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Jets Shopped Sheldon Richardson To Bucs, Colts, Seahawks

The Jets are still attempting to shop defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, and though they’ve offered him to clubs such as the Buccaneers, Colts, and Seahawks, Gang Green has yet to find a taker, reports Rich Cimini of ESPN.com.Sheldon Richardson (vertical)

New York has been accepting offers for Richardson since at least the 2016 trade deadline, when both the Broncos and Cowboys expressed interest in the 26-year-old. Last month, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com suggested that while the Jets want to move Richardson, they won’t simply give him away. The likelihood of a trade could be around 50/50, as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News recently reported New York’s price for its talented pass rusher has dropped.

Richardson certainly has his warts, which could contribute to a limited trade market. For one, he wasn’t all that effective last season, as Richardson managed only 1.5 sacks in 15 games (though he still graded out as the NFL’s No. 31 edge defender, per Pro Football Focus). Richardson also comes with off-field question marks, as he has a substance abuse suspension in his past, and has dealt with commitment and tardiness issues.

Additionally, Richardson is only under contract for one more season. In 2017, Richardson will earn $8.069MM under the terms of his fifth-year option before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

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Bears To Sign WR Victor Cruz

The Bears are signing former Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, according to Kimberly Jones and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). It will be a one-year deal. 

As PFR’s Sam Robinson detailed recently, Cruz is a logical fit for Chicago. The Bears lost Alshon Jeffery in free agency this offseason (without much of a fight) and Kevin White cannot be counted upon given his injury concerns. The Bears added Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton this spring to help fill the void and Cruz is the latest addition to bolster the WR group.

In addition to Cruz and the aforementioned Wright, White, and Wheaton, the Bears have Cameron Meredith atop the WR depth chart. Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, and Daniel Braverman are among the other WRs presently on the 90-man roster.

After missing the majority of the 2014 season and sitting out the entire 2015 season, the salsa-dancing fan favorite clearly lost a step in 2016 as he caught 39 passes for 586 yards and one touchdown in 15 games. However, the 30-year-old (31 in November) might be able to recapture some of his old magic if he is used in the slot.

In his best seasons, Cruz was a legitimate star for the Giants. He burst on to the scene in 2011 by catching 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine scores. His encore saw him set a new career high with 86 grabs for 1,092 yards and ten touchdowns, earning him a trip to the Super Bowl.

Before agreeing to sign with Chicago, the Jaguars scheduled a visit with Cruz, but that was cancelled for unknown reasons. The Ravens also reportedly expressed interest in him.

Photo via Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.

Bills Sign LB Gerald Hodges

Bills coach Sean McDermott announced that the team is has signed linebacker Gerald Hodges (Twitter link via Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News). To make room, the Bills cut cornerback Charles Gaines.Gerald Hodges (vertical)

Hodges only visited with two clubs — the Chiefs and Seahawks — during the first month of free agency. Recently, however, he has embarked on a tour that saw him meet with the Jets, Giants, Patriots, Jaguars, and Colts. However, it was his meeting with the Bills that has fostered a deal.

Hodges played on approximately half of the 49ers’ defensive snaps last year while grading out as the league’s No. 21 linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus. In his 15 games, the 26-year-old racked up 80 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions. He also was on the field for 73 special teams snaps.

The Bills’ linebacker group has already gone through some changes this year after the departures of Zach Brown and Lerentee McCray in free agency. The Bills project to start Reggie Ragland and Lorenzo Alexander at the OLB spots with Preston Brown in the middle, but the group behind them is looking a little thin. Ramon Humber and rookies Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo figure to primarily pitch in as reserve OLBs, leaving them without a proven depth option for MLB. That’s where Hodges might come in handy for Buffalo.

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Richard Sherman Wanted Cowboys Trade?

