Nick Folk

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Veteran K Nick Folk Joining AAF

The Alliance of American Football has recruited another veteran kicker. ESPN’s Michael Rothstein reports that the Arizona Hotshots have signed former Pro Bowler Nick Folk. The 34-year-old will be joining fellow veteran kicker Nick Novak in the inaugural season of the league.

“The biggest thing, I still have a passion to play. I still want to prove I can play,” Folk told ESPN on Saturday night. “And it’s a good opportunity for me to show that. I ended my time in Tampa with that injury, and my last game being hurt I wasn’t able to perform at my best, and I want to show people that I’m back to kicking well.”

The former sixth-rounder will now have an opportunity to return to Arizona, where he played in college. He’ll also have a chance to return to competitive football after having sat out the entire 2018 campaign. Folk last appeared in four games with the Buccaneers during the 2017 season, converting six of his 11 field goal attempts and seven of his nine extra point tries. He was placed on the injured reserve after his knee tendinitis required surgery, and he was released several months later.

While the injury was more severe than anticipated, Folk told ESPN that he’s been healthy for a bit more than a year. The veteran had previously discussed joining the AAF, but he kept his options open during the NFL’s regular season. The veteran was among a group of kickers to audition for the Bears earlier this week.

Folk is 50th on the NFL’s all-time points list, and he’s the second-leading scorer in Jets history. He’s converted 98.8-percent of his extra point attempts in his career; however, as Rothstein notes, this won’t matter much in the AAF, as there are no extra points (nor kickoffs) in the league.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Audition Several Kickers

The Bears are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to upgrade the kicker position. On Friday, they’ll work out a group of six or seven kickers including Nick Folk, Blair Walsh, and Austin MacGinnis, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). 

Parkey missed a potential game winner against the Eagles in the opening round of the playoffs, putting him on thin ice. His 43-yard try off the upright was a heartbreaker, though it wasn’t exactly Parkey’s fault as it was tipped by defensive tackle Treyvon Hester.

The 26-year-old kicker (27 in February) may have put his job in further jeopardy when he made a guest appearance on NBC’s Today show to discuss the miss. The lighthearted segment rubbed head coach Matt Nagy the wrong way and drew the ire of many Bears fans.

For me, you understand that we always talk about a ‘we’ and not a ‘me’ thing,” Nagy said (via ESPN.com). “We always talk as a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team. You know, I just, I didn’t necessarily think that that was too much of a ‘we’ thing.”

It certainly sounds like the Bears want to replace Parkey, but his contract complicates matters. Parkey joined the Bears on a four-year, $15MM deal last offseason which calls for a $4.4MM dead cap hit if he is released before the 2019 season. Earlier this month, GM Ryan Pace indicated that the contract will not necessarily keep them from moving on.

We talk about those things [the financial ramifications], but the most important thing is performance,” Pace said.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

Buccaneers Release K Nick Folk

Nick Folk is officially ticketed for free agency. On Thursday, the Buccaneers announced that they have released the kicker. Nick Folk (vertical)

The move doesn’t mean a whole lot for Folk since his one-year, $1.75MM deal was already set to expire this offseason. However, it is an indication that the team will be moving forward with a new place kicker.

Earlier this week, Folk received medical clearance from doctors, allowing him to get back on the practice field. If Folk can demonstrate that he is healthy, he figures to receive attention from teams in search of a veteran leg. In 2016, Folk nailed 27 of 31 field goal attempts and connected on 24 of 26 extra points. He was released by the Jets for cap reasons, which ultimately paved the way for him to join up with the Bucs. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned in Tampa Bay.

Before an undisclosed injury ended his season in October, Folk converted just six-of-eleven field goal attempts and seven-of-nine extra points. In his final game of the 2017 campaign, the 33-year-old missed three field goals as the Patriots went on to win by five points.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

FA Kicker Nick Folk Medically Cleared

After spending the majority of the 2017 campaign on injured reserve, pending free agent kicker Nick Folk has been medically cleared to resume kicking, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).Nick Folk (vertical)

The Buccaneers signed the 33-year-old Folk to a one-year, $1.75MM deal last spring after former second-round pick Roberto Aguayo struggled mightily during his rookie season in 2016. Folk handily won the Tampa Bay kicking competition, allowing the Buccaneers to waive Aguayo in mid-August.

However, Folk performed nearly as poorly as Aguayo had, converting only six-of-eleven field goal attempts and seven-of-nine extra points before the Buccaneers replaced him with Patrick Murray. Tampa Bay placed Folk on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, and he remained there for the rest of the season.

Now healthy, Folk — who has also spent time with the Cowboys and Jets during his 11-year career, will hit the free agent market alongside Adam Vinatieri, Matt Bryant, Graham Gano, and a host of other available kickers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers To Sign Kicker Patrick Murray

The Buccaneers are changing kickers again, as Tampa Bay is currently working out a deal with free agent Patrick Murray, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).Patrick Murray (vertical)

Tampa Bay is unsurprisingly auditioned kickers following incumbent Nick Folk‘s dreadful performance against the Patriots on Thursday night. Folk missed three field goals in a game the Buccaneers ultimately lost by five points, so Tampa Bay took a look at Andrew FranksJosh LamboMike Nugent, Marshall Koehn, and Cairo Santos on Monday.

