As previously reported, Hyde’s extension will be added on to the one year he had remaining on his previous contract, keeping him under club control through 2023. Altogether, he is playing under a three-year, $24.4MM deal (excluding incentives).
The Bills have signed Micah Hyde to a brand new deal. The safety is now locked up through 2023, thanks to his two-year extension. The add-on is worth $19.25MM, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter), keeping his cap number roughly the same as last season.
Hyde spent the early part of his career with the Packers, the joined the Bills on a five-year, $30MM deal in 2017. In that first year, Hyde earned a Pro Bowl nod along with second-team All-Pro honors. He’s racked up 17 interceptions over the years, including his most recent one against the Niners in December. In 2020, he also notched 70 tackles and five passes defensed. The Bills now have Hyde and Jordan Poyer locked up for multiple seasons, securing one of the league’s stronger safety duos.
There’s still more work to be done in Buffalo, including today’s get-together withMichael Palardy. This will mark the punter’s first visit since getting dropped by the Panthers.
December 19th, 2017 at 9:56pm CST by Dallas Robinson
The NFL announced the 2018 Pro Bowl rosters earlier tonight, and aside from determining which players will spend a week in Orlando early next year, the rosters also dictate several important bonuses and/or contract escalators for individual players. Former NFL agent and current CBSSports.com contributor Joel Corry has rounded up the notable incentives earned tonight, and we’ll pass those along below. As Corry notes (Twitter link), only first ballot Pro Bowlers who actually participate in the game (unless injured or playing in the Super Bowl) are in bonuses, which are typically paid out by the end of March.
Here are the notable Pro Bowl bonuses and escalators that were preliminarily netted this evening (all links to Corry’s Twitter):
Ravens S Eric Weddle, $1MM; requires Baltimore in playoffs (link): Still playing like one of the league’s best coverage safeties at the age of 32, Weddle needs the Ravens to land one of the AFC Wild Card slots in order to earn his incentive. Baltimore appears to on course to do just that, as FiveThirtyEight gives the club an 87% of earning a postseason berth. That playoff appearance will be largely due to the Ravens’ defense, which ranks second only to Jacksonville in DVOA.
Bills S Micah Hyde, $400K (link): Sean McDermott can coach defensive backs. After spending years finding gems at safety for the Eagles and Panthers, the Bills head coach has helped Hyde transform into a top-notch DB. Hyde, who inked a five-year, $30.5MM contract with Buffalo in the spring, ranked a respectable 53rd in Pro Football Focus‘ safety grades a year ago. This season? He’s ninth.
Raiders G Kelechi Osemele, $300K (link): Under general manager Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders have employed what is often referred to as an “all cash” salary cap management system, wherein prorated signing bonuses are rarely used while base salary guarantees, roster bonuses, and — as evidenced by the number of Oakland players on this list — incentive clauses are heavily employed. Osemele, the league’s highest-paid interior offensive lineman, is signed through 2020 with cap charges north of $10MM in each season.
Rams K Greg Zuerlein, $250K (link): While the Los Angeles offense garners the most headlines, the club’s special teams unit has maintained its dominance under coordinator John Fassel, who briefly took over as the Rams’ interim head coach in 2016. Fassel, Zuerlein, & Co. have managed a No. 2 ranking in special teams DVOA, while Zuerlein himself has been worth 15.1 points of field position (second in the NFL).
Raiders T Donald Penn, $200K (link): Penn’s summer holdout lead to extra guarantees in the future, but didn’t end with a change to his 2017 salary, meaning this bonus part of his original deal. The 34-year-old Penn is currently on injured reserve, and will miss his first game since 2007 on Sunday. Still, his renegotiated contract now contains a $3MM guarantee for 2018, meaning he’s likely part of the Raiders’ plans.
Patriots ST Matthew Slater, $150K (link): Slater has now earned a Pro Bowl berth in every season since 2011. At some point, it’s fair to wonder if Slater is skating by on reputation, as he played only a quarter of the Patriots’ special teams snaps this year. Slater missed more special teams tackles than he made prior to his 2016 berth, tweets Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus.
Raiders C Rodney Hudson, $100K (link): For all of Oakland’s problems this season, the Raiders have continued to boast some of the NFL’s best pass-blocking offensive lineman. Hudson is the best pass-blocking center in the league by a wide margin, meaning he’s eminently affordable at $8.9MM annually.
Lions CB Darius Slay, $550K base salary increase in 2018 (link): As Corry reports, Slay had three ways to earn this heft escalator — post five or more interceptions (he sits at seven), play on 80% or more of Detroit’s defensive snaps (he’s at 97.6%), or earn a Pro Bowl berth. Slay managed all three in what has become the best season of an increasingly impressive five-year career.
