Nick Fairley

Saints Don’t Expect Nick Fairley Return

The heart condition that will shelve Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley this year seems increasingly likely to end his career. Saints doctors don’t expect Fairley to return to the field, according to Joel Erickson of the Advocate, and head coach Sean Payton said Wednesday that the defender’s condition will not improve over time. Further, Payton added that he’s not aware of any procedure capable of fixing it.

Nick Fairley (Vertical)

Payton stopped short of declaring that’s Fairley done for good, saying: “I would never sit at this table and use that word never. As we sit here today, though, we’ve prepared ourselves for him not playing this season. … The good side to that is, fortunately, this was discovered not the hard way.”

It’s possible the Saints will attempt to recoup some of the money they awarded Fairley in free agency, when they re-signed him to a four-year, $28MM contract that includes $9MM in guarantees and an $8MM bonus. Speaking Wednesday, general manager Mickey Loomis didn’t rule out trying to recover some of Fairley’s contract.

“I’d rather not answer that, because I don’t know yet,” Loomis said. “I don’t know how it’s going to resolve itself. Those are difficult questions there. … We’re a lot more concerned about Nick himself than we are about that, although that is a concern.”

It could hurt New Orleans’ cause that its concerns over Fairley’s heart cropped up before the team handed him a new deal, and all 32 NFL clubs have been aware of his condition dating back to 2011. That was Fairley’s draft year, when the Lions chose him 13th overall. Fairley has been effective with the Lions, Rams and Saints over his six pro seasons, but it appears we’ve seen the last of the 29-year-old on the gridiron.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints May Try To Recoup Portion Of Nick Fairley’s Contract

The Saints have begun to examine ways to recoup a portion of the money already paid to defensive tackle Nick Fairley after placing him on the non-football injury list earlier today, according to Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. Doctors ruled a heart condition won’t allow Fairley to play in 2017.Nick Fairley

The NFI allows a club to withhold a player’s salary, and though most teams opt not to use such a punishment, clubs certainly hold that right. In many cases, such as the 2016 standoff between Desmond Bryant and the Browns, the two sides will negotiate a lower salary in lieu of a complete recoup.

While the Saints could try to work out a similar arrangement with Fairley, the more pressing matter between the two parties is Fairley’s signing bonus. Fairley received an $8MM bonus as part of a $9MM overall guarantee, and that bonus has likely already been paid. It’s unclear if New Orleans will be able to go after some or all of that money, but Katzenstein reports it’s “premature to speculate” about exactly what course of action the Saints may take.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints’ Nick Fairley Won’t Play In 2017

Nick Fairley‘s season has ended before it could even start. The Saints announced that the defensive tackle has been placed on the non-football injury list for the season due to his heart condition. He has been ruled out for 2017 and, unfortunately, he might not be able to play football again, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. Nick Fairley (Vertical)

Fairley, 29, consulted with at least three doctors before reaching the conclusion that he could not play this year. He signed a four-year, $28MM deal to stay in New Orleans in March, but the Saints will now have to figure out a different plan at nose tackle. The team reportedly plans to use Tyeler Davison, a 2015 fifth-rounder, in the middle, though he is currently recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Last year’s fourth-round pick David Onyemata could be called upon if Davison suffers a setback.

Beyond Davison and Onyemata, it stands to reason that the Saints could explore external options. PFR’s Dallas Robinson recently ran down some of the best available interior defensive linemen, but not all of those names are fits for the Saints’ 4-3 scheme.

