Mike Nugent

Raiders Rumors: Switzer, DL, Kickers

While Jon Gruden‘s yet to bestow much praise upon Martavis Bryant, the Raiders’ other wide receiver trade acquisition has impressed the new coach. It’s looking like the former Cowboys draft choice will have a role in the passing game, and Ryan Switzer certainly will contribute on special teams. Switzer returned seven punts for touchdowns while at North Carolina, including five his freshman year. He returned a punt for a score last season as a rookie.

He’s a guy that can change the game, I think, on third down. He’s a tough matchup,” Gruden said, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). “He’s quick. He has vertical speed. He has special teams ability. … I love Switzer. I think he’s one of the best punt returners of college football, perhaps the history of college football. He’s as good as I saw.”

Seth Roberts has served as the Raiders’ top slot option for the better part of the past three seasons for a team that hasn’t featured much depth at the position. Switzer, if nothing else, may supply that.

Here’s the latest out of Oakland.

  • It’s not finalized the Raiders will play the 2019 season in Oakland, but they will remain in Napa, Calif., for training camp next year. It could be their last one in northern California, however. In 2020, Reno has emerged as the favorite, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes. Reno officials visited Raiders camp this weekend, Gehlken reports, and Las Vegas has been ruled out as a camp site. The Raiders hope to play the 2019 season in Oakland, and while 2020 represents the franchise’s relocation goal, a firm departure date hasn’t been established.
  • Giorgio Tavecchio‘s kicking foot looks to have played a key part in his Raiders downfall. Holder Johnny Townsend had to switch sides when the Silver and Black alternated reps between last year’s kicker (Tavecchio, who is left-footed) and rookie UDFA Eddy Pineiro, and Gruden was tired of that continuing to be required, he said today (via Tafur). Gruden added that Pineiro has kicked well in camp and that he views Mike Nugent as a legitimate option, rather than a mere mentor.
  • The Raiders have not been able to supplement Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin with much in the way of complementary pass rushers the past two seasons, but a growing belief exists among Raiders coaches and scouts their rookie contingent of defensive linemen — P.J. Hall, Arden Key and Maurice Hurst — can be early contributors, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. The team has injury-prone defensive end Mario Edwards entering a contract year and fifth-year nose tackle Justin Ellis back. And the Raiders signed Tank Carradine in March. Eddie Vanderdoes enters his second season after being a primary starter as a rookie, but he’s coming off an ACL tear. The team looks to have a deeper pool of options up front.
  • The Raiders are also making some history on their strength and conditioning staff. Kelsey Martinez is signed on to work as an assistant strength assistant, Gehlken writes. The 26-year-old becomes the franchise’s first woman to work in this department. Martinez worked under new Raiders strength boss Tom Shaw at the Tom Shaw Performance facility in Orlando, Fla., the past four years.

West Notes: Donald, Raiders, Carter

There are a couple of critical dates coming up in the Aaron Donald saga this week, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out. If Donald does not report to the Rams by August 7, he will not earn a year of credit towards free agency, which means that he would be eligible for restricted free agency next offseason, but not unrestricted free agency. However, Florio says that is not a major deterrent for Donald’s camp, as the Rams would either use the franchise tag on Donald — which, of course, they could also do if he became an unrestricted free agent — or apply a first-round restricted free agent tender. If Los Angeles went with the latter option, there would be any number of teams willing to extend a massive offer sheet to Donald and to surrender a first-round pick to the Rams if the Rams elected to not match the offer sheet, so Florio suggests LA would use the franchise tag regardless of whether Donald becomes a UFA or RFA.

The more important date, then, could be August 9, when the Rams play their first preseason game. As we have written previously, Donald could be fined a game check for each preseason game he misses, and between those penalties and the penalties for missing training camp, Donald could be looking at over $3.2MM in fines if he does not show up until the eve of the regular season opener. That reality could make him rethink his holdout, but given a recent report that the standoff could easily drag into September, it appears Donald’s reps are confident that the Rams will waive any penalties when the two sides do finally come to terms (or else that Donald’s contract will be so massive that the lost money won’t really matter).

