Nick Bellore

West Notes: 49ers, Hawks, Broncos, Chiefs

Jason Verrett signed a one-year, $3MM deal with the 49ers this offseason, but the ex-Chargers cornerback says he actually contemplated retirement before landing in San Francisco, per SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Verrett, who was in a “dark place” while deciding on his NFL future, has only played in five total games over the past three seasons, with various injuries — including a torn ACL and a ruptured Achilles — ending his campaigns. The 49ers ranked 26th in defensive DVOA against No. 2 wideouts in 2018, so they can use all they help they can get opposite Richard Sherman. Verrett, an excellent corner when healthy, is expected to compete with Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore for the job.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Fullback Nick Bellore‘s contract with the Seahawks is worth $2.23MM over two years, tweets Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. Bellore will receive $600K guaranteed, including a $300K signing bonus and a $300K 2019 base salary guarantee. A linebacker who played primarily on special teams for the first seven years of his NFL career, Bellore converted to the offensive side of the ball last summer. The 30-year-old appeared in 14 games for the Lions in 2018, playing 118 snaps on offense and 238 on special teams. Seattle used a fullback on only 8% of its plays last season.
  • New Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco will take all the first-team reps at organized team activities, head coach Vic Fangio told reporters, including Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). That’s perhaps unsurprising, as Flacco is fully expected to be Denver’s starter despite the club selecting Missouri’s Drew Lock in the second round. Indeed, Flacco’s performance in early Broncos practices dissuaded general manager John Elway from drafting a signal-caller on Day 1 of the draft. Lock, veteran Kevin Hogan, and undrafted free agent Brett Rypien will compete to become Denver’s second and third quarterback.
  • The Seahawks gave significant signing bonuses to several of their undrafted collegiate free agents, as Henderson tweets. Quarterback Taryn Christion, receiver Terry Wright, and cornerbacks Derrek Thomas and Davante Davis each received a $10K bonus. As Henderson notes, though, that level of guarantee doesn’t necessarily ensure a roster spot. In 2018, Seattle gave receiver Ka’Raun White a $14K bonus but cut him after rookie minicamp. Click on Henderson’s tweet to see the full list of the Seahawks’ UDFA signing bonuses.
  • Free agent offensive tackle Dieugot Joseph is meeting with the Chiefs today, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). An undrafted free agent out of Florida International University in 2017, Joseph has spent time with the Bears, Ravens, Vikings, and Jets but has yet to appear in an NFL game.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/9/19

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks Host Earl Mitchell, Nick Bellore

The Seahawks are sniffing around some of the players left over from the first wave of free agency. Seattle hosted defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and fullback Nick Bellore for visits, a source told Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Mitchell spent the past two seasons as a division rival with the 49ers, while Bellore was with the Lions the last two years. Mitchell, an Arizona product, was drafted by the Texans in the third round back in 2010. He played well enough with the Texans to earn a four-year, $16MM deal from the Dolphins back in 2014. After three years of that deal, he was cut and signed in San Francisco.

Mitchell appeared in 14 games with 12 starts last season, filling a rotational role as a run-stuffing piece in the middle. Overall, he logged 33.8% of the defensive snaps for the 49ers. Pro Football Focus gave him average grades for his work.

Bellore is an interesting case, as he can play both linebacker and fullback. An inside linebacker coming out of Central Michigan, Bellore spent the first six seasons of his career as a linebacker with the Jets and 49ers. Prior to the 2017 season, he signed with Detroit and was converted to a fullback. He played just 11 percent of the offensive snaps as a lead blocker, but was a major contributor on special teams.

It’s unclear if he’d have any interest in moving back to linebacker with the Seahawks or if they view him strictly as a fullback. The Seahawks haven’t been the biggest spenders so far in free agency, so it makes sense they’d take a look at some more under the radar guys. According to Overthecap.com, the Seahawks have the seventh-least cap space left with $11.57MM.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Vikings, Bellore

This Bills regime souring on Doug Whaley second-round pick Shaq Lawson could open the door to interesting trade talks as the season approaches. Still just 23, Lawson was a highly touted prospect at Clemson, which has produced some standout edge defenders in recent years. The Bears would be a reasonable landing spot for Lawson, Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Mostly going on Vic Fangio‘s ability to coax quality play from defenders, Walton writes Lawson would be an intriguing buy-low bet. He has two years remaining on his contract, and the Bears are somewhat thin on the edge behind Leonard Floyd. Lawson, though, has struggled as an NFLer in both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. Last season, Pro Football Focus did not view him as a strong pass rusher but did grade him as one of the better run defenders on the edge.

