Melvin Ingram

AFC Notes: Patriots, Jaguars, Ingram, Jets

Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll is set to become the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss writes that the departure will leave “a notable void on the staff.” The former Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs offensive coordinator will surely have more of an opportunity to run his own system at Alabama, although Reiss notes that Daboll was considered the “coordinator-in-waiting” if Josh McDaniels left the organization for a head coaching gig.

Who’s going to fill the role? Well, Reiss believes Bill Belichick will give a long look at several coaching assistants, including Nick Caley, Mike Pellegrino, and Cole Popovich. The team could also look to promote promising assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski.

Reiss also throws one other name into the mix: former head coach Chip Kelly.

Let’s check out some more notes from the AFC…

  • The Jaguars believe former first-rounder Jalen Ramsey is capable of being a top cornerback, but will that prevent the organization from pursuing another defensive back? Ryan O’Halloran of Jacksonville.com suggests that Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye could be an option, and one opposing coach believes the duo would form a “lethal” combination. Of course, the writer notes that the hypothetical would be moot if the team re-signs Prince Amukamara.
  • If Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram hits the open market, ESPN.com’s Mike Wells believes he’d be an intriguing option for the Colts. Indy was tied for 19th in sacks last season, while Ingram has compiled 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
  • ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini explores which of the Jets impending free agents they should prioritize re-signing. Left tackle Ben Ijalana and linebackers Josh Martin and Mike Catapano. Meanwhile, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is at the bottom of Cimini’s list.

2017 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

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Starting today, NFL teams will be able to place franchise and transition tags on potential free agents for the first time. While the window for franchise tags is open, most clubs won’t actually tag any players right away.

As our list of important dates for the 2017 offseason shows, the deadline for teams to assign those tags doesn’t come until Wednesday, March 1st. Usually, when it comes to NFL contract discussions, deadlines spur action, so teams will wait until that deadline approaches to officially use franchise tags, once it becomes clear that they won’t be able to strike a longer-term deal yet with their respective free-agents-to-be.

Even though the action might not heat up for a couple more weeks, it’s worth taking a closer look at what to expect during 2017’s franchise tag period. The NFL hasn’t officially announced the salary cap figure for 2017, but former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com recently projected the 2017 franchise tag salaries based on a presumed $168MM cap. Here are the expected non-exclusive franchise tag amounts:

  • Quarterback: $21.395MM
  • Running back: $12.377MM
  • Wide receiver: $15.826MM
  • Tight end: $9.894MM
  • Offensive line: $14.444MM
  • Defensive end: $16.955MM
  • Defensive tackle: $13.468MM
  • Linebacker: $14.754MM
  • Cornerback: $14.297MM
  • Safety: $10.961MM
  • Punter/kicker: $4.863MM

(For a refresher on the characteristics of the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags, as well as the transition tag, be sure to check out PFR’s glossary entry on the subject.)

Here’s our look at the most likely candidates to be tagged, along with several more outside possibilities:

Virtual Locks:

Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals: Maybe Jones should headline a category titled “Super Duper Virtual Locks.” In January, coach Bruce "<strongArians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Then, just this week, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill offered additional confirmation of that plan. The $16.955MM tag will be applied to Jones in the next couple of weeks and the two sides will then have until the summer to work out a long-term deal. The odds of a longer pact coming together seem pretty good, considering the Cardinals knew what they were getting themselves into when they traded for Jones last year.

Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admits that Short will “probably” be tagged and, unlike ex-teammate Josh Norman, Short doesn’t have a problem with it. The 28-year-old was the third-best defensive tackle in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Panthers will gladly pay him ~$13.5MM on a one-year deal. A multi-year agreement could require an average annual value of $17MM, so our early guess is that Short will wind up actually playing on the tender.