Eagles T Lane Johnson, $250K base salary increase each season from 2018-21 (link): Depending on Jason Peters‘ health and the Eagles’ plans, Johnson could very well be playing left tackle as soon as 2018. Even with his base salary set to increase, Johnson won’t have a cap charge north of $13.5MM over the life of his contract.
Eagles G Brandon Brooks, $250K base salary increase each season from 2018-20 (link): General manager Howie Roseman zeroed in on Brooks at the outset of the 2016 free agent period, and the 28-year-old has quickly proved to be one of the best free agent signings in recent memory. Brooks will earn an $8.5MM base salary — the largest during his five-year deal — in 2018.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz, $250K base salary increase from 2019-21 (link): Per Corry, Ertz also picked up a $100K bonus for 2017. Ertz has already set a career-high in touchdowns (eight) and has a shot to set new marks in receptions and yards even though he missed two games with injury. A former second-round pick, Ertz ranks among the top-five tight ends in catches, yards, and scores.
Let’s take a look at details of some recent free agent contracts:
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson‘s deal with the Buccaneers is a three-year, $33.5MM pact that features $20MM in guarantees and $23.5MM over the first two seasons, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link).
Safety D.J. Swearinger‘s new deal with the Redskins includes $9MM in guaranteed money, reports Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post (via Twitter). The journeyman will earn $3MM in 2018 and $4.25MM in 2019.
Tackle Andrew Whitworth‘s new deal with the Rams is worth $36MM with $15MM guaranteed, but a big chunk of that $15MM could be realized in 2017. As Jason La Canfora tweets, the lineman’s $12.5MM 2017 salary is guaranteed, and he’s owed another $2.5MM bonus. Therefore, the contract could be interpreted as a one-year deal worth $15MM.
Micah Hyde‘s new contract will count $4MM against the Bills salary cap next season, reports ESPN’s Mike Rodak. The safety’s 2017 salary is guaranteed, while the 2018 salary is guaranteed for injury (it becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2018 league year).
The Bills have signed safety Micah Hyde, according to a team announcement. Within the release, they also announced the signing of fellow safety Jordan Poyer, formerly of Cleveland. Hyde will receive $30MM over a five-year term, with the chance to earn as much as $32.5MM, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. $14MM is guaranteed.
Hyde had spent his entire four-year career in Green Bay, though its interest in bringing him back for a fifth season never seemed all that high. The team may have not even made Hyde an offer. If the 26-year-old’s career with the Packers is over, it’ll end with 63 regular-season appearances out of a possible 64, 33 starts, eight interceptions, five forced fumbles and four sacks.
Hyde is coming off a 16-game, 11-start season, in which he tied a career high with three picks and ranked a decent 53rd among Pro Football Focus’ 112 qualified cornerbacks. Hyde also has experience at safety, so his track record of versatility, productivity and durability should enable him to land an appreciable raise over his $1.671MM base salary from 2016.
One of several notable Packers free agents, Micah Hyde may be on his way out of the NFL’s smallest market. The Packers look to have slotted the defensive back at a lower-priority spot in their free agent queue, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets.
Not factoring in any Perry agreement yet, the Packers have $37MM in cap space. That would be enough for the traditionally free agency-averse team to re-sign at least two of these players. Cook, though, has other suitors who may be willing to pay more in the Lions and Bills. Lang was set on hitting free agency but was planning to give the Packers the option of matching whatever offers he received.
Hyde has played in Green Bay for four seasons, functioning as a return man, safety and slot corner for the perennial NFC contenders. He has not shown the ability the aforementioned UFAs have, though.
The Packers met with defensive back Micah Hyde‘s agent at the combine last week, but it doesn’t appear that a deal will materialize before free agency opens Thursday. As a result, Hyde is likely to hit the open market, reports Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
Hyde has spent his entire four-year career in Green Bay, though its interest in bringing him back for a fifth season doesn’t seem all that high. The team hasn’t even made Hyde an offer, according to Demovsky. If the 26-year-old’s career with the Packers is over, it’ll end with 63 regular-season appearances out of a possible 64, 33 starts, eight interceptions, five forced fumbles and four sacks.
Hyde is coming off a 16-game, 11-start season, in which he tied a career high with three picks and ranked a decent 53rd among Pro Football Focus’ 112 qualified cornerbacks. Hyde also has experience at safety, so his track record of versatility, productivity and durability should enable him to land an appreciable raise over his $1.671MM base salary from 2016. Indeed, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Hyde has “strong offers” from two other clubs.
