Matt Schaub

Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

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. 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.

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 2017:

Quarterback:

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

Honorable mention: Shaun Hill

As of this writing, Kirk Cousins is far and away the best potential free agent quarterback in this year’s crop. By the time March gets here, we’re fully expecting Cousins to be spoken for. Ultimately, the Redskins could franchise tag him, work out a long-term deal with him, or swing some type of trade that nets them a massive haul of talent and picks. That will leave a crop of retread quarterbacks that would probably best serve as transitional options for QB-needy teams. Kirk Cousins

Mike Glennon hasn’t done much in his 18 career starts, but talent evaluators are still in love with his size and potential. The 6’7″ quarterback will get more money this spring than you might expect, particularly since there are no surefire QBs in this year’s draft.

Teams looking for stopgap QBs will find a plethora of experienced, though perhaps uninspiring, signal callers. Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick all have their best football behind them, but they could hold down the fort for a team in 2017 and maybe even find some success if the defense is strong enough. Of course, the ideal role for those guys would probably be as a backup to a better, younger quarterback.

Running back:

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

Consider Le’Veon Bell‘s name written in Etch-A-Sketch, because he is very unlikely to get near the open market. That could leave Eddie Lacy as the best tailback available in March. Lacy has struggled with weight issues in recent years and he lost much of the 2016 season to injury. Still, he is a bruising back that could nicely complement a quicker ball carrier. Before he was shut down for the year, Lacy was averaging 5.07 yards per carry in five games for Green Bay.

LeGarrette Blount (vertical)In the last two years, LeGarrette Blount seems to have put his off-the-field troubles behind him. Whether that’s a sign of his maturity or a product of the Patriots’ culture remains to be seen. Teams can ignore his past indiscretions, but they will be wary of his age. Blount turns 31 in December.

Latavius Murray has shown glimpses of being a special running back, but he has been inconsistent and his 4.0 yards-per-carry average of the last two years isn’t overly impressive. Darren McFadden ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2015, but 2016 was pretty much a lost year for him. Jacquizz Rodgers seemed to break out last year, but he wound up succumbing to the same injury bug that took down a host of other Buccaneers running backs. Speaking of injuries, Rashad Jennings was initially brought to the Giants to be a workhorse back, but two of his three years in New York were marred by ailments. Everyone in this tier has the potential to make a difference, but none should be counted on as anyone’s main guy in 2017.

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Extra Points: JPP, Schaub, Garoppolo

Placing the estimated $16.955MM franchise tag on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul wouldn’t be ideal for the Giants, but they’ll have no other choice if they can’t reach a deal with the pass rusher by March 1, writes Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. While tagging Pierre-Paul would take a major bite out of the Giants’ cap room, it would keep an integral piece of their defense from hitting the open market and enable the team to continue working to re-sign him. That would be the Giants’ plan, per Vacchiano, who notes that the club would regard the tag as a placeholder in Pierre-Paul’s case. The Giants are currently pushing to re-sign JPP and will have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement if they make him their franchise player.

More from around the NFL:

  • Falcons backup quarterback Matt Schaub, a pending free agent, is a candidate to serve as a stopgap starter in San Francisco next season. Regardless of whether it comes with the 49ers, the soon-to-be 36-year-old will go into free agency seeking a starting opportunity, he told Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Although Schaub is a two-time Pro Bowler with three 20-touchdown pass seasons on his resume, he hasn’t been particularly effective since 2012 and has spent the past three years as a reserve with three different teams. In 10 starts dating back to 2013, Schaub has tossed seven interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns. Clearly, then, there’s nothing in Schaub’s recent history to suggest he’d perform well as a starter in 2017.
  • With five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady not looking to retire anytime soon, an offseason trade of Patriots No. 2 quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo seems like a lock, observes Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com. The Bears and Browns – two teams that have extensive histories of trading with the Pats – stand out as the best fits, opines Hannable. The two have drawn connections to Garoppolo in recent weeks, and Hannable points out that each club has the necessary draft capital to acquire Garoppolo. The Browns, for instance, have five of the draft’s top 65 picks. The Bears aren’t quite that rich with selections, though they do possess three of the first 67 choices.
  • Steelers wide receiver Sammie Coates announced Monday on Twitter that he underwent surgery on his pelvis. In theory, because the Steelers didn’t disclose the ailment on injury reports during the season, they could face NFL discipline, notes Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Pittsburgh is already under league investigation for not listing running back Le’Veon Bell‘s groin issue on playoff injury reports, though it seems unlikely the league will punish the team. After all, the Seahawks got off scot-free despite withholding information on Richard Sherman‘s ailing MCL in 2016. Further, Coates’ injury didn’t affect his participation in practice during the season, a source told Fowler.