Fairley started 16 games and posted 6.5 sacks during his first season with the Saints, grading out as the league’s 34th best interior defender among 127 qualifiers, according to Pro Football Focus. Per the terms of his deal, Fairley has already cashed in on $9MM in guarantees, including an $8MM signing bonus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Fairley, Packers, Lane, Lions

Nick Fairley‘s heart issue has stalled his career to the point the Saints are preparing for this season as if the recently re-signed defensive tackle won’t play, Larry Holder of NOLA.com reports. Last we heard, the 29-year-old defender was getting a third opinion on the condition. Fairley signed a four-year, $28MM deal to stay in New Orleans in March. But if he’s not going to play this season, Holder notes the Saints are going to be at a loss. They used 2016 fourth-rounder David Onyemata alongside Sheldon Rankins on the first-string defense during minicamp, but Holder notes the starting nose tackle will probably be Tyeler Davison, a 2015 fifth-rounder who started 15 games last season. Davison is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Here’s the latest from around the NFC.

  • Davante Adams has shot to the top of the Packers‘ 2018 UFA contingent after a breakout 2016 season, one that also includes Morgan Burnett, center Corey Linsley and guard Lane Taylor, Rob Reischel writes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. This could mean Randall Cobb faces a pivotal season, with Reischel noting the Packers could elect to prioritize an Adams deal and move on from Cobb despite his young age. The slot target will only be 27 this season, but Cobb recorded a modest (for him) 60-catch, 610-yard season. He’s signed through 2018 and has cap numbers of $12.6MM and $12.7MM this season and next, respectively.
  • The Seahawks have a pair of cornerbacks that have suffered severe injuries in recent years, but while DeShawn Shead rehabs, Jeremy Lane looks like the starter opposite Richard Sherman. Pete Carroll said Shead is recovering well from the ACL and meniscus tears sustained in January, but with the re-signed player unlikely to be ready for Week 1, the team may be turning to Lane. “He’s physically as fit as he’s been in a long time,” Carroll said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “Remember, he had a really difficult offseason a couple years back (following knee and arm injuries in Super Bowl XLIX) and it’s taken him almost a couple years to overcome all of that, and he’s back to full form.” The Seahawks drafted Shaquil Griffin in the third round and moved rookie sixth-rounder Mike Tyson from safety to corner, but those first-year talents look to enter camp as depth pieces behind Lane.
  • Once Taylor Decker suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him out up to six months, the Lions gave first-team left tackle reps to Joe Dahl. The second-year player worked as a guard in six games last season. But after the additions of Greg Robinson and Cyrus Kouandjio, Dahl seems on his way back to guard, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Neither Robinson nor Kouandjio participated in Detroit’s minicamp, but Jim Caldwell confirmed they will compete for the now-vacant left tackle job come training camp. A fifth-round pick last year, Dahl would then be in line to compete for a guard spot with Graham Glasgow and Laken Tomlinson opposite T.J. Lang.

NFC Notes: Chancellor, Fairley, Packers

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters today that he’s focused on finalizing a long-term extension with safety Kam Chancellor.

“We would very much like to work something out,” he said (via ESPN.com’s Sheil Kapadia). “We’re working at it. And that’s really all we’ll say. But we are working at it with every intention of taking care of business. It takes awhile. Things take awhile. His frame of mind and our frame of mind are in a really good place. And we’re going to work hard to get something done. We’ll see if we can.”

The four-time Pro Bowler is entering the final year of his contract. The defensive back held out for two games during the 2015 season before signing a new four-year, $28MM deal with the Seahawks. In late May, our own Connor Byrne discussed Chancellor’s extension candidacy.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Saints defensive lineman Nick Fairley is still waiting for results from his third medical opinion regarding a heart condition. Today, coach Sean Payton acknowledged that the team hasn’t received any updates on his availability. However, Payton did say that the organization would consider all of the opinions as they determine what to do with the veteran. “We will weigh in on all of those things,” he said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “We will meet with him and his agent and kind of weigh in on the three different opinions. Like I said, I anticipate that being sooner than later.”
  • Will the Packers keep seven receivers on their roster for a second-straight season? “I’d like to think we’ve got more than seven guys there who can play,” receivers coach Luke Getsy said today (via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky on Twitter). Behind starters Jordy NelsonDavante Adams, and Randall Cobb, the Packers are rostering wideouts Jeff JanisDeAngelo YanceyGeronimo AllisonTrevor DavisMalachi Dupre, and Max McCaffrey.
  • Last week, the Packers waived cornerback David Rivers with an injury designation. Today, ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky reported (via Twitter) that the player reached an injury settlement with the organization, thus removing himself from the team’s injured reserve.

