Mike Nugent

Patriots To Release K Mike Nugent

The Patriots are cutting kicker Mike Nugent, sources tell The MMQB’s Albert Breer (on Twitter). Nugent’s replacement is TBD, but we know this much: The Pats will be moving on to their third kicker of the 2019 season.

The Patriots worked out other kickers before signing Nugent this year, including Giorgio Tavecchio, Nick Folk, Greg Joseph, and Austin MacGinnis. They could circle back to those names, or bring in a new group of kickers, as they look to sort out the situation.

Nugent went 5-of-8 on field goals during his short Patriots run, but it was his two misses against the Browns that cost him his job. The Patriots still won and advanced to 8-0, but head coach Bill Belichick decided he was through with Nugent anyway.

The Pats’ search for a new kicker, in theory, could lead them to Matt Bryant. The veteran, who was cut loose by the Falcons on Tuesday, could give them an experienced option in crunch time.

Patriots To Sign Mike Nugent

It appears that the Patriots’ kicking competition has come to a close. Mike Nugent will likely be signed as the club’s replacement for the injured Stephen Gostkowski, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter).

As Garafolo notes, Nugent’s teams have gone 0-for-5 in the playoffs, so this could be Nugent’s best possible opportunity to taste postseason victory. Across 14 seasons, Nugent has nailed 81.4% of his field goals – a rate that isn’t on a par with Gostkowski’s career work. Then again, few kickers can rival the storied career of Gostkowski.

Nugent spent three games with the Raiders last year and nailed all six of his tries. Before that, the 37-year-old kicked for the Jets, Bengals, Bears, and Cowboys.

Patriots Work Out Five Kickers

The Patriots are in need of a new kicker after placing Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve earlier today, and they worked out five free agents on Wednesday. New England took a look at Kai Forbath, Elliott Fry, Mike Nugent, Blair Walsh, and Matthew Wright today, tweets Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com.

New England will need another kicker for Sunday’s contest against the Redskins, but the club doesn’t seem to be acting with any sense of urgency. The Patriots are not expected to sign a kicker today and may bring in more free agents on Thursday, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The Chargers also held kicker auditions today, which created travel issues for several free agents, per RapSheet.

Nugent by far the most experienced of the kickers that tried out for the Patriots, having attempted more than 300 field goals during his career, but both Walsh and Forbath have each attempted more than 100 kicks each. Fry lost the Bears’ kicking competition over the summer, while Wright is an undrafted rookie free agent.

Meanwhile, Kaare Vedvik — who was traded from the Ravens to the Vikings this offseason before briefly landing with the Jets — declined to work out for the Patriots, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link), who adds Vedvik is focusing on punting and kickoffs rather than field goals.

Raiders Place Mike Nugent On IR

The Raiders placed kicker Mike Nugent on injured reserve, per a team announcement. Nugent will be replaced by Matt McCrane, who was signed on Tuesday.

Nugent was off to a strong start this year, but a hip injury on Sunday will likely cost him the season. In three games, Nugent nailed all six of his field goal tries and went 4-of-5 on PATs.

Enter McCrane, who has never attempted a regular season kick, though he did perform well in a limited sample with the Cardinals in the preseason. The Kansas State product will make his debut against the Browns on Sunday as the Raiders search for their first W of the season.

After previously losing long snapper Andrew DePaola to a torn ACL, the Raiders are now lacking experience when it comes to their specialists. Jon Gruden tends to favor veteran savvy, but he’ll just have to hope for the best when it comes to the third facet of the game.

Raiders To Audition Kickers

The Raiders will be auditioning a group of kickers this week to replace the injured Mike Nugent, according to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Twitter link).

Raiders coach Jon Gruden made the announcement at his Monday presser and said that the team will “be trying out numerous people.” Gehlken reports “flights for free agents being arranged now” after Nugent hurt his hip against the Dolphins yesterday, throwing his status for this weekend’s game against the Browns into doubt.

Nugent has been excellent this year, converting all six of his field goal attempts including kicks from 46, 48, and 52 yards through the first three games of the season. Nugent has become a true journeyman during his time in the league. The 36-year-old has spent time with eight different organizations, with stops with the Jets, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Bengals, Giants, Cowboys, and Bears before he landed in Oakland on a one-year deal this summer.

Nugent was an elite kicking prospect coming out of Ohio State, and the Jets invested the 47th overall pick in him back in 2005. It’s unclear at this time who the Raiders plan on working out, but Cairo Santos, Nick Folk, Kai Forbath, Daniel Carlson, and Roberto Aguayo are some of the biggest names left available and could potentially get calls.

 

Could Raiders Acquire Veteran QB?

Even though he regressed a bit in 2017 after a stellar 2016 campaign, Derek Carr is entrenched as the Raiders’ starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, and Oakland is perfectly okay with that. However, the Raiders and new/old head coach Jon Gruden are not as pleased with their backup situation.

As Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, the battle to be Carr’s backup has no apparent winner, and Gruden did not dismiss the possibility that the team could bring in outside help. Connor Cook had a strong preseason debut this year, completing 11 of 19 attempts for 141 yards and a touchdown against the Lions, but his next two outings were not nearly as promising. EJ Manuel, meanwhile, lost his third fumble in three preseason games on Friday night, and he recovered another fumble after a bad snap.

When asked on Friday if the Raiders’ backup quarterback is currently on their roster, Gruden said, “I don’t know. We’re going to continue to work, continue to see who’s available. I thought there were some good moments tonight and there were some moments tonight that weren’t good. It’s been too inconsistent. But I’m not going to say much more tonight until I see the tape. We’re going to continue to evaluate it.”

At this point in the year, the list of free agent quarterbacks does not offer any clear upgrades over Cook or Manuel, with players like Matt Moore, Derek Anderson, and Mark Sanchez representing the best options (excluding Colin Kaepernick, of course). Teddy Bridgewater‘s name has come up in trade rumors, and while it’s not clear if the Jets are willing to part with him, other signal-callers — like Baltimore’s Robert Griffin III, who has enjoyed a strong preseason — could become available via trade.

Carr has suffered injuries in each of the past two seasons, so the No. 2 QB job is an important one to an Oakland team that has playoff aspirations. Manuel was adequate while filling in for Carr in 2017, though Kawahara writes that Cook received a large share of second-team reps in training camp this summer. The Raiders did trade for Christian Hackenberg back in May, but the Penn State product lasted less than a month on the team’s roster, and he is with the Eagles for the time being.

In other Raiders news, Scott Bair of NBCSports.com writes that, after a disastrous start to his NFL career — which saw him go unclaimed on waivers just one year after being selected in the third round of the draft — Shilique Calhoun is firmly in the mix to make Oakland’s roster. Bair also notes that rookie kicker Eddy Pineiro remains sidelined with a groin injury, and Gruden has not put a timetable on his return. The longer Pineiro remains shelved, the better veteran Mike Nugent‘s chances are to make the team.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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