The Buccaneers, of course, are no strangers to problems at placekicker. Folk was initially signed to replace Roberto Aguayo, whom general manager Jason Licht & Co. drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft after a trade up. Aguayo struggled through his rookie campaign and the 2017 season before being waived, but Tampa Bay is now making a special teams transition once again.

Murray, 26, will now begin his second stint with the Buccaneers, as he was the club’s kicker during the 2014 campaign. The Fordham product didn’t appear in the NFL in 2015, and managed only two games in Cleveland last season before suffering an injury. For his career, Murray holds an 80.8% field goal conversion rate, and he’s missed only one extra point attempt.

Folk, meanwhile, will be placed on injured reserve with a “minor” designation, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That means Tampa Bay will be forced to release Folk once he’s deemed fully healthy. When that happens, the Buccaneers will eat the rest of Folk’s 2017 salary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Folk, Hyde, Eagles

Buccaneers kicker Nick Folk missed three field goals in his team’s five-point loss to the Patriots on Thursday night. We’ve already learned that the team will be auditioning several free agent kickers this week, and Folk acknowledged that this is all part of the business.

“You have to be able to evaluate yourself, look at it and improve, learn, see what went wrong, make the corrections and move forward,” he told ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine. “Just go out there and swing. Don’t make it too hard. It’s not real hard when you get down to it.”

After connecting on more than 87-percent of his field goal attempts last season, Tampa Bay opted for the veteran over former second-rounder Roberto Aguayo. So far, Folk has only made six of his 11 attempts, and coach Dirk Koetter told Laine that he’s been surprised about the player’s struggles.

“When we decided on Nick as our kicker — I’ve told you guys this many times — whoever our kicker is, I’ve got total confidence in him,” Koetter said. “I think Nick was kicking very well up until a week ago. He had a rough day against the Giants, he came back, and the one day we kicked in practice [this week] he kicked very, very well. We had no reason to think Nick wasn’t going to kick well last night.

“There are a couple there that you’re expecting him to make. When I say, ‘We’re disappointed today’ at opportunities that we missed, that’s at a lot of different positions. That’s certainly one.”

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • 49ers running back Carlos Hyde is on pace to have one of his best NFL seasons, as he currently owns a career-high 4.9-yard-per-carry mark. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com observes that the 27-year-old is having this success on a contract year, and it could lead to a hefty contract. Of course, part of the player’s improvement can be attributed to getting into shape, as general Manager John Lynch said on 95.7 The Game. “He got lighter and in much better shape. It’s showing. It’s paying dividends on the field. So we’re thrilled with the way he’s playing. He’s got to continue to do it,” Lynch said (via Cam Inman of MercuryNews.com).
  • Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood is set to miss tomorrow’s game, which would currently leave the team with LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, and Kenjon Barner. Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com notes (via Twitter) that none of those players are threats in the passing game, so he wonders if the team could promote Byron Marshall from the practice squad. The Oregon product appeared in three games last season, collecting three receptions for ten yards and 19 carries for 64 yards.
  • In case you missed it, second-round rookie defensive tackle Malik McDowell — who suffered a severe concussion in a July September ATV accident — could potentially return to the Seahawks this season.

Bucs Could Potentially Stick With Nick Folk

As expected, the Buccaneers are looking into making a change at kicker. However, it’s not a sure thing that they will move on from Nick Folk, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). "<strong

Initially, the Bucs were hoping to have a handful of kickers audition early next week, but the team is not enamored with the options presently available, Rapoport hears. That’s why, at the moment, only Mike Nugent and Andrew Franks are slated to for the tryout. If more names aren’t added to the list and neither Nugent nor Franks performs well, the Bucs could wind up sticking with Folk.

It has been a rough two games for Folk. On Sunday, he struggled against the Giants before nailing the game-winning field goal at the end. Then, on Thursday, he bricked all three FG tries, costing the Bucs a win over the defending champs.

Folk has missed five field goals already this season, but he missed only four during his entire 2016 campaign with the Jets (27 for 31). The Buccaneers, understandably, want to get this right given what they went through last season with Roberto Aguayo . As Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter) points out, the team has converted on just 28 of 42 field goal attempts (66%) since the beginning of the 2016 season. That marks the lowest percentage of any team in the league over that span.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers To Audition Kickers

Well, you knew this was coming. After Nick Folk‘s dreadful performance on Thursday night, the Buccaneers will work out kickers, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets"<strong

The audition will include Andrew Franks, Mike Nugent, and potentially two or three other kickers, Rapoport tweets. The kicker tryout is likely to take place next week rather than this weekend as the list is finalized, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times adds (on Twitter).

Folk went 0-for-3 on field goals against the Patriots, representing more than the difference between a Bucs win and loss. The Pats won by a score of 19-14 when Jameis Winston‘s end-of-the-game drive fell short.

Folk took full responsibility for Tampa Bay’s loss after the game, but his mea culpa will do little to help preserve his job. There’s no word on this yet, but Folk may not even get the opportunity to kick alongside the other hopefuls during the audition.

[It has been a [bad week],’’ Folk said on Thursday (via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times). “It started last Sunday and today. Bad week. “I left points out there. We should’ve won 20-19. This one is on me.’’

Two of Folk’s misses came in the fourth quarter, one from 49 yards out and one 31-yarder. He also missed a long 56-yard try at the end of the first half. This came on the heels of Sunday’s performance against the Giants in which he missed an extra point and two field goals before kicking the game-winner on the final play.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.