Nick Fairley Awaiting Third Opinion

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley signed a four-year, $28MM contract to remain with the Saints earlier this offseason, but there’s a chance his heart issue could prevent him from ever playing a down under that deal. Fairley is currently awaiting the results of a third medical opinion, according to head coach Sean Payton, and it could determine whether the 29-year-old will be able to continue his career (via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com).

Nick Fairley

The first specialist Fairley consulted with informed him that he “shouldn’t play football again,” Payton said Thursday. However, the second opinion Fairley received “was a little different.”

Continued Payton: “The things we know are this — it’s obviously something significant and serious that we’ve gotta pay attention to, obviously both for Nick and for the club. So we’re hopeful, and yet we’re guarded, because of the type of condition we’re talking about.”

Concerns over Fairley’s heart came to light at the time he was undergoing a physical after agreeing to a contract in March, per Payton. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the Saints from re-upping the six-year veteran. For now, the Saints are leery of paying the half of Fairley’s $8MM bonus that they still owe him, reports Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com). New Orleans wants more “clarity” on Fairley’s situation before it commits the money to him, according to Garafolo, who adds that the club would have a difficult time recouping the money it has already paid him if it attempted to. The reason: All 32 teams have known about Fairley’s condition since prior to the 2011 draft, in which he went 13th overall to the Lions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints DT Nick Fairley Has Heart Issue

Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been sidelined from the club’s organized team activities with a heart issue that could threaten his career, according to Jennifer Hale of FOX Sports (Twitter link).Nick Fairley (Vertical)

Fairley has dealt with this condition for his entire NFL career, as the issue was originally detected during the predraft process in 2011, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). The veteran defensive tackle recently saw a doctor who wanted to run further tests regarding the ailment, says Rapoport. Fairley has reportedly not communicated his health struggles with his New Orleans teammates, as Saints players who regularly speak with Fairley have not heard from him, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com.

Fairley, 29, started 16 games and posted 6.5 sacks during his first campaign with the Saints, grading as the league’s No. 34 interior defender among 127 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. He re-signed with New Orleans this spring, inking a four-year, $28MM deal that contains $9MM in guarantees.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Contract Details: Fairley, Peppers, Reiff

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed NFC contracts:

  • Nick Fairley, DL (Saints): Four years, $28MM. $14MM guaranteed. $8MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $1MM, $4.25MM, $5.95MM, $5.95MM (Twitter link via Wilson). $500K available yearly in sack incentives (link via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com).
  • Captain Munnerlyn, CB (Panthers): Four years, $17MM. $8MM guaranteed. $6MM signing bonus. $1MM available via incentives (Twitter link via Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune).
  • Julius Peppers, DL (Panthers): One year, $3.5MM. $750K available via incentives (Twitter link via Josina Anderson of ESPN.com).
  • Riley Reiff, T (Vikings): Five years, $58.75MM. $26.3MM guaranteed. $11MM signing bonus (Twitter links via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com). Annual $500K Pro Bowl escalator clause (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Mike Remmers, T (Vikings): Five years, $30MM. $10.5MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune).
  • Dion Sims, TE (Bears): Three years, $18MM. $6MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).
  • Stefen Wisniewski, OL (Eagles): Three years, $9MM. $3.25MM guaranteed. $1.75MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer)

Nick Fairley, Saints Agree To Deal

The Saints have agreed to re-sign defensive tackle Nick Fairley to a four-year deal, per Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com (Twitter link). Financial terms aren’t yet available, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted earlier Thursday that Fairley was in line for “big money.”Nick Fairley (Vertical)

Fairley, 29, hit free agency in each of the past two offseasons, but he settled for one-year deals on each occasion. In 2015, Fairley signed with a pact with the Rams that came with a base value of $5MM, but also included incentives and escalators. Last year, the Saints landed Fairley on a fully guaranteed, $3MM contract that voided 15 days prior to the start of the 2017 league year.

