its salary cap.

Barron, 28, didn’t sacrifice all that much money, as he took a pay reduction of just $500,001, per Pelissero. His base salary should now come in around $6.5MM, and that total is now fully guaranteed (just $2MM had previously been guaranteed). Barron, who underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason, didn’t play in Week 1 while recovering from an ankle issue. The safety-turned-linebacker is signed through the 2020 campaign, but doesn’t have any guaranteed money left on his deal after this current year.

It’s unclear how much Longacre gave up financially, but he had been scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.907MM after signing an original round restricted free agent tender in April. In 2017, Longacre played more defensive snaps than he had in the previous two seasons combined, and came through with 5.5 sacks and 15.5 pressures.

Prior to reworking Barron and Longacre’s contracts, the Rams were dead last with just $535K in available funds, per Over the Cap. They’ll still be in the bottom-three even after picking up an extra $2MM, but the club now has a bit more financial breathing room.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Rams, 49ers, Broncos, Raiders

Two Rams defenders — linebacker Mark Barron and Kayvon Webster — recently underwent shoulder surgery, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). While Barron’s operation will allow him to be ready for training camp, Webster might not be available due to the torn Achilles which ended his 2017 campaign. Indeed, Webster had his shoulder procedure now so that he can rehabilitate both injuries at the same time, per Rapoport. Los Angeles will be counting on the 27-year-old Webster next season, as No. 1 cornerback Trumaine Johnson is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency and won’t be franchise-tagged for a third consecutive campaign. Webster, who followed Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips from Denver last offseason, is entering his contract year.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Daniel Kilgore‘s new three-year deal with the 49ers is worth nearly $12MM and and contains $7MM in guarantees, tweets Rapoport. Kilgore, who was roughly a month away from becoming a free agent, said he accepted a team-friendly contract so San Francisco can ink quality free agents this offseason, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). The 30-year-old Kilgore was a backup or injured for much of the first five years of his career, but he’s started 29 games for the 49ers over the past two seasons. For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus ranked Kilgore as just the 23rd-best center in the league in 2017, but San Francisco is clearly higher on him than that finish would indicate.
  • The Broncos and the Seahawks are two teams who could dictate the 2018 offseason, as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com writes. While one recent report indicated Denver wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are likely to stick on the club’s 2018 roster, other general mangers believe one or both will be available on the trade market. The Broncos are also trying to land a franchise quarterback and deal cornerback Aqib Talib, meaning they’ll be heavily involved in transactional machinations over the next few weeks. Seattle, meanwhile, is facing change at multiple areas along its vaunted defense, as injuries to Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor could cloud the team’s plans.
  • Free agent linebacker Michael Scherer recently worked out for the Raiders, reports veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link). Scherer, a Missouri product, appeared in 26 games for the Tigers from 2014-15 before a knee injury ended his senior season after seven contests in 2016. He’s yet to land an NFL contract, but he did audition for the Bears and Giants last year.

Rams Notes: Donald, Watkins, Johnson

The Rams’ offseason plans hinge greatly on getting an extension done with All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. However, team general manager Les Snead will not specify if he is the “first or last domino to fall,” ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez writes.

“What I do know is he is an important domino,” Snead said. It is likely Donald will become the highest-paid defender at some point this offseason, and the signing will dictate much of what the Rams can do with the rest of their salary cap.

Gonzalez also notes that a deal might have to wait until after Oakland resigns Khalil Mack for talks to begin to get serious. One of the frontrunners for 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, Donald is set to make $6.89MM in 2018, which is half of what Mack, who was taken eight spots higher than him in the 2014 NFL Draft, is expected to make.

Whenever Donald does ink a deal, there is no doubt he will be worth the pay raise. In his four seasons, the Pitt product has earned four Pro Bowl selections and has been named First Team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons. In 2017, Donald tied his career high with 11 sacks and furthered his reputation as the game’s top interior pass rusher.

