Nigel Bradham

Injury Updates: Packers, Adams, Cardinals

No surprise here, but Davante Adams will miss another game this week, per the Packers‘ final injury report. This marks the wide receiver’s third-straight missed contest as he rehabs from a toe ailment.

Adams had a strong start to the season with 25 receptions for 378 yards before going down and seemed on his way to matching last year’s 111/1,386 posting. The Packers were able to get past the Lions without him and they’ll aim to do the same against the Raiders.

Here’s the latest on other bumps and bruises from around the NFL:

  • Uh oh – Cardinals running back David Johnson is dealing with a new injury. After tweaking his back against Atlanta, Johnson will be a game time decision thanks to a sore ankle, head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters.
  • The Cowboys will have offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, and cornerback Byron Jones are set to play on Sunday against the Eagles, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets. All five are listed as questionable for the game, but they took the practice field and Friday and should be good to go.
  • The Eagles, on the other hand, will try to fly without: linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot), cornerback Avonte Maddox (concussion/neck), tackle Jason Peters (knee), and running back Darren Sproles (quadricep).
  • Wide receiver Kenny Stills is set to return on Sunday against the Colts, per the club’s injury report.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Eli, Eagles

Let’s take a look at the latest from the NFC East, starting with the Cowboys’ contract situation. The team has now extended four high-profile players over the past several months and remains at work on at least two other deals.

  • Cowboys VP Stephen Jones was adamant that new contracts with Jaylon Smith and La’el Collins were not done to try to put some pressure on Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott or Amari Cooper. “We’d consider other agreements right now and it wouldn’t affect what we’re doing with Dak, Amari or anyone else,” Jones said (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Jon Machota). The Cowboys now have Smith, Collins, Elliott and DeMarcus Lawrence signed long-term; they are still working on re-ups for Prescott and Cooper.
  • On his “Hail to the Podcast” podcast with Erin Hawksworth, former Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall said that Trent Williams could make his return “sooner (rather) than later.” Despite his holdout, GM Bruce Allen recently confirmed that the disgruntled Pro Bowler will not be traded and that he does not see him retiring.
  • According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, Giants officials have privately told him that Eli Manning will remain the starting quarterback as long as they are in the playoff race. Moreover, sources also told Vacchiano that Pat Shurmur will have a significant say in the matter. “It’s Shurmur’s call,” one team source said. “Let’s just see how it goes. When and if it’s time, we’ll all know.” Manning confirmed this past summer that he is not rushing into retirement.
  • Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham was thought to be AWOL after missing the team’s preseason finale against the Jets, and the team was “livid” at his absence, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane. However, Bradham said he was “under the weather” and needed to communicate better with team officials. Bradham signed a five-year, $40MM deal in 2018 and has been a key contributor to the defense since coming over from the Bills in 2016.

Eagles Rework Chris Long’s, Nigel Bradham’s Contract

The Eagles have created a chunk of cap space. ESPN’s Field Yates tweets that the team has adjusted the contracts of defensive end Chris Long and linebacker Nigel Bradham. The move will open up about $5.032 in cap space.

Long had signed a new deal with the Eagles last offseason, but there were still whispers that the defensive end could end up calling it a career. The 33-year-old still hasn’t necessarily committed to playing, as the veteran tweeted that he’s still weighing his options.

“I love Philly so much,” Long wrote. “The fans, all of it. I’m making a football decision, though. Money moved doesn’t mean it’s been made.”

The veteran had another productive season as an Eagles reserve in 2018, compiling 23 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in 16 games.

Bradham re-signed with the Eagles last offseason, inking a new five-year, $40MM deal with the organization. However, his one-game suspension last season voided all guarantees, which were estimated to be around $14MM. The 29-year-old has emerged as one of the Eagles’ top defenders in recent years. He had another productive season in 2018, compiling 97 tackles, two sacks, and four pass defended.

The Eagles have been relatively busy so far this offseason. The team is set to sign Malik Jackson, they traded for DeSean Jackson, and they re-signed Jason Peters.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Ealy, Eagles

The Cowboys are pondering a position change for free agent addition Kony Ealy, Clarence Hill Jr. of the Star-Telegram tweets. Ealy has not impressed at defensive end this summer, so he’ll get a longer look at defensive tackle.

Starting defensive tackle David Irving will serve a four-game ban to start the season and Maliek Collins‘ status is up in the air thanks to a foot injury, so Ealy could carve out a role for himself in the middle. The veteran was initially expected to fill Benson Mayowa‘s role as the team’s third defensive end, but Taco Charlton, Charles Tapper, fourth-round pick Dorance Armstrong, and the returning Randy Gregory may be ahead of him on the depth chart at this point.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Elflein, Bradham, Rams, Bears

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers may be far apart when it comes to an extension, but the franchise quarterback doesn’t sound like he’s all that bothered by the lack of progress. Talking to Genaro C. Armas of the Associated Press, Rodgers said he never planned on holding out as he pursued a new deal.

“I don’t really operate like that. I have two years left on my deal,” Rodgers said. “They’re obviously more than willing to talk about an extension. There wasn’t any animosity on either side.”

The 34-year-old is set to earn an average annual salary of $19.9MM in the final two years of his deal. Once the contract expires, the Packers would seemingly be in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations. As our own Zach Links explained, the organization could franchise him in 2021 and 2022, bumping that average annual salary to $25MM per season.