Here’s the latest from the NFC North, shifting to the Vikings’ linebacker situation.

  • Ben Gedeon may not be a lock to start in Vikings base sets alongside Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Instead, second-year UDFA Eric Wilson looked like an improved player this offseason and ready to push Gedeon for the weakside linebacker job, Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes. A 2017 fourth-rounder, Gedeon started nine games last season and played 272 snaps. Wilson did not play any despite seeing special teams action in all 16 regular-season games, but Krammer notes this will be a position battle in training camp. Wilson exceeded 100 tackles in each of his final two college seasons at Cincinnati.
  • Nick Bellore started two games at linebacker for the 2017 Lions and served as a 10-game starter for the 2016 49ers. But this season, he will be lining up at a new position. Bellore is now working as a fullback, and the team’s top one at that, Chris Burke of The Athletic notes (subscription required). He saw some action as a fullback last season but spent most of his time on special teams and as a part-time ‘backer. However, Detroit’s moved him to fullback full-time this offseason, per Burke, who adds the Jets tried to do this with Bellore previously. The Lions re-signed the 29-year-old fullback convert in March.
  • While Martellus Bennett received plenty of hype after joining the Packers last year, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com views Jimmy Graham as a better fit in Green Bay’s offense, adding the addition of the former Saints and Seahawks tight end is a “significant upgrade.” At the very least, the 31-year-old pass-catcher gives Aaron Rodgers a lethal red zone presence. Graham’s yards-per-catch average plummeted from 14.2 in 2016 to 9.1 last season, but he scored 10 touchdowns — by far his most in a season in Seattle.

Lions Re-Sign LB Nick Bellore

The Lions have re-signed linebacker Nick Bellore, the club announced today.

While Bellore is a linebacker in title, he was essentially a special teams-only player in 2017. The 28-year-old Bellore played only 108 defensive snaps a season ago, but saw nearly triple that action on special teams. Detroit general manager Bob Quinn has shown a willingness to pay for ST prowess in the past, and the Lions finished fifth in special teams DVOA last season.

Every one of Detroit’s free agent forays has been on the defensive side of the ball thus far, as the club has signed linebackers Devon Kennard and Christian Jones, plus re-signed defensive backs Nevin Lawson and Tavon Wilson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/11/17

Monday’s minor moves from around the NFL:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

  • Promoted from practice squad: DT Tyrique Jarrett

Detroit Lions

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Promoted from practice squad: WR Geremy Davis
  • Waived: CB Jeff Richards

Minnesota Vikings

  • Released with injury settlement: QB Taylor Heinicke

New Orleans Saints

  • Promoted from practice squad: LB Adam Bighill

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/9/17

Here are the today’s minor moves.

  • With a ruptured Achilles’ tendon set to end Eric Berry‘s season, the Chiefs officially placed the eighth-year safety on IR Saturday. The team also signed offensive lineman Jordan Devey and safety Steven Terrell. Both Devey and Terrell went to training camp with Kansas City. The Chiefs cut both last weekend. Terrell started in five games as Earl Thomas‘ replacement with the Seahawks last season.
  • The Colts cut safety Earl Wolff with an injury settlement, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. A 2013 fifth-round Eagles pick, Wolff hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2014. The Redskins signed Wolff to a reserve/futures deal in January but waived him earlier this month.
  • To fill Matt Jones‘ roster spot, the Colts promoted guard Adam Redmond from their practice squad. Redmond signed with the Colts as a UDFA in 2016. He’ll join Deyshawn Bond as a center option for the team, which will be without starter Ryan Kelly to start the season.
  • For now, the Broncos won’t go with a two-Peko setup on their defensive line. They waived defensive tackle Kyle Peko, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post tweets. The Broncos signed Domata Peko to be their starting nose tackle and have until Sunday afternoon to replace his cousin on the roster in advance of their Monday-night game. Kyle Peko missed time this summer because of an injury.
  • The Lions signed offensive lineman Storm Norton off their practice squad and waived linebacker Nick Bellore, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com reports. Rothstein adds this news could mean tackle Corey Robinson — brought off the PUP list last week — may not be ready to play in Week 1. Robinson missed the preseason with an injury.
  • The Saints released outside linebacker Bryan Braman off IR with an injury settlement, Caplan reports (on Twitter).