Le’Veon Bell
, RB, Steelers: We’ve known for a while now that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell. For all of his off-the-field headaches, Bell still stands as one of the league’s most dynamic running backs and a one-year, $12.3MM deal would suit Pittsburgh just fine. Sometime after the tag is in place, we’re expecting the two sides to agree on a long-term deal. As I wrote in our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, Bell will top LeSean McCoy‘s ~$8MM AAV and Doug Martin‘s $15MM in guarantees on a new multiyear pact. Of course, other factors such as cash flow will be pivotal in talks, particularly given the limited shelf life of running backs.
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PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings 2.0

For 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams, the offseason is already underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the early January edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

Free Agent Power Rankings 2 (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): Cousins may not be the best player on this list, but he will come away with the most guaranteed money of any free agent this offseason. Quarterbacks are perpetually in high demand and short supply and as a result Cousins could become one of the league’s three highest paid signal callers. Because Washington has already used the franchise tag on Cousins, a repeat would cost them a whopping $23.94MM for 2017. The belief is that Cousins is seeking that $23.94MM number as an AAV goal. There has been talk of the Redskins shopping their star QB, but the team has since publicly stated its intention of locking him up to a long-term dealKirk Cousins (vertical)

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Jones has been an absolute stud ever since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2012. If we go by the numbers at Pro Football Focus, 2016 was actually Jones’ best year to date. This past season, he finished out with a strong 87.4 overall score, tying him for seventh amongst all edge rushers with Houston’s Whitney Mercilus. In the previous four seasons with New England, Jones averaged a 79.38 on PFF. Every team could use a sack machine like Jones, but coach Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. He’s technically ticketed for unrestricted free agency, but it doesn’t sound like Jones is going anywhere.

3. Kawann Short, DT (3): Unlike former teammate Josh Norman, Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short says he won’t have any problem signing the franchise tender if the team tags him. “I wouldn’t fight it or anything,” said Short in early January. In 2016, he turned in his fourth straight 16-game season and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best interior defender. Short, 28 this week, also had six sacks on the year. I think the Panthers would be wise to hit Short with the ~$13.468MM franchise tag or sign him to a long-term deal, but there is at least a non-trivial chance of him reaching the open market.

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PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings

The regular season is over and, for most teams, the offseason is underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the November edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

2017 Free Agent Power Rankings With Text (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): In 2015, Cousins established himself as a solid NFL quarterback. That summer, the Redskins told Cousins they wanted him to prove it all over again before giving him a monster contract. Cousins was happy to oblige and he has now increased his value even further. After a so-so start to 2016 season, Cousins closed out strong to finish as Pro Football Focus’ No. 8 ranked QB, putting him ahead of notables such as Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, and Philip Rivers. All of those players have gotten their big pay day and now it’s time for Cousins to join the club. "<strong

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Before you start salivating over the idea of Jones joining your favorite team’s front seven, we have some bad news: Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. Whether it’s on a one-year, $16.955MM deal or a multi-year contract that tops Olivier Vernon‘s Giants deal, it sounds like Jones is staying put. Jones, 27 in May, played in all 16 games this year and racked up 11 sacks.

3. Kawann Short, DT (4): Contract talks between the Panthers and Short stalled last summer and Fletcher Cox‘s market-boosting deal with the Eagles didn’t help matters. Short wound up playing 2016 for peanuts ($1.473MM) and he turned in yet another stellar season. Short was the fourth-best interior defender in the league this season, per Pro Football Focus, and his 87.7 overall score was roughly the same as his 2015 mark, even though he had five less sacks. In June, it was said that the Panthers did not want to go too far beyond an average annual salary of $15MM. If he’s not franchised tagged or signed to a long-term deal by Carolina, there are a few teams that will happily go beyond that point.

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AFC Notes: Siemian, Bolts, Browns, Cushing

After his second missed start this season, Trevor Siemian is expected to return on Sunday for the Broncos-Titans game, a player source informs Mike Klis of 9News. The first-year starter has missed 2 1/2 games now, with the two Paxton Lynch starts showing perhaps the rookie is not ready for regular duty.