It’s free agency week! This year, thanks to the salary cap increase, the dollars will be flying and players will make more than you ever could have expected. Our lists for offense and defense rank free agents based on overall ability, but our Top 50 ranks players based on earning power. Here, you’ll get a good sense of what the market will be like this week and who the big fish are.
The league’s “legal tampering” window will open on Tuesday at 11:00am CT. Technically, teams and players aren’t permitted to finalize agreements on contracts during that legal tampering window, but that’s often treated as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. We will almost certainly see handshake agreements go down on Tuesday and Wednesday before they become official on Thursday, the technical beginning of free agency.
Our list of 2017’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or franchise tagged players, since they’re effectively restricted free agents as well.
With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2017, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:
1. A.J. Bouye, CB (Texans): Bouye is an overnight sensation, going from unknown to elite talent in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what to make of Bouye, but his upside is too much for teams to pass up. The Texans declined to use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old (26 in August), but they’re still hoping to get a deal done this week. The Jets are said to have interest, but it’s not clear if they’ll have the room to get something done. Cornerback-needy teams like the Panthers, Saints, Jaguars, Titans, Bears, and Eagles can be expected to at least kick the tires on this year’s top player in the secondary. Could something like Janoris Jenkins‘ five year, $62.5MM contract ($28.8MM fully guaranteed) from last year be within reach? Jenkins had a longer history of success than Bouye, but consider these facts: Bouye nearly two years younger than Jenkins was at time of signing and the salary cap has risen by about $12MM. Signed with Jaguars for five years, $67.5MM.
2. Alshon Jeffery, WR (Bears): He was hurt for most of 2015 and he slumped along with the entire Bears offense in 2016, but his natural ability is still evident and he is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. At one point, it seemed like Jeffery could wind up as the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. That won’t be the case, but he will likely get more cash than any other wide receiver in this year’s class. The Eagles and Titans have been hot on his tail for some time now. The 49ers could also get involved and a return to the Bears cannot be ruled out either. Ultimately, Jeffery should wind up fetching at least $10MM per year and perhaps as much as $12MM per year on his next deal. Signed with Eagles for one year, $9.5MM.
3. Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins): Jeffery isn’t the only wide receiver who could fetch $12MM per year. Stills isn’t necessarily the best wide receiver on his own team, but he is just on the cusp of his 25th birthday and his ability to stretch the field is tantalizing. It doesn’t sound like the Dolphins are ready to be the highest bidder for his services and it’s not hard to imagine a team like the Eagles landing him. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the potential suitors for Jeffery and Stills: the Eagles, Titans, Bears, and 49ers will probably come calling. The Rams may not have enough room to squeeze in Stills, but they could certainly use a playmaker like him if they do not re-sign Kenny Britt. Stills reportedly likes the West Coast (who doesn’t?) so the Niners and Rams could have a leg up on the others if the bidding is close. Re-signed with Dolphins for four years, $32MM.
4. Dont’a Hightower, LB (Patriots): The market is capped for non-rush linebackers, but Hightower is pretty much the best at what he does and is also lauded for his intangibles. The Patriots have always embraced the “next man up” philosophy, so it is possible they will allow him to go elsewhere. The Dolphins have been frequently connected to Hightower, but that might be too ambitious for a team that has multiple major needs to address. The Colts might also make sense, but the price might be too rich for their blood. A Patriots return appears to be the most likely outcome, but anything is possible. Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $35.5MM.
5. Kevin Zeitler, G (Bengals): Zeitler has age on his side and he’s one of the safest free agents in the top ten after three consecutive years of dominance. Interior offensive linemen don’t get as much love as their counterparts on the outside, but they are still incredibly vital and Zeitler’s next contract will reflect that. If he doesn’t circle back to the Bengals, the Jaguars, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks all make varying degrees of sense for Zeitler. From a football standpoint, you can add the Jets to that group too, but I’m not sure they can meet a ~$12MM/year asking price. Signed with Browns for five years, $60MM.
6. Logan Ryan, CB (Patriots): There are bigger names available at the cornerback position, but Ryan slots ahead of many of them after a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that this fresh-faced Super Bowl champ only just turned 26 in February. If the Patriots don’t tie him down, Ryan’s earning power could conceivably vault him past Trumaine Johnson in terms of guaranteed cash. The Jaguars and Titans would be wise to zero in on Ryan if they can’t land Bouye and it’s possible that some of their evaluators might even prefer Ryan over the Houston standout. Ryan’s next deal will probably pay him eight figures per year and it should be a lengthy pact. Signed with Titans for three years, $30MM.
7. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Browns): There is strong mutual interest in a new deal between Pryor and the Browns. Still, the Browns passed on the opportunity to franchise tag the Ohio State product and he now appears poised to test the open market. With pretty much just one year to show, how will Pryor fare in free agency? His next deal should pay him at least $10MM/year and he could get up to $12MM/year. In addition to the Browns, the usual suspects for this year’s high-end WRs will explore signing Pryor (say it with me): Eagles, Titans, and 49ers. There’s conflicting word about whether the Steelers will get involved. The Giants are known to have interest, but I don’t think they’ll be splurging on free agents like they did one year ago. Signed with Redskins for one year, $6MM.
8 .Ricky Wagner, OT (Ravens): There’s already talk of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year and it’s not like this year’s free agent market is flush with young, quality tackles. When you also consider the lack of quality tackles in the draft, it’s apparent that Wagner is about to get PAID, in all caps.Believe it or not, $10MM/year might be his floor. When all is said and done, he’ll be the league’s biggest earner at right tackle. The Bears are particularly interested in Wagner, so he could go from the AFC North to the NFC North this week. Signed with Lions for five years, $47.5MM.
9. Calais Campbell, DL (Cardinals): Campbell was supposed to be an afterthought in Arizona after the addition of Chandler Jones. Perhaps motivated by a perceived slight, Campbell turned in a stellar year. Now, the Cardinals would very much like to keep him, but they can only go so far as they back up the Brinks truck for Jones and look into retaining other key free agents. If Jones does not agree to a cap-smoothing long-term deal between now and March 9th, the odds of Campbell leaving increase. The Jaguars are said to be a leading contender for Campbell while the Titans, Broncos, Colts, and Bears could also use a force like him. His age (31 in September) gives him a bit of a ceiling in terms of overall compensation, but he should still do nicely this month. Signed with Jaguars for four years, $60MM.
10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (Bills): In terms of pure talent, Gilmore might be the best cornerback available. Trouble is, no one knows what to make of him after a down 2016. Some have openly theorized that Gilmore was playing it safe to avoid injury in his pivotal contract year. It’s also possible that Buffalo’s injuries in the front seven put undue stress on the secondary. The Bears are reportedly high on Gilmore and he may represent a cheaper option than Bouye or Ryan. A Bills return would also make sense here. Signed with Patriots for five years, $65MM.
11. Tony Jefferson, S (Cardinals): The numbers at Pro Football Focus placed Jefferson slightly ahead of Eric Berry in 2016. He’s also a full three years younger than the KC star. The Cardinals want to keep Jefferson, but they expect to lose him. The Buccaneers, Redskins, Titans, and Panthers could all be in the mix for Jefferson. Now that Berry is off the market, I expect Jefferson to command $10MM per season on a multi-year deal – maybe more. Signed with Ravens for four years, $36MM.
12. Duron Harmon, S (Patriots): Surprised to see Harmon so close to fellow safety Tony Jefferson on this list? Don’t be. Free safety is where the money is at and Harmon figures to get make more than any of us anticipated six months ago. Like Ryan, Harmon is also just 26. The Patriots would presumably like to keep Harmon. If they don’t, teams like the Lions, Steelers, and Chargers could be in the mix. Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $17MM.
13. Mike Glennon, QB (Buccaneers): I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that players are ranked here based on projected earnings, not ability. As of this writing, Glennon is the best QB in this year’s free agent class and he could get a deal that pays roughly $15MM/year (the guarantee amount, however, will be the thing to watch). The Bears are apparently very, very high on the 6’7″ QB. The 49ers, who were previously linked to him, will not be in pursuit. Signed with Bears for three years, $45MM.
14. T.J. Lang, G (Packers): In 2016, Lang earned a strong 87.0 overall grade from Pro Football Focus (8th amongst guards), including a 92.9 score for pass blocking (2nd). Lang, who turns 30 in September, also spent some time at tackle early in his career and could be moved around the line in a pinch. Signed with the Lions for three years, $29MM.
15. Brandon Williams, DT (Ravens): The Ravens are prioritizing a new deal for Williams this offseason, but if they don’t re-sign him, the Dolphins could be among the teams in pursuit. Williams doesn’t fill up a stat sheet, but he is an effective run-stuffer with age on his side. At 28, teams won’t be hesitant about making a multi-year commitment. Re-signed with Ravens for five years, $52.5MM.