In his sixth NFL season, Fairley appeared in all 16 games for New Orleans and racked up 6.5 sacks, grading out as the league’s No. 34 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus. Fairley, a former first-round pick, earned exceptionally high marks for his pass rushing acumen (13th among defensive tackles), and quarterback pursuits have always been Fairley’s strong point.

Fairle was expected to test free agency in order to gauge his market value, and now it remains to be seen if he was able to secure the $10MM annual salary he was targeting. Fairley ranked as PFR’s No. 7 free agent interior defender.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents

It’s free agency week! This year, thanks to the salary cap increase, the dollars will be flying and players will make more than you ever could have expected. Our lists for offense and defense rank free agents based on overall ability, but our Top 50 ranks players based on earning power. Here, you’ll get a good sense of what the market will be like this week and who the big fish are.

The league’s “legal tampering” window will open on Tuesday at 11:00am CT. Technically, teams and players aren’t permitted to finalize agreements on contracts during that legal tampering window, but that’s often treated as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. We will almost certainly see handshake agreements go down on Tuesday and Wednesday before they become official on Thursday, the technical beginning of free agency.

Our list of 2017’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or franchise tagged players, since they’re effectively restricted free agents as well.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2017, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:

1. A.J. Bouye, CB (Texans): Bouye is an overnight sensation, going from unknown to elite talent in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what to make of Bouye, but his upside is too much for teams to pass up. The Texans declined to use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old (26 in August), but they’re still hoping to get a deal done this week. The Jets are said to have interest, but it’s not clear if they’ll have the room to get something done. Cornerback-needy teams like the Panthers, Saints, Jaguars, Titans, Bears, and Eagles can be expected to at least kick the tires on this year’s top player in the secondary. Could something like Janoris Jenkins‘ five year, $62.5MM contract ($28.8MM fully guaranteed) from last year be within reach? Jenkins had a longer history of success than Bouye, but consider these facts: Bouye nearly two years younger than Jenkins was at time of signing and the salary cap has risen by about $12MM.
Signed with Jaguars for five years, $67.5MM.A.J. Bouye (vertical)

2. Alshon Jeffery, WR (Bears): He was hurt for most of 2015 and he slumped along with the entire Bears offense in 2016, but his natural ability is still evident and he is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. At one point, it seemed like Jeffery could wind up as the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. That won’t be the case, but he will likely get more cash than any other wide receiver in this year’s class. The Eagles and Titans have been hot on his tail for some time now. The 49ers could also get involved and a return to the Bears cannot be ruled out either. Ultimately, Jeffery should wind up fetching at least $10MM per year and perhaps as much as $12MM per year on his next deal.
Signed with Eagles for one year, $9.5MM.

3. Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins): Jeffery isn’t the only wide receiver who could fetch $12MM per year. Stills isn’t necessarily the best wide receiver on his own team, but he is just on the cusp of his 25th birthday and his ability to stretch the field is tantalizing. It doesn’t sound like the Dolphins are ready to be the highest bidder for his services and it’s not hard to imagine a team like the Eagles landing him. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the potential suitors for Jeffery and Stills: the Eagles, Titans, Bears, and 49ers will probably come calling. The Rams may not have enough room to squeeze in Stills, but they could certainly use a playmaker like him if they do not re-sign Kenny Britt. Stills reportedly likes the West Coast (who doesn’t?) so the Niners and Rams could have a leg up on the others if the bidding is close.
Re-signed with Dolphins for four years, $32MM.