Klis points out the mid-foot sprain Denver’s starter suffered is usually an injury that shelves players for multiple games, using Ronnie Hillman‘s six missed contests during the 2014 season as an example. Lynch completed 12-of-24 passes for 104 yards against the Jaguars last week, picking up his first win as a starter but doing so in less-than-optimal fashion.

Siemian is coming off his best game as a pro — a 368-yard, three-touchdown effort in an overtime loss to the Chiefs — but now needs to distance himself from another setback to avoid an injury-prone label after already missing time with a shoulder malady. For the Broncos, they likely need the second-year success story to return to make a last-ditch run at the AFC West title or possibly just to make the playoffs. Siemian (15 touchdown passes, seven INTs, 2,396 air yards) continuing to play reasonably well would continue to muddy the waters for the franchise in the future, though, with the first-round investment in Lynch still putting him in line as the quarterback of the future.

Here’s more from the AFC, continuing with more out of the West.

  • A substantial amount of money being tied to players on IR contributed to the Chargers‘ decisions about their replacements and extension decisions, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. In losing players like Stevie Johnson, Keenan Allen, Jason Verrett and Danny Woodhead, the Bolts have a 17-man IR contingent and that represents $29.3MM of the team’s cap space. This helped influence what kind of experience the Chargers ($1.3MM in cap room) could target as replacements for these players since longer-tenured veterans naturally cost more. Additionally, this matter partially impacted extension talks for Melvin Ingram or Woodhead, Gehlken reports, adding the Joey Bosa cash-flow uncertainty affected these talks as well. Both are impending UFAs, with Ingram set to be an in-demand commodity if he reaches the market.
  • Placed on IR recently, John Greco suspects he suffered the same mid-foot Lisfranc injury Joel Bitonio did, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. The Browns‘ starting right guard, Greco would likely undergo surgery just as Bitonio, Cleveland’s left guard starter, did in October. The 31-year-old Greco’s been a Browns starter since 2012 and is optimistic about a 2017 return, just like Bitonio. He will visit Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., next week to determine the next course of action. Despite entering what would be his 10th NFL season, Greco is under contract for just $975K in 2017.
  • Jamar Taylor and the Browns agreed to a three-year deal worth $15MM, and Joel Corry of CBSSports.com argues (on Twitter) this is a team-friendly pact despite the former Dolphins corner finishing the 2015 season as a healthy scratch for his former employer. This salary rests $2MM per year less than displaced starter Tramon Williams is making, leading Corry to believe Williams won’t be around next season (Twitter link) after Taylor supplanted him in the lineup. Williams will turn 34 in March and, as part of a three-year deal worth $21MM, would stand to make $7.5MM in 2017 — all but $500K of which is nonguaranteed, pointing to a cap-casualty future for the former Packers cog.
  • Brian Cushing‘s been playing with multiple broken bones in his back in his eighth Texans season, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. “There’s two fractures in my back, but those are things you have to push through,” Cushing said. “Obviously, it’s painful, and I’m not able to get as many reps as I want in practice right now, but I’ll be out there Sunday with my team. I’ve missed a number of games with season-ending injuries, and I don’t want to miss any more time, so as long as I can walk, I’ll be out there.” The 29-year-old Cushing played at least 14 games in 2014-15 but saw his ’12 and ’13 slates end early because of ailments.

Jason Fitzgerald On Gronk, Romo, Giants, Chiefs

Who will be the top unrestricted free agents this offseason? Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com throws out several names that may not be tagged by their current teams (via Twitter): Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short, Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, and Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

The cap guru answered a number of additional questions last night on Twitter. We collected some of the highlights, which you can find below…