Now let’s round up a few more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Raiders head coach Jon Gruden says his team’s kicking competition is not over, and that either rookie Eddy Pineiro or recent veteran acquisition Mike Nugent could win the job. But Scott Bair of NBCSports.com says Pineiro remains the heavy favorite, and Bair suggests it would be a major surprise if the rookie did not open the season as the team’s kicker.
  • We have not heard anything about a potential suspension for new Raiders receiver Martavis Bryant since June, which is obviously good news for Bryant and the team, but Gruden does not seem impressed with Bryant’s on-field performance thus far. Vic Tafur of The Athletic tweets that Bryant needs to step up his game and get more out of his reps, and Gruden said that the former Steeler needs to “master the offense and be more versatile.” Bryant is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2019 — assuming he’s not suspended, of course — and even though he is battling for the team’s No. 3 receiver job, his talent suggests he could excel in Oakland’s offense and earn himself a nice payday next year.
  • Broncos safety Jamal Carter, a 2017 UDFA, has been very impressive in this year’s training camp, as Mike Klis of 9News.com writes. Carter appeared in all 16 of the team’s games last season, primarily as a special teams contributor, but he could get more defensive snaps in 2018, especially in sub-packages.
  • The Chargers‘ starting free safety job remains up for grabs, as Eric Williams of ESPN.com tweets. Jahleel Addae, Desmond King, and Jaylen Watkins have all seen action with the starters at that position.
  • We learned earlier today that veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had to cancel his scheduled workout with the Seahawks due to a family matter. There is not yet any word on whether the visit will be rescheduled.
  • The 49ers are growing increasingly concerned about guard Joshua Garnett‘s right knee injury.

Raiders To Waive Giorgio Tavecchio, Sign Mike Nugent

The Raiders are going to be moving in a different direction at kicker. Giorgio Tavecchio won’t be a part of Oakland’s kicking competition any longer, with Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting (on Twitter) the second-year kicker will be waived.

Oakland, though, won’t automatically give rookie Eddy Pineiro the job. Mike Nugent will join the team, per Gehlken.

Tavecchio served as the Raiders’ kicker throughout last season, having replaced Sebastian Janikowski. Tavecchio made 16 of his 21 field goal attempts with the Raiders in 2017 and converted 33 of his 34 PAT tries. But Jon Gruden has orchestrated a string of shakeups this offseason, and Tavecchio’s trip to the waiver wire serves as the latest.

The 28-year-old Italian endured a rough Friday at Raiders camp, per Vic Tafur of The Athletic (Twitter link). The Raiders, though, gave Pineiro a $25K signing bonus to compete with the incumbent as a UDFA.

If the 36-year-old Nugent beats out the rookie, the Raiders will be his seventh team. He last kicked for the Bears and Cowboys (four games apiece) in 2017. He served as the Bengals’ kicker for six years prior to that. However, Tafur adds (on Twitter) Nugent will be viewed as more of a mentor than full-fledged competition for Pineiro. He may be insurance in case the Florida product, who made 17 of his 18 field goal tries last season, has a rough preseason.

Two right-footed kickers are now vying for the Raiders’ job, with the winner set to become the first non-lefty to serve as the Oakland kicker since Brad Daluiso 17 years ago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

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

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

NFL Workout Updates: 12/4/17

Here’s today’s workout news from around the NFL:

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

 

 

Bears Place Cairo Santos On IR, Expected To Sign Mike Nugent

Chicago has already gone through two kickers this season and will now add one more to the list in Week 14. The team has placed current kicker Cairo Santos on injured reserve thanks to a groin injury, reports Brad Biggs of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Biggs adds in another tweet that the Bears are expected to replace him with veteran Mike Nugent.

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Santos, 26, was signed by the team two weeks ago to replace Connor Barth. In that time, the former Kansas City placekicker converted just one of his two field goal tries to make him 4-5 on the year if you include his first three games of the season as a member of the Chiefs.

The 26-year-old had a decent three-year run in Kansas City before he was eventually replaced by Harrison Butker when Santos consequently suffered another groin injury earlier in the season.

In Nugent, Chicago brings in a kicker with a lot of experience. The 35-year-old is now playing in his 14th year in the NFL after most recently filling in for Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey for four games while Bailey was recovering from an injury of his own. However, Nugent was not steady during his short stint with Dallas, as he missed three of the seven kicks he tried. In his career, Nugent has converted just over 80% of his field goals, with his longest make coming from 55 yards out.

Chicago has not seemed to be able to get their kicking game right since the team moved on from its long-time kicker Robbie Gould after the 2015-16 season. They’ll likely be looking for a new full-time option to lock down the spot as they head into the offseason in a few weeks.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Players Frustrated, Team To Make Several Moves

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link), while Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has publicly supported head coach Jason Garrett and his staff, the players themselves are not so supportive. Last year’s NFC East champions are just 5-6 and are mired in a three-game losing streak during which they have looked lethargic and mediocre, and the players are frustrated that the coaching staff has not made proper adjustments to help resolve their issues.