4. Dont’a Hightower, LB (Patriots): The market is capped for non-rush linebackers, but Hightower is pretty much the best at what he does and is also lauded for his intangibles. The Patriots have always embraced the “next man up” philosophy, so it is possible they will allow him to go elsewhere. The Dolphins have been frequently connected to Hightower, but that might be too ambitious for a team that has multiple major needs to address. The Colts might also make sense, but the price might be too rich for their blood. A Patriots return appears to be the most likely outcome, but anything is possible.
Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $35.5MM. 

5. Kevin Zeitler, G (Bengals): Zeitler has age on his side and he’s one of the safest free agents in the top ten after three consecutive years of dominance. Interior offensive linemen don’t get as much love as their counterparts on the outside, but they are still incredibly vital and Zeitler’s next contract will reflect that. If he doesn’t circle back to the Bengals, the Jaguars, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks all make varying degrees of sense for Zeitler. From a football standpoint, you can add the Jets to that group too, but I’m not sure they can meet a ~$12MM/year asking price.
Signed with Browns for five years, $60MM.

6. Logan Ryan, CB (Patriots): There are bigger names available at the cornerback position, but Ryan slots ahead of many of them after a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that this fresh-faced Super Bowl champ only just turned 26 in February. If the Patriots don’t tie him down, Ryan’s earning power could conceivably vault him past Trumaine Johnson in terms of guaranteed cash. The Jaguars and Titans would be wise to zero in on Ryan if they can’t land Bouye and it’s possible that some of their evaluators might even prefer Ryan over the Houston standout. Ryan’s next deal will probably pay him eight figures per year and it should be a lengthy pact.
Signed with Titans for three years, $30MM.

7. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Browns): There is strong mutual interest in a new deal between Pryor and the Browns. Still, the Browns passed on the opportunity to franchise tag the Ohio State product and he now appears poised to test the open market. With pretty much just one year to show, how will Pryor fare in free agency? His next deal should pay him at least $10MM/year and he could get up to $12MM/year. In addition to the Browns, the usual suspects for this year’s high-end WRs will explore signing Pryor (say it with me): Eagles, Titans, and 49ers. There’s conflicting word about whether the Steelers will get involved. The Giants are known to have interest, but I don’t think they’ll be splurging on free agents like they did one year ago.
Signed with Redskins for one year, $6MM.

8 .Ricky Wagner, OT (Ravens): There’s already talk of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year and it’s not like this year’s free agent market is flush with young, quality tackles. When you also consider the lack of quality tackles in the draft, it’s apparent that Wagner is about to get PAID, in all caps.Believe it or not, $10MM/year might be his floor. When all is said and done, he’ll be the league’s biggest earner at right tackle. The Bears are particularly interested in Wagner, so he could go from the AFC North to the NFC North this week.
Signed with Lions for five years, $47.5MM.

Calais Campbell (vertical)9. Calais Campbell, DL (Cardinals): Campbell was supposed to be an afterthought in Arizona after the addition of Chandler Jones. Perhaps motivated by a perceived slight, Campbell turned in a stellar year. Now, the Cardinals would very much like to keep him, but they can only go so far as they back up the Brinks truck for Jones and look into retaining other key free agents. If Jones does not agree to a cap-smoothing long-term deal between now and March 9th, the odds of Campbell leaving increase. The Jaguars are said to be a leading contender for Campbell while the Titans, Broncos, Colts, and Bears could also use a force like him. His age (31 in September) gives him a bit of a ceiling in terms of overall compensation, but he should still do nicely this month.
Signed with Jaguars for four years, $60MM.

10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (Bills): In terms of pure talent, Gilmore might be the best cornerback available. Trouble is, no one knows what to make of him after a down 2016. Some have openly theorized that Gilmore was playing it safe to avoid injury in his pivotal contract year. It’s also possible that Buffalo’s injuries in the front seven put undue stress on the secondary. The Bears are reportedly high on Gilmore and he may represent a cheaper option than Bouye or Ryan. A Bills return would also make sense here.
Signed with Patriots for five years, $65MM.

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