  • Considering his $7MM cap hit and low salary in 2017, Fitzgerald can’t envision the Patriots trading tight end Rob Gronkowski. We learned earlier this week that the 27-year-old needs back surgery, which should keep him out for the rest of the regular season.
  • Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram could ask for Ryan Kerrigan-money during free agency, according to Fitzgerald. The Redskins linebacker inked a five-year, $57.5MM extension with the team back in 2015.
  • Fitzgerald imagines that Chiefs safety Eric Berry still wants to be among the highest-paid defenders in the league, but he notes that the 27-year-old hasn’t received the buzz that often accompanies top free agents. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald could see the Chiefs spending to retain defensive tackle Dontari Poe, but he’s uncertain about defensive end Jaye Howard‘s future in Kansas City.
  • Fitzgerald believes the Cowboys should take whatever they can get for quarterback Tony Romo, with the writer referring to the conditional fourth-round pick sent from the Jets to the Packers in the Brett Favre trade. However, even if the team does trade the veteran signal-caller, Fitzgerald says the team’s cap situation will likely prevent them from being major players in free agency.
  • The Giants signed defensive end Olivier Vernon to a five-year, $85MM deal back in March, and Fitzgerald believes teammate Jason Pierre-Paul is likely to make even more money when he reaches free agency this winter. Ultimately, Fitzgerald predicts that the organization will franchise their star defender.

Extra Points: Ingram, Saints, Cousins, Gruden

Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, who is in his contract year, has changed representation, Liz Mullen of SBJ tweets. Ingram has left Athletes First to join up with Ari Nissim, Kim Miale, and John Thornton of Roc Nation. Ingram, 27, is earning $7.751MM in 2016 under the terms of his fifth-year option. Last season, Ingram posted the best results of his career, racking up 10.5 sacks.

Here’s more from the NFL:

  • The Saints auditioned defensive back Shak Randolph, a source tells Nick Underhill of The Advocate (on Twitter). Randolph, an SMU product, was signed by the Chiefs as an UDFA earlier this year, but Kansas City cut him from its practice squad earlier this month. New Orleans, which was already thin in the secondary, has experienced a rash of defensive back injuries lately. The club also worked out 2015 third-round cornerback D’Joun Smith today.
  • Some anonymous Redskins players have reportedly voiced frustration with quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ 2016 performance, but defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois isn’t pleased with any such talk. “Like I’ve said before, and hopefully one of my teammates is listening to me right now, don’t be anonymous,” Francois told Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post. “Just step out and tell us how you really feel about Kirk. At the end of the day, that man is going to be our quarterback. At the end of the day, if you’re going to talk about that man, there’s no need for you to be in our damn locker room.”
  • While they’ve been dealing with internal exasperation, the Redskins have also been fielding shots from former players, as now-Giants linebacker Keenan Robinson — who played for Washington last year — accused the club of “finger-pointing.” But head coach Jay Gruden disputes that notion, noting that the Redskins battled back from a 5-7 start to win the NFC East in 2015, as Tom Pelissero of USA Today writes.

AFC Rumors: McCourty, Browns, Jaguars

The free agency defections of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, coupled with the release of Kyle Arrington, have the Patriots with a thin cornerback crop. One solution thrown around is moving Devin McCourty back to corner from the safety spot where he’s become an impact talent, but the recently re-signed McCourty has little interest in moving back outside, per the Boston Globe’s Steve Silva.

I want to play safety, but it’s out of my control so whatever the coaches decide is what it will have to be,” McCourty said to reporters after an OTA session Friday.

Relocating McCourty would leave New England thin on its back line as well, although Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner are entering their fourth seasons with the team — profiles that generally depict starting-capable players in the era of four-year rookie deals. The 2012 draft picks have combined for just four starts, however. Doubting the Patriots’ ability to make a patchwork secondary productive would be foolhardy at this point, though, given their track record.

Let’s look at some additional points from around the AFC.