Contract Details: Keenum, Gilberry, Escobar

The latest contract details, most of which come via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle:

  • Quarterback Case Keenum‘s one-year, $2MM pact with the Vikings features $750K in guarantees. There’s also a $250K signing bonus, $250K in incentives and $46,875 in per game active roster bonuses (Twitter link).
  • Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry‘s accord is worth $1.4MM, including a $300K signing bonus and a $100K workout bonus. He could make another $500K via sack incentives and $6,250 in per game active roster bonuses (Twitter link).
  • Running back Tim Hightower‘s one-year deal with the 49ers is worth $1.107MM, including $300K guaranteed, Tom Pelissero of USA Today tweets. He can earn an extra $400K in incentives for rushing yards.
  • Tight end Gavin Escobar‘s one-year Chiefs contract is a minimum salary benefit deal worth $855K, including $95K fully guaranteed. It also comes with an $80K signing bonus (Twitter link).
  • Lions linebacker Nick Bellore also inked a minimum salary benefit contract. Like Escobar, Bellore’s contract includes an $80K signing bonus (Twitter link).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Lions Sign LB Nick Bellore

The Lions have signed linebacker Nick Bellore, according to a team announcement. Bellore was previously with the Niners and entered the league with the Jets.

Bellore is primarily known for his special teams work, but he did get reps on defense last year with San Francisco. In 2016, he had ten starts on defense and finished out with 83 tackles, one sack, one interception, and a forced fumble. For his work in 692 snaps, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 61 linebacker in the NFL last season out of 87 qualified players. His run defense left much to be desired, per the advanced metrics, but his solid coverage score helped boost his overall grade.

It remains to be seen how Detroit will use him, but it seems like he’ll provide linebacker depth as well as special teams help. Bellore went to college at Central Michigan, so this is something of a homecoming for the 27-year-old.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Defense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

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 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Dwight Freeney
  2. Elvis Dumervil
  3. Chris Long
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Connor Barwin
  6. Paul Kruger
  7. Trent Cole
  8. Erik Walden
  9. Jason Jones
  10. Darryl Tapp
  11. Devin Taylor
  12. Eugene Sims
  13. Howard Jones
  14. Wallace Gilberry
  15. Sam Acho

The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).

Chris Long has already indicated he won’t be returning to the Patriots, indicating he wants to join a roster where he’ll earn more playing time. Erik Walden, too, won’t re-sign with his 2016 club (the Colts), but he has taken a visit with the division rival Titans. Further down the list, Howard Jones has also met with at least one club, as he was hosted by the Jets on Tuesday. Jones, 27, is recovering from a torn ACL, but did post five sacks in five starts last season.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Johnathan Hankins
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Jared Odrick
  4. Vance Walker
  5. Sen’Derrick Marks
  6. Ricky Jean-Francois
  7. Roy Miller
  8. Al Woods
  9. Tony McDaniel
  10. Cullen Jenkins
  11. Frostee Rucker
  12. Cam Thomas
  13. John Jenkins
  14. Tyson Jackson
  15. Tyson Alualu

Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.

The remaining defensive interior players are mostly over-30 veterans, with names such as Tony McDaniel, Cullen Jenkins, Frostee Rucker, and Tyson Jackson still looking for new deals. While most of these guys can still play, they may have to wait awhile — possibly into the summer — before signing on with their next club. Jared Odrick (Patriots) and Vance Walker (Bears) have both taken visits, but the most intriguing lineman here may be Sen’Derrick Marks, who offers a good amount of pass rush from the interior.

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