The Richard Sherman trade talk didn’t result in a trade this offseason, but things got serious enough for Sherman to daydream about where he might land. When things were bubbling earlier this year, Sherman told friends that he “allowed himself to imagine playing for the Cowboys,” Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com writes. Richard Sherman (vertical)

We have no indication that there were ever talks between the Cowboys and Seahawks, but Sherman would have been a logical fit for Dallas on a football level. The Cowboys’ secondary was picked apart in free agency this year as cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr left along with safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. Cowboys did draft three cornerbacks to help replenish that group, but a similar approach didn’t do a whole lot for the Panthers last year. The addition of Sherman would give them a bonafide CB1 alongside Orlando Scandrick and immediately cement them as one of the best overall defenses in the league.

Of course, there would have been many barriers to a potential trade. For starters, the Cowboys were very tight against the cap this offseason, which is what caused them to lose talented members of the secondary in the first place. Even now, Dallas has just ~$3.5MM in cap space, according to Over The Cap. Even when considering that the Cowboys wouldn’t be responsible for Sherman’s $2.2MM prorated bonus, he’d still carry a hefty $11.431MM cap charge for 2017.

In addition to making room for Sherman under the cap, the Cowboys would have also had to part with a significant amount of draft capital in order to acquire him. At one point, the Seahawks’ asking price was reportedly a first-round pick in the 2017 and a conditional mid-rounder in 2018. That ask, understandably, was too rich for anyone’s blood.

A trade sending Sherman to Dallas was probably never going to happen, but the fact that he was picturing himself in a Cowboys jersey tells us that the trade talk was indeed serious. And, if Sherman and the Seahawks are unable to mend fences, his affinity for the Cowboys is something to keep in mind for next offseason. If Sherman declines, the Seahawks could release him and save $11MM while carrying just $2MM in dead money. If he continues to play like a top cornerback but is still at odds with the team, the Cowboys may have the cap flexibility to get something done.

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Patriots Sign WR Andrew Hawkins

The Patriots have signed Andrew Hawkins, the wide receiver announced via the Twitter account for FS1’s Undisputed. It’s a one-year deal, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Andrew Hawkins (vertical)

[RELATED: Patriots, Gronk Restructure Contract]

Hawkins becomes the latest veteran addition to the Patriots this offseason, joining Brandin Cooks, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, and Dwayne Allen. Still, his spot on the 53-man roster is anything but a certainty since the Pats already have wide receivers Cooks, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, and special teams ace Matthew Slater under contract. Hawkins’ contract likely doesn’t have much in the way of guaranteed cash and perhaps has no guarantees, so there probably won’t be any real fiscal consequences for New England if they cut ties.

Until today, the 31-year-old had spent his entire career to date in the AFC North. After playing for the Bengals from 2011-2013, he hooked on with the Browns as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. Hawkins was initially a focal part of the offense in Cleveland, racking up 63 catches for 824 yards and two scores in his first season there. After that, however, his role shrank. Last year, he had just 33 catches for 324 yards and three scores.

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Bills Sign WR Rod Streater

The Bills have signed wide receiver Rod Streater and tight end Wes Saxton, according to a team announcement. To make room, tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and quarterback Josh Woodrum have been released. The Bills cut Kouandjio with a non-football injury designation, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. "<strong

[RELATED: Why The Bills Should Sign TE Gary Barnidge]

Streater, 29, played in all 16 regular season games last season for the 49ers, catching 18 passes for 191 yards and two scores. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but he will add some depth to the team’s banged up receiver group. Star Sammy Watkins is still healing up after foot surgery and second-round rookie Zay Jones has been sidelined with a knee injury. As it stands, free agent additions Andre Holmes, Philly Brown, and Streater are the team’s top WRs in practice.

Kouandjio was involved in a bizarre incident with police in April. The lineman, 24 in July, was found partially undressed and in a field not far from the scene of a car accident. He was taken to a nearby hospital afterwards and that visit presumably included some psychiatric evaluation.