Latest On 49ers’ QB Outlook

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is all but certain to be named the 49ers’ next head coach, and according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter), Atlanta’s current backup quarterback, Matt Schaub, could follow him to San Francisco. If that happens, Schefter says that Schaub could serve as a starter next season to bridge the gap to a younger signal-caller, or he could serve as a backup.

Dec 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub (8) warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Kirk Cousins remains Shanahan’s first choice, but if the Cousins plan falls through, Rapoport indicates that Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots’ current backup QB, would be Shanahan’s Plan B, followed by Schaub as Plan C.

We heard several weeks ago that the 49ers could pursue Cousins, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency this year but who could receive the franchise tag for the second consecutive season. While the Redskins reportedly want to sign Cousins to a long-term deal, they are weighing their options in that regard, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests that Washington could tag Cousins and trade him. The 49ers are one team with sufficient cap space to facilitate such a trade, and they would still have the opportunity to work out a long-term contract with Cousins before the summer deadline.

Garoppolo, meanwhile, is not eligible for free agency but is sure to attract attention in the trade market. While the Patriots are reportedly willing to deal him, there are a number of obstacles to such a trade, which makes Schaub the most realistic of the three above-mentioned options.

The Falcons signed Schaub to a one-year deal this past offseason, and he threw just three passes the entire season as the backup to the league MVP, Matt Ryan. Schaub was the Ravens’ backup quarterback in 2015, though he did get the opportunity to start two games for Baltimore in the wake of Joe Flacco‘s season-ending ACL tear that year. Before that, his last significant starting experience came with Houston in 2013. He of course put together a reasonably successful seven-year stint with the Texans — which included two Pro Bowl nods — after spending the first three years of his career in Atlanta, but his days as a starter are clearly over. As Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets, Schaub has started just 10 games over the last four seasons, and during that time, he has compiled a 3-7 record with a whopping seven interceptions returned for touchdowns. So if he does head out to the Bay Area, it will be easy to forgive 49ers fans for being a little less than excited.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: 49ers QBs, Bears, Falcons

The 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick has plenty of work to do this summer if he’s going to beat out Blaine Gabbert for the team’s starting quarterback job, writes Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group.

The fact that Kaepernick – who’s returning from left shoulder, left knee and right thumb surgeries – is likely to receive medical clearance for full participation at training camp will obviously help his cause. But the 49ers’ coaching staff is enthusiastic about Gabbert’s physical tools, intelligence and leadership, with quarterbacks coach Ryan Day stating, I didn’t know he’s as athletic as he is. He can make all the throws you need. He has a really good skillset and we’re excited about that moving forward.”

On Gabbert’s smarts, Day said, “When he comes into a meeting room, you better buckle up, because he knows what he’s talking about. He’s really sharp.”

The 10th pick in the 2011 draft, Gabbert flamed out in Jacksonville after three disappointing seasons. Last season was the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder’s first extensive action since 2012, and he fared respectably in completing a career-high 63.1 percent of throws and averaging a personal-best 7.20 yards per completion in eight games. He also added 11 touchdowns (10 passing, one rushing) against seven interceptions, and now appears to have the inside track on the 49ers’ starting job in Year 1 of the Chip Kelly era. If he rides the bench in favor of Gabbert, it’s fair to say it won’t sit well with Kaepernick, who requested a trade during the winter but stayed put after talks with the Broncos fell through.

More from the NFC:

  • Bears QB Jay Cutler is coming off a season in which he threw just 11 picks in 15 games and posted a career-high 92.3 passer rating, but the offensive coordinator he worked with in 2015 – Adam Gase – left to become Miami’s head coach. That’s cause for concern, opine Rob Demovsky, Michael Rothstein and Ben Goessling of ESPN.com. All three expect Cutler to take a step backward this year with previous quarterback coach Dowell Loggains now in charge of the offense, and Rothstein and Goessling write that the loss of longtime Bears dual-threat running back Matt Forte to free agency could also hamper the 33-year-old signal-caller.
  • While Matt Ryan is excited to have Matt Schaub in the fold as the Falcons’ backup quarterback, the 34-year-old isn’t a lock to make the roster, as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution details. Schaub, who’s in his second stint with the Falcons after signing a one-year deal in the offseason, will have to knock off both Sean Renfree and Matt Simms for the No. 2 job. Having already played under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Houston might give Schaub an edge, as could his experience. It’s possible the Falcons will keep Schaub around to essentially serve as a player-coach, per Ledbetter.
  • Earlier Wednesday, we checked in on the latest from the NFC East – including the story of how $103MM Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox almost ended up elsewhere in the 2012 draft.