16. Kenny Britt, WR (Rams): Britt managed to turn in his first career 1,000+ yard season despite playing in the NFL’s worst offense. He could match or even best Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson when it comes to average annual value and his age could lead to a longer deal. The Giants could bring the Rutgers product back to New Jersey to fill Victor Cruz‘s spot and take attention away from Odell Beckham Jr., but we’re expecting them to put their resources in other areas. The 49ers and Cowboys are both said to have their eyes on Britt. San Francisco is flush with cap space, but Dallas will have to do some maneuvering to make that deal work. Signed with Browns for four years, $32.5MM.
17. Dontari Poe, DT (Chiefs): Poe is a bit inconsistent, but when he’s on it’s a clear reminder of why the Chiefs made him the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The Memphis product boasts two Pro Bowl selections and his athleticism may allow him to occasionally play a bit on the outside. If he leaves KC, the Raiders, Texans, Colts, and Packers (if they’re finally serious about spending in free agency) would all make sense for him. Signed with Falcons for one year, $8MM.
18. Nick Perry, DE (Packers): After this year’s premier edge defenders were franchised, Perry stands as the best defensive end available. In just 14 games (12 starts), the former first-round pick amassed 11 sacks. Teams employing a 3-4 scheme will be especially interested in his services. Re-signed with Packers for five years, $60MM.
19. Johnathan Hankins, DT (Giants): Hankins has youth on his side as he won’t turn 25 until late March. He also played a hand in the Giants’ strong run defense last year – as a team, they allowed just 88.6 yards on the ground per game. On the flipside, the advanced metrics indicate that Hankins wasn’t all that great last year. Signed with Colts for three years, $27MM.
20. Martellus Bennett, TE (Patriots): Rob Gronkowski‘s injury woes were unfortunate, but the Patriots barely missed a beat thanks to Bennett. Recently, Bennett gloated about Super Bowl winners getting overpaid and he’s not wrong – the shine of a championship ring tends to illuminate free agents. Still, Bennett shouldn’t sell himself short: he’s a big, bruising tight end who can be a major factor in the red zone, as evidenced by his seven touchdowns last season. Signed with the Packers for three years, $21MM.
21. Larry Warford, G (Lions): The knock on Warford when he was coming out of Kentucky was that he might not be able to make it at the next level due to his lack of agility and athleticism. Today, he’s not the quickest guard in the NFL, but he’s unquestionably starting caliber. Warford has never missed more than three games in one NFL season and he’s just entering his age-26 season. Signed with Saints for four years, $37MM.
22. Kevin Minter, LB (Cardinals): The Cardinals have lots of free agents to address this offseason and that could lead to the 26-year-old Minter going elsewhere. Last year, he racked up 81 total tackles and 3.5 sacks in 16 games. Signed with Bengals for one year, $4.25MM.
23. Andrew Whitworth, OT (Bengals): Whitworth is a stud, but his earning power is capped by his age (he’ll celebrate his 36th birthday in December). Last year, PFF rated him as the second-best tackle in the entire NFL and he’s been a Top 5/Top 10 guy for the last five years in a row. It should also be noted that he has been remarkably durable throughout his career, missing only two games since 2009. Signed with Rams for three years, $36MM.
24. Pierre Garcon, WR (Redskins): Garcon is a solid possession receiver, a label that he personally rejects. We understand where he’s coming from. This year, the Redskins had the veteran running deeper routes than he has in the past and he showed that he could stretch the field a bit, even though he wasn’t the fastest guy on the WR depth chart. He didn’t approach his gaudy 2013 numbers, but he still turned in a respectable stat line of 79 catches for 1,041 yards. His 69.1% catch rate was a career-high. Signed with 49ers for two years, $23MM.
25. Zach Brown, LB (Bills): Finally, Brown lived up to his second-round draft status in 2016. After settling for a cheap one-year deal last year, Brown should do a lot better this time around. Signed with Redskins for one year, $2.25MM.
26. DeSean Jackson, WR (Redskins): Jackson is on the wrong side of 30 and, typically, blazing speed does not age well. Still, he’s one of the game’s best deep threats and we can’t help but think that the Eagles could overspend to bring this fan favorite home. If that doesn’t come to fruition, don’t be surprised if he winds up with the Bucs. Signed with Buccaneers for three years, $33.5MM.
27. Chris Baker, DT (Redskins): Baker is well-rounded and can be used on both the interior and outside of the defensive line. The Redskins have been leaning on him more each year and he has thrived with the increased responsibilities. Signed with Buccaneers for three years, $15.75MM.
28. Prince Amukamara, CB (Jaguars): After being slowed by injuries in New York, Amukamara managed to stay on the field for most of the season in Jacksonville. He probably won’t blossom into a shutdown corner this late in the game, but the former first-round pick would make a fine CB2 somewhere. Signed with Bears for one year, $7MM.