The University of Alabama product has appeared in 25 games for Buffalo since being drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft. Kouandjio has been a quality contributor in Buffalo and last season he outperformed name guys like Jake Matthews, Russell Okung, Doug Free, and Andrus Peat, according to Pro Football Focus.

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Seahawks Meet With Colin Kaepernick

Today is the big day for the Seahawks and Colin Kaepernick. Seattle is meeting with him at team headquarters, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). "<strong

[RELATED: Russell Wilson Would Be OK With Seahawks Signing Colin Kaepernick]

Earlier this month, head coach Pete Carroll said that both Kaepernick and RG3 are on the radar for the Seahawks as they look into reserve QB options. As it turns out, the Seahawks are far more interested in Kaepernick than they are in Griffin. Kaepernick and starter Russell Wilson were once divisional rivals, but it doesn’t sound like Wilson would have an issue with Kaepernick being his understudy.

Before setting their sights on Kaepernick, the Seahawks also looked into fellow former Niners QBs Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder, but they see the controversial signal caller as the most talented backup QB option available. If he performs well for coaches today, it might not be long before he has a new home for the 2017 season.

Kaepernick threw for 16 touchdowns against four interceptions in 2016 while supported by one of the worst offensive casts in the league. He wound up with a 1-10 record in his eleven starts.

Kaepernick first came to national prominence in 2012 when he stepped in for injured starter Alex Smith. He led the Niners to a 5-2 record in his regular season starts and led the team all the way to the Super Bowl. In 2013, he had what was arguably his best complete NFL season when he went 12-4 and threw for 21 TDs versus eight picks with 3,197 yards through the air. That year, the Niners went all the way to the NFC championship game before being stopped by Seattle. In 2014, he set a career highs in rushing yards (639) and passing yards (3,369), but the Niners went .500 and failed to make the playoffs.

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Redskins May Franchise Kirk Cousins Again

A third consecutive franchise tag for quarterback Kirk Cousins would net him north of $34MM for the 2018 campaign, but that hasn’t dissuaded the Redskins from considering another franchise tender, as JP Finlay of CSNMidAtlantic.com writes.Kirk Cousins (Vertical)

“Yes,” said Redskins president Bruce Allen when asked if his club could deploy the franchise tag on Cousins next season. “In the collective bargaining agreement, we really have one year and an option that we can do at the end of next season if we don’t get a contract.”

The NFL’s CBA would require Washington to pay Cousins 144% of his 2017 salary if it used the franchise tag for another year. Given that Cousins is scheduled to earn a fully guaranteed ~$24MM during the upcoming campaign, he’d be due almost $34.5MM in 2018 (that figure, too, would be fully guaranteed). If the Redskins opt to go that route, Cousins would have raked in roughly $78.5MM from 2016-2018.

Trade rumors surrounded Cousins throughout the offseason, but now he’s almost assuredly staying put in Washington for the 2017 season. Cousins, 28, has been adamant that he hopes to remain with the Redskins for the long-term, and Allen said Monday the team is optimistic an extension will eventually be hammered out. The two sides have until July 15 to reach a new deal, or else Cousins will play out the year under the franchise tender.

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Top 8 Fits For Free Agent TE Gary Barnidge

Gary Barnidge was a relative no-name until the 2015 season, when — at age 30 — the 6’5″ tight end broke out for 79 receptions, 1,043 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. Each of those totals were career-highs for Barnidge, and his yardage figure was the eight-highest single-season total for a tight end since 2010. The 2016 campaign wasn’t quite as fruitful for Barnidge, but he still managed 55 catches for 612 yards, solid numbers for a tight end in a weak Browns offense.Gary Barnidge (vertical)