Jason Garrett (Vertical)

For instance, Rapoport says players are angry that the coaching staff did not provide Chaz Green with enough blocking support when he filled in for injured left tackle Tyron Smith, and they are generally frustrated with the vanilla schemes on both sides of the football.

Some changes, though, are being made. We learned earlier today that the team elected to waive running back Darren McFadden, and Rapoport say Dallas also plans to bench cornerback Anthony Brown.

The team also plans to bolster its defensive line by signing veteran Datone Jones, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes. Jones, who was recently cut by the 49ers, is expected to ink a two-year deal with the Cowboys tomorrow. Jones is a former first-round selection who has already been a part of three organizations this year (the Vikings, Lions, and 49ers), though he only saw game action with San Francisco. He recorded six tackles in three games and offers help as a rotational piece.

Archer also reports that the Cowboys will release kicker Mike Nugent and will promote running back Trey Williams from the practice squad to take McFadden’s place on the roster.

The above transactions, however, are minor moves that are not likely to ease the tension that Rapoport says permeates the locker room. Indeed, as Clarence Hill, Jr. of the Star-Telegram tweets, the team is not making any play-calling or coaching changes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Sign K Mike Nugent

The Cowboys are signing kicker Mike Nugent, as Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Nugent will step in for the injured Dan BaileyMike Nugent (Vertical)

A groin injury took Bailey out of action on Sunday, forcing Dallas to use defensive back Jeff Heath as their placekicker. Of course, that wasn’t sustainable, so Dallas auditioned Nugent, Jason Myers, Sam Irwin-Hill, and Younghoe Koo for the role. Nugent came out on top, and he’ll be the team’s stand in starting with Sunday’s game against the Redskins.

There is no timetable for Bailey’s return – all we know right now is that he is expected to miss several weeks of action. The 29-year-old has nailed 89.9% of his field goals, so the bar will be set pretty high for Nugent.

Nugent has been up and down over the course of his career with the Jets and Bengals, but he does have experience with 153 appearances over his 12-year NFL career. The former second-round pick has been looking for work all fall after losing the Giants’ kicking competition to Aldrick Rosas in the summer. He has made 80.8% of his field goals and 96.9% of his extra points since entering the league in 2005. The 35-year-old seemingly took a step back in 2016, making only 79.3% of field goals and a career-low 79.3% of XPs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Working Out Kickers

The Cowboys had to resort to using defensive back Jeff Heath as their placekicker on Sunday after incumbent Dan Bailey went down with a groin injury, but the club won’t ask Heath to play the role of kicker any longer. Dallas is working out free agent kickers Mike Nugent, Jason Myers, Sam Irwin-Hill, and Younghoe Koo, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Younghoe Koo (Vertical)

Bailey is expected to miss several weeks after sustaining a groin strain, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Replacing the 29-year-old certainly won’t be easy, as Bailey owns a 89.9% field goal success rate for his career, and hasn’t missed a field goal or an extra point this season. The Cowboys have garnered 4.1 points of field position from Bailey’s work on field goals and extra points, good for seventh in the NFL per Football Outsiders.

Nugent is — by far — the most experienced of the kickers Dallas is working out, as he’s appeared in 153 games during his 12-year NFL career. He lost out to Aldrick Rosas in the Giants’ kicking battle this summer. Myers and Koo, meanwhile, were released this season after struggling with the Jaguars and Chargers, respectively. Irwin-Hill has never appeared in an NFL game, but he did spend the summer in Cowboys’ camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins K Dustin Hopkins Placed On IR

Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins is being placed on injured reserve with a strained rotator muscle in his right hip, a source tells JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington (on Twitter). Dustin Hopkins (vertical)

With Hopkins out, the Redskins are auditioning replacements. Andrew Franks, Marshall Koehn, Mike Nugent, and Nick Rose all showed their stuff in D.C. on Tuesday, Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link) reports. Franks, Koehn, and Nugent are well acquainted after they all participated in the Buccaneers’ workout last week.

Hopkins connected on 9 of 11 field goal attempts this season. In Sunday’s game against the Niners, he connected on tries from 21 and 48 yards, though he missed one extra point try.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.