29. Jabaal Sheard, DL (Patriots): Sheard saw his playing time reduced in the middle of the season and was even a healthy scratch for one game in November. Despite that bump in the road, the 27-year-old (28 in May) still managed to finish out the year with five sacks and 33 total tackles. Teams may have some questions about Sheard’s effort and/or conditioning after he wound up in Belichick’s doghouse. His stock could be affected if the Patriots don’t make a genuine effort to re-sign him. The Falcons could use him to fortify their front seven and he’ll be cheaper than a lot of the other defensive linemen out there. The rival Saints may also come calling. Signed with Colts for three years, $25.5MM.
30. Jonathan Cyprien, S (Jaguars): Jacksonville fans are often frustrated with Cyprien, but he’s coming off of a career year and he appears to have put many of his bad habits behind him. He finished out 2016 with 126 total tackles, one sack, and four pass deflections. PFF’s 87.8 overall grade was the best of his career and placed him No. 7 among safeties, just ahead of Berry. Signed with Titans for four years, $25MM.
31. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Bengals): We’re still waiting for Kirkpatrick to live up to his first-round billing. Personally, I wouldn’t commit serious money to Kirkpatrick on a long-term deal, but another club desperate for cornerback help might. The Steelers have some level of interest in Kirkpatrick after watching him up close for multiple years. As disappointing as he has been, something in the $8MM/year range cannot be ruled out. Re-signed with Bengals for five years, $52.5MM.
32. Ronald Leary, G (Cowboys): Leary has no interest in a reserve role and he’ll get the full-time starting job he craves this spring. Teams in need of a strong run-blocking guard will be all over him. Signed with Broncos for four years, $35MM.
33. J.C. Tretter, C (Packers): In an admittedly small sample last year, PFF rated Tretter as the ninth-best center in the NFL last season. Despite playing in only six games before his season-ending injury, Tretter should outearn every other center thanks in large part to his youth. The former fourth-round pick just recently turned 26. Signed with Browns for three years, $16.75MM.
34. Barry Church, S (Cowboys): Church isn’t a megastar, but he is a well-rounded strong safety who should draw plenty of interest. Berry re-signing with the Chiefs should cause a domino effect that enhances his market. Signed with Jaguars for four years, $21.6MM.
35. Adrian Peterson, RB (Vikings): As expected, the Vikings will decline Peterson’s hefty option for the 2017 season. A return to Minnesota is still possible and contenders like the Giants and Raiders will also be making a strong push to add AD to their backfield. Still, given his injury history, it’s hard to see Peterson getting a lucrative multi-year deal on the cusp of his 32nd birthday, hence his ranking this far down on the list. We have him as our top running back in the Top 50 because he should still score a fat one-year contract. The Giants and Raiders have both been linked to Peterson. The Packers could come into play if they lose their No. 1 RB this week. Signed with Saints for two years, $7MM.
36. Riley Reiff, OT (Lions): Personally, I prefer Russell Okung and Kelvin Beachum to Reiff, but I anticipate Reiff getting more money than both. He’s younger than Okung and coming off of a much better year than Beachum. Signed with Vikings for five years, $58.75MM.
37. Brandon Marshall, WR (Jets): The Jets dropped Marshall earlier this month, at his request. He didn’t do much last season, but neither did anyone else on the Jets. He could really wind up torturing Jets fans if he winds up with the Giants or Patriots as rumored. The Ravens love big-name aging receivers, so they would also be a natural fit for him. Signed with Giants for two years, $12MM.
38. Eddie Lacy, RB (Packers): Lacy’s weight issues are well documented but when he’s on, he’s on. Before his unfortunate injury this past fall, Lacy was averaging 5.07 yards per carry. Signed with Seahawks for one year, $4.25MM.
39. T.J. McDonald, S (Rams): I’m not as high on him as others, but he’s young and can knock receivers into next week. Signed with Dolphins for one year, $775K.
40. Morris Claiborne, CB (Cowboys): After multiple disappointing seasons, Claiborne broke out in his contract year. Then, his campaign ended after seven games. Will teams take the glass-half-full view of the former No. 6 overall pick? We believe they will, but there’s also a good crop of defensive backs in this year’s draft. Signed with Jets for one year, $5MM.
41. John Simon, LB/DE (Texans): J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus get the attention in Houston, but Simon is a quality edge rusher in his own right. This spring, the 26-year-old could go from supersub to starter with a significant pay bump. Signed with Colts for three years, $13.5MM.