There are certainly question marks that could lead a team to not pursue Barnidge. Chief among them is probably his age, as Barnidge is set to enter his age-32 season. That could conceivably make him an injury risk, although he’s appeared in all 32 possible games over the past two years. Bardidge’s blocking prowess is also a concern, as he ranked 50th out of 63 qualified tight ends in run blocking efficiency last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Still, Barnidge offers excellent receiving ability and should come relatively cheap. It’s tough to see Barnidge topping the $5MM and $5.3MM annual salaries earned by fellow tight ends Vernon Davis and Jared Cook respectively, and he likely won’t command a multi-year deal. So which NFL teams could possibly employ Barnidge in his 10th pro season? Let’s take a look…

Atlanta Falcons

Austin Hooper, the Falcons’ third-round pick in 2016, posted 271 receiving yards during his rookie campaign. That lowly figure was somehow the second-highest yardage total by an Atlanta tight end since Tony Gonzalez retired at the end of the 2013 season. Yes, the Falcons’ offense was the best in the NFL by a wide margin last year, but the unit could continue its dominance by adding another element at tight end. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has never worked with an elite tight end (not counting his one-game stint as O.J. Howard‘s OC at Alabama, Sarkisian’s best TE pupil was Austin Seferian-Jenkins), so it’s unclear if he can develop young options such as Hooper and 2017 fifth-rounder Eric Saubert. A veteran such as Barnidge would allow those youthful players to grow by lessening their responsibilities, at least for the upcoming season.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills were the first stop on Barnidge’s free agent tour following his release by the Browns, so Buffalo clearly has some level of interest. Charles Clay is currently atop the Bills’ tight end depth chart, but he hasn’t been worth the five-year, $38MM deal Buffalo gave him prior to the 2015 season. Despite being the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league, Clay has finished just 12th in approximate value since joining the Bills. Buffalo is stuck with him through at least 2018, as a 2016 contract restructure makes release unpalatable. Clay is a much better run blocker than Barnidge, so the latter would be able to play as a move tight end in the Bills’ offense. Given that Buffalo is fielding one of the league’s worst wide receiving groups, the club needs all the weapons it can get.

Carolina Panthers

After visiting with the Bills, Barnidge indicated he might take a meeting with the Panthers, and although it’s unclear if that visit ever took place, it stands to reason Carolina is still eyeing a tight end addition. Greg Olsen, clearly, is the No. 1 option for the Panthers, but the team’s depth at the position is shockingly sparse. Linked to a number of tight ends during the predraft process, Carolina ultimately stood pat, leaving only Ed Dickson and Chris Manhertz behind Olsen. Dickson, for his part, is essentially a non-factor in the receiving game and isn’t a great blocker — the Panthers could release him with a minimal dead cap charge. Barnidge spent the first four years of his career in Carolina, and a homecoming would make a lot of sense.

Cincinnati Bengals

Unquestionably one of the league’s more talented tight ends when healthy, Tyler Eifert just can’t seem to stay on the field. He’s never appeared in all 16 games, and has missed more than eight games in two of the past three seasons. Eifert’s 52-reception, 13-touchdown 2015 campaign showed him at his best, but he simply can’t be relied on. And the Bengals’ backup options are lackluster, as well, as C.J. Uzomah (25 catches, 234 yards) and Tyler Kroft (10, 92) struggled when asked to fill in for Eifert last season. Cincinnati has already bolstered its offense this offseason by adding wide receiver John Ross and running back Joe Mixon, and Barnidge would give the club another target and (much-needed) depth.