NFC Contract Details: Ayers, Shelby, Perry

Here are a few of the latest contract details from around the NFC on recently agreed-upon and signed deals. All links are courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle unless otherwise indicated…

NFC South:

  • Robert Ayers, DE (Buccaneers): Three years, $19.5MM. $10.5MM guaranteed. $2.5MM roster bonus due on March 16. $2MM roster bonus due on fifth day of 2017 league year. $1MM roster bonus due on fifth day of 2018 league year. $550K annually in sacks incentives (Twitter links).
  • Derrick Shelby, DE (Falcons): Four years, $18MM. $7.5MM guaranteed. $5MM signing bonus. Annual $1MM base escalator from 2017 to 2019 (Twitter links).
  • Matt Schaub, QB (Falcons): One year, $1.75MM. $500K signing bonus. Up to $1MM in playing-time and 53-man roster incentives (Twitter link).

NFC East:

  • Tress Way, P (Washington): Five years, $7.8MM. $2.35MM guaranteed. $1.25MM signing bonus. Up to $400K in annual escalators from 2017 to 2020 (Twitter link via Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post).
  • Nigel Bradham, LB (Eagles): Two years, $7MM. $4.5MM guaranteed. $1.5MM signing bonus. $500K base escalator for 2017 (Twitter link).
  • Kyle WIlber, LB (Cowboys): Two years, $3.25MM. $1MM signing bonus. $1MM playing-time incentive (Twitter link).
  • Logan Paulsen, TE (Washington): One year, minimum salary benefit. $35K signing bonus. $45K bonus for being on 53-man roster for first game (Twitter link).

NFC North:

  • Nick Perry, OLB (Packers): One year, $5MM. $1.5MM signing bonus. $2.3MM base salary. Up to $1MM in per-game active roster bonuses. $200K workout bonus. Up to $250K in incentives (Twitter links via Wilson and Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com).
  • Marcus Sherels, CB (Vikings): Two years, $4MM. $1.5MM guaranteed. $500K roster bonus due on March 16. $100K in annual punt return average incentives. $50K annual Pro Bowl incentive (Twitter links).
  • Rafael Bush, S (Lions): One year, $2.4MM. $250K signing bonus. $250K in per-game roster bonuses. Up to $900K in playing-time bonuses (Twitter link via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press).
  • Don Muhlbach, LS (Lions): One year, minimum salary benefit. $80K signing bonus (Twitter link).

NFC West:

  • Jermaine Gresham, TE (Cardinals): One year, $3.5MM. $3MM guaranteed. $500K in per-game active roster bonuses. $500K in incentives for stats, playing time (Twitter link).

Falcons Sign Matt Schaub

Matt Schaub will return to the city where his career began, as the Falcons announced that they’ve signed the veteran quarterback to backup starter Matt Ryan.Matt Schaub (Vertical)

A report late last month indicated that a Schaub return was a possibility, and now it’s been made a reality. Atlanta selected Schaub in the third round of the 2004 draft, but he started just two games over three seasons before being traded to the Texans in 2007. Schaub had a strong six-year run in Houston from 2007-2012, averaging nearly 3,500 yards and 19 touchdowns per season, while posting a record of 44-36.

But things fell apart in 2013 — Schaub threw 14 interceptions in only eight starts before getting benched. He was subsequently traded to Oakland, but lost out to rookie Derek Carr for the starting job. Schaub then spent last season as Joe Flacco‘s backup in Baltimore.

Schaub, 34, is unlikely to see much action with the Falcons. Ryan has missed just two games during the course of eight-year career.

Falcons Rumors: Trevathan, WRs, Schaub

Although teams are ostensibly at the scouting combine to evaluate prospects for the draft, and aren’t supposed to engage in any talks with agents regarding outside free agents, plenty of free agent chatter typically takes place in Indianapolis. After spending some time at the combine, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com passes along several tidbits related to the Falcons, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan is “high on the Falcons’ radar,” writes McClure. Richard Smith, who formerly served as the linebackers coach in Denver, is now the Falcons’ defensive coordinator, and Atlanta has a hole at inside linebacker. McClure hears that the Falcons are willing to pay in the ballpark of $5-6MM per year for a free agent linebacker, which may not be quite enough to land Trevathan.
  • Atlanta is expected to target Mohamed Sanu as the team searches for help at wide receiver to complement Julio Jones. However, McClure notes that the Falcons would like a No. 2 wideout capable of returning kicks, which might make Travis Benjamin a more logical fit.
  • There’s a “strong possibility” that Matt Schaub could return to Atlanta, according to McClure, who points out that the Falcons were interested in signing Schaub as Matt Ryan‘s backup last year.
  • Bengals safety Reggie Nelson is on the Falcons’ list of secondary targets, though not necessarily at the very top of the club’s list of potential safeties.
  • The Falcons’ level of interest in Seahawks outside linebacker Bruce Irvin is still unclear, per McClure.