42. Micah Hyde, S (Packers): Hyde, who just turned 26 in December, offers versatility and can be slotted anywhere in the secondary. In that respect, you might be thinking that he’s Darius Butler-lite. Many will prefer Butler as a player for the here and now, but Hyde could get more years and dollars thanks to the age gap. Signed with Bills for five years, $30MM.
43. Russell Okung, OT (Broncos): Last year, Okung went into free agency without an agent. That decision bit him in the behind after he turned in a so-so year and the Broncos turned down his pricey multi-year option. This time around, I hope he doesn’t cheap out and hires proper representation. Regardless, his market will be a lot softer than it was in 2016. Signed with Chargers for four years, $53MM.
44. Latavius Murray, RB (Raiders): He’s not the most explosive runner out there, but he’s a quality option for teams in need. Here’s an interesting scenario based on what we’ve been hearing: Murray could land with the Vikings while Peterson joins up with Oakland. Signed with Vikings for three years, $15MM.
45. Kayvon Webster, CB (Broncos): Webster wants more playing time and he’s not going to get that opportunity in Denver. He will almost certainly go elsewhere and I see him getting a solid payday based on his age (just turned 26), athleticism, and special teams ability. Signed with Rams for two years, $8MM.
46. Perry Riley, LB (Raiders): After he was a cap casualty of the Redskins last year, Riley quietly had a bounce-back year in Oakland.
47. Jack Doyle, TE (Colts): Every time we hear an update on Doyle, his projected salary keeps on rising. If the Patriots let Bennett leave, as expected, it’s possible they could look at Doyle as a new safety net for Gronk. Re-signed with Colts for three years, $19MM.
48. Darius Butler, DB (Colts): His ability to play multiple positions will work in his favor. Here’s a thought: if the Packers lose Hyde, they could make a play for Butler. He’ll be cheaper than Hyde due to the age gap and he’s arguably the better player for 2017. Re-signed with Colts for one year, $3MM.
49. Ryan Clady, OT (Jets): Lots of injury concerns, but also lots of potential.
NFL free agency gets underway on Thursday 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. Here is our updated outlook for each defensive and special teams position.
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 franchised players 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 this offseason:
Now that Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, and Jason Pierre-Paul have all been assigned the franchise tag, Nick Perry stands as the top edge defender on the free agent market, and is now in a position to cash in. The Packers opted against the franchise tender for the 26-year-old Perry, so he’ll hit the open market following a career year which saw him post 11 sacks.
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. Charles Johnson, meanwhile, looks like a good bet to return to the Panthers, 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.
Calais Campbell is the best overall player among interior defenders, and though he’s entering his age-31 season and may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe, Campbell will still be highly-sought after as he searches for his last substantial payday Campbell’s agent met with the Cardinals last week, but other speculative fits for the veteran defender include the Broncos, Raiders, Ravens, Colts, and Titans.
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.
As usual, the non-rush linebacker market isn’t exactly overflowing with elite talent, and Dont’a Hightower stands as far-and-away the best player among this group. The Patriots already traded away several of their best defenders, including Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, an indication that they view Hightower as the best best to stick around long term. New England didn’t place the franchise nor the transition tag on Hightower, so he’ll have the ability to set the market at linebacker.
Coming off a disappointing four-year run with the Titans in 2016, Zach Brown was last year forced to sign a one-year deal with the Bills for less than $1.5MM. That won’t be the case this spring, as Brown finally lived up to his second-round draft status by grading as one of the league’s best ‘backers. Brown especially excelled in pass coverage by using his speed to chase pass-catchers around the field, and in today’s NFL, that’s a skill-set that equals a hefty paycheck.
The Texans are didn’t use the franchise tag on A.J. Bouye, a decision which sets up the young corner to be the single-most intriguing player on the 2017 free agent market. Only 25 years old, Bouye came out of nowhere to grade as PFF’s No. 3 corner in 2016. But the former undrafted free agent played on less than 900 defensive snaps over the first three years of his career, so he’s going to get paid on essentially one season of production. Bouye earned less than $3MM total during his time with Houston — his next contract could contain five times that amount…annually.
The cornerback market stands as one of the best free agent positional groups this offseason, as strong players permeate the list from top-to-bottom. Stephon Gilmore is a more high-profile name than Logan Ryan, but Ryan has simply played better over the last few campaigns, and offers a more dependable output. The Bears are expected to make a run at Gilmore, while the Bengals have already been linked to Ryan.
Morris Claiborne is a former first-round pick but didn’t play like it until last season. Dre Kirkpatrick is a former first-round pick but has never played like it. The rest of the cornerback list has warts, as well: Prince Amukamara has dealt with injury, Kayvon Webster has only two career starts, Terence Newman is entering his age-39 season, and Sam Shields is coming off multiple concussions. All of these players offer upside, but they are all undoubtedly attached to risk.