Here is more from the Rams:

  • Gonzalez writes that using a franchise or transition tag on Sammy Watkins makes sense. Acquired by the Rams prior to the start of the 2017 campaign, Watkins provided a decent season eight touchdown grabs but only saw 67 targets. Another year in the high-powered offense will allow the fourth-year wideout to reach his potential after developing a better rapport with quarterback Jared Goff. The Rams traded a 2018 second-round pick and E.J. Gaines to the Bills for Watkins, and it would make sense they would want to see their investment for a full year in their system.
  • Snead can definitely see a scenario in which Trumaine Johnson returns to the team in 2018, Gonzalez reports. With Kayvon Webster out with an Achilles injury, it would make sense for the Rams to explore all options with the sixth-year cornerback. Gonzalez notes they would have to pay him like a top cornerback.
  • If Donald gets an extension, Watkins and Lamarcus Joyner are tagged, and Johnson is resigned, Gonzales thinks the team would look at parting with Robert Quinn or Mark Barron to make ends meet.

West Notes: Reid, Broncos, Carroll, Rams

Eric Reid looks set to become a UFA for the first time. The fifth-year safety’s 49ers contract expires after Week 17, and should the former first-round pick hit the market, he’ll be doing so at age 26 and with five seasons of full-time starter work. However, Reid is aware his protest participation over the past two years could play a role in his market.

I wouldn’t use the word ‘concerned.’ I’d say I understand that that’s a possibility,” Reid said, via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, when asked about his potential UFA market diminishing because of his participation in the Colin Kaepernick-led protest movement. “And I’m completely fine with that. The things that I’ve done, I stand by. And I’ve done that for my own personal beliefs. Like I said I’m fine with whatever outcome comes because of that.”

Pro Football Focus rates Reid as a middle-of-the-pack safety this season. He’s suffered injuries in back-to-back years as well. But the ex-LSU cog started for an NFC championship game entrant as a rookie, earning Pro Bowl recognition, and has gone on to play both safety spots in San Francisco.

Here’s the latest from the Western divisions as the majority of those coalitions’ teams prepare for their seasons’ final games.

  • Vance Joseph‘s bid at a second Broncos season is suddenly at risk. After ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reported the rookie HC was facing longer odds at returning, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes that the growing sense is Joseph will be canned after today’s finale. Several Broncos players have come out in support of Joseph, and a report earlier this month said Joseph was likely to earn a second season. But eight of Denver’s 10 losses have been by double digits, putting Joseph in line to possibly become the franchise’s first one-and-done coach.
  • Pete Carroll‘s obviously earned protection against being fired, but the eighth-year Seahawks coach doesn’t sound like he’s close to leaving the sideline especially soon. Seemingly in response to a rumor about a possible retirement floated by Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, the 66-year-old HC said (on Twitter) “I ain’t old enough to think about retiring.”
  • Trumaine Johnson is finishing out his second franchise-tagged season, but he’s unsure the Rams will bring him back. The cornerback said at the beginning of the season it didn’t sound like he was in the team’s long-term plans, but he’s played a big role for a contending team this season. And Johnson, who turns 28 on Monday, pointed out this week he would like to stay in Los Angeles. “I’d love to be around,” Johnson said, via Rich Hammond of the Los Angeles Daily News. “But again, I understand the business side of it, so we’ll see. We’ll see in these next couple months.”
  • Sean McVay (via Hammond) isn’t sure Mark Barron will return for the Rams’ playoff opener next weekend. The linebacker’s battling an Achilles’ tendon injury and will be one of many players the Rams will rest today.
  • Jamaal Charles is inactive for the Broncos‘ season finale, and the 10th-year running back will fall just short of a $100K incentive, the Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala notes (on Twitter). Charles was to earn that bonus if he reached 500 yards from scrimmage, which was one of many thresholds in his incentive-laden contract. The 31-year-old back looked like a lock to get there at midseason, but he fell out of Denver’s rotation and will end his season with 425 yards. This could be the end for the two-time All-Pro, although he said earlier this season he wanted to play two more seasons.

West Notes: Broncos, Fitz, Mahomes, Rams

The Broncos my have lost their 10th game of the season on Sunday, but they also got a glimpse at a potential quarterback target in Washington signal caller Kirk Cousins. Playing on his second straight franchise tag, the 29-year-old posted close to 300 yards and tossed three scores against a very formidable Broncos defense. It was a performance that made Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post ask, “is Cousins worth $30MM?”

In fact, many Broncos defenders seemed to think that he could be worth that type of investment this offseason.

“A lot of teams would literally kill to have a quarterback like that,” Broncos linebacker Von Miller said.

“He’s the real deal as a quarterback,” Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall added.

