Muhammad Wilkerson

NFC Contract Details: Cousins, Bradford, Poe

Here are figures on some of the recent contracts signed around the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless noted otherwise.

Packers To Sign Muhammad Wilkerson

The Packers have agreed to terms with defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, according to Rob Demovsky of (Twitter link). It’s a one-year deal, per Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link), and Wilkerson will collect $5MM with the chance to earn $3MM via incentives, tweets Tom Pelissero of

Green Bay was the first free agent stop for Wilkerson following his release from the Jets, but the Packers were hardly the only club interested in the former All-Pro. The Chiefs, Saints, and Redskins all took visits with Wilkerson, while the Raiders were reportedly also eyeing Wilkerson.

With the Packers, Wilkerson will reunite with former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who now holds the same title in Green Bay. He’ll also be sticking in a 3-4 scheme, and will play his familiar defensive end position alongside Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, and the rest of the Packers’ defensive line.

Wilkerson, of course, was once one of the premier defensive players in the NFL, but he hasn’t been the same since inking a massive extension with the Jets in 2016. Not only has Wilkerson reportedly had problems with effort, tardiness, and coaches, put his play has slipped, as well. Last year, the 28-year-old appeared in 13 games but graded as just the 50th-best interior defender in the league, per Pro Football Focus. While that was an improvement from his dismal 2016 campaign, Wilkerson was still a far cry from his 2011-15 heyday.

The Packers have now signed two free agents — Wilkerson and tight end Jimmy Graham — before the market even officially opens. That’s a new approach from Green Bay’s front office, which is now headed by Brian Gutekunst, who is apparently more willing than former GM Ted Thompson to engage in the first wave of free agent activity.

Heading into the free agent period, Wilkerson ranked as PFR’s No. 3 interior defensive lineman and No. 16 overall free agent.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Rumors: Lewis, Moncrief, Jets, Fuller

Despite having surpassed the 100-touch mark just once in a season, Dion Lewis may well have surged to the point of being the top running back available. And the healthy market expected for the 27-year-old back shows no signs of slowing down. However, the Patriots are going to try to keep Lewis, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports. However, he notes Lewis’ price may “far outpace” what the Pats are willing to spend to keep him. The Colts, Titans and Jets look to be the early favorites for Lewis. The Titans being run by former Patriots exec Jon Robinson — who was in New England when the Pats acquired Lewis — and the fact Tennessee just released DeMarco Murray would make the AFC South team a logical suitor. The Jets have passing-down veteran Bilal Powell going into the final year of his contract, and the Colts are without a proven back now that Frank Gore is out of the picture.

New England still has James White and Brandon Bolden under contract. Here’s the latest from the market:

  • The Bears placing their transition tag on Kyle Fuller may not dissuade teams from inquiring about the corner. JLC hears from multiple execs the fifth-year cornerback could be in line to see an offer sheet. However, Chicago holds $50MM in cap space and would seemingly be an obvious threat to match an offer that comes Fuller’s way. La Canfora reports the Packers, Titans, Buccaneers and Texans are doing extensive work researching the cornerback market. With Fuller tagged, Trumaine Johnson and Malcolm Butler are the prizes currently unattached.
  • Muhammad Wilkerson will make his fourth visit on Monday, meeting with the Redskins, per Josina Anderson of (on Twitter). One of the top defensive UFAs available, the eighth-year defensive lineman has already visited the Packers, Saints and Chiefs.
  • Donte Moncrief is likely to exit Indianapolis, and the Ravens are interested, La Canfora hears. The Ravens, as of now, possess less than $5MM in cap space. But with Moncrief perhaps in line for a one-year deal after an inconsistent Colts tenure, La Canfora writes Baltimore is in the mix for the athletic target.
  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the Jets may be a bit out of sync as far as terms go, but the team remains intent on retaining the tight end, per JLC. Now armed with the most cap space in the league, the Jets would be able to meet ASJ’s reported $7MM-AAV asking price. But it’s uncertain if they will. La Canfora connects the Falcons and Seahawks as being interested in Seferian-Jenkins.
  • The Broncos are expected to have interest in Ja’Wuan James if the Dolphins are intent on gauging trade offers for their four-year right tackle, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. Denver, which has started four different right tackles in its past four season openers, is again in need of a right tackle. Although John Elway said Menelik Watson will be back, it’s hard to believe the Broncos wouldn’t try to upgrade after their most recent right tackle signee did not fare well.

Raiders Interested In Muhammad Wilkerson

Muhammad Wilkerson‘s free agency tour has logged three Central Time Zone stops, and the eighth-year defender will next be making a trip back east when he meets with the Redskins.

But the veteran defensive end has not been shy about being eager to see what the market looks like, and a trip to a third time zone could be next. The Raiders are also interested in Wilkerson, Adam Schefter of reports (on Twitter).

The parties have yet to schedule a visit, but Wilkerson is set to embark on his fourth trip — to Washington D.C. after he wraps up a Kansas City meeting — and reports have indicated he’s open to more. The legal tampering period opening on Monday could complicate matters, with a slew of UFAs now available to speak with teams, but Wilkerson is one of the best interior defenders on the market.

The Raiders will use a 4-3 scheme under Paul Guenther, but the Saints do as well. Wilkerson sounds amenable to playing in a 4-3 set for the first time, if the money is right.