Denver Broncos

Denver has reached out to Barnidge in recent days, and the Broncos have a level of familiarity with Barnidge given that many of their coaches — notably offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and tight ends coach Jeff Davidson — worked with Barnidge in Carolina. While the tight end position isn’t quite the integral position in McCoy’s offense that it was in former head coach Gary Kubiak‘s, Denver still needs an infusion of talent at the position. The selection Jake Butt, of course, marked the initial step in the Broncos’ tight end revamp, but the former Michigan Wolverine may not be ready for Week 1 as he recovers from a torn ACL. Barnidge would instantly become Denver’s No. 1 tight end if signed, although head coach Vance Joseph said he’s currently pleased with the Broncos’ tight end group, tweets Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Like the Panthers, the Jaguars may try to set up a visit with Barnidge, and Barnidge confirmed that he has in fact heard from the Jacksonville staff. The Jaguars parted ways with free agent bust Julius Thomas this offseason, shipping him to Miami for a late-round pick, but the club’s only addition at the position was the signing of former Raider Mychal Rivera, who hasn’t topped 300 yards receiving since 2014. Incumbent Marcedes Lewis continues to strike new deals with the Jaguars (the latest a three-year, $12MM pact) despite last being productive at the turn of the decade, so Barnidge would represent an immediate upgrade for quarterback Blake Bortles & Co.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings may have landed a draft steal in Virginia Tech Bucky Hodges, who was projected to come off the board on Day 2 but lasted until the sixth round. Still, Hodges is more an oversized wideout than a typical tight end, as Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote in Hodges’ predraft profile. No. 1 tight end Kyle Rudolph posted the best season of his career in 2016, as he hauled in 83 passes for 840 yards, so Barnidge would clearly be the No. 2 in Minnesota. Given quarterback Sam Bradford‘s proclivity for the short passing game, adding another tight end who can play over the middle wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Pittsburgh Steelers

After releasing Ladarius Green last week, the Steelers appear set to roll with Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, and TE/FB David Johnson at tight end for the 2017 season. Pittsburgh didn’t address the position during the draft, which could mean the club is content with its current options. James, specifically, posted a nice season last year (39 receptions, 338 yards), but it’s hard to argue that he’s true No. 1 tight end for a contending team. Clearly, with Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and (hopefully) Martavis Bryant in the fold, the Steelers don’t exactly need a dynamic weapon at tight end, but Barnidge would give the Steelers a veteran option for at least one year.

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Patriots, Gronk Restructure Contract

Rob Gronkowski has a new deal. Gronk’s new deal will give him chance to boost this year’s salary from $5.25MM to $10.75MM, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Facebook link). If he’s able to reach the maximum value of the deal for 2017, he could wind up as the league’s highest-paid tight end. Here are the complete details:Rob Gronkowski (vertical)

  • Gronk can max out at $10.75MM if he sees either 90% play time or hits 80 catches or 1,200‪ receiving yards or earns an All-Pro nomination.
  • He can make $8.75MM if he hits 80% play time or 70 catches or 1,000 receiving yards or 12 touchdowns.
  • His salary will reach $6.75MM if he achieves 70% play time or 60 receptions or 800 receiving yards or ten touchdowns.

In terms of playing time, the top tier of this reworked contract might be tough to achieve. Gronk reached 84.2% in 2015, but he came in at just 31.5% last year and 70.3% in 2014. He also has not eclipsed 1,200 receiving yards since 2011. Still, Gronk has three First-Team All-Pro nominations to his credit including the 2014 and 2015 seasons. In that 2014 season, he had 82 receptions, so an 80+ catch total is not out of the realm of possibility. Even with the addition of Brandin Cooks, Gronk figures to be a focal point in the Pats’ offense.

Gronkowski has pushed for a new contract in the past but was never able to get a bump on the six-year, $54MM extension he signed with the team in the summer of 2012. The Patriots didn’t exactly rip up the remaining three years on his pact, but they did tack on some bonuses in a year where he has a tidy $6.75MM cap number.

Gronk’s deal calls for an $11MM cap number in 2018 and a $12MM figure in 2019. However, much of that money is non-guaranteed. If Gronk were to suffer another serious injury and the Pats wanted to release him next offseason, they’d only be on the hook for $4MM while saving $7MM against the 2018 cap. Prior to the 2019 season, the breakdown shifts to $2MM of dead money versus $10MM in savings. Ideally, Gronk probably would have liked more long-term security, but today’s restructuring is a compromise that keeps both sides happy.

Gronkowski is represented by Drew Rosenhaus.

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