Kiszla proclaimed that Cousins is unlikely to get another franchise tag given just how detrimental a guaranteed cap number like that would be on the Redskins roster. This would mean that Denver would have the opportunity to invest a lot of money in the soon-to-be free agent QB.

Denver clearly needs to address their quarterback situation this offseason. It’s clear that Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler are more backups, with Paxton Lynch still needing major development even when he gets healthy.

There’s a lot of QB needy teams in the NFL, but the Broncos got a personal look on Sunday of what Cousins could bring to a team that’s been craving any sort of offense since Peyton Manning retired after their Super Bowl 50 run.

Here’s more from the NFL’s West divisions:

  • Even though Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald signed a one-year contract extension during the season, that does not mean it’s a guarantee he will return to the football field in 2018. However, Fitz looks to be in a much better position to return than a year ago, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Rapoport suggests that the 34-year-old is much healthier than at the conclusion of the 2016 regular season. He’s also on track to post better numbers this year, as he’s just slightly behind his 2016 totals in receptions and yards, while just needing another touchdown to surpass his six scores from a season ago. Fitzgerald is a surefire Hall of Famer as well, but could also be motivated to surpass Terrell Owens on the all-time receiving list. He sits just a few hundred yards behind T.O. and would assuredly pass him if he remains healthy in 2018. Fitz has clearly shown that he can continue to play at a high level in his mid-30’s, so there’s hope from Cardinals fans he could return for another season in Arizona.
  • With their win yesterday, the Chiefs have clinched the AFC West and the fourth seed in the AFC. This means that rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes could get the start or at least see a lot of playing time in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Broncos. But as expected, head coach Andy Reid wasn’t tipping his hand about how the team will approach the QB position next week. “We’ll get through Christmas and then we’ll get on with that,” Reid said. There had been some speculation that Reid may turn to Mahomes during the team’s midseason losing streak, but veteran Alex Smith has bounced back in a big way and led Kansas City to their second straight division title. Mahomes has been playing with the scout team and would probably be well served in getting some actual playing time in his first professional season.
  • While it was a very good day for a Rams franchise that clinched their first division title since 2003, the team was forced to deal with injuries to a pair of starters, reports Aiden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. Left guard Rodger Saffold was forced to exit the game with a rib injury, but head coach Sean McVay said after the victory that, “I think he’s OK.”. Gonzalez added that Saffold was “seen in good spirits” in the postgame celebration as well. However, linebacker Mark Barron‘s achilles injury could be worse than expected. The 28-year-old was a suprise inactive in Week 16 and has dealt with a variety of minor ailments throughout the season, according to Gonzalez. McVay wasn’t as clear with how his prognosis looked for the remainder of the season. “We’ll have some updates on that moving forward,” said the Rams head coach. If Barron should miss time, backup Cory Littleton would likely be forced into the starting lineup.

Extra Points: Broncos, Barron, Vikings

The Broncos running back depth chart is currently crowded with intriguing names (including Jamaal CharlesC.J. AndersonDevontae Booker, and rookie De’Angelo Henderson), and head coach Vance Joseph expects to rely on a running back-by-committee approach.

“Every position on our football team is going to be competitive,” Joseph said (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “The running back position, you need two or three guys who are going to carry the load. It’s no longer a one-guy position. I’m excited to have Jamaal, C.J., Book, even De’Angelo in the mix there. It’s a good group, it’s going to be competitive and that’s the way it should be.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFL…

  • Previous defensive coordinators have used Mark Barron all around the field, but Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said he’ll solely be using the veteran at linebacker. “He’s really instinctive,” Phillips said (via ESPN.com’s Alden Gonzalez). “He’s got great speed, and we can utilize his coverage ability at linebacker. It gives you more options as far as things you want to do defensively. If you get a guy like that who can cover people, then we’re going to utilize that.”
  • Former Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong will not be joining the Vikings, the player tweeted on Thursday night (via Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com). The 23-year-old participated in the team’s minicamp last week as a running back and safety. Armstrong later said that Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray told him he’d be back for OTAs, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
  • Free agent defensive end Bobby Richardson will be attending the Titans‘ rookie minicamp, reports Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). Richardson broke onto the scene as an undrafted rookie in 2015, playing in 15 games (11 starts) for the Saints while compiling 40 tackles and one interception. He’s bounced around since that time, spending time with the Redskins, Chiefs, and Broncos.