Oakland re-signed Justin Ellis on Friday but could be losing Denico Autry in free agency and has Mario Edwards entering a contract year. And the second-round investment the franchise made in Jihad Ward two years ago has not yet panned out.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Muhammad Wilkerson To Visit Redskins

A fourth known suitor for Muhammad Wilkerson has emerged, and others are on the horizon. The former Jets defensive end will visit the Redskins after his Chiefs summit concludes, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets.

The eighth-year defensive lineman has already met with the Packers and Saints, and La Canfora reports other teams are hoping to speak with the 28-year-old free agent.

Wilkerson planned on casting a wide net as a first-time unaffiliated NFLer, and he’s proceeding on that schedule. The Redskins, like the Packers and Chiefs, use a 3-4 scheme. The Saints are the only team he’s met with thus far that do not, but it doesn’t sound like that would be a deal-breaker for he nor a team judging by the market that’s developed for the seven-year Jets cog.

Washington has the most cap space of any of the known prospective Wilkerson buyers, sitting at $31MM-plus. The Redskins have some capable defensive ends but no one on Wilkerson’s level, at least Wilkerson at his best. While it’s not known if he’ll return to that form, several teams are betting he can help their defensive fronts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Muhammad Wilkerson To Visit Saints, Chiefs

Muhammad Wilkerson wrapped up his visit with the Packers and intends to see what other teams have to offer.

While the Packers are not believed to be out of the running, Wilkerson will now head south and meet with the Saints, Ian Rapoport of reports (on Twitter).

And Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets the Chiefs will be next on the defensive end’s itinerary, adding that Wilkerson is not yet in the negotiating stage of his process yet.

Wilkerson’s Packers two-day summit went “very well,” according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (on Twitter). The veteran defensive lineman’s agent told’s Rob Demovsky the plan all along was to gauge interest from multiple teams. Part of the Packers’ intentions during Wilkerson’s Wisconsin trek was determining if he’d be comfortable in the league’s smallest market, Silverstein tweets, adding the Packers are now expected to move to the financial component of this process.

The Saints would make for an interesting fit. Wilkerson has played as a 3-4 defensive end throughout his career, and New Orleans saw an improvement last season while lining up in a 4-3 scheme. However, with nickel packages having replaced base sets as the new predominant look, it might not represent that much of a change for the eighth-year player.

Kansas City, though, does use a 3-4 scheme and has a need for front-seven assistance. The team has emerging dynamo Chris Jones at one defensive end spot and possible cap casualty Allen Bailey at the other. Wilkerson would likely represent an upgrade on Bailey but would almost certainly cost more as well — especially if this is now a race involving several teams. Like the Packers, who just hired Mike Pettine as DC, the Chiefs have a former Jets assistant in that role in Bob Sutton. The sixth-year K.C. DC was a senior defensive assistant during Wilkerson’s first two years.

Saints DC Dennis Allen doesn’t have a Jets tie, but the improving team has defensive-front space available alongside Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins.

None of these three early contenders are projected to be among the league’s top cap-space franchises this year, so there doesn’t appear to be a distinct advantage in this pursuit compared to competitions for other high-profile free agents.

Wilkerson was one of the best defenders in football over a stretch during the early and middle part of this decade, but after breaking his leg in Week 17 of the 2015 season, he hasn’t been quite the same. Trouble with Jets coaches followed, and Gang Green had to abandon another big Mike Maccagnan-era contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

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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

Packers To Meet With Muhammad Wilkerson

Muhammad Wilkerson will take his first free agent with the Packers on Wednesday, Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel (on Twitter) hears. Wilkerson was formally released by the Jets on Monday, freeing him up to meet with interested clubs.

Wilkerson was once one of the league’s most imposing defensive ends before he imploded in New York. Green Bay apparently believes that new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine – who overlapped with Wilkerson in New York in 2011 and 2012 – can help get him back on track.

Before signing an ill-fated five-year, $86MM extension with Gang Green, Wilkerson enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2015, racking up a career-high 12 sacks and forcing three fumbles, to go along with 64 tackles. Wilkerson’s work ethic dropped off significantly after he cashed in and he was late to team functions on a number of occasions, but the Temple product still harbors serious talent.

The Packers and other teams will be drawn to Wilkerson due to his ability and the dearth of quality defensive linemen on this year’s market. There’s also another major plus to Wilkerson for Green Bay – because he is being released by the Jets, he would not count against the Packers’ compensatory pick formula.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Officially Release Muhammad Wilkerson

The Jets are finally, officially, parting ways with Muhammad Wilkerson. Gang Green formally released the defensive lineman on Monday, per a team announcement.

Wilkerson’s exit from New York has been long anticipated, particularly since the Jets notified him of their plans to cut him over the winter. Once a hard-working and highly-productive member of the Jets’ defensive line, Wilkerson’s drive to succeed and production tanked after signing a five-year, $86MM extension with the team in the summer of 2016.

Last year, things came to a head when Wilkerson was openly subordinate towards Jets coaches and tardy for multiple team functions. In December, the Jets benched the defensive lineman for the first quarter of their game against the Chiefs. The Jets went on to upset KC without one of their highest-paid players on the field at the outset.

Wilkerson’s $16.75MM salary was set to go from guaranteed against injury to fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year. Gang Green will carry $9MM in dead money by releasing the 28-year-old Wilkerson. Meanwhile, Wilkerson leaves New York after pocketing $36.75MM from his ill-fated extension.

Wilkerson shouldn’t have any trouble finding a new deal on the open market, and he’s reportedly already lined up a visit with the Packers, who now employ former Jets defensive coordinator in the same role. Notably, Wilkerson will not count against the 2019 compensatory pick formula given that he was released.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.