Matt Schaub Plans To Continue Playing

Despite his struggles in 2015, quarterback Matt Schaub doesn’t plan on retiring this offseason, as Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com writes. The QB will be a free agent after his deal with the Ravens expires this spring. Matt Schaub (vertical)

I still want to play,” Schaub said. “I’ve still got good years left in me. It’s just where I might be. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”

The 34-year-old is coming off of a season in which he finished as the No. 42 rated passer in the NFL, accumulating 540 yards through the air in two games with three touchdowns and four picks. After his poor play in a limited sample size, it’s hard to see Schaub drawing heavy interest from around the NFL. If he does land somewhere, odds are it won’t be in Baltimore. The Ravens will have a healthy Joe Flacco back in 2016 and Ryan Mallett is already under contract as his understudy.

While Schaub didn’t play up to his abilities in 2015, he did manage to collect on a $1MM bonus for playing in at least 10% of the team’s snaps this season (he participated in 132 of 1,083 snaps, good for 12%). The veteran started for the Ravens after Flacco suffered a season-ending knee injury in late November, but he was injured in his second start and never regained the job.

Schaub was benched by the Texans in 2013 and lost his starting gig to Raiders rookie Derek Carr in 2014. Prior to his lone year in Oakland, Schaub spent seven seasons in Houston, starting 88 total regular season contests for the team, recording a 90.9 overall passer rating, and earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods. However, he fell apart in the 2013 season, his last extended run as a starter, going 2-6 in his starts and throwing more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (10).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Whitner, Pryor, Ravens, Bengals

Between a league-worst record and the mishandling of Johnny Manziel, Browns head coach Mike Pettine is definitely a candidate to be replaced this offseason in Cleveland. At least one veteran doesn’t want to see that happen, in Donte Whitner, who believes the staff deserves another year to right the ship, writes Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal.

“Sometimes it’s not greener on the other side. Sometimes you have to stick it out to get to where you want to get to,” Whitner said. “Who’s to say we couldn’t come out next season with the same coaching staff being in the third year in the system and run off a streak like the Carolina Panthers?”

Here are some more notes from around the AFC North:

  • Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor will make his first appearance this season at wide receiver for the Browns this Sunday against the 49ers, writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.“Terrelle looks good, I don’t know if he’s ready to take on a full role, but there’s a chance that there will be some involvement in the plan there,” said Pettine. “He’s just got to play (to get some experience). The credit to him, he came back in great shape, came back in really, really good shape and retained a lot of what we’re doing. You say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be sooner than later.’ More than likely, it’s going to be sooner.”
  • Matt Schaub hasn’t been ruled out of the Ravens’ game against the Seahawks this weekend, but signs are pointing to him not being able to play, writes Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). The team has already promoted quarterback Bryn Renner to the active roster, and Jimmy Clausen is expected to start.
  • The Bengals will leave cornerback Adam Jones inactive this week, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter). The corners on the roster will be Leon Hall, Josh Shaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Troy Hill this week.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Dennard, Vick

With Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco out for the rest of the 2015 season due to an ACL injury, veteran backup Matt Schaub will get an opportunity to add an extra $1MM to his season’s earnings. As Joel Corry of CBSSports.com explains (via Twitter), Schaub’s deal includes a $500K incentive for playing 5% of Baltimore’s offensive snaps, and another $500K if he reaches 10%. With six games still left on the schedule, Schaub should have no trouble hitting those benchmarks unless he suffers an injury of his own.

Here’s more on the Ravens and a couple of their AFC North rivals:

  • In the view of Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, losing Flacco makes the Ravens the favorite to land the first overall pick for the 2016 draft. Currently, Baltimore is 3-7, a game ahead of the Browns, Titans, and Chargers, who have two wins apiece, so I’m not sure I’d call the Ravens the frontrunner for that first overall pick. Still, it certainly looks like the team is on track for its highest selection since 2000, when Jamal Lewis went fifth overall. The Ravens have never had a top-three pick.
  • The Bengals are fearing the worst for second-year cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who was injured in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. According to Rapoport, Dennard dislocated his shoulder, and will undergo an MRI today to see if he suffered a tear as well. There’s a chance he’ll land on the injured reserve list later this week.
  • Steelers quarterback Michael Vick said today that he’d like to play for another season, and wouldn’t mind returning to Pittsburgh in 2016, even if Landry Jones is the No. 2 quarterback heading into the summer (Twitter link via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). In previous offseason, Vick has prioritized an opportunity at a starting job, so this would be a much different approach to free agency for him.