Tony Jefferson is expected to hit free agency, and could be in for a contract that nears the $8-9MM range. Jefferson did reach the free agent market in 2016 as a restricted free agent, but he didn’t come with draft compensation attached. Any club could have signed him to an offer sheet, and if the Cardinals declined to match, would have acquired Jefferson scot-free. No team did so, which could be an indication that Jefferson’s 2016 market could be less robust than expected.
Also working against Jefferson is the fact that he plays close to the line of scrimmage, a role that’s relatively easy to fill, as Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus explained on a recent podcast. Duron Harmon, on the other hand, has demonstrated an ability to play deep safety, and thus could be in for a surprisingly high salary. The Cowboys’ Barry Church is “solid at everything, great at nothing,” tweets Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated, while Jonathan Cyprien and T.J. McDonald are primarily run defenders. Darius Butler may be the most fascinating case among this list of safeties, as the former corner should theoretically offer above-average coverage skills.
Micah Hyde could have been listed among the free agent corners, as the do-it-all defensive back is capable of playing multiple roles. His versatility is central to the Packers’ defense, and D.J. Swearinger provides the same sort of flexibility to the Cardinals. If Jefferson defects via the open market, Arizona will likely hone in on re-signing Swearinger as his full-time replacement. Jairus Byrd is a late addition to the safety market after being released by the Saints, and it’s possible another will hope he can rebound to his All Pro days as he enters his age-30 season.
The Seahawks don’t figure to re-signSteven Hauschka after bringing in fellow kicker Blair Walsh, but the longtime Seattle placekicker should be able to quickly find a new home in free agency. Nick Novak attempted the second-most field goals in the NFL last season after many Texans’ drives stalled, while Robbie Gould filled in admirably for the Giants after they released Josh Brown, converting of all ten of his field goal attempts.
Nick Folk was released as a cap casualty, and still has the talent to become another club’s kicker, while Mike Nugent — cut by the Bengals at midseason — may be nearing the end of the road after missing six extra points. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Phil Dawson come back for a fifth season with the 49ers, but Greg Zuerlein could move on from the Rams after the club threatened to bring in competition last offseason.
Jeff Locke, 27, managed to pin opposing clubs inside the 20-yard line 34 times in 2016, good for fifth in the league. Now 40 years old, Shane Lechler is a seven-time Pro Bowler, but the Texans lost 12.7 points of field position on punts last season, meaning Houston could go in another direction at punter.
Captain Munnerlyn will be 29 before the 2017 season begins, but the veteran slot cornerback does not have a medium-length contract on his mind. The Vikings free agent is seeking a long-term pact and a raise.
“I’m looking for a four- or five-year deal; just somewhere I can finish my career at, and go from there,” Munnerlyn said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I don’t want a one- or two-year deal. I definitely don’t want to do that. I want to get something longer, so I can settle in and see if I want to make [Minnesota] my home.”
Munnerlyn finished a three-year, $12.2MM Vikings deal and received more slot reps than almost any corner in football during that span. Using the cap’s increase to $167MM behind the reasoning, Munnerlyn is targeting a raise from the $4.2MM base salary he earned in 2016. Two of his agents were scheduled to meet with Vikings executive vice president Rob Brzezinski on Friday. Munnerlyn joins the likes of A.J. Bouye, Stephon Gilmore, Morris Claiborne and others on the cornerback market.
Here’s more from the NFC North on Combine Saturday.
The Lions are open to discussing an extension with Eric Ebron, but Bob Quinn said (via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com) that conversation won’t occur for months. Detroit has Ebron’s fifth-year option decision due in early May. Ebron is due $3.9MM in 2017, and Meinke notes Quinn’s recent comments on the tight end suggest he is genuinely interested in keeping him in the Motor City long-term. Ebron could see a bigger role in ’17 if the Lions don’t bring back Anquan Boldin. The 23-year-old tight end set career highs in receptions (61) and yards (711) last season despite playing in just 13 games.
Recipient of an extension that hasn’t benefited the Lions, DeAndre Levy has yet to be approached about a pay cut or restructure, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com notes. This course of action may be coming this offseason after Levy’s last two years of work — just 21 tackles and six games played since signing that four-year, $33.74MM extension — but it hasn’t yet. And Quinn expects Levy to return in 2017, although that decision isn’t final yet. As a result of Levy’s injury issues, linebacker is a glaring need for the Lions going into free agency.