  • The Browns‘ special teams makeover now includes punter, kicker and long snapper, after acquiring Andy Lee, cutting Billy Cundiff and Garrett Hartley and releasing snapper Christian Yount, notes Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 2014 rookies Travis Coons and Carey Spear are vying to take over at kicker in Cleveland, and rookie Duke Johnson is expected to become the team’s new kick returner, though Justin Gilbert will likely be given a chance to do so as well, Cabot reports.
  • Fourth-round free safety James Sample will miss at least part of training camp after fracturing his arm in a Jaguars OTA session Thursday, reports Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Sample underwent surgery on Friday. Expected to battle Sergio Brown for a starting position, Sample joins Dante Fowler Jr. as Jags rookies who’ve sustained serious injuries before shoulder pads enter the equation.
  • Steelers veteran nose tackle Steve McLendon said he played through a significant shoulder injury last season and after an offseason surgery is in better position to help out and push for a third contract with the team, reports Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The third-year starter is one of three Steelers starting defenders, along with Cameron Heyward and William Gay, entering a contract season. The 29-year-old who has missed six games the past two years is in the final year of a three-year, $7.25MM deal that represents the eighth-highest pact among nose tackles.
  • Third-round rookie John Miller is the frontrunner to start at left guard for the Bills this season, offers Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Chris Williams, who started three games last year for the Bills, hasn’t shown up to minicamp yet, and Rex Ryan told Maiorana he hasn’t spoken to the absent veteran. The Bills scribe doesn’t expect the former Bears flameout to be on the team much longer, especially if he doesn’t appear at mandatory minicamp next month.
  • Titans rookie Dorial Green-Beckham is seeking to trim down to 225 pounds by the time training camp begins. The mercurial specimen who hasn’t played in a game since 2013 is hovering in the high 230s now, notes The Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt.
  • Speaking of weight fluctuations, Melvin Ingram has slashed 20 pounds off his frame and sits at 245 this summer as he makes an attempt at a healthy campaign entering his fourth season with the Chargers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Michael Gehlken. Ingram hasn’t played in more than nine games since his rookie campaign in 2012.

 

Chargers Pick Up Ingram’s 2016 Option

3:49pm: Ingram’s fifth-year option for 2016 will be worth $7.751MM, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

3:45pm: The Chargers have exercised their fifth-year option for linebacker Melvin Ingram, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The option will keep Ingram under contract with the team through the 2016 season.

As part of the league’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams hold fifth-year options for first-round draftees, allowing the club to lock up their former first-rounders for an extra year. The exact amount of the option for Ingram, 2012’s 18th overall pick, isn’t yet known, but for 2015, the figure for linebackers is $7.038MM. As such, Ingram’s salary for 2016 figures to be a little higher than that.

Ingram, who turns 26 later this month, has had a hard time staying on the field for the Charger during his first three seasons with the team, playing just 29 regular season games. In 2014, a hip injury sidelined him for seven games, as he spent nearly half the season on injured reserve with the designation to return. In the nine games he did play, Ingram was effective as a pass rusher, recording 26 overall quarterback pressures, including four sacks. He also forced a pair of fumbles.

Chargers Activate Ingram, Put Verrett On IR

The Chargers have made several roster moves in advance of tomorrow’s game against the Raiders, according to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Gehlken reports that the team has activated outside linebacker Melvin Ingram from injured reserve and promoted safety Adrian Phillips from the practice squad to the active roster. To make room for the new additions, San Diego placed rookie cornerback Jason Verrett on the IR list and waived outside linebacker Cordarro Law.

The loss of Verrett is another significant blow for a Chargers squad that has been plagued by injuries this year. The 23-year-old, selected 25th overall in May, had combined with free agent signee Brandon Flowers at cornerback to strengthen a San Diego secondary that was much improved in 2014. However, Verrett tore his left labrum in three places and will undergo season-ending surgery on his shoulder, per Gehlken (via Twitter).

While Verrett’s injury is bad news for the Chargers, the team will welcome back several players this weekend, including running back Ryan Mathews, inside linebacker Manti Te’o, and Ingram, who was placed on IR with the designation to return in September.

After their series of Saturday transactions, the Chargers are carrying a full 53-man roster and have one opening on their practice squad.