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

  • Vikings center Pat Elflein was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list yesterday, and Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune says that was due to a pair of offseason shoulders. It was previously announced that the 24-year-old would undergo surgery to repair his fractured left ankle, but the Elflein also underwent a procedure to fix a lingering shoulder injury. Goessling tweets that while the offensive lineman wouldn’t commit to a return date, his health isn’t expected to be a major concern. ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin adds (via Twitter) that former third-rounder is simply “waiting for medical clearance” before he returns to the field.
  • Last month, Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham was slapped with a one-game suspension stemming from his 2016 involvement in an alleged assault incident. While the 28-year-old is set to miss the team’s season-opener, it sounds like he could have been out a whole lot longer. Bradham told John McMullen of 97.3 ESPN that he was originally facing a six-game suspension (via Les Bowen of Philly.com). His side ultimately appealed and got the suspension reduced to a single game.
  • Rams offensive guard Jamon Brown was suspended for the first two games of next season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The former third-rounder told Rich Hammond of Orange County Register that the suspension was related to a speeding violation and marijuana possession (Twitter link). As Hammond points out, the 25-year-old was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence.
  • The Bears worked out former Assumption wideout Ashton Grant today, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The six-foot-two receiver set a number of school records during his four years with the program, including receiving yards (3,204) and receiving touchdowns (36). Chicago is currently rostering 10 receivers, including rookies Anthony Miller and Javon Wims.
  • Speaking of Bears rookies, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wonders why Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith remains unsigned more than a week after the team’s training camp started. Florio cites PFT’s previous report that “then-unsigned players at the bottom of the top 10 were being delayed both by roster bonuses structure and by language that would void the guarantees in the fully-guaranteed four-year contracts.” What does this mean? If the linebacker is suspended for violating the league’s helmet-related tackling rules, the contract’s guaranteed money would “go away.” This would make it considerably easier for the Bears to move on from Smith down the road. Of course, neither side is hoping it’d ever get to that point, as the organization clearly has high hopes for the eighth-overall pick. However, as Florio explains, it’d make sense for the rookie’s camp to stand firm in removing this language from the rookie contract.

NFL To Suspend Eagles LB Nigel Bradham

Having already released Mychal Kendricks, the Eagles will see their linebacking corps further thinned out to start this season. Nigel Bradham is facing a one-game suspension, ESPN.com’s Field Yates reports (on Twitter).

Bradham is an unquestioned Eagles starter and just re-signed to stay in Philadelphia long-term. He and Jordan Hicks are expected to be the defending Super Bowl champions’ primary every-down linebackers this season, but for Week 1 — expected to be Hicks’ first game back after ending last season on IR — could well force Philly to get creative.

This suspension could be coming for Bradham as a result of a 2016 incident involving an alleged assault at a hotel. Bradham turned himself in to police in July 2016 and was charged with aggravated battery. However, the veteran off-ball ‘backer avoided jail time in this case. The NFL’s personal conduct policy, though, does not require the burden of proof to be nearly as high as the country’s legal system does.

Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets this ban indeed stems from that 2016 incident in south Florida, and Bradham himself confirmed this (on Twitter), adding that the matter has been resolved legally.

Having re-signed the 28-year-old defender on a five-year, $40MM deal, the Eagles are counting on him to play a key part in their title defense this season. Bradham’s been a full-time starter for the Eagles the past two seasons. His 2016 arrival coincided with Kendricks being relegated to a part-time player. With Kendricks gone and Hicks being an injury risk, Bradham represents the most stable linebacker on Philadelphia’s roster.

Beyond Bradham, the Eagles have the recently signed Corey Nelson, converted safety Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill. Those three are vying for Kendricks’ old job, and it’s likely one will now have to join Hicks in the Eagles’ nickel set when they face the Falcons on opening night.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Lotulelei, Bradham, Lewis

Let’s take a look at the details from the latest contracts signed in the NFL:

Eagles To Re-Sign LB Nigel Bradham

The Eagles will re-sign free agent linebacker Nigel Bradham to a five-year, $40MM deal, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Bradham was a key part of Philadelphia’s Super Bowl-winning defense a season ago, but given that the Eagles are extremely pressed for cap space, it wasn’t clear if they’d be able to re-sign the 28-year-old linebacker. They’ve somehow made it work, however, and one resulting move will entail the Eagles (once again) placing linebacker Mychal Kendricks and his $5.85MM 2018 salary on the trade block, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

A former fourth-round pick, Bradham followed defensive play-caller Jim Schwartz from Buffalo to Philadelphia prior to the 2016 campaign. He’s arguably posted the best two seasons of his career during that time, and graded as the league’s 21st-best linebacker in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus.While playing on nearly 90% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps, Bradham posted 61 tackles and one sack.

While the guarantees or structure of Bradham’s new deal have yet to be reported, he’ll now become the 12th-highest-paid off-ball linebacker in terms of annual salary. Given that Eagles’ salary cap problems, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bradham’s pact contains a hefty signing bonus that will be spread across multiple years, while a back-loaded pact also isn’t out of the question.

Heading into free agency, Bradham ranked as PFR’s No. 1 available linebacker and the No. 22 free agent overall.

[RELATED: Eagles Depth Chart]

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